Parenting trivia

Basically, my kids are fully in The Poltergeist Stage. What does that entail exactly? Well, it just means that they are just the worst in terms of behavior. There is Medea-level screaming, no listening, there is punching each other. There is a lot of “I hate you” etc.; there are mysterious noises behind closed doors that sound like a bowling ball is being dropped on the floor. It all just makes me go boneless with defeat. Husband just spent a week at home over spring break with them, and I worried about his mental health, but every night when I got back from work, all three were still at home. He did not put anyone on Ebay. I spend one weekend with them, and I’m like, HOW DO I POST THEIR PICTURE WITH A STARTING BID. I believe this stage is challenging because you successfully got them to stay alive (major concern in Baby/Toddler Stage), but now that they are alive and seem to be staying with you on a permanent basis, you have to start shaping them as humans, and that is a lot of work. (A co-worker was like “Are you teaching your kids Korean?” And I’m like, “Um, yeah, miscommunicating in one language is enough for me.”)

The Poltergeist Stage is so all-encompassing that I can’t really remember the Baby/Toddler/Keep-Them-Alive stage. Really? This child who punched his sister in the gut used to delight in Peek-a-Boo? Now when I see these Brooklyn parents with their babies in their backpacks, the toddlers they try to block from running into traffic, when I see these parents and how careful they are with their children, how they carry way too many bags full of organic treats — I cannot relate at all.

It’s a time I see in the rearview mirror. It was so intense, I am well beyond it and now feel nothing. (Except for your baby, Cousin Ed. Because I think she’s actually not just a baby, but a dumpling incarnate. Please disregard this entire entry when it comes to your delightful child.) I heard a man on the subway talk to his baby in a sing-song voice, describing every sight outside the window to this baby who was just sitting there, content to just chill, and I was OH DEAR PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP. I texted my cousin Aimee to vent my frustration so that I wouldn’t stand up and punch this performative dad. I was having a severe allergic reaction to his precious parenting style. (There’s no need to talk that much.) Parents (who can afford it) spend so much money and time worrying and fussing, schlepping them to like music classes and art, when they are just as happy with scotch tape around their hands. (Though to be fair, sometimes those kids activities are for the adults — to get out of the damn house, connect to peers, and add structure to a bottomless day).

This is a 180 change for me, who used to always demand first hold of every new baby and whose eyes would get a creepy gleam (Baby stalker eyes) whenever a soft pudgy one entered the room. I used to turn into human goo around cute babies, but now? Nothing. Blank. Zombie reaction. It feels like such a long-ago stage, such a different phase of evolution, that it seems to have nothing to do with me.

The kids I have now have B.O., as well as the aforementioned bananas characteristics, however, they are not completely devoid of positive qualities. As much as I observe them, they observe me and every other adult in their orbit as well. They pull complicated pranks on Husband that make me laugh alone in my office. We all slept in the same hotel room at a recent wedding and as I woke up and gingerly made my way to the bathroom (it takes time for my body to warm up), First Son announced “There goes Mom, with her slow-motion walk.” I couldn’t believe he had noticed me enough to be able to make fun of me so well. I just laughed and fell back down onto the bed. Wonder Twin Girl quotes me as saying “let’s hustle a baby muscle” and is pretty good at imitating my faces. During spring break, they locked Husband in our room with a walkie-talkie through which they instructed him to follow instructions (like a really cheap, goofball Escape Room), including to look in his wallet where they snuck in a note that said “You suck. You are the worst.”

Husband and I still laugh about it so hard. In case Husband had any ego left, it’s gone now. * Sigh * Good times. It’s funny, I’m obviously not that mushy of a mother, though I of course I really love them. It’s just that parenting is hard. I’m not ever going to be one of those parents who say “my child is my greatest teacher” or who says “children are so wise. they have old souls.” I don’t know what kind of children those people are having, but they don’t live here.

nadir

Nadir. This is the word that comes to mind every day around 5:30 p.m.

Nadir (noun)

Astronomy the point on the celestial sphere directly beneath a given position or observer and diametrically opposite the zenith.

Astrology the point of a horoscope opposite the midheaven: the cusp of the fourth house.

the lowest point; point of greatest adversity or despair.

The nadir of my day is at pick-up. It’s when I’m at the lowest point of my physical and psychic energy, and so are my kids – so sometimes they weep and scream about the exceptionally low quality of the snacks I bring (though they are the exact snacks they liked the day before, the exact snacks they will wolf hungrily in like two minutes) and our walk home is not like an arduous journey through the mountains. It’s a ten-minute walk on flat sidewalk.

