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Month: November 2009

Parenting by Committee

There are things I do well. The Pony, for instance. I can dance a Pony to make white go-go boots blush. Also: Whistle. I’m a sick whistler. Crazy. I can’t think of anything else just now but there are definitely — surely — things I’m really, really good at.

Rare, though, is the moment I feel proficient at parenting. It’s not false modesty when I say the task just doesn’t come naturally to me; sometimes I have to fight my most basic instincts to keep from earning the Abominable Mommy of the Year award (and if you feel this way, too, I’d love to hear from you; if you don’t, please keep it to yourself).

So when my 11-year-old got mad at the television remote last weekend and flung it across the living room, accidentally assassinating his dad’s new flatscreen TV — the only TV in our house, during (oh god) football season — I wasn’t sure what to do.

We didn’t witness the crime; he did it right before leaving for a friend’s house. His little brother ratted him out. The good news was we had time to thoughtfully plot a response rather than reacting to the emotions flooding our guts and skittering across our faces: shock, disappointment, and a frustration that teetered on rage — the same feeling that had cracked the darn screen to begin with and thus proven an ineffective problem-solver.

Going to Bed Angry

I did it. I went to bed angry. They tell you not to, but I did. And I lived to tell the tale.

We were in bed, having one of those “Why can’t you just say the right thing?”/”Why can’t you just tell me what to say?” arguments, when my eyes began stinging from lack of sleep. So I shut them. Just for a second, just to rest. But I maintained a fabulously formidable scowl to show my opponent that our spat was still very much in play.

I woke up seven hours later — scowling — and even more outraged than I’d been the night before. The row was unresolved and now we had broken the cardinal rule of couplehood, too; no good could come of this …

It was only weeks ago, while lunching at Stella Mare’s, that we got to chatting with an elderly couple sitting near us. Holding hands and beaming like the stars of a Cialis commercial, they told us their “secret”: “Never go to bed angry.”

Seriously? I thought. That’s it? That lame old saw? I’d never really understood the adage because I never go to bed angry. I can’t. To me, going to bed mad means I’ve lost the argument. Which is something I don’t do willingly.

Baby Einstein Refunds

Whenever I think I’m doing a decent job of raising my kids, something happens to convince me that I am, in fact, profoundly inept at the job.

Most recently it was the news that the Baby Einstein company is offering refunds to anyone who bought its DVDs in the last five years. Here’s why: Turns out the show doesn’t actually make kids any smarter.

I know. It’s shocking. Next they’ll tell us that Froot Loops are NOT actually part of a nutritious breakfast, and that sparing the rod does NOT in fact spoil the child. Where will the madness end?

The Einstein videos — and the Baby Beethovens, da Vincis, and Wordsworths that make up the whole lofty-tot series — have long been promoted as educational, said to stimulate babies’ brains. But a child advocacy group called the claims untrue and threatened Disney with a class-action lawsuit, citing studies that prove such shows actually delay language development.

In other words, the more they see, the less they know. Which is sort of how I feel about my parenting skills.

Confession: I’m one of the lousy moms who strapped her infants into their no-escape high-chairs, pushed them in front of the television and popped in a Baby Mozart video. I did it with frequency and I did it with confidence, believing for no good reason that the images of low-budget puppets nodding to sonatas would spark synapses in my boys’ burgeoning, Harvard-bound brains.

Because it was either that or my well-worn copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


It wasn’t even sunrise when I felt nature’s call. Clad in my usual sleepwear — yesterday’s T-shirt, unfussy undies — I stumbled half-dreaming from my twin bed toward the loo and stopped cold as I shuffled past my roommate’s bed in the opposite corner of the narrow room.

Was that a hairy arm hanging out of the bed? Was that a man’s sleeping body entwined with that of my sacked-out roommate, only inches from my barely garbed, bathroom-bound bladder?

He hadn’t been there when I went to sleep. What had happened in here? Scratch that. I didn’t want to know. Could I possibly go back to sleep a mere feet from this rather attractive stranger? And if I left the room in my skivvies, how long before they’d clear out and I could return?

Tufts University drew nationwide shrugs and sniggers last month when it issued an edict to students: “You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.”

It’s funny. It is. But finding somewhere to bump bodies in college really is an exacting task. I remember breaking into empty dorm rooms and, once, climbing onto a campus rooftop. Not safe. Not smart. Not especially sanitary.

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