Friday, July 15, 2011 12:49 PM
If the waiting room at the doctor’s office is purgatory, then the process of diagnosis and—eventually, hopefully—recovery is hell.
In a frank and darkly funny essay, The Morning News’ Paul Ford chronicles the three years of reproductive therapy he and his wife endured on a the path to conception. Many of their experiences were downright absurd, as if they had been lifted directly from a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Ford recounts when nurses complimented his wife’s lucky socks, brightly adorned with monkeys or ninjas, while she was splayed out in stirrups. The awkward professionalism of his clinic’s sperm-collection rooms is epitomized by a bit of legalese: “If you read the paperwork,” Ford deadpans as he is about to hand-off his sperm sample to the nurse, “there is a request that you don’t make any jokes during this moment.” In a last ironic twist, on the morning his wife is supposed to get a minor surgery for in-vitro fertilization, Brooklyn is buried under two feet of snow.
The essay deftly captures the physical, psychological, and social frustrations of trying and waiting (and waiting and waiting) to conceive. “Three years of waiting,” Ford writes,
Everywhere around us there are waves of bouncing sons, bounties of daughters, stroller wheels creaking under the cheerful load. Facebook updates, email messages, and Christmas cards arrive with pictures of tots, their faces smeared with avocado or cake frosting. Babies on rugs, babies in hats. Invitations to baby showers with cursive script and cartoon storks. Over a beer an expectant father—another expectant father—gives me the news, tells me that his wife will soon have her second or third. Am I happy for him? What else can I be? Once again I put out my hand, close my eyes, and wish them joy.
(Also: For its vivid detail, sardonic tone, and sense of personal violation, this essay reminded me of Thomas E. Kennedy’s 2007 award-winning essay, “I am Joe’s Prostate”, which was featured in New Letters [PDF excerpt only available online].)
Source: The Morning News
Image by nerissa’s ring, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:00 AM
In a delightful Hip Mama essay called "Everything I wanted to know about motherhood I learned from Animal House," Christina-Marie Wright, publisher of the Gonzo Parenting Zine, kind of nails it:
Raising kids is like living in a frat house. There are too many all-nighters, there is never enough coffee or Top Ramen, the toilets are never clean, it's no surprise if someone is puking and you never know who is going to be in your bed when you wake up.
Source: Hip Mama (article not yet available online)
Congratulations to Hip Mama, which is nominated for a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award for best writing.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 12:26 PM
We sing with our children constantly when they’re small—lullabies when they’re babies, all kinds of on-the-fly songs when they’re toddlers—but as kids get older, families seem to stop singing together. Some quality time with the singsongy kids’ show Wonder Pets made Toner Quinn, editor of The Journal of Music, wonder why we lose our voices.
When kids hit school age, Quinn writes, parents tend to channel their musical impulses into instruments—piano lessons and trumpet practice come in, and singing goes out. “From a toddler-hood of joy in singing,” he writes, “parents suddenly emphasize playing an instrument, as if singing just wasn’t substantial enough. Instruments are purchased, music stands are put up, practice is emphasized, and slowly that natural instinct to sing out at the drop of a hat is left behind.”
Part of it stems from a widespread belief that while musical instruments can be learned, a good singing voice is innate. “Our language is full of phrases to inhibit us singing—‘she’s tone deaf’, ‘he doesn’t have a note in his head’, ‘I never had a voice’. Very few people are actually tone deaf. Not being able to sing in tune is little more than a matter of practice.”
Society—the bulk of it—has become shy about singing. . . . Family occasions that cry out for a song—not just weddings and funerals, but lunches and dinners—are bereft of the practice of calling for hush, and asking the one or two in the family who are known to have a voice to release it. Do we know today if any of our nearest or dearest even have a voice?
There’s no easy solution, of course, which Quinn acknowledges. But his assertion that “music clearly needs a champion in the home” is a good place to start.
The Journal of Music
, August-September 2009 (excerpt only available online)
Friday, July 24, 2009 3:23 PM
Children could be getting the wrong messages from television programming designed with the best of intentions, according to research highlighted in On Wisconsin. An associate professor of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marie-Louise Mares has been studying children’s comprehension of “prosocial” programming, shows that are intended to teach good behavior, morals, and ethics. She is especially interested in storylines intended to foster inclusiveness.
