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Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Category

A writer friend comes round. She brings her son, who is the same age as my older daughter. Once we carried these children in our arms; at other times we pushed them in strollers, or led them by the hand. Now he follows his mother in like a pet lion on a leash, a proud, taciturn beast who has consented, temporarily, to be tamed. My daughter has this same aura of the wild about her, as though beneath a veneer of sophistication she is constantly hearing the summons of her native land, somewhere formless and free that still lies inside her and to which at any moment she might return. The manners of adulthood have been recently acquired. There’s no knowing how quickly they could be discarded. She and my friend’s son greet each other in territorial monosyllables. It is as though they are two people from the same distant country who have met here in my sitting room. They’ve met before, often, but you’d never know: Those were old– versions of themselves, like drafts of a novel the author no longer stands by. All the same, I expect them to take themselves off elsewhere, to another room; I expect them to flee the middle-aged climate of the sitting room, but they don’t. They arrange themselves close to us, two lions resting close to the shade of their respective trees, and they watch.

My friend and I have a few years of conversation behind us. We’ve talked about motherhood — we’ve both spent a large part of our time as a single parent — and its relationship to writing. We’ve talked about the problems and pleasures of honoring reality, in life and in art. She has never upheld the shadowless account of parenthood; and perhaps consequently, nor does she now allude to her teenage son as a kind of vandal who has ruined the lovely picture. We talk about our own teenage years, and the hostility of our parents’ generation to any form of disagreement with their children. Any system of authority based on control fears dissidence more than anything else, she says. You two don’t realize how lucky you are, and the lions roll their eyes. What is being controlled, she says, is the story. By disagreeing with it, you create the illusion of victimhood in those who have the capacity to be oppressors. From outside, the dissident is the victim, but the people inside the story can’t attain that distance, for they are defending something whose relationship to truth has somewhere along the line been compromised. I don’t doubt that my parents saw themselves as my hapless victims, as many parents of adolescents do (“You have this lovely child,” a friend of mine said, “and then one day God replaces it with a monster”), but to me at the time such an idea would have been unthinkable. In disagreeing with them, I was merely trying to re-establish a relationship with truth that I thought was lost. I may even have believed that my assertions were helpful, as though we were on a journey somewhere and I was trying to point out that we had taken a wrong turn. And this, I realize, is where the feelings of powerlessness came from: Disagreement only and ever drew reprisal, not for what was said but for the fact alone of saying it, as if I were telling the residents of a Carmelite convent that the building was on fire and was merely criticized for breaking the vow of silence.

From “Raising Teenagers: The mother of all problems” in The New York Times by Rachel Cusk.

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My column is here:

What becomes apparent from all of these clothing determinations is that a girl’s body can’t just be. Rather, it is to be viewed and interpreted by us and sanctioned accordingly. Yet another recent news item reported a female student being sent home from school, after first being lectured in front of her class, for wearing shorts. As her mother subsequently pointed out – the denim shorts were neither torn nor worn low on her waist. There was nothing particularly suggestive about them and you can’t help think similar shorts worn by a boy student would likely be seen as quite sexless. But those bare female legs, even on a hot summer day, can be judged misbehavior.

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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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It’s nearly impossible to think of any other situation in which we, as viewers, including parents and pastors and progressives and feminists, are asked to watch young women and their children go through hell, and tell ourselves the proper response is inaction or even mockery. It’s hard to imagine any other situation in which we as a culture root for real young women and their real children to fail, all in the name of metaphorically saving a much larger group of young women who will never become pregnant.

Absolutely this! As I’ve said before, if you want to see patriarchal attitudes towards motherhood then look at how teenage mothers get treated and a lot of feminist sites have really dropped the ball on this one, too. Great article from Amy Benfer in Dame Magazine with “Why does everyone – from pastors to progressives – doom teen mothers to failure”.

Thanks to Kate Harding for the link.

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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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I see that as long as any kind of social transfer is involved rich women are as capable of “getting themselves pregnant” as teenage girls are claimed to be. Because conception is something that women and girls do to themselves, presumably by deliberately and irresponsibly walking through a cloud of anonymous, minding-its-own-business sperm somewhere. Apparently, these same women then gestate, sitting back and waiting for the spoils to come their way. How unfortunate that men can not avail themselves of the incredible opportunities presented by motherhood, like lower earnings capacity, increased job insecurity, drive-by judgementalism and diminished status.

Note that in the election debate “the pretty little lady lawyer on the northshore is having a kid” (a sentiment I have seen expressed multiple times elsewhere during the campaign), and that the rich women in the meme, above, are “breeding”..  telling expressions.. because exactly where are the fathers in this condemnation? And why are children not part of our community, why are they not somebody whose interests we deem worthy of consideration in an election?

I’m not a huge fan of Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme, (although I appreciate the progressiveness of treating maternity leave like other forms of workplace leave, I don’t believe the scheme is there to address a genuine policy problem and its funding is likely coming at the expense of funding opportunities for other big policy problems).. but I could do without the sexist claptrap in the discussion.

Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.

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I have mixed feelings about this trailer for the documentary, Sexy Baby – a film about developing your sexuality in the digital age – but as I have not yet seen the film it would be unfair to comment too much.

I don’t want us to be overly anxious as parents about teenagers. For instance,  the problem with sexting isn’t about new technology or the (incautious) joy of sharing naked photos, it’s really about slut-shaming, which isn’t new, it’s a problem older than the hills. Perhaps a reflection of how young my own children are, of more concern to me is the accessibility of hardcore porn on the Internet, which is also covered in this documentary.

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Shaming teenage parents is wrong.

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This poem by writer, Penni Russon over at Eglantine’s Cake. (I love a really good poem about the domestic sphere).

This video of men talking back to men who catcall women on the street.

This blog with really cool little videos of interesting shit for kids to watch.

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Gawker is publishing some really good writing at the moment. Here’s a great piece, “Slanted American Tradition: Broken Children and Unbroken Barriers” from Rosa Cabrera about raising a son and her reflections upon violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings (the quote below describes a minor sexual assault):

Two months before giving birth to my son, I walk the four blocks from the train station to see my mother. A boy catches my eye. That looming look in his eyes has something in it that should not belong to a young boy. He begins walking my direction. I hold the heavy door open for him to walk into the apartment building standing on the Concourse of Hip-Hop’s crowded womb.

I hit the elevator button. I notice the baby flesh he still hasn’t lost in the back of his brown hands as they grip a bag of groceries. He asks me questions about the child my body has been carrying for seven months. There’s a quiet fascination, and a strange nervousness in him that I’m embarrassed to fear. I walk into the elevator with him, hating myself for thinking about the knife I forgot at home.  The door slides to a close, and a hand quickly reaches for my shirt to expose my swelling breasts. I knock his hand away.

His face never shifts.

He’s done this before, at least once. The space in the elevator squeezes us closer together. I want to hurt him, but I realize this is a child who could hurt the boy still growing inside me. I ask him what the hell is wrong with him.

And.

I look at the mix of teenage boys and middle-aged men marking the corners with bodies that rock with a tilt. Their faces carry the same stone as the boy in the elevator. The Concourse turf is womanless. I want to not feel so far away. I look down at my swelling womb and wonder what it must feel like to have a son standing among those slanting male bodies.

I relate to that experience she describes there in the second quote, of suddenly looking at men and older boys around me and wondering if this is who my son would become. I remember starting to see these boys and men as boy babies grown up, rather than as male people. It made me see men in a new light – they were now possibilities for who my baby could become, a baby I had grown inside my body. It was a new way of interacting with masculinity with all its good and bad manifestations.

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