Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Newsflash: Doing your kids homework will never get them into a good school. If you buy their way in, they will fail anyway. Side note: Because these kids come in lacking in any self sufficiently, yet are pressured to do well by their parents, more than 30% load up on the Adderal. Just letting you know. Many of them become extremely depressed because they know they had every advantage and are still failing. "Lurking beneath of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student's inability to differentiate the self from the parent." These kids can't problem solve, cope with minor setbacks, don't know what makes them happy and rarely know who they are.
I understand some parents do this to "protect" their kids and some others do this as an ego-extension of themselves. The bragging! And now social bragging. Endless. How much can we as a society tolerate? I don't care that your daughter won the gymnastic nationals, or she's doing print modeling in between piano recitals, or that your son has a 4.9 but working toward a perfect 5! I still don't respect you as a parent because your kid is miserable.
I've written about this before but this is great article by an ex-Stanford dean who witnessed first hand the overprotected kids that enter college only to fall apart. Read here. I see it all around me, and we see this in the media, flooded with pictures of celebrities and their over-indulged kids who will never understand what it feels like to actually earn something. Then these same parents are surprised when the kids flail at school, away from mom, dad, tutors, assistants, and so on.
Clearly I am against any of this hyper-parenting. I know where it comes from ("I wasn't really parented by my hippy-dippy mom and I will give Chuckles everything I never got") and also have seen where it goes ("Mom, tell me again how to work a subway because the cabs are ignoring me. I feel so rejected. Can you fly out here?")
I've been parenting for a while, and I suppose I'm what you call a "let them break an arm" parent. I told my daughters as much when they were age three:
"Girls, you need to understand I will not be a typical mother. In fact, consider me an aunt. You'll have to figure things out on your own." Guess what, they did. They're independent but also compassionate. They have weird hobbies like reptile collecting. They seem to find outlets for all of their various interests. My house is messy, but there you have it.
They have zero interest in my opinion on most matters, they trust their own. They wouldn't dream of me ever helping them with homework.
"Honey, do you need help with that math that makes zero sense to me? I can switch you back to old school in no time."
"How about never!"
They laugh. They run circles around me. They steal my phone and make movies. They think I'm lame. And I happen to think that's healthy. But we also all adore each other, we bake, shop, go on adventurous hikes, look for wild animals in hiding, snare stray cats, surf, (well they do) and Apples to Apples somehow never gets old.
Why on earth would parents NOT want their kids to learn from their mistakes, get disappointed, cry, bawl their eyes out, and learn to get over it; stumble, fall and be okay? To experience life? It's called balance and the kids will be fine. Let them get a damn D! Take the training wheels off before they are 12. How old is this kid?
In this in-between place, I never have to worry whether or not my kids are spoiled, over-pampered, lacking in confidence, or incapable of taking care of themselves. What I get in return is a life. Everybody wins.
It will be curious to see what happens to this next crop of extremely over- indulged kids. This is the generation following the ones already out there.
In my opinion one of the most loving things you can do for your children is let them grow up.
Rhonda Talbot on helicopter parenting insanity, parenthood, millennials, raising kids, college, independence.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
"The California I knew is gone, doesn't exist... little pockets, farm country....fresh produce stands with avocados and date palms. An artichoke for a buck. All wiped out now."
This post is not in any way to make light of our California drought situation. But it's impossible for me to not do the deja vu stumble. I'm a product of the 1977 Marin County "Emergency" drought, where drastic measures had to be taken or the state would simply burn to the ground.
Jerry Brown was a younger, hipper Governor then. I was living with my mother in Tiburon, she was somehow an interior decorator and I was a kid plotting my move to anywhere else but Marin. For example, every morning, because my mother didn't believe in curtains I was forced to wake by sunlight at approximately 6:00am.
As a pre-teen, I thought this was bullshit. I needed that extra hour before school. Get curtains!
Mom: We are not shutting out the majestic glory we get to momentarily be part of.
She was already drinking coffee and drawing blueprints for some boutique. She never went to design or architectural colleges, so her money-earning ambitions remained a mystery.
Mom: Honey, get up. The sun is out. Splendor awaits. Take a one minute shower, dash out, leave it running and I'll pop in.
During this time, the new water rules were: basically you couldn't use water. Which meant, you were not suppose to flush the toilet until five uses, one quick shower a week, there was the same 25% cut in water supply... or,
"The Family That Showers Together, Doesn't Go To Jail!"
The slogan might have been, "The Family That Showers Together Stays Together." That is so perverse, even by the low moral standards of the Mariners, the locals quickly changed it.
Jerry Brown, 77, mandating the 25% ^ ^ ^ among other restrictions. ^ ^ ^ If you abused your water usage, not only were you fined, but potentially looking at 30 days in the slammer. My mother took this all very seriously and would sometimes throw a nerf ball at my head if I showered too long. She also had a thing for Brown and a probable hook-up. Back then he was like Ryan Gosling. But in the power seat.
