Posts Tagged ‘children’

Grimm Tales

16 December 2011

Dear J-

Just recently figgy has shown a marked interest in classic fairy tales so I’ve been reading some ahead of time to go through the content before we encounter them in real life. If you ever pick up the Grimm Brothers’ collection off Project Gutenberg, the stories range from a refreshing mix of the familiar (Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel), the obscure (Twelve Dancing Princesses), and the absurd (The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage). As far as content goes there’s violence and blood (The Robber Bridegroom has both as part of kidnap and cannibalism) and so some have been sanitized to be noticeably less grim (Grimm?) while others have faded into obscurity for deserved reasons.

This was the world that Jakob and Wilhelm lived in, though. Their stories reflect the everyday tragedies of the time: robbers preying on travelers as the wolf did in Little Red-Cap (Riding Hood), high infant mortality, rampant disease, suffering,andmisery. We shield our children from this when we can but I’m not convinced we’re doing them any favors. Our reading material was pretty much uncensored within reason (i.e., anything you could check out at the local library was fair reading material) and I know that I’ve suffered my share of nightmares (and even slept on my stomach for years because of the legend of a ghost who’d cut out part of your stomach as you slept, leaving you to waste away).

They say that what we do to make kids safe has paradoxically raised a generation of kids who aren’t careful: with soft-surface playgrounds (and lawsuits at the ready) kids don’t learn that they need to respect the heights and horseplay, for instance. Likewise the sanitized literature we feed them is roughly the same texture and taste of plain oatmeal. Soothing, yes, but bland. We do not encourage risk, and we do not reward spice in life. I think it makes our imaginations shut down and the world itself loses wonder faster than we expect and we can’t pin a reason on why. That said, no uncesnored Grimm for figgy, not yet, but when she starts asking the right questions I’ll be there to smuggle a copy into her hands.

Mike

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Art Show

20 October 2011

Dear J-

This Sunday theVet’s dad is having some sort of exhibit up in the Los Angeles area: clearly details are vague at the moment but it’s either in the Whitney or Whittier, and given that the Whitney is in New York City I sort of doubt that it’s there. We missed the first big exhibition and despite the unlikely-to-be-kid-friendly atmosphere and timing (Sunday, 5PM) I told her that we should probably go as I’ve noticed the relationship between daughter and mother notably fracture over the past four or five years. Low expectations on both sides become a self-fulfilling prophecy and neither one seems to be willing to make an effort to reach across the gap.

One of the things I didn’t realize about theVet when we got married was that she wasn’t really planning on having any kids, a decision borne out of fear she’d turn out just like her parents did. It may be too early to tell but she’s already gotten past the first milestone in my mind, not completely losing it with two kids in the house. There are times like last night when it becomes completely overwhelming but with support from others we’re getting through the relative madness that is the after-dinner scramble in San Diego: bath, brush teeth, storeis, songs, and more stories before figgy will go to bed, and wrestling Calcifer into long pajamas for the cool nights ahead.

I wonder what life must have been like for theVet’s parents in 1976: two kids, recent immigrants in Memphis both working full-time with no network to lean on, probably no infant care to speak of and so they make the wrenching decision to send their younger daughter to Korea for two years. I think about how much figgy has changed between eighteen months and four yearsr and wonder that they’d willingly give that up with theVet, and I wonder if that’s not a contributing cause to her distance to her parents. How difficult was that decision? Could we give up Calcifer in seven months and not see him until he was a little boy stranger in our midst? What circumstances led them to that?

Mike

Two Places

6 February 2011

Dear J-

It’s museum month in San Diego, which means that if you head over to a Macy’s and pick up a “passport” brochure you’ll get discounted admission to most of the local museums. So I had my head set on going to the USS Midway today but those plans were soon shot down by our chief executive, who kept insisting on going to the kids’ museum, the kids’ museum. I wasn’t pleased initially but remembered the fun we had at the museum yesterday — Museum of Man — which was one that we wanted to go to, but not one that figgy had approved. We left that one early yesterday, accompanied by several screaming fits so harmony was an overriding concern today.

Yet the funk didn’t fully lift from my soul until a few hours later, as she’s running through the newly remodeled Kid City (it’s still the same Kid City as before but with fancy-schmancy wall decorations and a big set of pneumatic tubes to send various plastic balls around) and I realize that this was absolutely the right choice today. Let’s see, which would she rather: to run around a kid-sized world or to crawl through the steel bowels of an old warship? Right choice, all around.

Mike

Pouty Face

25 January 2011

Dear J-

I like raisins in breakfast cereal but I’ve come to realize that in order for the cereal to have a decent shelf life — whether it be part of a flaky bran or a crunchy granola — the raisins and indeed any other fruit must be dried to the point of mummification. In the cereal this morning I was eating around the raisins unconsciously as they represented hard, slightly yielding rocks to be discovered and pushed aside before they started to stick. Timing is key. Wait too long for the raisins to rehydrate and you’re stuck with soggy flakes, but if you’re rushed, the raisins will stay as a big mass of choking pebbles at the bottom of your milk. On the other hand based on what I was eating this morning I would have thought that I’d be picking raisin bits from my teeth for the rest of the day but a bike ride later and I’ve got what feels like clean teeth now.

