I’ve joined a secret society

Last weekend, I took the Bee to an outdoor festival, and I have some bad news to report.

It’s official. I’ve turned into my mother.

When I was a kid, I could never understand why my mother talked to other people in public, and as I got older, I found it hideously embarrassing. She seemed inappropriate, simultaneously chatty & over-familiar.

And yet, last weekend I:

    • First told a total stranger that her son was a great big brother, after watching him help his little brother color a craft project; and
      • Then commented to another stranger (a mom with her kid) that there were sinks in a portable restroom that was next to a much less useful porta-potty.

        I didn’t know, when my mom was holding these embarrassing conversations, that she was doing it out of a sense of sisterhood. Now that I’ve joined that sisterhood, I suddenly understand her motivation. She wasn’t setting out to make me cringe, she was actively trying to make life easier for other women, particularly women with kids.

        There are a lot of times that the mom-infighting gets me down–the working mom vs. SAHM, the helicopter parent vs. the neglectful mom. It’s nice, once in a while, to just help another mom have an easier day.


        April 27, 2007. growing up. 9 comments.


        I’m sure by now you’ve heard about Ryan Fitzgerald, the guy who posted his phone number on YouTube and unleashed a media firestorm, inviting everyone who had something to say to call him. That offer seems to have touched a nerve, and he’s had a lot of phone calls since then, mostly from people who just wanted to talk to someone.

        I’ve been reading the book The Shockwave Rider* recently, and it’s eerily prescient about a whole bunch of internet-related things, eerie because it was written in 1975, when the internet was not-yet-dreamt-of by most of us. The basic premise is that the people in the world of the novel live in a ‘plug-in’ society, where everyone’s lives are in unceasing upheaval–they move in and out of jobs, houses, relationships, families–with little constancy from one year to the next.

        The main character grows up as a sort-of-rent-a-kid, hired out to couples that are in town for a year. At about age 11, his intellectual powers win him a spot at an elite institute, where he is indoctrinated as a future leader, but he eventually sours on the place and escapes. He survives underground by programming new identities for himself through dial-up telephone lines.

        The book features a utopian community, Precipice, which survives financially by providing a service called Hearing Aid to the rest of the society. It’s Hearing Aid that reminded me of Ryan Fitzgerald. The people of Precipice make the same offer to their society that Fitzgerald has made to ours–they’re there to listen. You can call them, at any hour of the day or night, and talk. You don’t have to worry that they’ll report you to the government, or that they’ll judge you. They’ve hacked the system, so their calls can’t be monitored. The phones are always ringing, because there’s always someone with something to confess, some secret to share.

        The Shockwave alluded to in the title is the dislocation that the world’s residents feel, due to their plug-in lifestyle. Reading about Fitzgerald this week made me wonder how far from that world we are now.

        *BTW, I’d never heard of this book until Comfort Addict mentioned it in a comment he left here a while ago. CA, if you’re out there, come on back and tell me about some more obscure science fiction novels that will blow my mind.

        April 25, 2007. books for grown-ups, meta. 3 comments.

        boy, bike, block, bind

        I’ve been struggling to remember recently when we gave the Bee certain freedoms, as the Potato has been on the march for more independence. The main thing he wants to do (at least this week) is to be able to ride his bike around the block by himself. He’s allowed to go around the block with his sister, but she’s not always interested in riding with him.

        I remember well the first day that I let the Bee go around the block by herself. I sat on the porch, pretending to read a magazine and looking at my watch every 15 seconds. I had decided to give her ten minutes to accomplish the task–not because we live on a big block, but because I know that the brain of a small kid is easily distracted by pretty rocks and interesting leaves. She made it back safely (and inside the ten minutes), and I started breathing again.

        But was she four? five? I can’t remember.

        I’m sure if I ask her, she’ll be able to tell me–the Bee has never been one to relinquish the memory of a hard-won victory. But in a way, I don’t want to remind her about it, because then she’ll insist that the same rule must apply to him.

        We’re starting to walk that delicate balance between being fair to her and respecting the things she’s achieved, and acknowledging that maybe we were over-protective the first go-round about that kind of thing. At this point, I can’t imagine waiting till the Potato is five to let him go around the block–the kid isn’t even four yet, and he’s constantly outside. I think that bike might become part of him by the end of the summer.

        Some of it has to do with their different personalities, of course. The Bee is a clingy kid, while the Potato is more confident in new situations, in part because he has his big sister blazing a path for him. As soon as we all got home tonight, the two of them ran down the block to play with some friends without even coming in the house–that’s not something she would have done at 3. But he knows it’s okay to do it, because he’s got his big sister with him.

        Like every parent, I struggle with how much independence to give my kids, how to balance my need to know they’re safe with the reality that I can’t always know that they’re safe. And that I have to be okay with not knowing, or I’ll go crazy.

        April 23, 2007. growing up, thoughtful parenting. 9 comments.

        There’s something so magical about the first real weekend of spring. I was driving to pick up the Potato on Friday afternoon, and there were so many people walking around in their spring clothes, sitting on their stoops, biking, roller blading. It felt good to get out in the sun, especially after last week’s deluge.

