Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's good for him is not necessarily what's good for me.

Silas is in Quebec this week. I'm joining him on Thursday (believe me, it can not come fast enough), and his mom and dad are staying with the kids. This involved some car swapping so Si's mom could take our car up north to their condo on Mille Lacs for a few days before enjoying some quality time with her grandchildren. (Good luck to you, Claire, I'm turning off my phone the second you drop me off at the airport. Just kidding...or am I?)

We have two cars, a 2004 Passat station wagon named the McAghon Wagon. It's automatic and almost everything works on it. It doesn't have a side-view mirror, but we're working on that. Our other car is a 1999 VW new Beetle named Ringo. It runs. Other things don't work on it, though. Of course we weren't going to let Claire drive that car all the way up to Mille Lacs, so we gave her the McAghon Wagon, meaning I am driving Ringo.

I don't drive that car a whole lot, and if I do, it's just to work on the weekends, so I'm not getting kids in and out of the back seat. Let me tell you some of the things that are wrong with that car, and these are just the things we know about.

1. I have to crawl through the passenger side to get into the car.
2. I can get out of the driver's side, but then have to lean against the filthy car-hard-to close the door.
3. The levers that fold the seats are broken, so in order to get the kids in and out of the back seat we have a paint brush in the car. We stick the handle into where the levers used to be to force the latch up and fold the seats forward.
4. If you get gas there is some sort of pressure problem that makes the car stall out several times unless you gun the engine until pressure is built back up in the system. I can tell you from experience that people will think you are a dumbass. Especially if you just crawled into the drivers seat from the passenger side.

There are other things, too, like the button that rolls down the passenger window is broken, but in the winter that is just not a problem. Also, it only has one headlight working, we've gotten it fixed quite a few times (short? no. loose housing? apparently not.) and now frankly we just don't care anymore.

The radio stuck on AM? That's just like the car gods kicking us in the butt for good measure. Take that, McAghons. You like that? Yea, listen to more KFAN. That's what you get for buying VWs.

Anyway, this morning at work I was lamenting the fact that I can only listen to so much KFAN before I want to shoot myself, and a coworker said "Isn't it time to get a new car?". You know what my first reaction to that was, and this is after I spent 5 minutes listing all of the things that are wrong with the vehicle... "why, it runs?". I've become that person. That old crotchety person who complains about something but is too cheap to fix it. This coworker then went on about how we have two incomes and we should be able to get a new car and bla, bla, bla. First of all, we have one and a half incomes, second of all, not really his business, and third of all, THE CAR RUNS! It got me to work. It's paid for. So is the McAghon Wagon, for that matter. I like not having a car payment. So, whatever. I'm old and crotchety. I'll wear it like a badge. At least I'm old and crotchety with no car payment!

Of course, if I was the one who drove that car every day, you'd better believe we'd be getting a new car.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tiger mom? I'm more of a bear.

This morning I was at work in a patient's room during a bone marrow and the TV happened to be on. Specifically, The Today Show, and I'm not going to lie here. That show drives me nuts. It's like all of the anchors or reporters or whatever are caricatures of themselves.

They were interviewing a woman about a book she had written regarding 'the Chinese way to raise successful children'. I listened to the interview, and frankly, it made me feel like I was doing a sub-par job raising my children. Worse than sub-par. Somehow I was taking the easy way out of parenting, letting them watch TV and play video games and have playdates and not forcing them to practice the violin for hours every day.

I'm not kidding about that violin part. The woman actually forced her daughter to practice the violin for a few hours every day. In order to do that in this house there would have to be some bondage required.

Basically, the woman said this: (I could do some basic research here and find a name and an actual title of the book for you, but I'm not going to spoon feed you here, people. You all know how to google.) Eastern parents would be horrified by how we raise our children here in the west. We let them have sleep overs and play video games and don't push them to live up to their full potential. She said her (and their) method of parenting is basically that children are capable of doing a lot more than we, or they, think they can. It's our job to push them to live up to those expectations.

When I first started listening, I was horrified. I felt bad for her daughters (she has two). But then self-doubt started gripping me, and I thought about my two children. I thought about the Wii we had just bought for Christmas, the piano that I promised to teach Alison (she's only had about 3 lessons so far), the fact that the first thing they do when we get home from school every day is watch TV and eat a snack. I thought about the potential that Alison has shown, and how maybe I'm not equipped to parent her in a way that will make her live up to it. And then there's Oliver, who at four we just basically let have fun. I haven't MADE him learn his letters yet, or write his name. If he expresses an interest, I encourage and try to teach, but otherwise we let him be a four year old boy.

