Weekly Writing Challenge: Children in Adult-Oriented Places

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How do I feel about children in adult-oriented places? Bring ‘em on.

Now, now. Before you jump all over me, let me explain. My answer sounds simple but actually requires explanation. It is contingent on the following three questions:

  1. Is it my child?
  2. If it is someone else’s child, is the child behaving itself (a.k.a being quiet and respectful) or is it tearing around the place like a Tasmanian Devil, disrupting the experience for everyone else there?
  3. Are the parents/guardians actively paying attention to the children, hoping someone else will look after their child or, worst of all, trying to teach the child a lesson?

Let’s tackle these one at a time:

1. Is it my child?

My son, G, is 9 months old. He is an angel. No, really, he is. Everyone says so. He is super happy, loves attention from other people and thrives in public places. The sights. The sounds. The smells. He loves it all. He can play quietly. He doesn’t throw food. He doesn’t fuss. For these reasons, I am totally comfortable taking him to museums and other adult-oriented places. He enjoys them and I get to remember that I have a fully-functioning brain and sense of culture as well.

Now, if G is tired, that’s a different story. Once we get past 7:30pm, G’s halo tips to the side a bit. He starts playing with his food. He doesn’t want to sit but doesn’t want to stand. He starts letting out this whining noise that I’m fairly certain causes the neighborhood dogs to start howling. Simply put, he wants to go to bed. The only solution at this point is to wolf down my food, throw some money at the waiter and take the poor baby home. I know this about my son. What this means is that starting at 6:30pm, I am anxious and on alert, waiting for the first signs of tiredness to set in. I don’t want him to suffer because he’s tired. I don’t want anyone else to suffer because he’s carrying on. I don’t want to suffer because I’m stressing people are getting peeved at us. For these reasons, unless it’s for the early bird special, I don’t take my son to adult-oriented restaurants. It’s not fair to anyone, including me.

That being said, when he’s older (like 3 or 4), I hope to be able to take him to adult-oriented restaurants. I think that the sooner you start exposing children to different environments, the easier time they will have understanding that certain behavior goes along with certain places. In kid-oriented places, you can be a little louder and a little crazier (within reason). In adult-oriented places, you have to be a little quieter and little more reserved. I think it’s good practice for life in general. In order to succeed, you have to understand that different places have different rules. Start ‘em early, I say.

This brings me to question #2:

2. If it is someone else’s child, is the child behaving itself (a.k.a being quiet and respectful) or is it tearing around the place like a Tasmanian Devil disrupting the experience for everyone else there?

Generally speaking, if the child in question isn’t mine, I am pretty flexible about his/her presence. You want to bring your kid to a fancy steak place. Great. That’s a wonderful lesson for them (see above). If they’re over there behaving themselves better than the drunk guy at the restaurant bar, that’s fantastic. I don’t care if they are chatting with the rest of their family or playing on Mom or Dad’s iPad. If my experience isn’t being disrupted then all children are welcome.

Now, if the child is screaming like a banshee or horsing around like she’s in Chuck E Cheese, that’s a problem for me. Adult places have adult rules. Adult behavior is required. If your child isn’t able to behave like an adult then she shouldn’t be there. That goes for anyone, really. If there are adults in the place who are unable to behave like adults, they shouldn’t be there either. Those wise guys making cracks about whether Mona Lisa was high or not? Outta there. Those kids in the restaurant screaming because they can’t have dessert. Gotta go.

This leads me to my third question:

3. Are the parents/guardians actively paying attention to the children, hoping someone else will look after their child or, worst of all, trying to teach the child a lesson?

It is a parent (or guardian)’s responsibility to play an active role in their child’s life. This includes everything from supporting their sports teams to teaching them about right and wrong. This means being the fun parent but also being the disciplinarian. Parenting is not always a laugh a minute, but someone has to do it. If you have elected to have children, you have elected to be a parent and all that that role entails.

A critical element of being a parent is paying attention to your child and helping them obey the rules. If you are a parent who brings your child to an adult-oriented place, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to ensure that your child behaves appropriately. If your child is unable to for some reason (too tired, too young, just not having a good day), it is your responsibility as a parent to either not bring them in the first place or pack up and leave. Just because you really wanted that steak dinner or to see that art exhibit does not mean that you should torment your child and everyone else involved. If your child isn’t having it, you leave. End of story.

This means that hoping someone else will entertain your child while you finish your wine or read the captions on the painting is out of the question. Waiters and security guards are not babysitters. If you don’t want to entertain your children, leave them at home. Everyone (the children, the other patrons and you) will enjoy themselves more.

But, you say, how will the child learn to behave themselves? Didn’t you say that having experiences at adult-oriented places reinforces the concept that there is a time and a place for craziness? Yes, reader, I did. But letting your child behave wildly in an adult-oriented place and having the discussion there about why that is not a good way to behave is not ok. You drop your silverware, leave cash on the table and haul the child out the door. Then, you have that discussion outside or, better yet, at home when everyone is calmer. Restaurants and museums are no place for teaching lessons. They are places for reinforcing the good manners that you’ve been working on at home. Manners start at home, readers. There should be no debate about that one.

