Tag Archives: children

That’s Just Great

24 Aug

Maybe you’ve seen it. If you watched the Olympics, you probably did. A runner is silhouetted against a flat Midwestern horizon. As the runner gets closer to the camera, it becomes clear that he is overweight. He gets closer and closer to the camera and we find he is not just overweight, he’s a kid. Throughout the commercial, a narrator speaks eloquently about greatness, how it’s in each of us. At the end, we see the Nike logo.

Certainly, the spot is arresting and thought-provoking. As a runner and a mom, I was thrilled to see a kid positioned as a role model. How much more possible does getting fit seem after watching Nathan Sorell—for kids and adults?

But not everyone finds the commercial inspiring.

Journalist Lindy West of Jezebel thinks the ad is unreal and insulting to the obese, that Nathan didn’t “just get up and run.” She notes that Nathan puked up his breakfast in a ditch at one point. My daughter took track camp this summer. Every day, the coach cautioned the kids not to eat a full breakfast before running. Every day, at least two kids had to bail because they ate a full breakfast too soon before camp.

Frankly, puking during and after running is very real. If you watched the men’s 10k, you saw Mo Farah, the gold medal winner, celebrating with his friend and training partner Galen Rupp, who won the silver. You may not have seen Rupp upchuck after finishing.

I’m going to assume that Nike coached Nathan not to eat breakfast before filming. I’m also going to assume that Nathan, who does indeed seem committed to losing weight, eats more judiciously now before he runs.

The editor-in-chief of Childhood Obesity, Dr. David Katz believes the ad shows Nathan looking “miserably uncomfortable and as if he’s about to topple over.” Dr. Katz sees nothing of greatness in the effort except, maybe, for Nathan’s commitment to do it. He would have liked to see Nathan doing something that he can be great at, like math or art or music. I’m not sure how that would help the kid hit a healthy weight but I’m not an expert in childhood obesity.

I don’t agree that Nathan looks “miserably uncomfortable.” I think he looks like anybody on a run. Is it great that he got up and ran? Absolutely. Is there anything of greatness in Nathan’s effort? Could be, and that’s where I get stuck.

In my mind, there is a difference between “great” and “greatness.” “Great” means “really good,” to me, as in, “Great! You did your homework” or “Those cookies you made were great, Mom.” “Greatness” means “excellence” to me. Greatness is reserved for those who have risen to the pinnacle in their field, like Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt.

I wonder about greatness and my children and I don’t think I’m alone. All of those future President/CEO/American Idol Onesies are going to someone. I hear snatches of parental aspiration everywhere. Witness this overheard during my daughter’s gymnastics lesson:

Younger sister, to her gymnast sib: “You were great!”

Mom to the gymnast, who I figured to be about eight: “You were not great. You were not good. You fell off the beam three times. You have to be focused.”

Someone needs to run that mom the footage of Gabby Douglas clinging to the beam upside down on national TV.

Photo: Washington Post

My son plays guitar and drums. Lots of people assume he wants to be a rock star. Even though his heroes include Dave Grohl and Jeff Beck, he has no desire to get on the road or the stage. At a recent Passover, two (middle-aged male) guests couldn’t believe he didn’t want to be the next Jimmy Page. At first, I didn’t believe him either, but he’s said it often enough that I’m not seeing any backstage passes in my future.

My daughter looks to be passing on greatness for now, too. Watching Aly Raisman nail her floor exercise, she said, “So, if I work hard enough, I could go to the Olympics, too.” “Sure,” I said. She considered the possibility then said, “Nah. Too much work. I want my child years.”

I don’t mean to imply that my children won’t achieve greatness or that I don’t want them to. Maybe they will but I would like to let go of the idea that they need to shoot for the top in all of their endeavors.  I don’t want to amend my definition of greatness, either. My daughter is right. Achieving greatness takes a lot of hard work, no matter if you have natural talent or not. Elite runners train twice a day, every day. Gymnasts move away from their families and get tutored instead of going to school. Musicians spend hours practicing mind-numbing exercises. All in pursuit of greatness.

