Saturday, October 30, 2010
Raising a child is hard! When I became a mother I realized how ill-prepared for the task I was and I was in a committed relationship, somewhat financially stable, employed, and I had access to top-notch health care. I remember looking at my daughter as a baby and the knowledge that this was a lifetime responsibility overwhelmed me. I could not resign from this position, I could not try it out and change my mind...I couldn't even leave this person for a quick trip to the coffee shop to refuel whenever I felt like it. Aspects of my life were the same and yet, this new presence seemed to change everything.
Fast forward 10 years and although I feel more comfortable in my role as a mom, it is still hard. Life's changes occur (moving, new jobs, new people in our lives) and every time I make a decision I have to think of how that decision affects another person. The realization that I am responsible for raising a human being is still so daunting. I am extremely thankful that other positive influences have been part of my daughter's life, because I am a flawed person and my hope is that my daughter will learn from a multitude of people and make good choices for her (my good choices are not always going to be her good choices).
If a person, for whatever reason, does not feel up to the task of this job, the job of being a parent, then I hope they can make a choice that is best for them before it is too late. Having an abortion or putting a child up for adoption is painful and yet, it allows a person to walk away from the daily responsibilities of being a parent. Having a child and keeping a child does not allow one to just walk away (I realize people do walk away from their children and I assume the pain the child feels is something I cannot even put into words and I do not think an adult who walks away from their child ever forgives themselves).
I do not know when a life begins. I do know miscarriages occur and they are horribly sad and many times they are not even known by a woman. I do not know what lies ahead for us after death, though I do not believe in punishment by a higher power for choosing not to bring a pregnancy to term. I do realize many people's opinions on this matter are formed by their spiritual and religious beliefs.
I hope that all people will practice sexual intimacy using protection when a pregnancy is not desired, but I realize that it is not realistic and I realize that some people do use protection and still become pregnant. I believe education is important and yet, as a parent, I realize that no amount of education prepares a person for becoming a parent and that most 16-year olds can barely look past the events of the weekend, much less fifteen years down the road when their baby is a teenager.
Many people will have children, thinking of how fun having a baby will be or because they feel pressured by society, their friends, their families. Those people may later regret their choice. A person who is uncertain of their abilities to become a parent (and I think every soon-to-be-parent falls into this category) may later be grateful they chose to become a parent, even when society, their friends, their family, said they shouldn't do it. What I want is for a person who is aware that becoming a parent is not right for them to be able to make a choice when a choice is still to be made.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
I recently read a Facebook status that questioned a parent's supervision of their child. The comments following were so vicious, that although I didn't agree with the parent's choice as I read it to be, I found myself wanting to defend the parent. What really baffled me was that the people commenting didn't seem concerned that the tables could be turned - that someone could so harshly judge a situation they handled and with only partial information. Ok, now I'm judging those who made the comments.
I have definitely done my share of gossiping, putting others down and not gathering all the facts before making a judgment call. I realize this and I seriously want to improve in this area. I also really do acknowledge that people can see me do something and make a snap judgment, but if they were to talk with me and find out why I made the choice I did, they might make a different call.
Where does this need to judge others so harshly come from? Do these judgments we make keep us from trying to understand people? Does putting another person down make us feel better about the choices we're making?
*I am also working on not ending sentences with prepositions, as I've done above, but sometimes it just sounds better to end a sentence with a preposition.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
“Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.”
Thursday, October 7, 2010
TEN years ago, my high school sweetheart and I liked to pretend we were disaffected expatriates living in some crumbly postwar foreign capital. In reality, we lived in an affluent New York City suburb.
Devouring the book, we thought the protagonist, Jake Barnes, a twentysomething American reporter, and his hot-and-cold lover, Lady Brett Ashley, were pretty cool. They were always visiting interesting places and discussing the meaning of life, or lack thereof. And even though their lives were a little messy, they always spoke so insightfully!
Sure, we concluded, Barnes, Lady Brett and other Lost Generation all-stars had dependency, identity, and substance-abuse issues. But in other ways, they seemed like the sort of people we’d be happy to be like when we grew up. They were adults, but they were much cooler than most of the adults we knew.
The summer after my freshman year of college, my girlfriend and I traveled to France and Spain together, Hemingway style, picnicking on the Seine and sipping wine with Basques in San Sebastián. After the trip, we corresponded via telegram-style letters and e-mail messages that went something like this:
Dearest Jake: Can’t bear staying apart. Stop. Please visit after exams. Brett.
Brett Darling: Will come on Greyhound Saturday. Stop. Arriving 6:40 p.m. All my love. Jake.
I was pretty sure I would marry her, just not anytime soon. I also assumed — taking my cues from Hemingway, Maugham and Fitzgerald — that I had years of globetrotting to do before I’d consider settling down with anyone.
The next summer she and I worked in California. On weekends we’d cruise to the Henry Miller Library, an oceanside hangout named after the footloose novelist. It was fun to gaze at the Pacific and quote him to each other.
My own travels would begin to feel Milleresque: That fall I went to Buenos Aires; the following spring, I volunteered on a coffee farm in Mexico; that summer my girlfriend and I traveled to Montana, where I had landed a job baking pies at a roadside cafe.
Thinking of Hemingway’s Ketchum, Idaho, I had looked for a beautiful place where I could write and fish. The cafe owners said they also had work for my girlfriend — they needed line cooks.
In Montana, we were happy living under big skies, among friendly strangers and away from the East Coast. But our cabin was cramped and mouse-infested, and my girlfriend — a vegetarian — quickly tired of grilling burgers.
We quit after six weeks and headed east in her car. The ride felt like a defeat. I broke off the relationship because I was restless. Stop.