The part that I find hardest though is the other parents. For some reason, other parents seem to have energy at that point, and want extensive gabbing time while I’m barely able to grunt. I always leave with a sense that I have hurt someone, or offended or disappointed. There’s definitely a sense where the other person is needing more, and I’m like why so needy? Am I supposed to text them and apologize? Email a message like “sorry, can’t with humans right now”?

Maybe I can just wear a mask at pick up with a face with the eyes open.

i love nyc

It seems like a small thing, but one of the things I love about NYC are the plentiful coffee carts. When I’m low on energy and just GAAAHHH, I can always get a egg and cheese on a roll any corner. That’s pretty cool

the bright hour by nina rigg

There are a lot of memoirs from the dying lately. I’ve read at least three of young, promising professionals leaving happy marriages and young children behind. But just because you’re dying doesn’t mean you can write. Nina Rigg can. Whew! Her book, I’m sad to say, did make me cry, did make me appreciate my life. She’s particularly good at showing how her children understand that she will not be around for much longer, ad when they realize it, they go very quiet, which somehow feels more heartbreaking than being weeping-like-a-banshee about it. She’s also quite funny, and one piece of advice sticks with me. She and her husband have a different reaction to their difficulties. He wonders when things will get back to normal, but for the author, these are days she has so she needs to embrace the difficult days — and this makes so much sense to me. When you have trouble, go into them more deeply.

“maybe you should talk to someone” by lori gottlieb

Man, this is a great book. The author is a therapist and former TV story executive, so she knows how to tell a story, and her reveal of each patient case study feels like a mini-series. (Eva Longoria optioned the film rights for the book, to which my LA Alex friend said “of course she did, of course she did.” Still, it is rich material with theatrical scenes and meaty motives, so I get it.) The book is kind of a portrait of therapy, a memoir, and kind of a book about work. Like it’s fascinating to me the author went to Stanford, worked at NBC on “Friends” and “ER,” and through shadowing an ER doctor who consulted for the show, realized she wanted to go to med school. After feeling a tug between writing and a desire to have a family caused her pivot again to be a therapist. (I love all the career stuff. It absolutely made me go “WAIT A HOT SECOND,” is this kind of understanding, this kind of alignment between self and work possible??)

Anyway, I was excited to read this book because I love any kind of insight into how to live better, but also, even if none of the topics above interest you, it’s an incredible read. I don’t know why it’s so great. Having a great story or being able to write still does not mean a book will succeed. I have read a few memoirs of 38-year-old moms telling their life story in their last year of life–great story, right? Life and death? Meaning of it? Totes boring in the wrong hands. (The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams. Sorry. She was a lawyer and the text is intensely analytical. Gah. I’m not so left-brained so it left me cold.) Even if the writing itself and the story is killer does not mean the book can engage the reader. (I am bored reading “Small Fry” by Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Why? How is that? She’s got writing chops and she’s a child of Steve Jobs whom he refused to recognize.)

In any case, I love this book and here are some goodies about what she’s says about the human condition:
* You can’t change without loss. (Ouch. That’s cold son.)
* When you change, you start to grieve about the present, but the future too. There is a loss of future. (As my kids say, sick burn)
* The truth comes with a cost: the need to face reality (lord have mercy)
* The whole thing where you want the therapist to make a decision: everyone wages this internal battle to some degree: child or adult? safety or freedom? But no matter where people fall on those continuums, every decision they make is based on two things: fear and love. Therapy strives to teach you how to tell the things apart (I don’t fully get this point, but I definitely have questions I obsess over.)
* Life is uncertainty: some people use self-sabotage as a form of control (whoa)

I took the lessons she discusses in the book and applied to my life. For one week, I was pretty present and unfettered from my normal anxieties, and really enjoyed my life. For that, I’m grateful. It was a wonderful week before my normal brain kicked in.

penguin

At the rink by my house, you can borrow a walker for the ice that is basically a penguin statue on a tiny sled. It’s for kids, or maybe just toddlers. The people renting us skates were very specific about measuring Wonder Twin Girl’s height. “If she’s a lot taller, she can just flip over.” She really didn’t use it, in part because she’s fiercely independent and also in part because there were some older girls around (age 9 or 12) (gotta look cool, man). We grabbed one of the last skates possible at the end of March when they were getting ready to close for the season, and I’m so glad I nabbed it because Wonder Twin Girl has been begging to go forever.