His water ration for the week.
The street signs kept going up, some were rather inappropriate using images from that book The Joy of Sex. Some trying to be clever.
I don't think Jerry Brown sanctioned these signs, but people posted them everywhere, all over Main Street and into other cities.
It appears he's using a similar handbook for our current crisis. This is not a horrible thing, everyone needs to conserve and shut their fountains down. Over 80% of CA water goes to agriculture, but I suppose every drop helps. Other efforts, however, are mandatory. There needs to be a better long-term solution than short term regulations. Listen up engineers. Be a hero. Everyone get involved. There needs to be more talk about desalination. Go here.
Okay, back to 1977, Main Street sort of looks the same, ^ ^ ^ minus the fancy stores. Incidentally Mom created the interiors of nearly all those shops. Again, a mystery. She went on to become an unlicensed therapist with a decent book of clients.
Mom: It's amazing what people will tell their designers. Now I'm in a position to help them proper and get paid.
Of course no one was going to shower with their family, or not flush their toilets. But to do their part, everyone did carry around flasks of whiskey and sit in hot tubs. We all wanted a hot tub.
The restaurants did not put water on the table, unless you were Sam Shepard, because he's god. And was also a regular at Sam's, the local, well, watering hole. He was an great guy, and I talked to him often because my mom would drag me there so she didn't have to drink alone.
Sam often saw me in a corner doing homework while he was writing Pulitzer winning plays. I didn't know who he was, just another sweet guy at Sam's. I was working on my college essay, yes early, but I was anxious to move on.
Sam told me I was off to a good start. He told me to figure out what I find curious, then mention in my letter both the subject of curiosity and the professor who would be teaching this to the Freshman. I would eventually do that and not on a napkin.
I would later find out that a very young Sam had a romance with Patti Smith (connection one) and he also has a musician son, Walker, whose band The Down Hill Strugglers, play "down home folk." There is a great scene in The Notebook with Sam Shepard, everyone is dancing to banjo/fiddle music, (connection two.) These connections are the majestic fabric of my life.
As a "teeny-bopper" I was curious why there was a water shortage at all given we were surrounded by so much.
My walkway to the bus every morning. ^ ^ ^
My mother explained the difference between salt and tap then offered she preferred wine, so she wasn't part of the problem anyway. All of our ferns had long died from neglect. We were winning.
Year later, here I am all grown up, explaining to my kids why we are installing drought resistant grass, but the kids seem to be armed with knowledge because I get yelled at the most.
"Turn off the faucet, Mom!"
When I tell my kids why there are no decent oranges or lemons, I sound exactly like my mother back in Tiburon. There have been subsequent droughts but I didn't have kids then. Somehow the impact isn't felt as much. Because well, pasta, laundry, long-haired twin girls.
If it gets to that point, of "The Family That Showers Together Doesn't Go to Jail!" just get yourself a hot tub. Like these fellas.
Maybe stick to coconut water.
Friday, January 16, 2015
During this time, music and freedom called my mother to another place, a more hopeful existence where she wouldn’t be a “wife.” She was a hippy to my father’s buttoned-up businessman. My mother did not have many heroes, as they were fleeting and then dead: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedys. But there was something about Einstein that settled into her very core, then mine.
A new life began and I took Albert along as a companion
He was brilliant in his own way
Meanwhile, back in New Jersey
Sunday, October 26, 2014
There is always hope...
This is what 65 looks like being fabulous. Still, I feel I look at least 20 years younger than Susan. Seriously! This girl should get fired.
This is me on a sloppy day. I was in heels and pearls for cripes sake! I've gotten to where I'm okay with aging. I'm doing it gracefully. I take pride in that.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Hello my friends, have been busy with work, kids, the eternal quest for summer activities, sensible vacations, etc.
I came across something my mother wrote in 1976, which I vaguely remember. This was published in the Detroit News, then quickly forgotten. Mom must have pulled it back out, reworked, and published again in a Washington State Lit Journal just before she passed away. She was an artist of many avenues, writing being one. She died before finishing her 2nd dissertation and sadly I have very little of her work.
Here is an excerpt of The Joy of Six, the only time I said yes to a "guest" blogger.
In a strange set of circumstances, due I am sure, to my physically overstressed, and deliriously stretched-out mentality I began to recognize the presence of more than just my own brood.
There began to appear on a daily basis, metaphysical personifications with actual personalities distinguishable by their behavior. In spite of my intensified attention to their detailed intervention into my life, I found it strangely satisfying to attribute their unusual activities to that of my children. As such, I began to refer to them as "The Bodies"-- Nobody, Everybody, Somebody, and Anybody.