There are so many ways for us to feel bad about parenting. I think for just about everyone, it's probably the area where you feel the least confidant, where it's easiest to start to feel like you're not doing enough. I stopped reading parenting magazines because instead of feeling informed after reading them I just freaked out that I wasn't doing everything they suggested.

The more I thought about what the woman was saying, the more I realized that she and I had different goals for our children. She used the word successful a whole lot. Her focus was raising 'successful' children. She herself was a law professor at Yale and has written two books. She's married to a fellow Yale law professor. Of course I want my children to be successful, but that doesn't necessarily mean they need to have high-powered jobs and make lots of money and become piano prodigies when they are ten. What I want most for my kids is for them to be happy. To grow into adults who know themselves and are confident. Who care for other people. Who know that their parents, no matter how old they are, will always be there for them, cheering them on 100%. If being a high-powered lawyer is going to make them happy, then go for it. If being a stay-at-home mom or garbage collector is going to help them achieve happiness, then that's what they should do.

It makes me so mad that women like this get to go on TV and preach their rhetoric and make the rest of feel like we aren't doing enough. I'm not a leniant parent. I have rules, and I enforce them. Yes, my kids come home and watch TV. They get no more than half an hour, it's PBS, and the snack has to be a piece of fruit. I expect Alison to have her homework done before supper. I expect her to work hard at school, just like I will expect Oliver to work hard. I have taught Oliver how to write his name, whether he does it when I ask is another question. He knows his ABCs, colors, shapes, and can count. I didn't sit down with him and force him into it, but I looked for opportunities to teach him things when I knew he'd be receptive to it. Yes, we play Wii, but always as a family, and we have pretty strict rules for how long the kids get to play (after they go to bed, though, Si and I can play Mario Kart for as long as we want-the bonus to being a grown-up). How many times do you hear a parent brag about all the good they do for their kids? Most of the time we make self-deprecating remarks about our kids or how we are raising them. I'm not saying that there aren't parents out there who are taking the easy way out, but I think for the most part we're all just trying to do the best we can, and what we need from other people is encouragement.

I'm already keenly aware of any mistakes I make, it's the good things I tend to gloss over until I sit down and really think about it.

Tonight, instead of thinking of all of the mistakes you made all day, why don't you sit back and bask in all of the good things you did for your children. You'll go to bed much happier.


OK, here's a link to an NPR article: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/11/132833376/tiger-mothers-raising-children-the-chinese-way

The title of the book is "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Dark Days of Winter

Recently I was listening to MPR (one of the many things Silas has influenced upon me over the years) and they were calling these months we're in now "The Dark Ages". January is historically the coldest month of the year here. A few days later I was watching the news, and the unrealistically orange weather man (who happens to be Scandinavian and therefore his pallor is all the more unbelievable) was lamenting the fact that the temps were going to return to normal after a day where it was 40 degrees and raining. The female anchor was disappointed, and indicated she preferred the 40 degree day. The day where it rained...ALL DAY. The day that turned all of our nice snow into a 2 foot crust of ice. The day that trapped us inside. It was a horrible day. I mean, weather-wise. It was a great day to hang out in the house all day in our jammies, but you can't do that EVERY DAY. Right? I mean, you could try, but I think after a while your job would notice you weren't showing up and before you know it you wouldn't have a house to hang out in at all.

I happen to like winter. I like snow. I don't even mind the cold. When it's not raining there is a myriad of activities you can enjoy outside. I love ice skating, playing hockey, sledding, and watching my children build forts. There is nothing better than coming in from the cold, tired out from whatever you were doing, and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, while everyone's mittens and hats are drying in front of the registers all around the house.

So, to the oompa-loompa and his female, rain-loving sidekick, I have this to say: Put on a hatand mittens, get outside, and man up about it already. Or move to a place where that orange is a little more believable.

Why in God's name would anyone prefer an unnaturally warm day that turns everything into a gray slush pile to a nice, brisk winter day where the snow is sparkling and you can go sledding? Basically, here's what I'm saying: We live in a place where you can expect it to be cold and snowy for several months out of the year.