Monday, August 25, 2008

A Crock of Utter

Ladies and gents,

Crabhubby and I have something to tell you. We wrestled over this decision for a while (or rather, I did, whereas he was basically okay with it from the get-go) but after thinking about this for a long, long time and worrying about the details (do we have the space?) I decided to just go for it. And so we have some really big and exciting news for you, and I feel like you guys are like my family, you know? So I know you will be thrilled for us even if you're a little wary and wondering rightly whether the Crabmom can handle such a big new responsibility on top of her regular commitments as wife, mother, blogger, and complainer.

SO. I've been holding out on you, but now that our new addition is officially here and all, I thought it best to just make it...official.

Crabhubby and I are pleased to announce a delightful new addition to our family. She arrived pale but robust in size, and we couldn't be more thrilled to have her in our home at last. Truly does she bring joy to us all!

No, not a new baby, dumb-dumbs. I mean, seriously, HAVE YOU BEEN READING THIS BLOG, OR SNOOZING INTO YOUR GREEN TEA? Crabmommy and two children: bwa-ha ha! Too comically hideous to imagine her pulling that one out of her hat, eh! No, we have something a little more docile and a lot more helpful than a new baby: a crock pot.

Seriously, I have just bought a crock pot and have become totally obsessed with it. It is not unlike maternal love: you are amazed at how lovely this new addition to the household is, and amazed that you ever lived without it. And amazed by how dang heavy the thing is when you cradle it in your arms a whole bunch. Having a crock pot also elicits less positive but equally familiar thoughts from me, just as having a new baby had its significant downside for the Crabmommy: I can't believe how much I think about and talk about this crock pot and it's depressing to me that I am doing so.

But I can't help it.

Yesterday we attended a Crabhubby company barbecue, where my good friend Jege overheard me discussing the crock pot with several other women. She could not believe the banality of the discussion. I think it was so banal as to be almost interesting and as such, she informed us that we were basically a bunch of losers for talking about our crock pots.

And she's right.

But. Crock pot. I like it. You can throw stuff into it, and make eating all fancy-like with minimal effort. You get to feel all Nigella when the spouse returns daily to the fold from the cruel toil of office work, and is greeted by the warmly delectatious and sassy aroma of the crock pot repast, wafting splendidly across the threshold of your home and making you feel hugely kickass and capable-like, for multi-tasking like a mother.

On a depressing note, it's true that in some way I feel I've officially crossed over the other side of the domestic abyss, now that I have a crock pot. It's not so much the crock pot itself but my love for it that formally marks me as a woman lost to my former life, a life spent doing...what, exactly? Can't remember, but anyhoo, I think you know what I'm saying. This crock pot business, it is both disturbing in its capacity to render me pleased with my otherwise gad-dull day and also it is very much cool. So, you know, get one. Let's be in a club together! Why the heck not, I say!

I hereby call for your easiest, most retardedly basic (can you say the r-word about a recipe and get away with it?) crock pot recipes. Or if you don't have a recipe, feel free to heap upon me your scorn before you go out for your apple-sake-mocha-tini or whatever it is you undomesticated unharnessed urchins of youth libate when you go on your wild forays out into the world beyond your front doors...

New posts chez bloglet. Please to go there, yes?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When Parents Attack, Part 2

A while ago I alluded darkly to a scuffle with Perfect Urban Motherhood on my return to city life from Crabtown. I waited a while to write the story, hoping time would give it a comic gleam and thus something unpleasant would be entertaining for my readers. Alas, it just isn't funny, but write it up I did, finally, here:

Beware the barking hippiemom at the gate!

My anecdote is a parable really, revealing (to me anyway) the seamy negative underside of Positively Perfecto Parenting, the vanilla fascism that is our current mommy culture, where all mothers must speak to their small children in the same perky and patient way. Nothing like one incident to make me generalize and stereotype hugely, but there it is. Okay, so this was just one wacko chick but...yeesh. Second time I've been reprimanded in public for my momming style by some supposedly well-meaning woman. What's next? A Crabmommy stoning on Nancy Grace?

Crabmommy no longer goes to a certain Teva-sandal-heavy part of Crabcity, where the streets are paved with hippiemamas, craft stores sell placenta print kits, and wind-chimes tinkle from every porch. Okay, so actually I do go to that part of town, but I bring my mace, just in case.

(Hippiereaders, relax in your Prana slacks: I have my crunchy side too and usually I fully dig your Mayan sling!...I'm just...still....smarting, k?)

As promised, soon to come, part 3 of my pop star bad photo series: Rod Stewart next!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nothing But Tears

Still stealing from other more humorous venues than I; namely, The Onion. I found the following very à propos my recent broken-record musings on wimpy parents:

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—After decades of coddling young children, Johnson & Johnson unveiled its new "Nothing But Tears" shampoo this week, an aggressive bath-time product the company says will help to prepare meek and fragile newborns for the real world...
Go here for the rest. Thanks, Jege, for the link.

