"I shut my eyes in order to see." - Paul Gauguin

March 20, 2009

Originally uploaded by Robert S. Donovan (booleansplit)

Just a couple of links (and a great and interesting image via Robert S. Donovan on Flickr) for you on this beautiful Friday. I was admiring the cavalcade of tulips in the supermarket yesterday, but as always its hard to take my own photos when your two-year-old wants to hold hands while running.

In theory, today is the first day of spring. Its cold here today, but the snow is slowly melting and I have some hope that by next week or so we'll be able to start going to the playground again.

I don't know if there is a connection between these two links or not. You tell me.

Presidential parenting: Good mothers lead by example

Is the opt-out revolution coming to an end?
-- Let me just say here that I was so very pleased that the second comment caught my thoughts exactly: "Opt out would imply options, would it not?" Of all the dozens families with children I know, exactly four have been able to make the choice to have one parent opt-out of working. In two families, its the traditional "professional dad and stay-at-home mom" profile. In one, the mom had the high paying job and the dad was home when the kids were small. And in one, the family can afford to have one parent stay home because both partners had worked at high paying jobs and the were able to bank and invest enough to plan for the future.

I suppose someone could say that Michelle Obama is part of the "opt-out" revolution: she was, after all, a highly-paid executive who left her job to (as some blogs would tell you) "trail along" after her husband and take care of their home and family. (Of course, another view of being First Lady would be that its the highest-profile and most responsible volunteer position in the US. But I digress.)

But for most families, its not a question of opting out any more. Its a question of balance - two parents working at (at least) two jobs, or one parent (either parent) staying at home and one in the workforce. The balance of "we want another child" against "can we afford to have another child" or the balance of "I want a stay-at-home parent with my child" vs "how to we afford to have one parent at home" vs "which parent has the skills and education to get the best-paying job."

I guess I've never seen this opt-out revolution she speaks of. I've only seen families that try to make the best choices for themselves.

Today's post at Antique Mommy talks about a photo of her mother-in-law, and how "[w]hen her husband encouraged her to sell Tupperware to make a little mad money, she discovered that she liked it. And she was good at it — so good that she won a car and quickly rose through the ranks to become a sales director." Then tragedy struck her family, and her husband was killed, and what had formerly been "mad money" was now the family's sole means of support. (I can't imagine how good you'd have to be at selling Tupperware to support a family of four. I couldn't do it.) Some might say that it was a stroke of good fortune that she had kept her toe in the water, so to speak. But this woman's story also speaks to so many other things: how work brings fulfillment, recognition, and rewards. How its good to have some backup skills in case of disaster (death being the worst, of course, but for many families the impact of a job-loss can be as or more economically devastating than a death). But, of course, no one was writing about mothers like AM's MIL in the papers back then. It wasn't a "trend". It was just families doing what they wanted or needed to do.

I get so tired of the fallacy that "working mothers" are a new phenomenon, or that there has been some "opting revolution" in the past decade or two. In some families, both parents have always worked. On the farm, maybe, or in the store, or with mom doing in-home parties or taking on piece work, but both parents were contributing to the finances of the family. In other families, only one parent was the wage-earner. In yet other families, the roles shifted depending on circumstance. What has changed -- what the fundamental change is that no one really talks about much -- is the way the culture has changed to make things less easy and hospitable for two-earner families. The media wants to make hay out of the "mommy wars" - working parents vs. stay at homes. We're encouraged to envy or criticize those on the other side of the fence, rather than support them. Our sense of community as parents has vanished and now its all about making the "right" choices, as though only one set of choices were the correct one.

"Children are never more serious than when they play." - Montaigne

March 18, 2009

Originally uploaded by jmacphoto.com

My son has become obsessed with Candyland.

He's 2 1/2 now (well, more than 2 1/2 I guess ... how time flies!) and the matching games we were playing were boring him. So I picked up a cheap copy of Candyland, and over the weekend we introduced him to it. Now every night after supper the begging for a movie has been replaced with "I want to play the game! I want to play the game!". So out comes the box and off we go.

