Saturday, May 30, 2009

I have found myself wondering lately what it would be like to still have those friends you did in high school. You know the ones you could always rely on, the ones who bent over backwards to be there for you no matter what.

The Navy has taken ne to some fabulous places over the last 11 years, and I have met aome wonderful people but what would it be like to still have that awesome connection with the friends you had in high school. I look at many pictures of people who are and forever be lifelong friends and I wonder if I will ever have that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

In Praise of Lazy Parenting

In Praise of Lazy Parenting
Written By Brett Paesel

A mother shares her radical child-rearing philosophy

It's still dark when my 7-year-old son wakes me. "Mom. The tooth fairy didn't bring my dollar." I roll over slowly to face him. I'm buying time, willing my brain synapses to fire away so I can come up with a crafty excuse to explain why the tooth fairy neglected to replace his tooth with a dollar. For the third time.
"Hold on," I say, "maybe you're just not looking hard enough." My bones creak as I stand. "Let me get my glasses." I trudge over to my desk while Spencer bounces around me. As I reach for my glasses, I open the drawer with my other hand to retrieve a dollar, then palm it as I turn to put the glasses on. "Let's go look."

It's so easy to slip the dollar under Spencer's pillow while I pretend to search around that I wonder why I didn't think of it the last two times — when I suggested maybe the tooth fairy was out sick or on vacation.
When I tell a friend about this ingenious solution, she says, "Wow. I do this whole routine of sprinkling glitter near the bed and writing a note with silver ink in a fairy-sized font."

Why do these things never occur to me? So many moms knock themselves out. One impossibly industrious mother I know not only makes the cupcakes for her daughter's class birthday party, but writes each kid's name on top in icing (which practically requires a fairy-sized font). Last year on Spencer's birthday, I forgot about the cupcake ritual and had to snag some mini blueberry muffins at a 7-Eleven. When I placed the plastic containers on the teacher's desk and popped them open, a little girl yelled, "Those aren't cupcakes!" For which her clothespin got moved down a notch on her behavior chart. I felt a bit guilty about the demerit since she was only stating the obvious, but it's an unfair world out there. Maybe she's better off learning that sooner rather than later.

Is there something wrong with me? Do I love my children less than a mom who sews all of her son's favorite childhood T-shirts into a quilt he can take to college someday? Will my kids hate me because their baby books are more or less blank? Will they resent the fact that I didn't bronze anything? Every day I walk my oldest son to the bus before 7, work out, then spend six hours at a keyboard and another two on the phone. I love returning home to the endless chatter of my two boys. But since I can't be lazy on the job, at home I'm mostly looking for pursuits that can be accomplished supine.

The other night I dutifully decided to put forth a little extra effort: I went into the closet of rarely- to never-used craft items and retrieved an "easy" laminating kit that had been a gift from my mother-in-law, who once harbored a vague hope that I'd preserve something besides dust bunnies. I sat down at the dinner table with sticky plastic and a couple of my sons' drawings, which minutes later I'd managed to mangle into a sculptural ode to trash.

I stared at my handiwork, dejected, and wondered whether mommy inertia might not have an upside after all. This was well worth considering, so I put aside the plastic clumps, poured myself a glass of wine, and lay on the couch. Since I do my best thinking thus, I soon realized that my kids haven't really suffered from my lethargy — they've benefited.

Brotherly Love

I find it exhausting to arrange playdates — the calling, the messages, the picking up and the dropping off. The planning takes as long as the playdate itself. Luckily, a couple of my friends pop over occasionally to visit with their kids, so Spencer and Murphy aren't totally cut off from society.

I've noticed that an unintended benefit of my indolence is that my sons have made do with each other as playmates — thereby becoming best friends. This is something I hadn't anticipated, since they're almost four years apart. But last Saturday, after spending the entire afternoon with just each other, they told me they're starting a business together: selling information they've printed out from the Internet. I feel proud. And why mess with this potentially lucrative partnership?