So, cycling back to the original question: How do I feel about children in adult-oriented places? A well-behaved child with attentive parents/guardians is welcome any time, any place. A child who is misbehaving or has the misfortune of having inattentive parents is not. Simple as that.

 

Nuclear Solution for Home Usage?

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nuclear symbolThere are currently two fruit flies flying around my desk. They have been tormenting me for the past three days. I have tried catching them.  I have tried swatting them. I have tried ignoring them hoping they would die. No. They live on. Zipping and darting in front of my face and computer screen driving me completely insane.

Instead of moving my office into another room and simply surrendering this one to the flies, I decided to look up fruit flies online to see if I could find a way to appreciate them. Perhaps they are really very important to agriculture. Perhaps they are an instrumental food for some bug that is instrumental to my health. No. They are just annoying insects that invade your home and reproduce at the speed of bacteria.

According to headlines that popped up in my Google search, fruit flies are invasive pests that are being targeted with a nuclear solution to prevent them from destroying crops in Croatia. That pretty much sums up how I feel about them.

I wonder if this nuclear solution will be available for home usage anytime soon?

Good at Whatever You Throw at Me

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jugglingI just read this article about finding your true passion. The author, Cal, talks about the imaginary idea that you should “do what you’re passionate about.” In essence, he says that you shouldn’t do what you’re passionate about, but be passionate about what you do. This means that instead of searching out the perfect career, search out your inner drive and apply that to a career that interests you. I like this.

Like Cal, I remember feeling like I should know what I wanted to do. I also remember knowing kids in high school who knew they wanted to be doctors and then actually became doctors. Unlike those lucky few, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I have tried out a couple different industries and a couple different roles, applying my passion and drive to each. As a result, I have become a jack-of-all-trades. I have discovered my strengths and learned how to best apply them to any number of jobs. I think that not being pigeonholed into one specific set of job qualifications is a positive attribute.

The downside to this, however, is that “good at anything you throw at me” doesn’t read well on a resume or cover letter. The job application process remains one of looking at bullet points instead of the big picture. I understand why this is – companies need some way to weed through the hundreds of applications they receive. Still, there has to be a better way. How do we get those skills that don’t fit into bullet points onto the table? Many say that that is what the interview is for. That’s great. What about getting to the interview? 

I wish I had the answers or even some suggestions but I truly don’t.  If you have any ideas, let me know. I’d love to figure out how to list “good at anything you throw at me” as one of my qualifications.

Defending the Home

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In Rhode Island there is a war being waged over a father-daughter dance. This surprises me on a number of levels. What surprises me most, though, is my gut reaction to the story: repulsion. 

Here are the CliffsNotes to the story: a local PTA organized a father-daughter dance and a mother-son baseball game. A local single mom (with a daughter) complained and the dance was brought to the attention to the state ACLU. The ACLU claimed that the dance violated Title IX rules. Local parents and politicians thought this was ridiculous. The dance went ahead.

Let me tell you what I think is ridiculous. I think having an event that doesn’t recognize the complex home dynamic of most families is ridiculous. A father-daughter dance ostracizes girls with fathers who are away from home. Perhaps the fathers live in another state or country. Perhaps the fathers are deployed.  Perhaps they have passed away. Perhaps, for whatever reason, they are not involved in their daughters’ lives. Perhaps the girl has two moms. Whatever the reason, labeling an activity as “father-daughter” does nothing but make 33% of the girls in the class* feel ashamed of their home situation.

This issue really shouldn’t be coming up in the year 2012. Single parent homes and homes of same gender parents are not new. School districts and PTAs should be sensitive to these families and work to include them in events. Why not have a parent-child dance? This encompasses all the students in one event and doesn’t bring attention to anyone who lives in a single parent (or two parents of the same gender) home. It is a simple, innocuous solution to an insulting problem.

The single mother who initiated the complaint ended up going to the dance with her daughter. Good for her. That’s what I would have done. I also would have sat down with my daughter and had a good, long chat about the closed mindedness of this PTA, making sure that she was proud of her family just the way it was.

 

*This percentage assumes there is an evenly balanced number of boys and girls in the class.

It’s All About Perspective

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I flew out west to visit my sister earlier this week. The skies were clear and we had fantastic views for the five hour flight. Each time I fly across the country, I find myself truly amazed at the variety of landscapes that have been tied together by a common government – the green in the East, the square lots of farmland in the Midwest, the red sand mesas in the Southwest and the blue Pacific of the West. It brings home just how big a space we occupy. And, how big a space we think very little of crossing on a regular basis.