I think it’s great that my daughter loves flipping herself around a wooden beam and running faster than almost everyone in her class. I think it’s great that my son loves music and wants to learn how to play every instrument he gets his hands on. Is there anything of greatness in their flipping, running and playing? I don’t know and I’m working hard on not caring.

I think it’s great that Nathan Sorell got off the couch and ran. I think it’s great that Nike chose to spotlight a pretty ordinary kid.

I believe it’s true that we are all capable of greatness, but I also believe that, in some things, being great is enough.

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Is Gun Control a Hopeless Case?

26 Jul

I thought about not posting today. Not just not writing. No guest post; no re-blog. No “I’m taking a vacation, see you next week.” Nothing. See, I spent the week wondering what I would write about the Aurora shooting. It seemed I really should write something about the Aurora shooting. It’s a tragedy and not recognizing it feels callous. Writing about funny things my kids say, weird places my dad thinks he’s been and other trivialities seemed disrespectful.

I don’t believe I’m a callous person nor disrespectful, so then why have a struggled so much to find something coherent to say about what happened on July 20?

Because I’m not surprised it happened. And I’m not surprised at the aftermath. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Northern Illinois. Strip malls. Fast food places. Someone goes crazy with guns. The media goes crazy reporting on it. Some people say we need gun control. Some other people say guns don’t kill people. It goes around and around and nothing changes except the people who die.

I tried to find a place of righteous anger. Nothing relieves a sense of helplessness better than a good head of steam. I couldn’t find a thimble full of steam, let alone a head.

I’ve been a gun-control advocate for a long, long time. When I read the Bill of Rights, I agree with the dissenters in Columbia v. Heller and don’t leave the “well-regulated militia” part out of the Second Amendment. I have no problem requiring guns to be registered. I register my kids for school every year, filling out the same stupid information on the same freaking forms even though none of it has changed from the year prior. Though I firmly believe my children are shortening my life, kids aren’t generally considered lethal weapons. Surely someone wishing to own a gun can endure the inconvenience of registering it.

I have supported handgun bans, too, and certainly got in line to ban assault weapons. Someone wants to rape me or take my purse, they don’t need to shove a machine gun at me or hold a pistol to my head. They’d convince me with a knife. Hell, I’m so small, I could easily be overpowered by just about any determined criminal.

As with all issues that interest me, I researched gun control before forming my opinions. So, when the same old “no guns, yes guns” points and counterpoints got trotted out over the bodies of the Aurora shooting victims, I revisited gun control issues.

And now I feel helpless. We can ban gun sales. We can stop manufacturing guns. We can make it illegal to own guns. (Oh, shut up! Yes, you can keep your rifle for hunting and shooting the heads off home intruders. Tuck it under your bed with your slippers.) We can do all of these things and we will still have too many guns.

We like to say things that will always be with us are like cockroaches. But cockroaches are biodegradable. Guns aren’t. Guns are like pennies. There are billions of pennies floating around the world and unless someone gathers them all up and melts them down, they will continue to float around. Same with guns.

I’ve heard a joke about lawyers that goes something like this: if you took all the lawyers in the world and put them at the bottom of the ocean, what would you have? A good start. If we took all of the guns in America and put them at the bottom of the ocean, I think we’d have a good start, especially if we start with the assault weapons.

But we will never get all of the guns to the bottom of the ocean. We will never even agree that a good number of guns should be at the bottom of the ocean. Until we have the economic, political and civic will to understand that guns and their proliferation are a problem for those who want to own them and those who don’t want anyone to own them, we will be awash in guns and the concomitant violence.

What makes me feel even more hopeless in considering the Aurora shootings is that we need terrible tragedies to force us to consider the consequences of being the most heavily armed society in the world. And such tragedies have little to do with the true costs of having so many weapons so readily available. Someone as clearly unstable as James Holmes would definitely have found a way to make a murderous spectacle of himself whether he did it with guns or machetes.