“Children’s interpretations of what a show is about are very different from what an adult thinks,” Mares tells the Wisconsin alumni association publication. In one episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog that Mares uses in her research, Clifford and other dogs meet a dog with three legs. The four-legged dogs initially react poorly, one of them even expressing fear of “catching” three legs. In the end, the dogs overcome their anxiety, and learn an important lesson about accepting peers with disabilities.
Young human viewers, however, do not. “Many of them interpreted the lesson of the episode along the lines of this child’s comment: ‘You should be careful . . . not to get sick, not to get germs,’ ” On Wisconsin reports. Since a lot of prosocial programming relies on showing bad behavior and then learning a lesson about it, Mares’ research has the potential to dramatically transform the plotlines of children’s programming. One solution she’s investigating is “scaffolding,” the practice of characters interrupting the storyline to lay out the plot’s intended message.
Source: On Wisconsin
Image by Aaron Escobar, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009 4:44 PM
A mother drops off her 12-year-old daughter and her friend—with ground rules in place—at the mall in Bozeman, Montana, with three younger children in tow. Within an hour, mall security calls her back. She returns. Two police offices are waiting there to tell her that she’s going to be arrested for endangering the welfare of her children.
In “Guilty as Charged: Her biggest crime? Trusting her own parenting,” Bridget Kevane patiently recalls the details of that day and the ones that would follow, plumbing her confusion, frustration, and guilt for the readers of Brain, Child. “During the months between my arrest and the deferred prosecution agreement that my lawyer eventually worked out, I began to feel that I was being reprimanded for allowing my daughter to develop [a] sense of responsibility,” she writes. What emerges is a courageously unadorned examination of her family’s ordeal, and an opportunity to reflect on the shrinking space available for parents to simply trust their instincts.
Source: Brain, Child
Wednesday, April 01, 2009 9:53 AM
Buddhist author Karen Miller lays out a roadmap for mindful parenting in Shambala Sun. Here's some of what she suggests:
Live by routine. Take the needless guesswork out of meals and bedtimes. Let everyone relax into the predictable flow of a healthy and secure life.
Turn off the engines. Discipline TV and computer usage and reduce artificial distraction, escapism, and stimulation. This begins with you.
Elevate the small. And overlook the large. Want to change the world? Forget the philosophical lessons. Instruct your child in how to brush his or her teeth, and then do it, together, twice a day.
Give more attention. And less of everything else. Devote one hour a day to giving undistracted attention to your children. Not in activities driven by your agenda, but according to their terms. Undivided attention is the most concrete expression of love you can give.
Be the last to know. Refrain from making judgments and foregone conclusions about your children. Watch their lives unfold, and be surprised. The show is marvelous, and yours is the best seat in the house.
Read the rest of Miller's piece, The Monastery of Mom and Dad. Want more? Read her essay, also in the March 2009 issue of Shambala Sun: Parents, Leave Your Home.
Source: Shambala Sun
Monday, December 29, 2008 3:35 PM
Barack Obama’s leadership style, as he’s defined it so far, is remarkably similar to the ideas behind the progressive parenting movement, Andie Coller observes for Politico:
The “change we can believe in,” it turns out, shares a lot with the revolution in thinking about child-rearing sprung from the work of Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, which centers on principles such as mutual respect — or what the president-elect has called “the presumption of good faith” — fostering independence (“Team of Rivals,” anyone?), and encouragement (“Yes we can!”).
Coller notes that Obama’s “love and reason” parental leadership model stands in stark contrast to President Bush’s “more no-nonsense, SuperNanny-style approach to his job (‘It’s in their nature to test the boundaries and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t cross the line’).”
“The most respectful—and effective—approach to parenting consists of working WITH children rather than doing things TO them,” Alfie Kohn, author of the book Unconditional Parenting, told Coller. Parents who work with their children “talk less and listen more," Kohn continued. “They regularly try to imagine how the world looks from the child's point of view. They bring kids into the process of decision-making whenever possible. ‘Doing to’ parents, on the other hand, impose their will and use some combination of rewards and punishments in an attempt to elicit obedience.”
