And now, A Few Minutes with… WEST TWIN
With the sad passing of America’s grouch-in-chief last year I got to thinking that there may just be a niche available for someone who makes their living by “having opinions” and I sure as hell have those, so here’s my crack at it:
On de-stressing the distress
Is it just me or is life just becoming more and more stressful? It feels like the relentless pace of the world gets more hectic all the time. I turn on the radio and hear that the water reservoirs in the Gaza strip are almost depleted to “slime level” and the basic necessities of daily living there will be untenable by the year 2016. Closer to home, in my house we are blessed to have food and water certainly but the ragged march of school, work and sports commitments are so dominating that our quality of family life is seriously impacted. I sometimes feel that this is the true Armageddon of 2012: the unraveling of our human experience by the demands of living our high-pressure lives. I know from talking to other parents that the “my head is going to pop off” feeling is happening to everyone. How can we withstand these pressures, both internal and external? How can we de-stress?
I know lots of things that make me feel better but the truth is sometimes it is hard work just to achieve even some small amount of relaxation. Take yesterday for example. A simple idea of a family bike ride seemed a perfect way to blow off steam and celebrate the Autumn equinox by getting out in nature and relishing in the golden afternoon sunlight. But first we had to grapple our way through interpersonal dynamics to agree on a location, find all the helmets and bike gear, inspect and pump up all the tires, make a quick trip to the grocery store for picnic-like foods to bring for the inevitably hungry offspring, attach the bike rack, load the bikes up on it, equip all the kids with water bottles and shoes, make sure everyone had peed and finally hit the road a few hours before sunset. Did I mention we have to drive to get to the required natural setting?? Man…what a lot of WORK. Luckily, Mother Nature being her consistently calm and ever-present self did her job and within moments of being out on the bike trail whizzing by golden grasses and the darkening river under a perfectly balanced September half-moon, all was well in the world.
That’s all it takes. The river, the moon, and being together.
Now why is that so hard?
On the weird world of Boys
I live in an all-male household (with the exceptions of myself and my two girly cats) and there are many, many times when I feel like I may as well be living with Martians for all that I understand about them. I spent years in college studying gender inequalities and the oppression of patriarchal cultures. That’s all well and good. Nature or nurture?, that was always the big question. But now that I’m raising three little males of my own and trying to forge a meaningful relationship with an adult one, I’m more convinced than ever that I have no control over their strange behaviors. And that men definitely are from Mars.
For instance, what’s with the scatological humor? Is it in their genes? This just happened:
husband (putting away dishes): “where does this blender go?”
me (blogging my brains out, looking up distractedly): “right there, under where you are standing…” (meaning the cupboard)
husband (with a silly grin): “underwear?”
boys, overhearing from the other room, crack-up: “underwear! hahah! good one dad. nice!”
(they continue to riff on this as I write, going on and on about “underwear everywhere”)
I mean, come on.
But seriously, I struggle to understand why boys operate the way they do. Why do they have to constantly fight and try to dominate one another. Unlike dogs they don’t seem to settle quickly on who is the alpha and stick with it, but rather try to re-assert this fact at every given opportunity; be it who gets to sit next to me on the couch or who gets to brush their teeth first. In many cases this constant conflict turns physical. Depressingly this propensity for boys needing to dominate each other has recently spilled over to the playground of my son’s first grade class where a boy was being bullied by some of others. Why? Why do they need to do this? How can we adults help boys to flex their natural macho urges without it translating into the oppression of others? As I jokingly told a friend who advised me to write this week about world peace, I would happily settle for achieving household peace. How can the U.N be expected to bring warring factions together when I can’t even get three brothers to get along?
No wonder Kofi Annan quit.
On keeping track of the kids socks
This one goes out to the mother-friends who requested it as a topic, though as the mamas of 5 and 6 children each, I think it is I who should be asking them for domestic advice on getting anything done while being overrun with children. That being said, I don’t keep track of my kids socks. We have a “sock basket” that lives in a permanent place in the laundry room and is always at least 50% full of homeless socks that do not have a mate. I don’t get it. Where do the missing socks go? Remember that MTV show Ren and Stimpy? In the best episode I ever saw, they traveled to the planet of lost left socks which was made up of heaping piles of the smelly old singles that have been lost forever in time and space. Ren fantasizes that he will receive the Nobel Peace prize for this discovery. And deservedly so.