        I had a whole, interesting post composed in my mind when I was driving around this afternoon, but it’s lost to me now. I guess the thrill of the sunshine just drove it away.

        April 22, 2007. random other things. 5 comments.

        who’da thunk it?

        So I got the “Thinking Blogger” nod again, this time from Jessica at Daughter of Opinion. It made me feel terrible, because I’ve not been reading Jess’s blog as much as I once did, since my bloglines feed doesn’t seem to work, but she was one of my first blog-friends in this crazy old blog-o-sphere. Plus, she can make ya’ think like nobody’s business.

        I did this meme last month, but I’m pleased to be able to do it again. Here are my five Thinking Bloggers for April–pass it on, kids!

        I have to say, I didn’t set out to collect a bunch of posts about the Virginia Tech shootings. I also didn’t blog about it, because I felt like there was so much interesting stuff already being said about it. I’m glad to do this sort-of mash-up, because I still haven’t really processed how I feel about the thing myself–saddened for the families of the victims, obviously, and tired of the crazy right-wingers who want every professor to start packing. At times like these, it’s good to have other bloggers to make you think.

        April 19, 2007. memes. 5 comments.

        from the mind of a child…

        As I drove the Potato home from daycare today, he told me that they started learning a new letter this week–the letter “I.” He showed me the paper that they practiced their Is on, and the picture of someone ironing that he had colored. And then he said, “the down low I looks like it’s singing.”

        I’m not really sure how he came up with the ‘down-low’ I for what you or I might call the lower-case I. But I had a brief moment of imagining the down-low I’s secret life.

        The Brokeback Mountain of the vowels. You know that I, he’s married to the L, but he’s secretly running around behind her back with the U. I wish that I would just grow up and tell his mother that he’s gay.

        That kid cracks me up, even when he doesn’t mean to.

        April 17, 2007. the cutest kids ever!. 4 comments.


        Often, when doing laundry, I am reminded of this post of daddychip’s, about his son’s tendency to collect sticks. The Potato has an affection for stick-collecting, but his real genius is as a budding geologist.


        These are the rocks I found in our washing machine today. Perhaps he’s hoping for the stone-washed look?

        I don’t know what it is about kids and rocks. Both of our kids love collecting rocks, and this is not the first load of rocks that I’ve washed (which also says something about my refusal to clean out other people’s pockets, but that’s neither here nor there). The Bee has a box of rocks–most of them from our driveway–on her dresser. They look pretty much the same to me, but to her they are distinctive and wonderful.

        I was talking to Ms. Lynn, my favorite of all the preschool teachers at daycare, and she told me that when the kids in the Potato’s class get to go outside (i.e.–when there’s not a monsoon, like there is today), they play restaurant, and the currency is rocks. She’s always trying to get them to leave the rocks outside when it’s time to come in, but there’s at least one kid who manages to sneak some rocks into the classroom every day. (She also told me that when her sons were small, she would make them clean out their own pockets after sticking her hand into one-too-many unidentified slimy messes, so I guess I’m not alone there.)

        I remember liking to collect rocks and stones as a child. For some reason, the rocks that my kids seem to attach themselves to are usually craggy and sharp, but I always loved the smooth feel of a pebble. The beauty of rocks is that they are everywhere, and they don’t break or wear out. When we went on vacation at Christmas, I introduced the Bee to sea glass, and while we were there, it definitely held her attention. But sea glass isn’t something you find everywhere you go, whereas rocks are practically universal.

        April 16, 2007. family life. 10 comments.

        rain, rain, go away

        I don’t know, come back in July or something.

        We just got new bikes, dammit!

        April 15, 2007. family life. 2 comments.

        some tribe


        One of the first adult writers who hooked me, as a teen, was Kurt Vonnegut. My dad was a big fan of black humor, and we had all of his books when I was growing up. Vonnegut was the guy who convinced me that you could be both cynical and hopeful. More than any other writer, he gave me the sense that it was possible to both expect the worst and hope for the best from humankind.

        In the winter, I refer to his work Cat’s Cradle nearly every day (because my husband often has ice-nine feet when he comes to bed).

        His fiction writing was inspired and playful, but it is the article “Biafra: A People Betrayed,” published in Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons that is one of the most moving things I’ve ever read. I first read it when I was 15 or 16, and had never heard of Biafra–I probably couldn’t even have found Nigeria on a map at the time–but it went through me like a shot, and I’ve never forgotten the Biafran’s struggle for self-determination, nor how much dignity Vonnegut gave them in his portrayal. I’ve read that book so many times that I’ve lost the entire front section–my original copy now starts on page 45.

        I’ll miss you, Kurt. Say nothing but good of the dead.

        April 12, 2007. books for grown-ups. 5 comments.

        Don, I mus t say, you’re an idiot

        We briefly interrupt this mommyblog to show our school spirit. As a proud Rutgers alumna, I feel a sororal duty to ask you all to send a letter to these various media outlets condemning the ridiculous behavior of a certain radio show host. You don’t have to use NOW’s text, just say what ya gotta’ say. Racism is bad. Mommybloggers, rise up against it. Dads, you too. Childless people, you gotta get in the game.

        April 11, 2007. politically motivated. 6 comments.

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