The highest cost to us of gun violence takes place all day, every day. Caring for a single gun shot survivor—from the time he hits the ER to the day he dies—can cost more than $600,000, not including lost wages and other indirect costs. Gun violence doesn’t just cost us in health care, but in costs for increased security, such as metal detectors; costs to prosecute, defend and incarcerate offenders; and in the emotional and psychic costs of raising children in a violent, unpredictable world.

There is no way to make sense of a heavily armed man walking into a movie theater and shooting as many people as he can. We can spew our entrenched beliefs about guns and gun violence at each other all day, every day and it won’t begin to prevent another James Holmes. In fact, choosing to discuss gun violence only when it is demonstrated in its most spectacular form disrespects all victims, whether they were shot in a movie theater or an alley.

Check it out! I guest blogged!

29 Jun

Ordinarily, I eschew exclamation points in my writing but, golly gee, someone asked me to write for his blog and I did it! You can check out a bit of my experience parenting my son through one of the darkest times of both of our lives here:  http://blackboxwarnings.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/a-tale-of-two-meds-and-one-teen/

Read the other posts, too. The man who started the blog is also dealing with a son with ADHD and the meds that come along with it. And there are others who posted as well. It’s a valuable, developing resource for those of us taking drugs with black box warnings (means they can lead to all kinds of nasty side effects, like suicidal ideation and other fun things) and parenting kids taking those drugs.

C? Si! 100 posts and beyond

21 Jun

I’m not ordinarily interested in anniversaries, commemorative dates and other forced significancies. I barely remember how long I’ve been married and don’t really think it matters much. Frankly, staying married is really just a matter of not getting divorced when things get bad. Things have always gotten better for us, so being married for 20 years is more luck than hard work.

I don’t understand why we have to celebrate birthdays, either. I get older every year; so do you. Why do I have to go out to eat somewhere really fancy on April 22? Maybe I’d like to go out to eat somewhere really fancy on June 26 or October 13. I’m considering putting tokens in a jar for all of the events we’re supposed to commemorate. Then, if we feel like doing it up one day, we can just take out a token and celebrate whatever we happen to pull out. So, if I want to, I can celebrate my October wedding anniversary in March.

Publishing 100 posts on Snide Reply, though, is apparently something to crow about. I’ve actually published 101, but I didn’t write one of them. I recently re-blogged a post from sweetmotherlover, a blogger I follow. Because I’m busier than a suburban mom driving her kids all over town to various summer activites, I decided to break my no-commemorations rule. I am celebrating writing 100 posts by re-blogging the first post I wrote, two years ago. Back then, I had about 35 followers. Last time I checked, I had about 144145147. Not the biggest following, but more than I ever thought I’d reach. I happen to think my first is also one of my funniest posts and hope you think so, too. Enjoy.

Thanks friends, family and followers! I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep following.

How Old is Old Enough For Home Alone?

18 Jun

How old were you when you first stayed home alone? My kids think it’s great. I think it’s a terrible idea, imaging every kind of disaster possible. So, of course, I wrote about it. Here’s the link:

http://naperville.patch.com/articles/how-old-is-old-enough-to-stay-home-alone

Do you remember staying home alone? How old were you? I had an old sister and younger brother so was seldom home alone. Maybe that’s why I love being alone now. Hm….yes! Let’s blame it on the siblings!

I’ll meet you on the dark side of the mom

31 May

My children have their last day of school tomorrow. Technically, it’s really just their last hour of school before summer break. The school district is calling that hour a half-day; I can’t help but wonder why we wonder that our children have a hard time with math.

My kids will be home all day for 83 days minus one hour. We’ll reconnect. We’ll sleep late, go to the beach, make cookies, go out for lunch, run through the sprinkler, watch movies, go to the library. By then, we will have made it to about day six. And then I will want them the hell out of my hair.

