I get some interesting offers via email to my blog (no, not that kind!). Unlike my friend Metrodad, no one has ever offered to send me a free portable DVD player to review. But a few months ago, an intern from BenBella Books contacted me to see if they could send me a review copy of This is Chick Lit. I’ve never been one to say no to free books, so I told him I would take the book, but that I wouldn’t guarantee that I’d review it.
The backstory on this book is that it’s a collection of short stories by women authors lumped into the category of ‘chick lit,’ who reacted badly to the publication of a women’s short story collection called “This is *Not* Chick Lit.”
I have to say, that as far as burning political issues of the day go, this is not one of my more pressing concerns. I can appreciate it that women get upset when they feel like other women are denigrating their work–I mean, the whole Mommy wars thing is right up this same alley. Or maybe it’s more comparable to the mommybloggers controversy that’s occurred at Blogher–where some women got upset that there are mommybloggers in the world, taking away from the seriousness of their own blogs.
It came last week, and I read it over the weekend. For the most part, the stories that I liked were the ones that didn’t try to fit in an entire novel in ten pages. The art of story writing is different from the art of novel writing, but I’m not sure every contributor to this thing got the memo.
I’m not the world’s biggest chick lit fan, but neither am I the smallest. I’ve read all of Jennifer Weiner’s books, I read the Bridget Jones novels, The Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diaries, all that stuff. But just like I don’t love every mommyblogger’s writing, I didn’t love every story in this collection. There were some that I liked, but none of them knocked my socks off.
If you’re looking for a light beach read, check this one out.
“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
We spent the weekend in NYC, hanging out with my MIL. Yesterday, she got us tickets for Slava’s SnowShow, which is a pretty incredible piece of theater for kids. A performance of Russian clowning, it reminded me that children’s entertainment used to be a lot darker, back before it got all Disneyfied.
The cast consists of five clowns who don’t speak throughout the performance (although there is some non-verbal vocalizing). For the most part, they do their act with the kinds of things that kids find to play with everywhere–bubbles, imaginary boats, oversized costumes, stick-figure bows and arrows. The Bee (despite complaining that it was going to be boring) found it to be hilarious and great. The Potato, who spent the whole show sitting on his dad’s lap, was somewhat conflicted about it.
There are parts of the show that are really loud, and I think that the noise scared him several times. In addition, there’s a moment where the main clown hangs a coat and hat up on a coatrack, puts his right arm through one arm of the coat, and pretends that his right hand is hugging him goodbye. It’s an eerie trick, and he makes it look as if his arm is actually not attached to his body. It really looks like another person patting and hugging him goodbye, in a somewhat maternal way. The Potato was very upset by the clown’s distress, and started to cry himself.
Several times, the clowns make it snow on the audience and the stage. At one point, the Bee was so transfixed that she stood up and walked into the aisle to try to catch snowflakes, just as if it was a real snowstorm. The snow is actually cut up tissue paper, and it was covering the theater floor when we went in. Our kids, and the kids of other people, were fascinated by the snow, and kept gathering it up in big bunches to throw on each other and us. At the very end, the clowns throw enormous balloons and balls into the audience, and everyone batted them around for a good fifteen minutes. One girl of about five just kept gathering up handfuls of ‘snow’ and dumping them on her own head.
All in all, it was a magical experience, and seemed incredibly Russian. In fact, I think that there were a large number of Russians in the audience, most of whom didn’t seem to have kids. At times, I almost felt as if I was watching a play by Beckett. The show was perfect without words, but it wouldn’t have seemed odd if the dialogue of Vladimir and Estragon had been looped over it.
Please come back.
I know some of the reasons you left–wanting to teach your children your own values, not wanting to leave your babies with strangers, wanting to spend quality time with your kids, not having a job with the flexibility that a parent needs, lacking a spouse that supported your wanting to work, not having decent childcare, realizing that paying for daycare would wipe out your whole paycheck–those are all good reasons.
It’s selfish of me to want you to come back, when those situations all still exist. But I’m so tired of being the only working mom in my office. I’m tired of having to explain to everyone that I work with why I can’t go on overnights every week, or have conference calls every day at 5:30. I’m tired of going to work social events and having no one to talk to about the day-to-day cute things that my kids do, or the struggle to keep my laundry in check.
Sure, there are dads in the office. But while we might have a chat now and then about parenting, I can’t help but feel that they have a fundamentally different feeling about it than I do. The men that I work with are married to women who are the primary caregiver for their children. Some of those women work, but the men all seem to be able to work late every night, and to me, that says that their wife is the one who’s rushing home to get dinner on the table, to make sure that homework is done, and that the kids’ clothes are clean.
I’m so, so tired of feeling alone.
