The Princess says, “Mom, it’s almost your birthday! We have to get you a present.”
So, I said, “No you don’t. I don’t need anything. What do I need?” First of all I really don’t need anything, but more importantly, you know, I’m trying to teach her to be less of a Material Girl living in this Material World.
Her answer, proffered without a beat missed: “Make-up.”
This week Clooney had a geography project due, and he chose to do a Power Point presentation. I’m not much of a helicopter parent, so I let them do their thing and then give it a check the night before it’s due.
Going through his slides, I noticed that he hadn’t done a lot of in-depth research. On the slide marked “EVENTS” for example, he had listed two. One was the Fête de la Musique, which is a music festival that features free concerts from all genres, though I had to help him fill in those details. Then there was something called Marché des Fiertés, so I asked him what that was. He had no clue, claiming to have just pulled things off the Internet through Google. So I did a little research myself. Turns out that it was the Parisian Gay Pride Parade. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it might be easier for him to field questions from the class about the Tour de France, so I suggested that he just go with that instead.
I took the kids to see The Lorax yesterday. I really wish I had read the reviews before I had promised to do that. I was going to write a lengthy review, but A.O. Scott of the NYTimes said most of what I wanted to say, and I feel, said it more eloquently than I ever could have, so I’m sharing that with you.
I don’t mean to seem like I hate things, or that I am no fun, but I must tell you that as I sat in that darkened theater, I felt sad. Mostly sad for Dr. Seuss. I kept thinking that if he were alive, he’d go out in his yard, dig a grave and practice rolling over in it.
As Scott mentioned in his article, Theodore Geisel exercised tight control over his work, which his heirs have abandoned. That’s why we get these overblown adaptations that have little to do with the original story. These tales are perfect for the ten-minute-long animated shorts we got in the 1970’s. They don’t need all these added-on backstories that muck them up and make them run for 90 minutes.
Another thought that kept occurring to me was an article I’d just read about how folks today, for the most part, really aren’t that green. That everyone likes to use the buzzword “green” but in practice, we still keep consuming and discarding and leaving the saving of the planet to others who are too few to stem the tide. We need the latest smartphone, the latest TV, what all the other kids are wearing, and we feel better about ourselves when we throw our plastic bottles into a conveniently placed recycling bin, but overall, we can’t be bothered to carry our own reusable bags into the mall.
While the message of “save the trees” is still there, pretty much everything else Dr. Seuss stood for is not. Sure the little kids will walk away with that idea about saving the trees, but they will also come away feeling like they laughed a lot — at things that were kind of mean-spirited. Language is used to cut other characters down, and slapstick is what really gets the laugh. For some reason there’s also a fat bear that’s played for laughs as well.
Dr. Seuss was a genius, I’m not going to deny that. But his genius was his simplicity. The way he used his children’s books as allegories about racism, environmental issues and war is a great thing. But it’s not like he was the only one. I see a lot of Dr. Seuss’ words everywhere these days. They are plastered all over Pintrest, quoted on Facebook, painted on library walls. But you know, Theodore Geisel is no more the world’s greatest philosopher than Shel Silverstein is its poet. We are wise to use Dr. Seuss as a starting point to talk to our kids, but we need to back that up with more complex ideas — and follow through on those ideas ourselves.
Sometimes, I cannot believe all the things I accomplish before 8 am. I get up (after slapping the snooze two or three times), take a handful of pills, shower, wake Edison, finish dressing, and go make sure Edison has gotten out of bed before heading downstairs. If Manfrengensen is up, I might also make our bed. Then it’s a start to the coffee maker before I open the blinds and go find everyone’s lunch boxes, 2 of 3 still being in certain people’s backpacks.
I collect lunches, (Manfrengensen usually makes the sandwiches the night before and puts them in the fridge) but I get together all of the drinks and sides, forks and napkins, get it all collected and sorted, and add an extra snack for Clooney’s mid-morning, plus refill his water bottle or I’ll never hear the end of it. Then I go wake The Princess and Clooney, usually trying to be fun about it, but that’s not always the most practical approach. Sometimes, all the laundry hasn’t been folded and put away, so I will have to go down to the laundry room to get someone a shirt or pair of pants.
Then it’s time for me to hurry Edison along, and when he comes down, I will make his breakfast to order and get his milk for him. When I remember, I also dole out Claritin and vitamins to him and Clooney. Clooney sometimes appears not long after Edison, but more often he
somehow makes it downstairs before his brother, and then I make his breakfast to order and the requisite chocolate milk (that boy, like his mother, is a slave to the Dark Master, and I’m not talking about Voldemort) and usually get him doing his homework (which I have at some point between opening the blinds and waking him, found and put out on the counter along with a pencil) since he is better focused before school than after.
Once they are eating, I will usually go try to drag The Princess out of bed, which is a drag. She is a grumpy bear in the morning. Once I get her out of bed, she’ll try to start a fight, typically about wearing something crazy like a sleeveless ballet leotard when it’s long-underwear weather or shoes that are two sizes too small or large, but I don’t take the bait. Hey, if she wants to be cold, or have blisters on her heels, who am I to stand in her way? I’ve got other fish I am frying at the moment. But I have recently started brushing her teeth for her, after two years of not doing that, because I found she wasn’t really brushing them, even though she would tell me she was.
So then, it’s back to getting Edison ready to catch the bus. Does he have his homework? Does he have his violin? Does he have his music? His script? His shoes? And if any of those items are missing, I will need to help him find it lest I end up driving him to school. No matter what time I get him up, he’s always running to catch the bus. And sometimes, after I watch him leave, after we’ve been through all those “Do you have?”s — I will return to the kitchen and there on the counter will be his lunchbox, or his violin, or his music. Then I know I have got another errand to run today. But you know, that’s another battle I have decided not to fight anymore. The kid is who he is. After six years of trying to change that, I’m just going with it. It takes so much less energy to just drive that sh@& to school.