I realize it’s not very mom-like to dread spending large amounts of time with your children. I realized this when I admitted that I could quite easily spend six weeks away from my kids without really missing them that much. I assumed that the six weeks would be spent doing things like, I don’t know, a writer’s retreat or teaching English in France or writing and reading on a beach in France. Whatever it was, it involved France. Further, I assumed there would be telephones and computers with Internet connections, probably even Wi-Fi, because—again, making an assumption—I figured that they have advanced technology in France. So, I could write and read on a beach in France and my kids could text me. We might even be able to Skype.

But I was reviled. The other mothers pounced on my uncaring attitude toward my offspring. How on earth, they thought, could I be separated from my kiddies for so long?  Apparently, these moms assumed they would spend the six weeks in a sensory deprivation tank. And that their partners would cease to exist or would instantly become insensible, incompetent boobs completely incapable of caring for children.

Admitting to being cool with a six-week vacation wasn’t the first time I realized there’s a dark side to this mom. That happened about two months after my son was born.

I remember falling in love with my son. Not loving him, but falling in love with him. Smelling the top of his head and swooning. Taking pictures of his tiny toes and the soft fuzzy back of his neck, then kissing both. I was smitten. At the same time, I sometimes had an almost overwhelming desire to spike him like a football in the end zone. What kind of mother fantasizes about slamming her baby into the Astroturf, I thought? A bad one, came the answer. A really, really bad one who should have her child immediately removed from her custody.

“This is completely normal,” said my therapist, admitting that while her fantasies were much less violent—she was just going to open her arms and let the baby fall to his fate—they existed nonetheless. Great, I thought, I’ve got a really, really bad mom for a therapist and her child should immediately be removed from her custody.

My therapist also thought it was completely normal when I admitted later that I loved IKEA because I could shop in the calming comfort of cheap Swedish design while someone else watched my kid. I even admitted that, gliding down the escalator, I thought, “I could walk out the door, get in my car and drive away. I could be a long, long way away before anyone even noticed.”

Eventually, I accepted the balderdash my therapist was feeding me: that good moms have deep dark fantasies involving their children. Just because other moms weren’t admitting it didn’t make it any less true.

I didn’t spike my son nor did I leave him at IKEA. He’s sixteen now and still living with us. We even had another kid. Though I have never fantasized about spiking her, I still have my dark moments.

My daughter cries about every little hurt, bump, or scratch she gets. She also cries when she makes a mistake or has an accident. Now, I’m not talking tears spilling gracefully from her cheeks. The biggest—and most racist—misconception about Chinese girls is that they are all delicate, quiet and well behaved. You know, that “uh, uh, uh, oh-oh, Little China Girl” thing.

There are no dainty trails of tears from my daughter; there is wailing, sobbing, whining and lamentation. It drives me crazy. It makes me want to smack her. It makes me clap my hands over my ears. I know these are inappropriate responses, so I calmly tell her I can’t understand her when she cries. She cries more because now she is not just in pain, but also misunderstood. I tell her I need her to stop crying. Now she is crying harder because she’s making mommy mad. I tell her she has to the count of five to stop crying. Now she is crying even harder because she’s being timed. I get to five and tell her I’m going to start charging her a quarter for every minute she cries. All the while, my inside my head voice is screaming “Suck it up, you little baby!”

My husband admits that he has had dark fantasies, particularly involving our son. Our son is not a demon though some have thought so. He has always been difficult and my husband came to parenting late. So, who could blame him when he screamed at his mother that at least he wasn’t “out whoring and drinking” when she mentioned how he might improve his fathering techniques.

Our daughter appears to have cured my husband of his darkest fantasies. Now he’ll more likely fall into despondency over his failures as a father. He does sometimes fantasize about driving away and not telling anyone where he’s gone. He admitted, though, that he’d just go to a hotel for the night and watch old movies in peace.

I realize I’m not painting a very loving picture of myself, but being honest about my darkest thoughts helps take away their power. There are days when going to the beach with my kids is exactly what I want to do. Then there are days when I’d rather clean the cat boxes. So, I’ll suck it up for the summer. The first day of school, though, I’m headed for France, at least in my fantasies.

Does Motherhood Suck? Depends!