At the Crabmommy bloglet: placenta prints—the must-have original artwork for your newborn's nursery! Très soignée! (Why am I using so many French expressions today? Could it be that I am bitter about all those wasted years learning French only to marry an American and live among the cowboys and recycled hippies [I will write more on this] of my past and present homes, respectively?)

I leave you with—for no good reason—an image of David Lee Roth:And here's another! Why not?Davy, it's been a while since you were this hot:YEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! PANAMA-HA!

Next in show: Rod Stewart, then and now, each era perhaps as scary as the other...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Musical Pie Charts

On the subject of The Police, here's something composed by my friend Kari Larson:
Thank you, Kari. Readers, I'm too lazy to provide content for my blog this week, so as you can see, I'm getting people to do it for me. I'm sure many of you saw those emails containing pie charts about Rick Astley songs and the like...?? Crabmommy has chums who made their own, like Kari, who just produced a baby, and also (equally important) this:
And one from my very beloved friend Jege:As you can see, some of us know how to use our one life on this earth. Here's hoping you too are being productive this week.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Camp for Parents!

On vacation and cracking up, so no original posts this week. I do, however, have to keep up with my bloglet, even if I am cracking up and/or on vacay, so please go there for Crabmusings, should you wish to hear them. I promise soon enough to stop talking about wimpy parents and wimpy kids and to go back to talking about such things as hemp seed brownie mix and shower caps for food storage; until then here's yet another a variation on my latest theme, to be found in full at the bloglet:

In lieu of the usual Million Dollar Mommy inventions that I test-drive on this blog, I've got a slightly different idea this month. Inspired by two recent articles, here, and here, I foresee great wads of cash to be made by someone in the summer camp business. Apparently so many parents, coast to coast, are going ballisto with grief when their kiddos go to camp, to the point where camps need to contend with parental separation anxiety as an occupational hazard. But it doesn't have to be a hazard; it can be a cash-cow! Seriously, someone crafty surely stands to profit this new trend of parents experiencing seasonal "kid-sickness." For example, here's a letter I'm working on to welcome parents to my imaginary summer camp...a camp for parents of soon-to-be summer campers.

Dear Campers,

We are super-excited to be welcoming you to Kamp Kickapoo Lake. Congratulations on making the decision to take on a camp adventure! We are certain you will leave with new friends, fond memories, and most important, the skill set for which you came to us in the first place.

Camp Kickapoo is a smart choice for those moms and dads who need a little extra emotional preparation before their children go to summer camp. We realize that saying goodbye to your campers can be deeply challenging, but we are confident we can help you build the strength you need to face your child's camp experience with courage.

To read on, please go here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wimp Nation, again (final instalment)

The following contains the last part of my interview with Hara E. Marano, author of A Nation of Wimps. If you are coming from Cookie or Yahoo, you might want to go here first for the second part of the interview. I hadn't planned on running such a long convo today, but I think this additional piece will clarify some of the ideas discussed previously as well as reader questions. As always, feel free to dig or diss, as you see fit.

I will return next week with lighter fare—three words: David Lee Roth.

Crabmommy: You speculate on the origins of why so many of us are taking parenting so seriously, and you talk about later-stage motherhood: so many of us moms are having kids later in life, and so, having been professional, we're approaching child-rearing as a profession. You criticize that, although one might say that treating motherhood as a profession dignifies it. It sort of does to me, since mothers have the toughest job in the world.

Hara Estroff Marano: And I agree with that!

C: But you're saying, too, that because we approach it as a job, we're very goal-oriented, and that can be counterproductive.

HEM: It is. And truly, the best way to dignify motherhood is to take the values of parenting and apply them at the office. Nurturing talent, for example, is something that comes with the territory of mothering—but it is also a great leadership skill.

C: But you don't think professional goal-driven values belong in motherhood. Because there's no such thing as being the perfect mother and making your child's life perfect...?

HEM: Yes. And because childhood doesn't proceed—development doesn't proceed—on a schedule. It doesn't have the same values; it doesn't respond to the same things that professionals take meaning from. Efficiency, for example, has absolutely no meaning in childhood, and yet efficiency is one of the values of professional life. So what you have are all these very highly trained women with professional values. This group is dropping out of the workforce in high numbers and partly that has to do with affluence, and they're applying the values of the workplace to childrearing, in part because they've been rewarded for them so well.

C: And also because of good intentions! Just wanting to do a great job.

HEM: But the road to hell is paved with good intentions! You have to stop and say that childhood is a completely different enterprise that works according to a different scheme, has different values, and has a completely different goal. Efficiency and goal-direction have nothing to do with child development. The goal of child development is to produce an independent, autonomous human being who is capable of functioning on his or her own.

C: This connects to another point you make and many others have made: a lot of us over-schedule our children, which you would say is another form of interfering in their childhood.

HEM: By itself—and I only know one set of studies done on this—over-scheduling does not appear to be the culprit. But there are things that go on in over-scheduling that have a negative effect. Part of the problem is that kids are not in charge of their own time. They're not gaining the experience of creating their own activities...and then—particularly you see this in the suburbs—kids go from one activity to the next and they're ferried by the adults. And the point is that for the kids there's no way of opting out. You can't opt out. You don't even know you can opt out.