More than a year passed before we met for pizza on a dreary November afternoon in Boston. I had come down for the weekend from Vermont, where I was starting to write for a newspaper, to attend a journalism conference.
She was thinking of applying to law school; I wanted to go abroad again. There was no spark between us, but I attributed that to bad timing, figuring we would eventually rekindle our romance in a different place and context. The fact that I didn’t know where or how seemed kind of exciting.
Three springs later, I quit my newspaper job and spent the summer wandering around China and Southeast Asia. I settled in Hanoi, Vietnam, partly because its sidewalk cafes, French-designed boulevards and bustling expat social scene reminded me of books I had read about postwar Europe.
I spent the fall and winter drinking coffee, writing travel stories, scratching away at a novel and dating women from other countries. Soon I would be learning the ropes at a European news agency, playing tennis with diplomats and feeling expatriated in a good, adventurous, Hemingway sort of way.
But I still thought fondly of my first love. From what she’d told me over the phone before I left the United States, I knew she had started law school. I resisted that plotline: I sensed that someday she would decide to come find me.
I hadn’t seen her in three years. Two months after my 26th birthday, I mailed her a letter: Living abroad was fun, I wrote, but I missed her, and I wanted to see her the next time I came home to visit.
Ouch. I hadn’t been pining for her per se, but I was upset that she didn’t seem to need to see me in the same way I felt I needed to see her. Also: what boyfriend? I had assumed that, like me, she had been drifting through lovers as one floats among so many ocean swells.
Then she e-mailed to say that she was in Washington, D.C. — Did I want to meet up?
I did. A few weeks later, I hoisted my backpack, hailed a motorbike taxi outside my apartment and began a five-week odyssey of work and travel that would take me from Hanoi to Moscow to Paris to Reykjavik to New York. Along the way I strolled the Luxembourg Gardens, ate crepes by the Seine, reported a story from Rouen, slept in departure lounges and on friends’ couches, rode Amtrak to Vermont, paddled a canoe across an Adirondack lake and caught a train back to the city, where in Chinatown I boarded a southbound bus.
The next day, a sweltering Wednesday, I finally arrived at my destination: the entrance of a Washington Metro station, where my high school sweetheart, in a black skirt and silver blouse, looked more beautiful than I remembered. We ducked into a Mexican restaurant and ordered beers to steady our trembling hands.
She said she had been dating the same guy for three years. I had met him once at a party but I wouldn’t remember. Anyway, now they were living together. She liked law school and had never felt so settled — in a good way.
“What about you?” she asked.
My throat crackled. I had been kidding myself assuming that I would marry this woman: We had each followed roads that the other had no interest in taking, and now she was in love with someone else.
Still: She was looking at me so prettily over the guacamole that I felt like whisking her away. Dearest Brett: Let’s start over together in Mexico City. Jake.
“Let’s have another drink,” I said.
We split the bill — it was almost half a month’s rent in Hanoi — and found a table at a high-ceilinged German brewpub on the next block. The lighting was dimmer there. Loosening up under the alcohol, I said the kind of playful, witty things I knew would make her smile.
Laughing, she said she wanted to hear more about my expat life. “A wire service in Southeast Asia?” I recall her saying. “I imagine you wearing one of those silly reporter hats with the wrap-around brim.”
We left the bar and walked toward the Metro. She pointed out that the station was closing in five minutes. She wasn’t inviting me to come home with her. She joked that she would be sure to send me one of those silly — —
When she noticed that I was crying, she hugged me as one holds a child who has scraped a knee. I held her hands and realized that the next time I saw her — if I ever were to see her again — she would probably be wearing a ring. She might even be a mother.
I dried my eyes on my T-shirt. A janitor was cleaning up. Otherwise we were alone. I scratched my sandals against the pavement. Perhaps I wanted to keep standing there because I had been traveling too much. Or maybe I sensed that I wouldn’t be back. Two or three minutes passed.
FOR the first half of my 20s, the Rest of My Life had appeared to wait patiently. And time, like a gift certificate, seemed like something I could hold on to and cash in later. But that night I felt as if the rest of my life was already upon me. Time was short, and I couldn’t think of anything to look forward to.
I grasped for something winning to say. Nothing came. I was drunk. She walked into the station and didn’t look back.
For a dizzy moment I considered chasing her down that escalator. Dearest Brett: Am lonely without you. Stop. Come to Hanoi. Mike.
The escalator stopped and the trains left. I walked on. I suppose I had my own connections to make.
Written by Mike Ives
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Sitting outside her class last week I ended up chatting with a couple adults about a painting in our children's classroom that depicted 2 adults about to engage in sex. I haven't seen the painting, but talked about it with Sophie and she nonchalantly said, "Oh yeah, I've seen stuff like that before. I think it was from another country." Hmmm, so to her, not a big deal. Again, I haven't seen the actual painting, but it has caused me to wonder:
How, as a parent (or if not a parent, just speculate), do you determine what is appropriate for your child to see? Are you the type that will absolutely not let them see a PG-13 film until they are actually 13 or are you more like me, you check why it's rated PG-13 and use your own criteria to determine if your child can see it before they are actually 13? Do you keep your child out of any art museum that has a nude sculpture? Why is nudity such a big deal anyway - it is how we all enter this world - ok, I like to think that I'm so nonchalant about it, but the reality is, I'm not...I didn't fall that far from my protestant upbringing and how will my views affect those of my child?
Just so ya know, I do plan on actually checking out the painting in question - I just didn't want the teacher to think I was a weirdo prudish parent....so I have to check it out as if I'm not checking it out...and preferably when nobody else is in the room in case I blush.