26 Apr

When I had younger kids, I read a lot of parenting books. I stopped reading them when I realized the only helpful advice I’d gleaned was that children meltdown when they are with you because they feel safe. Knowing my excellent parenting skills led to behavior my kids wouldn’t inflict on strangers was cold comfort. So I started reading vampire books. Somehow, it just felt right to read about being literally sucked dry at a time when my children were figuratively sucking me dry.

It wasn’t until recently that I started reading parenting books again. Ok, it was yesterday. I’ve been noodling with the idea of writing a parenting book so decided to check out the competition. I wasn’t able to check out all of the most recent tomes; I had to put Bringing Up Bébé on hold. But I grabbed I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

I thought I’d start with I Was A Really Good Mom. Brief synopsis: Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile, two new moms, discovered that mothering is really hard. They decided that no one was talking about how hard mothering is so they took it upon themselves to “talk to more than 100 mothers” about how hard mothering is.

And what did those moms say? That they were shocked to learn how hard mothering is. One said, “I thought having a baby would be like having a pet—oh, this will be cute. We’ll be this happy little family.” I’ll wait while you say, “Oh, my god! You’re freaking kidding me.”

Done? Ok, now it’s pretty obvious to me that that mom never had a pet because anyone who has ever had a pet knows they can be as challenging as children. Of course, you don’t have to send your dog to college, but your child will eventually learn to stop peeing in the wrong places.

“Babies are just human pets” was not the most unbelievable thing I read in I Was A Really Good Mom. The most unbelievable thing I read was the mom who allowed herself to be quoted saying, “…there are some days I don’t even have time to pee . . .so I wear Depends.” The woman wears Depends so she doesn’t have to stop running around like a maniac. Now, I don’t know about you, but the minute I started thinking that Depends would make my life easier, my ass would be in therapy not a diaper.

As astoundingly unbelievable as Depends Mom is, is the fact that Trisha and Amy thought no one was talking about how hard mothering is. Really? Not one person saw their pregnant bodies and said, “Just wait ‘til that little one pops out!” No one rubbed Amy’s tummy uninvited and said “Well, little mommy, life’s about to change for you!” I’m betting Trisha and Amy were so surprised that motherhood is hard not because no one talks about it, but because they weren’t listening.

Motherhood is freaking hard. Sometimes it’s grindingly boring, sometimes it’s physically grueling, sometimes it’s emotionally draining. Any one with half an ounce of hubris would look at the mothers around them and conclude motherhood is not for the faint. But somehow, Amy and Trish and their interviewees came to the conclusion that their MBAs, former executive positions and generally take-charge personalities would make mincemeat of an undertaking that has laid low many a woman before them.

I think Amy and Trisha should re-title their book I Was A Really Good Mom When I Was Childless And Self-Absorbed. Then the utter amazement with which they discuss the challenges of modern motherhood—should I hire a soccer tutor? Should we potty-train at two or three—might make sense. And while I agree wholeheartedly with their prescription for a more manageable motherhood, I don’t for a minute believe that someone who wears Depends so she can get more done in a day is really going to chill out and lower her expectations.

Maybe I’m forgetting my own anxieties over motherhood, but I don’t really think so. Sure, I feel like a failure a lot of the time. My son gets hugely horrible grades in subjects he doesn’t like. My daughter, who weighs 53 pounds at age nine, thinks her legs are fat. My house looks like the Blue Angels did a low fly-by through the living room. My yard has more weeds than, well, than any other lawn on the block. I got involved in the PTA and I’d rather swallow Drano than do it again.

Just as the times I kick myself are many, the times I pat myself on the back are too few. I’m working, writing, helping take care of my dying father and still managing to keep my children safe and healthy and my husband (mostly) happy. Despite all that, I calmly and successfully handled a teen crisis. I even get out to run at least twice a week.

Yes, mothering is a fabulous experience and nothing compares to holding a warm, sleepy child in your arms. But a lot of mothering just plain sucks and when it does, a wise mother just sucks it up.

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