C: You don't know what you want to do.

HEM: One end result of kids not being able to opt off this track they are placed on is they have no clue what they really want; there is no way to build a sense of self because there is no way to make choices. Putting kids on a track from an early age produces kids that are overly compliant. You don't want compliant kids in a democracy. You want people who can speak up for themselves. In addition, when you have compliant people, you don't get innovation.

C: You have a piece in your book about the value of boredom, and I think a lot of us moms who line up activities for our kids are trying to keep them from being bored. We see boredom as bad.

HEM: I regard boredom as an important event. It's an aversive, uncomfortable state. People don't like to be in it. The value of aversive states is that the unpleasantness forces people to experiment and/or explore to find things on their own that they do like to do.

C: When you're bored you have to learn to get yourself out of it.

HEM: Exactly. And so if you're bored you discover something you like and you also gain the mastery of yourself and know you have the ability to handle all kinds of unpleasant situations. So a lot goes on when you're given the opportunity to be bored sometimes.

C: But we are used to giving into our children's desires, or our perception of what will make them engaged and therefore happy.

HEM: The supreme irony is that parents who want only the best for their kids can wind up bringing out the worst in them. Partly it's because they have a complete misperception about how you make kids happy. People really want to make their kids happy, and so they really want to smooth the path for their kids, but many parents don't understand that the way the brain grows is through challenge. Challenge is absolutely critical. It's the way the brain grows and it's the way you create happiness. You can't be happy unless you're mastering challenges and you gain a sense of self. To provide what you think will make your kids happy all the time actually undermines their ability to be happy.

C: So we mustn't sell our child's girl scout cookies for them! We must try to avoid refereeing in play dates. These are things you'd suggest. What are other suggestions?

HEM: There are a number of them in the book. Teach your kids to tolerate discomfort and uncertainty. Help your kids fail. As you go through life, share your own mistakes, judiciously. Share your hard-won coping strategies, which may or may not work for them, but it would be nice to put them on the buffet for sampling. Another suggestion of course is just to let kids play. One parent can't do it by him or herself. Because your kid needs other kids to play with.

C: I wanted to bring up something that relates to that: I think hothouse parenting is contagious, infectious. You can have ideas about what kind of mother you're going to be before you have a child. But then you have your child and then you have things like play dates starting with very little kids, and you see you're meant to referee in play dates—your child is not sharing and so you get in there and tell them to share—and maybe you're doing it out of obligation; you don't want to be seen to be rude or seeming to flout the conventions...I guess what I'm saying is that it's hard to break away from this over-involved parenting style because other parents are out there doing it too and very often they'll do it for you.

HEM: Also there's just so much judgmentalism these days and so many places to find it. I'm thinking about websites like urbanbaby. People are often made to feel bad for any deviation from what others are doing. Parents seem exceedingly eager to judge, and criticize other parents and children. So we have the phenomenon in which some parents become overprotective and over-involved as a defense against the judgmentalism of their neighbors; they don't want to be told they are horrible parents. Which they may very well not be if left on their own. But this overprotection is fed by enormous insecurity about child-raising on the part of parents, and the erroneous belief that every little thing they do will matter to their child's development. It's not that parents don't matter; they do, but often not in the way that parents think. All that hovering and over-involvement tends to make kids anxious. Parents need to relax a bit...about their own kids and about others'. Given that children have their own built-in drive for competence, a little benign neglect is really good for kids...if you can keep your neighbor off your back.

C: Talking about judging parents: you are seriously judging motherhood in this book. I'm going to guess you've made a few enemies.

HEM: I haven't had it coming directly to me. I expected it when I talked to parents....I would say that most parents suspect that there's something not quite right about hothouse parenting because they know they weren't raised this way. So while they may be wary of my message and they may feel that it's judgmental, what I'm offering them is data and explanations, and I offer them a better way.

C: You're not asking all of us hyper-vigilant moms to give up our concern for safety, you're just saying balance it out with encouraging independence, risk, letting your kids do their own homework.

HEM: "Balance" is a good word.

C: We should take a chill pill, and send the children to camp, right?

HEM: Yes! Back off! Take a drink! You know, relax a little. Make parenthood fun again, allow it to be fun again. It's just not. It's approached with this hyper-seriousness that endows every action with an importance it doesn't have.

C: You're a grandmother now.

HEM: I have three grandchildren.

C: Do you want them to wear bike helmets?

HEM: We haven't got to that yet.

C: Are you against bike helmets and knee pads?

HEM: Bike helmets make sense for kids on two wheelers. They veer towards the absurd for kids on tricycles going two miles an hour on a dirt path. Okay, then you might make the argument that it's never too early to get kids used to associating bikes and helmets. I would respond by saying that not every action in life carries the same meaning and the same risk, and it's important to be able to distinguish reasonable risks. I see no reason why a child who graduates to a two wheeler can't be told that now is the time for using a helmet because the opportunity for going fast is much greater and so is the opportunity for a spill. And knee pads? Knee pads for what? Bike riding? Absurd idea. They actually interfere with agility. Children don't die from scraped knees.