Monday, April 13, 2009

Jedi Meditation

The Force is strong at 5 Trianon Plaza.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

What a Good Boy

I've been paying close attention to song lyrics lately. Not sure what that's about, but for whatever reason I've found myself in a state of introspection more frequently displayed by creatures of the adolescent species (commonly known as "teenagers"). One might say I've been brooding. It's not terribly adult and not always particularly productive, but hey--at least I'm not losing myself in back-to-back episodes of The Real Housewives of New York City.*

Anyway, the other day I got stuck on the lyrics of a Bare Naked Ladies song I've always loved:

When I was born, they looked at me and said
What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy
When you were born, they looked at you and said
What a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.
We've got these chains that hang around our necks
People want to strangle us with them
Before we take our first breath
Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same
When temptation comes, we just look away.

I've always loved this song, especially when I first discovered it as a teenager. It spoke to that part of me that felt a certain pressure to be perfect, to be beautiful, to not be too funny because that wasn't feminine, to be smart but not too competitive, to be good. I wasn't like most girls; I didn't like to do my hair or experiment with make-up, I thought cheerleading was sad, I liked to read at parties, I made a lot of jokes and didn't care if people laughed at me instead of with me. I was a tomboy without being particularly good at sports. I chose to go to New College precisely because there were no sororities and people regularly wore pajamas to class.

So the song spoke to me then. It speaks to me now, I suppose, as I consider how to approach raising my children. I was so lucky, in many ways, to have been raised with very few expectations of who I should be; my parents expected me to treat others with respect and to try my best but otherwise, it was all up to me. So you want to run around shirtless in the front yard? Go for it. Not interested in dolls? No problem. Yeah, sure, go ahead and get that Incredible Hulk lunchbox you're drooling over. Oh, hey, the other girls laughed at you for having an Incredible Hulk lunchbox? So what? Fuck 'em.

And that's what I was taught: to be myself, to do what I wanted, to like what I liked and not bother with what I didn't. And I know that I want this for my children, too--to feel loved and valued no matter what they like or who they become--but I'll be damned if it doesn't get a little complicated when you get right down to it.

For example. Sydney is going through a Princess phase. What the hell do I do with this? Of course I don't discourage it but at what point do you draw the line? The other day we were talking about jobs and why Mommy and Daddy work and I asked Sydney what she might want to do when she grows up and she replied "I want to be a Mommy." Okay, I thought, and what else? But I didn't say it, I didn't say anything, I just gave her a hug and a kiss and told myself to be flattered. But seriously--what would you say? I don't want to give her the message that motherhood isn't enough, isn't valuable, isn't something that one should aspire to--but at the same time it scared me a little. Here's my bright, rambunctuous, doodle-bug catching, hell-raising child, and what she wants more than anything is to be a Mommy? Can I blame Walt Disney for this?

And also. Evan. Is it problematic that my anxiety melted away after the ultrasound showed we were having a boy? That I felt significantly less encumbered by the prospect of raising a male child? Is it right that I continue to eschew gender-stereotypical clothing--anything with trains, soccer balls, footballs, baseballs, airplanes, puppies, camouflage--when he is so clearly male, so physical, so fearless, so consumed with toy cars and loud noises and anything with fur? How am I supposed to reject gender stereotypes when a typical afternoon involves my daughter cuddling her babies on the couch while my son pulls the cat's tail and chases Matchbox cars around the table?

But then: Sydney is Evil Kneivel on a bike and Evan loves kisses and cuddling. My daughter digs for bugs and insects so intently, so persistently, that I've given up on attempting to remove the dirt caked under her fingernails each night. And even at the tender young age of 8 months and 2 days, my son displays a wellspring of empathy and tenderness, tearing up at the sound of his sister's cries, cuddling close when someone seems sad or distracted, bursting into radiant smiles at the sound of laughter. So there's some variation there. I guess my job is to step back and let it all unfold.

But again, to invoke the gardening metaphor: a hallmark of a good gardener is one who knows when to prune for the sake of further growth and when to leave the hell alone. As a parent, it's not sufficient to step away and let the magic unfold; our kids need pruning, careful attention, direction and guidance. And this is where I feel stuck.

* What is up with this show? Half of the women aren't even housewives, for god's sake.