Image by acaben, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 8:57 AM
Is it strange for boys to play with dolls? Even for parents who generally shun gender stereotypes, the idea of a boy playing with his dolly seems slightly off. But why?
In a humorous essay for Mothering (subscription required), Joel Troxell struggles with his wife’s insistence on buying a doll for their one-year-old son Nathan. Though the doll is gender-neutral in shape and dress, Troxell feels the need to compensate for this “affront to his masculinity” by telling Nathan that the doll is actually an operative for the US military, and his neutral facial expression means he’s impervious to fear or pain.
Nathan quickly grows tired of the doll, much to his dad’s secret delight. A few months later, however, Nathan’s mom is back at it, looking for bigger and better dolls. Troxell’s “daydreams of Nathan going first round in the NFL draft [are] replaced by disturbing images of him walking across the stage at graduation, sucking his thumb and carrying his doll.”
The author finds that doll play is still associated with outdated gender roles in his mind. He thinks of playing with dolls as childcare practice for girls (a.k.a. future moms and wives), and toy weapons as encouraging boys to develop the hunting skills they’d need to provide for their families.
Eventually, Troxell learns the benefits of boys with dolls: They teach compassion, sensitivity, and responsibility, as well as a practical knowledge of things like holding and feeding a baby. So in reality, Troxell’s wife points out, giving a boy a doll is giving him practice as a good father and a good person who is ready to care for others.
To the kid, his dolly may later be a source of future embarrassment, much like those ubiquitous naked-in-the-tub pictures. But if the values imbued through playing with a “girl’s toy” hold up, he’ll likely have grown to be well-adjusted enough not to care.
Mothering’s archives include another great essay (free) on a mom’s quest for a doll for her son.
Image courtesy of Savannah Grandfather, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, July 11, 2008 3:57 PM
For mothers (and fathers) who want more out of a parenting magazine than five ways to feed your child vegetables, the Mother explores natural parenting from pre-birth into adult life. Seeking to create a holistic lifestyle for your children, yourself as a parent, and your larger community, the UK-based magazine is anything but conventional.
The July-August 2008 issue includes “The Activist Parent,” by Dr. Richard House, which emphasizes the importance of finding “ ‘personal power’ to stand up for one’s truth” and details the defining features a parent who embraces that ideal. An “activist parent” is informed and honest and often participates in some form of “principled non-compliance,” such as refusing to subject his or her children to standardized testing, among other avant-garde attributes.
In the same issue, an article by Anton Saxon shows how to turn your city into a Transition Town. A movement founded by environmentalist Rob Hopkins, the Transition Town concept examines how a community can self-organize to decrease the effects of global warming and meet the challenges of peak oil.
If, however, you would like to know how to get your child to eat his or her greens, the Mother is not without its share of practical parenting information. In it, you can find delicious vegan recipes and suggestions for protecting your children from sun damage the nontoxic way.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 3:03 PM
Muslim mom and blogger who writes anonymously under the name Muslim Hedonist left behind her hijab and her polygamous husband, but not her faith. On her blog, she contemplates what it means to become a self-seeking Muslim:
To be sure, identity questions are probably best dealt with way before anyone has kids–say, in first year university, with a group of equally wide-eyed first-year students over pizza and beer.
But for those of who went straight from high school into conservative Islam, first year university didn’t offer us a chance to explore such questions.
Recently she mulled over a conversation with her pre-teen daughter about female genital mutilation, sparked by a Somali contestant on America’s Next Top Model. She wondered what to call the practice, how to explain its purpose, and how girls living in a sex-saturated world could still find the clitoris a mystery.
How do I explain this so that she can understand?
I’m not going to repeat any sanitized Muslim excuses–that it’s sunna (the practice of the Prophet), or that it’s supposedly cleaner, or that it’s just a cultural thing that some people happen to do, or that some people think that it will keep girls from having sex before they get married.
“They cut off the clitoris so that a woman won’t enjoy sex,” I answer.
“Eww,” my pre-teen daughter responds, and goes off to watch TV with her sister.
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