parenting

If We Didn't Try to Hold the Flux

“What both science and at least some philosophical and even religious traditions tell us is that the world is impermanent. Nothing in it stays the same. We don't stay the same. Our bodies don't stay the same. The people that we love and the things that we love don't stay the same. That's just the truth of the matter, that there's this constant impermanence, this constant flux. And some philosophers have argued over the years that we should just embrace that. We would be freer if we didn't try to hold that flux for a moment.” 

Alison Gopnik

Poetic or Sad of Beautiful

"My poems tend to be about being a middle-aged, middle class, straight, white guy living in middle America. I'm thinking, how do I become one of the great mass of people who sort of, well, keeps America's cars clean and lawns mowed? Exploring ways in which that is poetic or sad or beautifulthat's really exciting to me."  

~ George Bilgere

Poet - George Bilgere from Cleveland Arts Prize on Vimeo.


Bilgere, G. (2014). Imperial. Pittsburgh, Pa. : University of Pittsburgh Press. (library, Amazon.com)

They Feel Everything

Excerpt from "Learning to Live with My Son's Autism," by David Mitchell, The Guardian, June 28, 2013:

My wife and I translated The Reason I Jump clandestinely, just for our son's therapists, but when my publishers read the manuscript, they believed the book might find a much wider audience.

For me, Naoki Higashida dissolves the lazy stereotype that people with autism are androids who don't feel. On the contrary, they feel everything, intensely. What's missing is the ability to communicate what they feel.

Part of this is our fault – we're so busy being shocked, upset, irritated or looking the other way that we don't hear them. Shouldn't we learn how?

Read the entire essay...

[Thanks, Alex!]

Acceptance Takes Time

"Love is something that ideally is there unconditionally throughout the relationship between a parent and a child. But acceptance is something that takes time. It always takes time."

Andrew Solomon

See also: Solomon, A. (2012). Far from the tree: Parents, children and the search for identity. New York: Scribner. (library, Audible)

Unsung Courage

Nicolson’s Café was a first floor restaurant on the corner of Nicolson and Drummond Street famous for being the location where J.K. Rowling worked on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Excerpt from The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship by David Whyte:

There are two possibilities, perhaps we can call them necessities, for keeping the marriage with work alive through the difficult years of childbearing and child rearing. The first is to reimagine the way we have named our work and defined its success. We may find that our priorities have been erased and redrawn by a birth or an adoption; that we don't care for the corporate world's priorities anymore and that mothering or indeed fathering is now our central work.

We may come to the reimagination of our work through the gladly received, genuine revelations of parenting or especially for women, with difficulty, through a rueful acceptance that the months or years with a child have taken us off the career track and that the sacrifices needed to get back on that moving stair are not worth what it would take. Even if we find that circumstances allow us both to be a good parent and to follow a brilliant career, the moral basis of the brilliant career hinges on not neglecting or abandoning our children at crucial times in their growing, and demands that we reexamine the basis of our marriage with work and many of the outer rewards of prestige we demanded up to the moment we became parents. 

The second necessity is to find a rhythm, often with the help of our partner or our family or our friends that enables us to make short visits to that kingdom of silence and creativity. These short visits on a regular, rhythmical basis may not further the work very much in the early days, but they are essential to keeping it alive in the heart and mind of the struggling parent until time begins to open up as the child grows and goes off to school. As this window begins to widen and allow fresh air into the life of the besieged parent, the work also slowly begins to resuscitate itself and come back to life. Our vocation starts to pick its feet out of the mud and move onto higher, drier ground. 

J.K. Rowling famously wrote large portions of the first Harry Potter book in the midst of this caked, slow-moving, mud-walking, desperate parent stage. "There was a point where I really felt I had 'penniless divorcée, lone parent' tattooed on my head," she said in one interview (Seaton, 2001). Living alone with her infant daughter, Jessica, in an unheated Edinburgh flat, she would trudge through the streets wheeling Jessica to a local café and snatch moments at her writing between feeding and comforting her child. It's a help to know that Rowling felt a general hopelessness during much of that time, and a further encouragement to know that she kept on moving through the mud, kept on writing despite her quiet, private despair. 

The café in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling wrote now has a small plaque on the wall outside to explain who sat there with such private, unsung courage. Most likely the place in which we sit and struggle to bring our work back to life will have nothing to commemorate it except a little window in our own memory that opens onto the small stage on which we appeared during difficult times. 