By then, The Princess has made her appearance. Does she want breakfast? Sometimes. Sometimes she’ll want to go play Polly Pockets in the basement for the 20 minutes we have until we have to leave. Sometimes she’ll watch Spongebob. Occasionally she will allow me to brush the hair that has fashioned itself overnight into what appears to be a squirrel’s nest. Yes, she will allow me, but she won’t like it, and won’t be shy at all about saying so throughout the ENTIRE brushing session.
Then I will usually clear out the dishwasher and put all that stuff away if I have time. Sometimes there might even be time for me to have breakfast, but that’s rare. When it’s almost time to leave, I will give them a warning to get shoes on, which they typically heed, unless the TV is on. So then I make sure they have their backpacks and lunch boxes and library books and sneakers for PE and get your shoes on it’s time to go. No your shoes. And your coat and hat and gloves. And while I am directing them to the car, I am pouring myself coffee (and making that a double) for the road, and they will be out in the garage as I rifle through the junk drawer for my keys and follow them, and then we are off to the bus stop.
That’s the usual routine, anyway. Very little variation from day-to-day. Though this morning, I had the strangest dream around 6 am. First of all, I dreamt that my stepmother, who has quite the green thumb, was growing these beautiful exotic kind of orchids in the tank of her toilet. (I know, wtf, right?) But then, I was running away from The Princess, not sure why, though I am sure I could dig a bit deeper for those seeds. Anyway, I was running through a wooded area in the early morning, and I was worried that spiders might have been spinning webs in the night, so I was waving my arms in front of me as I ran. Then, my bare feet ran through a thick spider web, which snapped and wound around my ankle, which was when I noticed a HUGE spider at the end of the thread, now clinging to my leg, and I tried to kick it off.
And I woke up, just after my foot made contact with Manfrengensen’s shin in the real world. “Sorry, sorry,” I said.
So then, today was a little bit different because The Princess had her annual physical scheduled for this morning, and she was quite excited about this because she was hoping to need glasses. When she was informed by the medical staff that she, in fact, has 20/20 vision, and therefore does not need spectacles, she proceeded to make one of herself, practically crying her eyes out in the exam room while we were waiting for the doctor to come in. What am I supposed to say to that? Sorry you don’t need glasses, honey? Who wants glasses? As someone who is just above “mole” on the vision scale, I can attest to the fact that glasses are no great shakes. But she doesn’t listen to me, so…
Then she started with the not wanting to go to school routine, and that was tough titties as far as I was concerned. Thankfully, by the time I got her to school, she was cool with the arrangement and gave me a quick kiss before joining her friends in the classroom. Now I had just enough time to cross the northern part of the state to meet a friend for lunch. I texted her to let her know that I was spinning in circles, and she kindly agreed to meet me at a closer venue. We had a nice lunch,
great visit, plus I had a little time to run a quick errand before we met.
As soon as we were finished though, I had to head back to The Princess’s school to pick her up, stopping along the way for a few quick groceries. Got her, brought her home, gave her a snack and unloaded the groceries with very little time left before we had to go pick up Clooney from his bus stop. From there, we went to Edison’s school to grab him from his extracurricular activity, ran him home for a quick dinner, and then took everyone out again (because Manfrengensen is at a basketball game tonight) so that Edison could go to orchestra practice at yet another middle school which is even farther from home than his own. Since we had only an hour before we had to return for him, I took the other two for dinner at Panera, which was fun, and then we went back to collect Edison.
Got home, everyone snacked and showered, read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to the three of them and now, I am enjoying the quiet. Not really a day from hell, just a long one. I don’t know how most people fit a full-time square job into the mix. Hat’s off to those of you who do.
Clooney began collecting Silly Bandz this summer. I cannot say when these things first put their rubbery feet through our door, but it built and built until he amassed a gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of them. I don’t buy them; he gets them at parties or at camp, and he’s been known to spend his allowance on them, at least until the Series 2 LEGO mini-figures were released a few weeks ago. But his eyes still get all glassy when he sees them in a store. The combinations of shapes, colors and other features (i.e. glow in the dark, tie-dyed, or sparkly) continue to mesmerize him whenever we pass a rack of them. And they are EVERYWHERE.
I have allowed it without encouraging it, because he’s into it, and because ultimately they are no more harmful than collecting baseball cards (though not as intellectually appealing), but I was a little disturbed yesterday when he came home and showed me two new ones on his wrist.
“Guess where I got these,” he began proudly. “Lucy and Gina dropped their Silly Bandz on the floor at lunch, and a bunch of people picked them up and I got these two!”
“What do you mean??” I asked, highly concerned.
It happened, just as I had thought. Six kids swooped in and stole the girls’ Silly Bandz off the floor. You always imagine that your child will be Superman, or the hero, the one who steps in and tells the others that what they are doing, if what they are doing, is not the right thing. So, I was more than a little shocked when not only didn’t my son do that, but he was also an eager participant in the crime. He and I had a long talk about what it meant, and how I saw the situation, and I hoped that he understood that what he had done was wrong and why. I tried to make him feel empathy for Lucy and Gina, and he promised to return the bracelets, but I wonder what he really learned. Did he learn that it’s wrong to do what he did, or did he just learn that it’s wrong to share stuff like that with Mom?
It’s a fine line. How do you teach kindness and morality, right and wrong, without choking the open line of communication between parent and child? Obviously, he’s never seen Manfrengensen or me take something that doesn’t belong to us, so it’s not a learn-by-example situation. I can only imagine that it will get tougher as he gets older and the pressure to really fit in plays a factor.
Have you had any experience with this kind of thing? Please share below if you have. Thanks.