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Archive for the ‘school kids’ Category

My latest column for Fairfax newspapers is here:

Go ahead and brainwash your baby. There are few enough privileges as a parent, you might as well seize this one. If you want to change the world and make it a less sexist place then this little human sponge of yours is the best chance you’ve got. Because truth is, the world is going to try to brainwash your baby right back. I’m wary of anyone being too prescriptive about either parenting or feminism these days, I’ve made my share of compromises with both, and I’m not much interested in perfectionism. But in case you’re after a starting point with anti-sexist parenting then here’s three general tips from my own experience.

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I went with the kids to stay at the beach on the weekend with our friends at their beach house. I don’t think I’ve ever arrived anywhere more worn out.

At one point my friend took my daughter to the shops with her while her teenage son took my four year old boy to play outside with him. I sat in front of a window, all by myself, looking out over the sea thinking I will just have a minute to take in the view and then I will finish reading this book I am reviewing. Two hours later I finally looked down from the sea to find the book in my lap.

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Cormac on the beach in the evening being very pensive.

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My friend’s teenage son helping Cormac cross the channel. It was deeper than we expected.

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Watching all the children swimming in the sea from my friend’s beach house verandah.

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Lauca and my friend’s daughter boogie boarding together.

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Horses in the sea.

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Cormac and one of our friends.

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Lauca learning to make twine as a form of active meditation. Yes.. that didn’t come from stressed out me.. that little intervention came from one of our friends. He’s Aboriginal and he taught her how to make a traditional form of string.

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My column this week for Daily Life is out:

For weeks this year, before that night, I dreamed about snakes. On and off I’ve had these dreams since childhood and they always look like Pierre Roy’s Danger on the Stairs (1927). Recently people tried to tell me that the dreams were a sign of healing but Google that old surrealist painting and tell me if you see any good omens there.

Before I tell you what happened that night I want to tell you what happened a little further back, which is that I suddenly became a single parent. My partner and I, after more than a decade and a half together, decided to end our relationship. Doesn’t matter how a relationship ends — whether you leave, are left or it happens mutually — there’s still a moment where you take a breath and jump. It’s a moment of acceptance that this is your new reality.

 

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I have a co-written article with the very clever Lori Day in the Huffington Post today about the four reasons why parents buy into the culture of gender stereotyping.

 

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We grow old in fits and starts, it’s not a linear progression. I don’t know why but I stay looking the same age for about two years and then one day I suddenly look three years older and then I plateau for a time and on it goes. I’ve just noticed we grow up in fits and starts too. I gave Lauca a day in the city with me for her ninth birthday. She skipped school and went to my salon for an encounter with my very good looking, perfectionist hairdressers. Then she ate sushi in my office while I tended to something urgent before we strolled together through an art gallery for the afternoon and finally, off to dinner in a restaurant with my family. I think she turned into a teenager in the process.

When I started this blog Lauca was not quite two years old. As with all change I seem to feel both happy and sad about that.

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In the lift at my work.

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And at the art gallery. Right now Lauca is fascinated with European history so this exhibition was perfect.

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I was interviewed recently for a television program that intends to look at various styles of parenting and the kinds of children these create. I know they’re trying to be nuanced about the topic but I can imagine the stereotypes their audience will have in mind. Namely, the idea that my generation of parents are coddling our children, are too intense about our parenting, that we’re a little too attentive.. that we want our kids to get trophies just for showing up and we’re creating feckless brats in the process. Yes, so about that..

I really, really like this piece, “How the ‘trophy for just showing up’ was earned” by Sonya Huber in The New York Times.

My son’s eight soccer trophies are lined up above his bed. One is a fake-metal bobblehead, and one has a little soccer ball that spins. He received each one for merely being on the roster.

These pieces of plastic and metal handed out by park-district coaches have emerged as a symbol of the unearned praise that is said to have weakened our children’s characters.

But I love them, those memorials to grit and mud.

Motherhood writing could do with a lot more of this… a lot more perspective, a lot less stereotyping.

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I wish so much that I had been able to buy Miriam Elia’s book, We Go to the Art Gallery before it was stomped on by Penguin books. I do love a bit of mothering and nihilism in art galleries, you know.

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Thanks to Penelope D. for the link.

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Kids singing always melts my heart.

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Raising modern, indulged children for their own sake can be challenging. In the end, Senior writes, “Mothering and fathering aren’t just things we do. Being a mother or being a father is who we are.” Her most striking observations reveal this existential complexity. “How it feels to be a parent and how it feels to do the quotidian and often arduous task of parenting are two very separate things. ‘Being a parent’ is much more difficult for social science to anatomize.” Social science is especially inadequate to describe the nature of this particular joy, but Senior deploys a novelist’s sensibility in giving evidence of that privileged euphoria, insisting that it is not merely coincident with all the tedious things parents must do, but actually an outgrowth of them. “Freedom in our culture has evolved to mean freedom from obligations,” she observes. “But what on earth does that freedom even mean if we don’t have something to give it up for?”

Senior draws on the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s distinction between the “experiencing self” that exists in the present moment and the “remembering self” that constructs a life’s narrative. “Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes — or napping, or shopping, or answering emails — to spending time with our kids. . . . But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one — and nothing — provides us with so much joy as our children. It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.” She talks about parents’ pride in their children, not only in their accomplishments but even in their basic development as human beings, their growth into kindness and generosity. “Kids may complicate our lives,” she writes. “But they also make them simpler. Children’s needs are so overwhelming, and their dependence on us so absolute, that it’s impossible to misread our moral obligation to them. . . . We bind ourselves to those who need us most, and through caring for them, grow to love them, grow to delight in them, grow to marvel at who they are.”

“Under Pressure: a review of All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior” in The New York Times by Andrew Soloman.

Complicating matters, mothers assume a disproportionate number of time-sensitive domestic tasks, whether it’s getting their toddlers dressed for school or their 12-year-olds off to swim practice. Their daily routine is speckled with what sociologists Annette Lareau and Elliot Weininger call “pressure points,” or nonnegotiable demands that make their lives, as the authors put it, “more frenetic.”
These deadlines have unintended consequences. They force women to search for wormholes in the time-space continuum simply to accomplish all the things that they need to do. In 2011, the sociologists Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider found that mothers spend, on average, 10 extra hours a week multitasking than do fathers “and that these additional hours are mainly related to time spent on housework and child care.”
When fathers spend time at home, on the other hand, it reduces their odds of multitasking by over 30%. Which may explain why, a few years ago, researchers from UCLA found that a father in a room by himself was the “person-space configuration observed most frequently” in their close study of 32 families at home. It may also explain why many fathers manage to finish the Sunday paper while their wives do not—they’re not constantly getting up to refill bowls of Cheerios.
Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.

From “Why Mom’s Time is Different to Dad’s Time” by Jennifer Senior in The Wall Street Journal.

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Some of you really have it together in the mornings.

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