Perhaps each of us should go back with actual plaques and place them in cafés, on walls or in office cubicles with little notes of private courage for the inspiration of others. "This is where I kept my faith alive during very dark days," "This is where I found the courage to leave my marriage," or "This is where I realized that I couldn't have everything I wanted and so felt the freedom to request what I needed." Such puzzling, intriguing and inspirational signs everywhere might bring us to an understanding of the constant enacted dramas occurring around us. How every chair and every corner holds a possibility for redemption. The plaques that said things such as "This is the table where I gave up on my ideals and took the very large bribe" would be equally instructive for the reader. 

Be Fully Awake to Everything

Excerpt of a letter written to a teenaged Jackson Pollock by his father, from American letters, 1927-1947: Jackson Pollock & Family:

Portrait of Jackson Pollock, ca. 1928Well it has been some time since I received your fine letter. It makes me a bit proud and swelled up to get letters from five young fellows by the names of Charles, Mart, Frank, Sande, and Jack. The letters are so full of life, interest, ambition, and good fellowship. It fills my old heart with gladness and makes me feel “Bully.” Well Jack I was glad to learn how you felt about your summer’s work & your coming school year. The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life. I do not think a young fellow should be too serious, he should be full of the Dickens some times to create a balance.

I think your philosophy on religion is okay. I think every person should think, act & believe according to the dictates of his own conscience without too much pressure from the outside. I too think there is a higher power, a supreme force, a governor, a something that controls the universe. What it is & in what form I do not know. It may be that our intellect or spirit exists in space in some other form after it parts from this body. Nothing is impossible and we know that nothing is destroyed, it only changes chemically. We burn up a house and its contents, we change the form but the same elements exist; gas, vapor, ashes. They are all there just the same.

Read the rest of the letter here...

Patience and Time

Some Other World  
by W.D. Ehrhart, from Just for Laughs 

Was there ever a moment
more perfect than this?
The house all dark, the wind
at the windows, the warmth
of your body against my chest,
and you asleep in my arms.

I thought for awhile
you would never stop crying:
the knife-edged howl, the sucking
gasps, the quivering lower lip—
but I'm learning what troubles
an infant's dreams can be soothed
with patience and time.

Once, before you were born,
I watched for a moment
an egret ascend from a pond
with the grace of a whisper.
And once I dreamed a man
with a rifle refused to take aim;
I awoke to a sadness
deeper than dreams.

And I'm wishing this moment
could last forever; I'm wishing
the things that trouble my dreams
could be kept outside like the wind.

Guide Her, Protect Her

A Mother’s Prayer for Its Child
by Tina Fey, from Bossypants

tina_fey First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen.Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared themisspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.

Listen to Tina Fey read from this essay on Fresh Air (April 13, 2011).

Like a Brick in Your Pocket

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire got the idea for Rabbit Hole after hearing stories about couples who had lost their children. He was the father of a young child himself and he remembered something Marsha Norman suggested when he was studying at Julliard. “She said, if you want to write a good play, write about the thing that frightens you the most.”

In this scene from the movie based on the play, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) have started packing up toys and clothes that belonged to Becca’s son, Danny, who was killed in a car accident about eight months earlier.

I really like this scene because it explores an insight into grief that applies broadly to a variety of losses that we all eventually face.

BECCA

Mom? Does it go away?

NAT

What.

BECCA

This feeling. Does it ever go away?

NAT

No. I don’t think it does. Not for me it hasn’t. And that’s going on eleven years.

It changes though.

BECCA

How?

NAT

I don’t know. The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around—like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: “Oh right. That.” Which can be awful . But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda . . . Not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is . . .

BECCA

What.

NAT

Fine . . . actually.

Arrival

A Girl by Ron Mueck

Morning Song
by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Excruciating Vulnerability

“When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.”

~ Brené Brown, from “The Power of VulnerabilityTED Talks, June 2010

Immaterial Wealth

Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment “The support, the privilege, really comes from having two parents that said and believed that I could do anything. That support didn't come in the form of a check. That support came in the form of love and nurturing and respect for us finding our way, falling down, figuring out how to get up ourselves…I learned more in those [difficult] times about myself and my resiliency than I ever would have if I'd had a pile of money and I could have glided through life. I honestly feel that it is an act of love to say, 'I believe in you as my child, and you don't need my help.' "

~ Peter Buffett, discussing his book, Life is What You Make It, on Morning Edition, NPR (May 6, 2010)