At any rate my new approach to the sock problem is to get the kids each a different kind of sock , sort of like their “signature sock”. Being the sports logo suckers that they are the oldest wears only 3/4 length Nike swoosh socks or the seriously over-priced “Nike Elite” socks, the middle one wears the ankle length Nike socks, and the littlest one wears ped-style puma brand. This has made sorting the laundry a little bit easier but where the system gets more challenging is when the older ones grow out of a size but (if the socks are still in good shape) they get passed down to the next youngest. Then I have to remember that ‘these are no longer so-and so’s but now go in the other kids pile’. It’s like a mental math exercise or something. It’s too much for my poor husband, who at 6’5″ sees everything as smaller than himself and can’t tell my clothes apart from the children’s. Consequently I am often the laundry-sorter, plonking myself down at night with a glass of wine and an episode of Breaking Bad. That works sometimes but in moments when my resentment over the sock basket has become too much I have even stooped to bribing one of the kids to make sock balls, paying per pair of socks that they are able to locate and roll together. We never could settle on a fair price though, and after I mistakenly offered 5 cents per pair I discovered that the kid’s patience for the task outlasted mine. And I was $2.50 in the hole to prove it.
On teenage angst
I am not quite in this boat yet, my oldest son being about to turn 13 in four months, but I’m certainly in the harbor and can see it sailing straight towards me. I’m noticing a lot of changes in my almost-teenager. Although in some respects these changes are positive: good study habits, self-imposed discipline (such as getting up at 6 a.m to run a mile every morning) and a newly discovered passion for making mix-tapes…I mean burning mix-cds (oops, showing my old fart age there) I also see some other more confusing behaviors appearing. Confusing for me that is.
The dark clouds of boredom and restlessness seem to appear more frequently now. There is this sense of not knowing what to do with himself or being dissatisfied with the family agenda. “What are we doing today?” is a regular complaining refrain and let me tell you, a days plan to stay at home cleaning the garage and balling up socks is not met with a positive attitude. And even more disturbing than this aimless dissatisfaction is a shift in awareness about the world that demands a lot of answers to really hard questions. Just this week we’ve tackled racist comments in the classroom, child slave labor used in making the aforementioned Nike socks, why some people throw their lives away on drugs, and how to make a Halloween costume of the blue dudes from Avatar.
It’s challenging to be present, solid and thoughtful in my responses to this young person budding into an adult before my very eyes, because sometimes I still feel like a gawky teenager myself. And I’m noticing another thing, the closer my son gets to teenage-hood the more I have to take an unflinching look at my own adolescent behaviors and tendencies. I once read that the dilemma of modern parenting is that most of us are stuck in a stunted adolescent phase marked by an urge for instant gratification and an inability to take responsibility. Sounds plausible. The internet? Bank bail-outs? The Jersey Shore? It’s the Me-generation run rampant. Now, how do we go about raising the Us-generation??
and finally…On the changing of the seasons
The beautiful thing about life on planet earth is that the seasons just keep marching along without a care as to whether we humans like it or not. Give or take a little global warming, there are three months of winter, spring, summer, and now fall. Our calendars tell us it’s time, although up here in Northern California it’s been in the high 90 degrees all week and as my friend Georgia says “it’s not Fall until I can wear my boots all day and not get hot feet”. I second that.
Regardless, I plan to solider ahead with celebrating the season despite the weather. So it’s time for baking butternut squash muffins, time to enjoy one my favorite colors in the spectrum – Orange – in all it’s fashion glory, and time to slow down, hunker down, and get ready for the hard task of turning inward as the cold dark season approaches and we are stuck inside with no one but ourselves and our own opinions for company.
Now that’s something that even an old codger like Rooney could agree with.