Since I can’t really skate, I ended up using Penguin the entire time, more than Wonder Twin Girl.. We became best friends. (My magnificent ice wipe out is why I started the blog in the first place. Might be my first entry.) I followed Wonder Twin Girl around the rink as she slowly got stronger, less awkward, more graceful. She fell a lot and slid into the wall once and smacked her head, which made me doubly glad my friend Nancy insisted we rent a helmet. Nancy at some point asked if I wanted a break from Penguin, so I could skate without it. She was very encouraging. “I bet you can skate without it.” “Nah,” I said, “No thanks, I’m good.” And we both laughed at my lazy fat cat response.

You know why? Cuz I’m 46. I don’t have to get better. I’m good right here. Was I the only adult with Penguin? Yes. Was that embarrassing? Not really. (I did get a little self-conscious towards the end, but I’m good at ignoring emotions when I need to.) It was a wonderful feeling to not worry about improving, pushing myself, being fine with exactly where I am. It’s part of hte beauty of aging, this gradula sinking into more of who you are, not giving a rat’s arse about what people think. It’s like being Samuel Jackson, (minus the money, fame, and success.)

In any case, why not roll this expansive feeling of freedom and ease to other realms of my life? Why not retire from striving, achieving, seeking external phrase and accolades? Why not retire from feeling bad about myself because I have far more successful friends? I think that mindset really gets in the way of enjoying my life. So that’ my next goal: to just enjoy my life more. I only have like 45+ years left (knock on wood) and I don’t want to waste them.

I wish I had a nice tidy conclusion but I don’t as this is an ongoing thought I’m trying to make sense of. Perhaps I should start bringing the penguin to other parts of my life like during family fights, tense business meetings. etc.

matrix

There are a bunch of pop culture think pieces out talking about how “The Matrix” is a classic film. Fine, they’re right, I’m sure and I agree. But even if I didn’t, there are images from that film that I still think of, twenty years after seeing it. I was very excited to see this film when it was out in theaters. It was different from any other empty-headed action picture that I had dismissed as a genre forever.

There is a scene where Keanu Reeves realizes that life is an illusion. In the scene, he’s asleep in a pod of like amniotic fluid, surrounded by thousands of other pods containing similarly unconscious people, when he suddenly wakes up. He sits up, gasps for air and opens his eyes, and wonders WTF. I always think about that scene. It feels right. It makes me think how we are all just groomed to be mini-consumers. I think of this scene when I commute and when I walk to work and walk home. All of us in liquid pods.

serena williams, us open, summer 2018

In August 2018, Serena Williams was on her comeback tour from after having a child nad healing from complications related to said event. She faced wonder kid Naomi Osaka, barely 18 I think, and a referee who had it in for her (in my opinion). She was docked a point when her coach gave direction with his hands (not visible from her perch) and docked a game when she told off the referee. She called him a thief and said that as a mother, she would never cheat. She would rather lose than cheat. In the end, Naomi Osaka won. At the trophy ceremony, the crowd booed, Naomi cried, Serena hugged Naomi and told the crowd to be positive, move on, and let Naomi enjoy her win.

In terms of tell-offs, I found Serena’s referee tell-off quite mild. There was no cursing. (Me? As soon as I am in the zip code of getting ticked? F-bombs everywhere.) There was no racquet throwing. The speech felt noble even; the speech was that of a warrior princess in an epic opera. I felt I got a glimpse of the story Serena tells herself as part of her personal myth, the story of self she tells herself to motivate herself.

There have been so many think pieces written on this match. In tennis, a point, never mind a game, can make a dramatic difference on results. It is such a psychological sport that anything that disrupts a player’s confidence and concentration can change everything. My immediate thoughts from the match was Serena needs meditation in a big way. She was facing impossible distractions and needed a calming center. An excellent New York Times piece by Gail Collins I can’t find talked about how the referee robbed both women of a satisfying match (Serena did not get to try her hardest, and Naomi’s win could be interpreted as not a true win, given the point penalties.) A co-worker said it was too much for Serena. She was just asked to handle too much and she fell apart. A class parent friend said she couldn’t stop seeing an older married woman with a child competing with a younger, stronger person with no responsibilities and how that was an impossible fight. All of these thoughts, I found wildly interesting.