I’m sure that by now, many of you have seen this story about how kids who are watching TV when they get an injection are less likely to report pain than kids who were just being comforted by their mothers (question–were no fathers involved in these doctors visits?).
Obviously, the researchers have not been at our house when the Bee’s hair is being brushed after a bath. Despite the soporific effects of the Fairly Oddparents (which, btw, is there a more inane kids show? no, don’t answer that), she complains tremendously when we’re de-tangling.
Landisdad and I have a passive conflict going about the Bee’s hair, a sort of hair cold war, if you will. I love the Bee’s hair, and as a former long-haired girl myself, I remember too well how much it hurts to have it yanked on. Both the Bee and I are pretty tender-headed, and yet I loved having long hair, and I know she loves her hair.
Landisdad has a much less sentimental vision of the Bee’s hair, and tends to advocate for a much shorter haircut. I have a very vivid memory of getting my first short haircut when I was 8 or 9 years old, and having my best friend mistake me for a boy when I was walking down the street. It was fairly disconcerting to me, and made me immediately regret my choice to cut my hair.
I don’t want to be one of those mothers who lives vicariously through her child. If the Bee came to me tomorrow and said she wanted a buzz cut, I’d cry, but I’d do it. She should have the right to do what she wants with her hair.
The Potato has much shorter hair than the Bee right now, and he wants ponytails. I’ve considered letting him grow his out, but I don’t know. If he’s anywhere near as tenderheaded as the Bee, I couldn’t survive bath night.
If we ever, for some reason, need to prove that the Potato is a prince, we’re not going to be able to have him sleep on 20 mattresses on top of a pea. Because the Potato routinely sleeps with more toys, books, and other sundry things in his bed than, well, bedding. Here is a short list of things I’ve found in his bed when I’ve gone to check on him before hitting the hay myself:
- a library full of books (like 10 to 12 at a time)
- 15 or 18 stuffed animals
- all of his trains, with half of the train tracks set up on his mattress
- eleventy billion plastic dinosaurs
- enough Matchbox cars to complete the Indianapolis 500
and last, but definitely not least
- a blue plastic chair
Most nights when I go in to give him that last good-night kiss, he’s curled up at the end of the bed, where he collapsed after his last moments of play for the day. Sometimes he’s turned his light back on, and he’s sleeping under its blaze.
There are occasional nights when he’s so tired that he actually sleeps on his pillow, but mostly he’s up after we’ve put him to bed, potatoing around in his room. (Potatoing is a variant of bumbling, which is what we call it when the Bee putters around in her room.)
The Potato is an active kid and his energy is endless, right up to the time it’s not. I love that he’s able to be independent and that he can amuse himself alone in his room. I know that it’ll only be a matter of time before he no longer has train track marks on his cheek as a result of it.
When we were on vacation, we spent a lot of time in the pool. At one point, we were playing the ‘heave mom off the raft’ game, and after I was dunked repeatedly, the Bee got up on the raft. I started swimming toward her, saying, “I’m a raft pirate. Is there someone on a raft? I need to dunk them!” The Bee thought the concept of raft pirates was hilarious, and swam around the pool shouting, “I’m a raft pirate, I’m a raft pirate.” And then, in a burst of 21st Century kid-dom, she said, “For more information, visit http://www.raftpirates.com.”;
This is the Bee’s last week of going to day camp at our local kids’ science museum. It’s a place that’s close to my office, and it’s been kind of nice commuting with her again. After I dropped her off today, I was on the way to work, and I started thinking about how glad I am that she’s having this experience.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post that was sort of loosely on the subject of race and the suburbs. My gladness with the Bee’s summer experience is related to that. We live outside of one of the biggest cities in the country, and yet I know quite a few folks who go there maybe once a year. For the most part, middle class folks where I live aren’t always eager to go into the city. They complain about the parking, complain about the traffic, and the crime, but they don’t really spend time there, they just repeat what they see on the local news.
I’ve worked in this city for seven years, and yet when I go there with my kids, I’m able to see it with new eyes. When the Bee was a toddler, and still came to work with me at least once a week, we would pass a huge mural on the way to my office. Every time, she would point out the ‘dragon hair woman’ to me, and I would see it afresh.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Bee complains about sitting in traffic as much as any commuter does. But having her in the city with me means we get to stop at the local roach coach at the end of the day to grab a water or a snack. Or she takes off her sandals and walks through a fountain (hopefully without falling on her butt and getting all wet, which did happen once). Or we get to have, as we did today, a conversation about birth control (how do I get into these conversations? I’m not really sure.).
I’m glad that she won’t grow up intimidated about going there. But you can check back in nine years–I may have changed my mind when she’s figured out how to get there by herself on the train.
* Picture courtesy of www.aviewoncities.com