While learning their names and idiosyncratic proclivities, I discovered my favorite among the strangely non-physical beings temporarily inhabiting my home. Nobody. Nobody loved vegetables. Nobody completed assigned homework, and Nobody followed my organizational chart. Nobody was polite and cheerful and Nobody washed dishes. Nobody picked their clothes up from the floor and Nobody claimed ownership of the jeans thrown there. Nobody did everything.
In spite of my reasonable and pleasant nature, I was surprised by the specious presence of Somebody who lost my cashmere sweater, misplaced my opal ring, removed the covers and Down pillows from my bed, and in fact was a suspect in the loss of my favorite champagne flute, an elegant piece of crystal stem-ware I especially loved.
I often envisioned a world in which I might own two of them, and regularly hid money in a sacrificial sugar bowl, hoping to find a duplicate. The bowl, the money, and the flute were simply missing. The rhetoric went something like this:
"Somebody broke my champagne flute, ravished my sugar bowl, and absconded with $3.42!" True, I was somewhat hysterical, and may have been screaming, however I demanded an immediate resolution. My eldest countered with her inherited ideological preference for non-biased accusations:
"Why blame Somebody when it could have been Anybody?" Daughters two and three agreed, arguing for the defense, insisting that Everybody had access to the cupboard, and Nobody may have actually been the culprit.
"Nobody?" I was stunned. "How could it be Nobody?!"
It was obvious to me that Somebody took these things because they were in fact gone, and perhaps had broken my one and only remnant of another, more promising life. For reasons beyond my control, the children blamed Anybody and Everybody, an outrageous accusation, however, I could imagine such an act of agrestic behavior by unscrupulous persons such as those referred to by my children.
The miscreant might just be Anybody, a mysteriously vague personification, not entirely trustworthy. At the end of the investigation, Nobody claimed responsibility.
Since Nobody confessed and with the evidence removed, we concluded that Nobody should be punished, however, when Nobody is liable, nothing gets done. When I confronted them, my children assured me that I was biased against Everybody, their favorite of the strangely iconoclastic representational bodies residing in our home.
"Since, as you say, Everybody always behaves badly," daughter's two and three proclaimed, "and Anybody could be guilty as charged, Somebody might consider your conclusions slightly confusing".
The clarity of my argument took a mercurial drop as my children turned it against me and I seemed to have lost another battle. Nobody seemed interested in the issues, and with Nobody as an ally, Everybody seemed to be satisfied.
When our dog produced eight puppies, Nobody came to my aid and Everybody hid behind Anybody with an alibi.
In a moment of unforeseen frustration, I ran screaming through the house in an unprofessional, albeit succinct, non-prejudicial rant.
"I'm throwing all of these blue jeans into the garbage!" I stated further that, "Persons owning these jeans and those who knew the gender of that dog must be held liable for their actions."
Emboldened, I added, "People must ultimately be held responsible for their actions."
Unbelievably, daughters, four and five engaged in a strategy that included youth and innocence as a viable defense against sexual knowledge.
Everybody said, 'It's your fault since we didn't know this stuff."
Everybody claimed a significant victory. As for the jeans, Nobody claimed them and I laundered them in silence.
The dog, apparently a female, was named Gretchen as my children seemed to think she was a "Dutch Brady Terrier," a previously undiscovered breed, and bestowed upon her a fabricated pedigree.
Gretchen, a dog with neurotic tendencies, was terrified by the presence of the children and slowly but surely, and unbeknownst to me, deposited all eight of her offspring under my bed.
Also unbeknownst to me was that I was allergic to puppy dander. Everybody blamed my extreme bronchial distress to the fact that I worked in a bar eight hours a night, and spent eight hours a day in a "sick" office building.
Somebody suggested I stay home, clean house and make cookies, an excellent, but thoroughly impractical solution. After much discussion, Everybody concluded we must remove the animals. Anybody could see the logic of it and although Nobody objected, the eldest daughter was sent out on her bicycle with a small lunch, a whicker basket, and eight "for-free" dogs.
I was miraculously "cured," returned to work, and food was on the table again.
When daughter number five began bizarre episodes of limping, and doctors suggested to me that her behavior was a production of symptoms associated with a psychoneurosis motivated by my neglect of her, I wondered if this child was emulating her sister who had also lost her ability to walk for a period of time. I pulled that one around in a red wagon because she said, "I can't walk anymore."
That child was often found napping on the sidewalk by neighbors, who actually believed her and considered me an unfit parent.
The apparent theory for her slipping epiphysis was associated with a congenital factor however under sedation this child admitted to stomping aluminum cans into a kind of "shoe-heel," and stomped on them daily for fun.
The doctor who performed the operation lost his son on the eve of the procedure due to a broken neck achieved while performing on a trampoline. I had no money to pay the doctor and the doctor did not bill me.
