Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's My Blog and I'll Rant If I Want To....

What do you do with your anger if you live in the city? I'm not entirely sure what you do with it in the suburbs other than drink yourself into a quiet oblivion (then go pick up the kids), or take a little fury out on a fellow soccer mom (or dad if you're feeling really choleric). In the city, there is so much external stuff to fuel the internal combustion that I often reach a point at which mercury would be considered somewhat unsafe. I tried kickboxing and had to be wrenched physically off the bag once the session was over, so I guess I could install one in my apartment and risk bringing the neighbor down via my bedroom ceiling, or I could do what I usually do and throw things. The walls are marked with small indentations that record the missile-style trajectory of everything from books, shoes, wooden coat hangars, and pens. The cat knows enough to disappear, fast, lest he find himself hurled through space. Considering that he has already visited this sorry misfortune on himself at least once (he fell out the window, but no biggie, we're only on the third floor), he is obviously loathe to revisit the experience. Which brings me back to the question at hand. How to channel anger in a healthy and meaningful way? While you're pondering it, I'll just nip out for a 30-mile run, and if you happen to have any ideas while I'm gone, be sure to send'em over. Have rage, will try (almost) anything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too Hip to Handle?

We forayed into the depths of Brooklyn this weekend, to Williamsburg, where you don't need a passport as much as a woolly cap, a goatee (men too!!), a baby in a sling, chic clothes that appear to be thrift but are really costly designer, and a certain slouch that denotes indifference to anything that is not informally modish. A British accent really helps, which gave me a slight advantage, and while it was initially a relief to be among creative sounding and looking individuals, after a few hours it began to wear off and take on a homogeneous quality all of it's own. We browsed a few of the thrift stores, picked up some vinyl, and hung out in a suitably mellow cafe with an adjoining, indoor playspace, so that the members of our party who could barely walk (and I don't mean those with nasty hangovers) could toddle, bite, push and fall on soft foam, in relative freedom, while we adults sat nearby, sipping chai lattes and discussing sustainable and social networking issues. We even managed to duck into a quick open house -- a 1700 square foot loft -- where we were attacked by a broker who was so incredibly aggressive that we almost succumbed and bought the place on the spot just to get him off our backs. It didn't take that long to get back to Manhattan, making us realize that 'coollness' was just a subway ride away -- and a short one at that. But once we were back uptown, in the relative suburbia of our northern locale, we couldn't help feeling that hip really works best when it stands out and that relocating to a place where everyone looks, sounds, and feels just like you do becomes an emotional prison of it's own. Each to his own, of course, and while it's definitely comes closest to the Portabello Road that we miss dearly, we fear that, generationally-speaking, we have missed the boat. Then again, my fifteen-year old, who I consider pretty chill, pronounced it a little too cool for it's own good, and that he prefers Brooklyn Heights. With you on that one, son.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kung Fu Parenting

Unlike a car, or almost any gizmo on the planet, babies don't come with a manual. They just wrap 'em in a towel and send you on your way with a few bottles of formula, some disposable diapers, and lots of paperwork that eradicates any liability on their part. Anyone can have one, really, and they do. But the best part is that, once you get home, they're all yours to screw up as you see fit.

Thankfully, most of us have only the best of intentions -- too good really -- and indulge 'em with love. So much love, in my case actually, that it is only now, fifteen and a half years later that I take pause and think, wait a minute, what's with these grumbling, moaning, dogmatic, ungracious, unmotivated semi-adults living in my house, rent free?

Being members of the great child-centered parenting generation that we are, and anxious not to repeat any of the dysfunction that marked our own childhood, we have showered our little darlings with love and adoration. And as they scream back across the dinner table, whine endlessly, and roll their eyes when you dare suggest that they make a contribution to the household, such as making their beds, perhaps, or sitting straight, with their legs under the dining table, not half lying across the chair, you can't help thinking of the phrase 'spoiled rotten.'

Like tomatoes that are way past their due date, I often wonder if my three offspring aren't a little ripe at times? I discovered that I wasn't the only one, which led to a conversation with someone in the know about these things, someone who has my mental health interest at heart. Like a good parent really, except I pay him. And this sage and perceptive person revealed that he too has experienced the ungracious teen who will do everything in their power to make your life a misery, and that the root cause of it is, wait for it, too much loving. I kid you not. I call it Kung Fu parenting because of the image of myself leaping up into the air, a la Bruce Lee, parrying a grumble from all sides, with a deft kick here, an arm thrust out there. I never stop. I am exhausted and burned to a crisp.

Some of us love our kids to the point where they can do little for themselves. Don't really want to use the 'enabling' word but it snuck out and there you have it. In our effort to protect our chillun' from the big, bad, world, as such, we inadvertently disable their self-reliance, and independence, and motivation, leaving them with only one way for them to separate and show us that they are different. They stop doing what we want them to, and they sneer, to boot. Which makes (some of) us pull out our hair, rent our shirts, and wail in the bathroom as we puff at that forbidden cigarette, and in doing so, realize that we have become the cliche that we so dreaded -- the deeply disappointed, guilt-tripping, lecturing parent.

Which shows you that what goes around, comes around, however you choose to do it. Dysfunction is dysfunction. Teens are teens. And parents will always be parents. Poor, ignorant suckers, groping in the dark for a helping hand.

And the answer? Simple as it sounds, it makes sense. Love them but leave them be. Their failures are their failures, not yours. Stop catching them when they fall. Show them that you have a life, and get on with it. Stop making their actions the center of your existence, and when they realize that the emotional leverage has gone and that their behavior no longer affects you (visibly), who knows, it might change. It's a long, slow, work in progress. Watch this space.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Random Thoughts because it's Tuesday

Just watched Crimes & Misdemeanors for the umpteenth time and once again, I made discoveries among the interwoven tales of unhappiness, unrequited love, arrogance, sexual dysfunction, and envy in a questionably moral world. How apt during this time of get-rich-quick scams, mediocre talent, opportunism, war, and corruption, to list just a couple of the issues we appear to be facing right now. I can't help feeling like a bit player in a similar morality tale, watching the forces of good and evil duke it out on every continent of the planet. It seems like there's no safe haven any more -- as the world melts slowly before our eyes and men find even more obscure reasons to kill each other beyond the usual territorial or religious rights. Not to be left out of the fray, the IRA are back in the mix, adding their bullets to the global body count. What's a few more corpses when the numbers are so high, anyway? But it can't all be Sodom and Gomorrah. Like Judah, the rabbi in Allen's flick, I can't help believing that good can prevail and that we are long overdue for a major correction in the world. It isn't just Obamania but he's certainly a manifestation. It's a long-repressed ache for good -- good films, good literature, good communication, good people -- a genuine society that upholds bigger values than winning American Idol, getting your mug on Page Six, or achieving notoriety because it's better than not having been noticed at all.

As I ran this morning, on my son's thirteenth birthday, which is somewhat hard to take in, the notion of time became palpable as it often does when I am forced to remember how old I am. I thought of all the women, at that very moment, delivering infants who will see the year 2100 and I can't help wondering what we have in store for them?