Since Spence wants more sophisticated company, he's teaching 3-year-old Murphy to read. Spencer started reading at around 4 because, though I love reading chapter books, I tired of his repeated requests to hear dry accounts of the life cycle of beetles, or termites eating dung. If he taught himself to read, I told him, he wouldn't have to depend on me to entertain him. Now he has something to do on long car trips while Daddy and Mommy rock out to Led Zep.

Domestic Harmony

I wish I could say parenthood has awakened my dormant interest in cooking. But it turns out the interest isn't dormant — it's nonexistent. So in an effort to keep my kids healthy, I've stumbled onto the raw foods craze. True, Spencer and Murphy won't eat foods that touch each other, but they do eat tons of fresh strawberries, broccoli, and avocado. So I'm not just a mom who can't be bothered to sautee; I'm on the cutting edge of nutrition.

My laziness also extends to the other domestic arts. Instead of sewing the hems of my sons' pants, I staple them. And my housekeeping is, as my mother diplomatically puts it, "casual." I find it a Sisyphean nightmare, the toil of making beds that will just be unmade again. In the end, I do it halfheartedly, just because I don't want to slip in my mother's lexicon from "casual" to "shoddy."
But I can't face picking up toys that will simply wind up back on the floor. As a result, I've mandated "cleanup time" after dinner: The kids have to throw all of their toys in the appropriate bins in 10 minutes, and then they get their gummy vitamins. (Thank God for the gummy vitamin, with its candylike subterfuge.) I set the kitchen timer, and the boys run around picking up toys like it's an Olympic event. Their lucky wives are going to thank me.

Quality Time

You might think the TV would be a lazy parent's best friend. But I can't be bothered with the futile search for even one of the three remotes while the boys bicker over which show to watch. Besides, I find most children's TV shows cloying, badly acted, and illogically conceived (I know, it's probably just me). So we all listen to the CD player, which doesn't have a remote. True, the kids haven't a clue who Dora is — the Wanderer? Scientist? Supermodel? — but Spencer informed his first grade class during Black History Month that Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. (Another proud moment.) Also, I don't have to turn down repeated requests for toys the boys have seen advertised on TV because they don't even know those toys exist. Maybe they would if they had more playdates.

As Spencer and Murphy have gotten older, they've found it increasingly difficult to fall asleep at 7:30. I, however, still need two or three hours to myself at night, precious childfree time to devote to my husband and Jon Stewart. So, instead of pushing their bedtime, I've created "Adult Time": The boys can stay up until 9, talking and playing quietly, as long as they don't bother me for anything more involved than a glass of water. "Adult Time" was initially enforced to serve my needs, but I've found the boys enjoy conspiring and giggling in their beds. Last week, I was delighted to be shooed out of their room when I came in to close a window. "No adults allowed," Spence said, looking up from an intense game of Sorry. I deferentially retired to the living room and a make-out session with my husband under the unknowing eyes of Jon Stewart.

On Accidentally Getting Some Things Right

As last summer was winding down, my friend Allison said her kids were dreading going back to school. They loved all the summer programs she'd signed them up for — the day camps and the baseball games. She'd taken her kids to the pool almost every day.

"Ah," I said, realization dawning. "You made it too fun for them. Most of the summer, my kids have been great at entertaining themselves, but this week I've found them rolling around on the floor, complaining of boredom. Every time I walk around them, I have to assure them that school is starting soon. They can't wait to get back."

Allison looked at me with new appreciation. Appreciation that I returned because I'm always filled with genuine admiration when I hear her enthusiastic tales of all the things she does with her children. (My favorite: the time she simulated a hurricane by taking a garden hose and spraying a village she and her kids had made out of toothpicks.)

However, her stories also make me want to take a nap. Allison is a terrific mother, and I tell her so often. But today I want to speak for a different kind of mother — the one who's still on the couch. Your devotion to your own well-being may benefit your children more than you know. It could be making you a happier, saner mother. You could be doing your kids a favor by giving them a chance to develop a solid sense of independence. In fact, you could even consider your laissez-faire approach an act of faith in your kids and their ability to figure things out for themselves.

But if saying all that sounds way too exhausting, forget it and go back to bed. Just remember to remake it when you get up. You don't want your mother to think you're "shoddy."

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