Upon our arrival back home, we placed the crutches for my daughter at the bottom of the stairs. The cat, with a broken leg, and also wearing a cast, sat quietly next to the rather large barrier, a sentinel perhaps.
Visiting children came with their mothers and were amazed by the size of the crutches Tutu was given. She was a rare "Chocolate-Point" Siamese that no doubt was expensive in the past, but had fallen on hard times, landing on our doorstep and scooped up for play by daughter number five who dressed her in frilly doll's clothing and pushed her around in a broken stroller banging recklessly into the furnishings.
Tutu disappeared the same day as Gretchen, her eight puppies, and a few turtles the kids collected from various streams.
I snipped the "shag" down with manicure scissors believing that I might manufacture a kind of "short shag," or "golf-link-like, grassy carpet.”
One of my jobs involved the completion of 8"x10" detailed ink renderings with copy, of fashions shown in local boutiques. I hung the to-be-drawn clothing from the tomato-soup ceiling and often spent many sleepless nights engaged in the project.
I began to look at these creatures as welcomed accidents, distractions to our otherwise impossible living situation. I liked them and remained positive in spite of the negative behavior I attributed to them. I also liked blaming them for unruly behavior as this would buffer further rage toward my children's own unruly behavior.
With the Great Dane gone and no further incoming pests, real issues could no longer be ignored.
Everybody was angry, no one was speaking then Somebody threw a basketball against a dining room canvas; strange behavior I found both interesting and annoying.
A commissioned painting requires a specific result, unlike creative adventures, which allow for spontaneous reactions, say serendipity. In the unlikely event of a sponsor spending money on a painting created absent that sponsor's particular investment in the ideation, most artists are unpaid. That Somebody could enhance my work with this basketball is no more unrealistic than my own expectations.
The big sale of the painting provided an unexpected opportunity to move three thousand miles from the strange and often misunderstood neighborhood in which we lived. The patron, also the person I promised to marry, offered us an opportunity. Since we were about to be evicted, few decisions were made in less time.
Not only did I sell every piece of furniture not nailed to the floor, I sold furnishings actually nailed to the floor, including every appliance and all the bathroom fixtures.
The trip to California was a bit of an illusion; something an intelligent person would refer to as a fantasy, however, in 1976, all things seemed possible, including a home for my children.
Further still, making the three thousand mile trek seemed to cool the professed ardor of my intended, and he simply disappeared leaving me free to wander for which I was grateful.
Finding a home for the clan proved to be a challenge. The home I chose to rent did not allow children, so I lied and said I had none. We moved in, all seven of us, along with our metaphysical recreations, three pillows and a coffee pot. The rent would of course become an issue due to the freeze on the account, and I was forced to sell the bicycles, my last hat trick.
In the meantime I found a waitress position, which allowed me to steal food and toilet paper. Nobody objected, and I continued to become a felon, a career objective that Somebody considered difficult to comprehend, and a course of action perceived by Anybody as unwise.
My landlord, an unwilling participant in an ongoing lawsuit against him for allowing children to live in that complex, caved under the pressure and forced me to leave. By the time I returned home on Christmas Eve, the children were all sitting outside on the grass, the eldest held the coffee pot and a string of tree lights.
If Somebody had an idea Nobody was discussing it and if Everybody thought we were beaten by this we looked to Anybody with a solution.
After renting a room at Howard Johnson for showers, clean sheets, and television, we snuggled into a discussion of room service. Somebody suggested that Everybody would benefit from a walk to the nearest fast-food joint, an option Nobody found satisfactory. In the end, the desire to eat actual food out-weighed all practical other-oriented solutions.
Sitting in the booth of a fancy restaurant with a serious claim to the best seafood in the world, my darlings ordered hamburgers with cheese.
"We don't like fish," they proclaimed," especially fish with bones."
Somebody suggested lobster, a fact Everybody agreed upon and Anybody could see that was the best choice. Nobody, once again came to my aid.
"Lobster it is," I declared, and lobster it was for our re-entry into the world of normalcy.
Albeit dinner blew a magnificent hole in our funds it also produced a significant burst of energy and emotional well-being. We found a very simple home; a small, fishy cottage, the kind some might describe as "shack-like", available however to mothers with children.
By padding my resume with outrageous lies, I found a job, bought a car, and joined other working moms dropping their kids off at the school bus stop.
In the end, it was a simple project; a task devoted to the ordinary notion of keeping many children alive; an idea developed while skirting them through negotiations with an atypical parent and the evolution of an association with unrealistic and entirely imaginative personalities, all willing to support their creative endeavors, specific ideations, and loving pursuits. Through a prism of four decades past, I cannot see how it was done, but can only recall the joy of raising six children on my own.
Rhonda Talbot on a fictional version of how I was raised for a short time; told through the eyes of my mother.