I have to remind myself at times that figgy is still only three, even if it feels like three going on thirty. Her vocabulary has improved since her last birthday to the point where if it wasn’t for the crazy ideas expressed within you wouldn’t guess that you were speaking to someone whose idea of fashion still involves wearing something pink every day. So you can try to reason with her but if she’s made up her mind one way there’s no changing it, at least not for now. Is it better to simply acquiesce or should we instead be grimly applying our will in all things? It’s clear that she knows how — with a fakey wail — how to get our attention and try to shape our behavior (I can’t tell you how many times I was reminded of the giant baby from Spirited Away last night, even down to “If you don’t then I’ll cry.”) but we should be shaping hers instead.

It’s timing again and we have to pick our battles carefully. Do you really want to make a stance on the small stuff? Thing is we never quite know what’s going to get out of hand and what she’ll take in stride. The Sunday before Calcifer was born we were out for breakfast and, strolling out, walked past a children’s shop where she spotted what she called glass slippers (plastic slides with clear vinyl straps). Entranced, she planted herself by the window and refused to move until we got her some, having decided that they were already hers* — problem being that the store didn’t open for a few more hours and we were on our way to other things. One grande mal fifteen minute tantrum later and we were finally on our way but not before doubting everything we’ve done as parents. Pick your battles. Make sure they count.

Mike

P.S. She will stop in the middle of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and declare “How rude!”, Olson-twin-from-Full-House-style, after she hears that no reindeer games are in the offering. She must have gotten it from the other kids but it cracks me up every time.

* I have this problem too — not with glass slippers but with unique items from, say, eBay or Craigslist — I see something and research it until I’m ready to buy only to find out that it’s been bought hours ago. I pout just like her.

Good Nut

20 January 2010

Dear J-

As we wind down for the night I like to think about the things I’ve done and what I can do to change them; perhaps like is too strong a word, more like “worry them to death” and “dwell on the past” as I ponder them. After getting home the next three hours slip by in a blur of defiance and flinging: there’s no will quite as stubborn as figgy’s, and there’s no reasoning with her once she’s decided on a course of action: no dinner, not that, don’t want a bath, not bedtime, wrong books, mommy, not daddy not mommy. Funny, you spend time worrying about doing the right thing by reasoning and consequences, but those sorts of things just tend to bounce off her head.

Today, for instance, we tried to explain that the faster we got the bath over, the more time there’d be to play or watch a little TV (lately and/or as always, some Miyazaki films — she’s been asking for Castle in the Sky by name). Instead she frittered away the time not getting undressed and finding all kinds of distractions instead (tea set, music, playing one of us against the other) and we walk away convinced that she’s completely crazy or desperate. The more you tell her about consequences the less she wants to listen; the more reasonable you become, the less she does.

It’s not about being a friend all the time, though; if you choose to, you can always be one of the invertebrates who decide to give in to every last demand, but then you find yourself with another Veruca Salt on your hands. The squirrels know, after all, which are the good nuts by knocking on the heads, but we parents aren’t quite so lucky or skilled. We trust in the best, we trust ourselves and we trust that our best interests can’t possibly go wrong, can they?

Mike

Burkeland

22 January 2009

Dear J-

Somewhere between reading about the sordid past of Brian Burke (the Peter Zezel story is pretty revealing — BB comes off as a man who’d sell his mother to the soap factory) and looking up the meaning of the word prorogue (which is not a mispronunciation of a story’s introduction, unless that story has to do with the abuse of federal power) I’ve been thinking about what I identify with in this world.  I’m Californian by geography, but I wonder about how much of my mind is stuck in my developing stages.

For instance, I suspect that my thoughts on how many children are adequate are driven by my parents’ families — my mom, one of seven, and my dad, one of four — and not by my current circumstances, where two is the outside limit in California.  Three here is flat-out crazy, limited to the devoutly religious and/or poorly-educated and yet it’s the number that keeps rattling around my head.  Of course, blaming the Spokane in me makes it easier, just like it explains why I’ve never seen a plaid I don’t like, or a pair of acid-washed jeans that didn’t impress me.

The light is extending a little further into the evenings this week; it fools me into thinking that these workdays are getting shorter, and that therefore life with multiple offspring would be just as easy as now.  As it is we’ve got a carefully orchestrated chaos during the bulk of the week, and for four days I’m a stranger.  What’s going to give?  More time at home could be had with less time on the road, and that means doing something else, or moving closer.  Change sneaks up, though, change will let us find a new equilibrium, but what form will that take?

Mike