Serena Williams has faced insane racist and sexist treatment from a sport she has faithfully elevated, promoted, and given her life to. (Um, I’m a fan, can you tell? I cannot help but be awed by her work ethic. She reportedly missed a back hand in a match, then drilled her backhand 2000 times. 2000 times! There is nothing I have done in my life 2,000 times. I have blogged about it before.) She had a tough, near-death giving birth experience and she’s just an intense woman whose ambitions are going to need to adjust to being a mama. I greatly appreciate her Instagram posts of holding her toddler daughter while stretching and getting into fight mode for a match. When you a parent, your consciousness is permanently divided. You are still programmed to pursue the goals you did as a childless person but you are also now all about this child. It’s very confusing.

On another level, I thought the match was such a great demonstration of aging and it felt almost meta, like older Serena was playing a match against younger Serena. (I think it would make a great play. I might try to write it.) Naomi Osaka cried at the booing from the crowd and later said “I thought they hated me.” Of course she did. She’s a child and when you’re a child, your world is incredibly small and you think it’s all about you. It’s only by aging, you realize there’s a community, a larger context in which you have your experience. Sometimes the things you experience has nothing to do with you personally. I don’t know what else i’m trying to say other than the match and the process of aging itself feels best expressed by the rings of a tree. As a kid, I was taught when you slice open the trunk of a tree, you can tell how old the tree is by counting the rings. They are all there — the young years and the older years, and that’s how life feels. You are the sum of all your ages and they all feel fresh and they co-exist in the same time period. Something ten years ago might feel just as vibrant in your memory as yesterday. That’s my best explanation of human consciousness. It is all happening at the same time (all of your ages, I mean), and I find that incredibly, incredibly wild.

short story out

I have a short story published for the first time in twenty years. I know. That’s crazy. I started this story when the OJ Simpson trial was still going on and have given up and tinkered with it off and on since then. I have many stories like that. In fact, this feels a little like I found something in my house and sold it on Ebay.

Regardless, although I can go on putting this down, I’m taking it as encouragement and am excited that I no longer have to keep working on it. I’m ignoring the parts that scream WEAK to me. (La la la la la). What relief. Don’t you feel that way, like your head is an Internet browser with too many tabs open? It’s such a relief to close one tab.

duality

There’s a documentary playing at Sundance right now that explores the account of two men who claim they were molested by Michael Jackson. Based on reading the interview with the filmmaker, I believe them. It doesn’t bother me that one had previously stated publicly that the molestation did not occur, or that another attended Michael Jackson’s funeral and wept. I believe that that kind of reality must take years to digest.

But to be honest with you, I was kind of hoping the allegations were false. My children love Michael Jackson, I love his music. Diana Ross, who by all accounts seems like a decent human, and her exceptional daughter Tracee Ellis Ross allude to their love for Michael Jackson. He’s not just a first-rate musician and singer, he is the most incredible dancer. God, that man can move. When First Son was obsessed with MJ, Becca gave him an MJ bio for kids, and it’s a series that does not back away from ugly. The author reviewed the charges and stated that legally, nothing came of the charges, so I felt like, phew! It’s safe to love him!

In documentary, one of them men shares a collection of jewelry, gifted to him by Michael Jackson. Each piece was a gift after a sexual favor. The man’s hands are literally shaking as he brings it to show the camera. (Look, I have not seen the movie, nor plan to. These are the details that emerge from the interview.) But it’s not just a portrait of pain, which is the confusing part. These men are genuinely conflicted: on one hand, they received affection and mentorship from Michael Jackson when no one other adult was giving them attention, and they love MJ for it. On the other hand, he manipulated them into having sex with him repeatedly when they were kids. That is like the description of feelings of war in one body. I don’t know if I could take — I can’t even take it as a fan. I love his music but he destroyed children. How do people who were close to him feel? Do they rationalize that it couldn’t be true because they never saw evidence of it? It’s not just them though. None of us want to believe it of our heroes. We want them all to be good, so it’s heartbreaking when the truth is so different than what you see on the surface.

I was going to write about this weird condition about being asked to contain duality before I read about this film. As I get older, I feel like I meet people who have some wonderful and awful qualities, and because of circumstances, we are in each other’s orbit. I am asked to hold both — and it’s really hard, even though it’s so much less extreme than what I just described above. It makes me feel quite divided and gives me such a headache that I still struggle to accurately describe it.