I'm fascinated, though, by his rules. He understands that the little men must walk on the path, and the counting colors and that, but he feels - strongly - that we must all keep together. When one player gets behind, he'll become very concerned, and will attempt to give his next cards to that player so the left-behind one can catch up. Or, sometimes, he'll decide he's going backwards on the path, to make sure that no one is left behind.

We should probably teach him to play "The Rules" but we can't bring ourselves to, yet. After all, he's right - no one should be left behind. We should go back and pick up those who have fallen behind on the path. And, when we get to the end, we should all join hands and go skating.

"The best way to behave is to misbehave." - Mae West

March 6, 2009

Off and on all afternoon I've been reading A Room of Mama's Own, a blog written (I hope I have this right) by a Stay at home mom with one Autistic son and one Neurotypical daughter, whose husband is a sex addict. As you can imagine, its a fairly complex blog and I've been reading it sorted by tags and topics. Due to her son's Autism (and her own status as someone who uses the word Codependent to describe herself) she talks a lot about techniques for changing behavior ... how we expect children to be able to, somehow, control themselves if only the right carrot or the right stick is found. Its really fascinating reading, and a great site.

So, one of the cars (the FIGBASH car) has a leak in a rear tire. We took it out to Sears at the Mall to have it repaired, largely because a) they're open late, and b) its a large open space where E can run around while we wait for the car to be done, rather than having to sit still in a dull waiting room.

We went to Macy's, because I keep hoping the Martha Stewart Collection cast iron enameled pots will somehow again drop to the miraculously low price they were for a single day before Thanksgiving, and because Josh (bless him) is toying with the idea of buying a FryDaddyTM. (I have informed him that he can't do that unless he can somehow find more counter space. As it is the bread machine doesn't see regular use because its too much of a PITA to move the stuff around it.) While we were there, predictably (because of all the breakable dishes) it was the only time all night that E did not want desperately to hold my hand or otherwise cling to me. Instead, he wanted to RUN WILD! Picking him up, trying to hold his hand, or anything that otherwise might be interpreted (by him) as restraining him (like, say, touching him) resulted in him going all "limp cat" and screeching.

Then, he saw the Fiestaware.

Fiesta Pitchers + Red Platter Now, to understand this story, you must know this: I have a secret dish passion. I try, very hard and mostly successfully, to keep it under wraps, but it lurks under the surface at all times. I love beautiful dishes. I love the way light reflects off their surface. I love the feel of a sturdy plate in the hand. I love the curve of a footed bowl or the line of a well designed pitcher. If we had room, I would fill the walls with dishes, just to look at them, be around them, enjoy them.

But we're poor, and so I don't give in. I just stand in the store and look at them, longingly.

There I was, staring at the Fiestaware display in Macy's, my breathing a little shallow and rapid, reaching out here and there to caress a butter dish or slide one finger down the side of a teapot. And suddenly, my son was standing there beside me, his tiny hand slipping into mine. He was transfixed.

"They're beautiful," he whispered.

"Yes, they are. Which color do you like best?"

He stood very still and surveyed the display. Peacock, Ivory, Sunflower, Scarlet, Plum, Black, Cobalt and Tangerine. I watched him look them over carefully, with a critical eye.

"The red one." he said, with a clear tone of certainty.

And that's when I gave in to impulse. I leaned down to him, whispered in his ear. "Evan," I said, "if you can be respectful the rest of the time we're here - no crying, no whining, no running, no flopping around -- holding my hand or daddy's and being calm at all times, I will buy you a red plate before we leave."

And it shouldn't have worked, but it did. For the next twenty minutes he walked next to me, held my hand, was calm and collected, as we looked at objects and named them. I let him run a little wild in the mattress room while his father inspected the finer points of deep fryer baskets, but otherwise he was a model gentleman. Then we walked back over to the plates, and I let him pick the one he wanted (dinner size, salad size, or bowl) and he picked the dinner plate, and I paid for it, and we took it home.

We're not having supper at home tonight, so I'll be interested to see if he remembers "the red plate". I probably should feel guilty about bribing him like that, but I don't. Somehow, buying him the red plate - something that makes me as happy as it makes him - doesn't seem like a bribe. More, it seems like an excuse to indulge myself.