In Europe, countries are much smaller, yet traveling cross country is considered a major undertaking. Here, we don’t think much of it. At the same time the idea of going to Canada seems like a huge trip to me, when, really, it’s closer to certain parts of Canada from where I live than to certain parts of the States. Traveling within the country seems more doable. Perhaps it is because you don’t need a passport. Perhaps it is because the culture is supposedly the same (though anyone who has spent time in various parts of the US will know that isn’t true). Regardless, it is truly incredible to me how knowing that I’ll be staying in the same country makes the trip feel shorter and easier. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

Here is a picture of the Grand Canyon from the window of the airplane.

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Banning the Big Gulp Misses the Point

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I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple days about NYC’s soda ban. It’s been really controversial, mostly, I think, because of the perceived infringement on personal rights. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that this is even an issue. We should not need a law to tell us that it’s unhealthy to drink Big Gulps, which is basically what this law does. It is an attempt to hit people over the heads about nutrition while simultaneously saving them from themselves.

That’s fine if that is what it takes; however, I think that what has happened is that the focus has turned to the law itself and not to nutrition or the problem of obesity. It also promotes the stereotype that obesity is caused solely by poor nutrition. That is simply not true. Yes, portion size in the U.S. is ridiculous and contributes to generally larger sizes. But believing that eating (or drinking) too much is the sole cause of obesity is not only wrong but unfair. It places blame and promotes condescension of those suffering from obesity. It trivializes the serious economic, cultural, medical and psychological reasons that often contribute to obesity.

If cities want to ban ginormous sodas, that’s fine with me. But while they’re at it, they should call attention to the real causes of obesity instead of simply focusing on portion size. Addressing the root causes will promote a culture where clinical obesity is seen for what it is – a serious illness – and drive the focus to finding real cures instead of placing blame.

Always the Optimist

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I choose to always believe the best will happen. Even in the face of clear risk or imminent loss, I elect to believe that it will all turn out all right. Sometimes I wonder if this is healthy. Most of the time, I don’t particularly care.

My dad had a car accident on November 18th, 2009. I found out through one of those dreaded 5am phone calls. I flew to be with him and spent a month sitting next to him in the hospital. He was in an induced coma with the hopes that he would heal. Despite all signs to the contrary, I believed that he was going to get better. I spent a month telling myself, my sister, my mother, my stepmother, my friends, basically anyone who would listen, that he was going to get better. I actually wrote an email to friends saying that he was on the mend and hit send 20 minutes before we got the call that he had died.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I knew that he wasn’t going to get better. The answer is yes. I knew the moment I arrived at the hospital. Scratch that. I knew the moment I got that horrible phone call. So why did I spend a month convincing myself and anyone who would listen that he was going to be just fine? Because I needed to. I couldn’t emotionally handle the reality that I was going to lose Daddy at the tender age of 58. I still can’t really. I don’t like to talk about it. I go through my daily life thinking that he’s simply at his house. It’s easier that way. 

Is that healthy? Aren’t I supposed to face the truth so that I can “deal with it”? Aren’t we supposed to conquer our demons and push ahead becoming stronger with each battle? Maybe. But, not right now. Not for me. I choose to not deal with it. I don’t want to deal with the fact that I will never see Daddy again. I don’t want to deal with the fact that my son will never know his grandfather. I don’t want to deal with the gaping hole in my heart. It’s just too hard.

My husband is currently deployed in the Middle East. I choose to think he’s on an uncomfortable cruise in the Med. It’s easier. I don’t want to deal with the reality that he could never come back. I don’t want to deal with the idea that there is a real possibility our son may not know his father. I can’t deal with the threat of my heart being shredded to pieces. “Too hard” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So, I choose not to deal with it. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be healthier. It’s healthier for me to believe that there was a chance Daddy was going to get better. It’s healthier for me to believe that my husband is busy lying out on deck getting a suntan. Perhaps some would consider it foolish optimism. Me? I consider it necessary.

Taking Time to Stretch

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LookingI was watching my baby this morning and thinking about how much I have learned from him. Maybe learning isn’t the right word. Maybe reevaluating is a better term. Watching Greyson, I realize that in my time on this planet as an adult, I’ve gotten some of my priorities out of order.

For example, Greyson stretches every morning. He wakes up and sticks his hands next to his ears, arms bent at the elbows, and slowly, slowly pushes his hands above his head.  It probably takes him 30 seconds to complete the stretch.  It looks wonderful.  Then, he flips over in his crib and does a yoga up-dog for another 30 seconds.  Fantastic. When I wake up, I think, “ugh” and then roll out of bed and get moving I don’t stretch. I don’t take time to wake up fully and appreciate that it will be another wonderful day here on this planet. Who’s got time for that? I have things to do.

He also plays. He spends 45 minutes to an hour rolling around on the floor, chasing after toys, screeching and cooing. He is exhausted afterwards but he clearly has had a blast.  Now, you could (and should) argue that this is his job. His job is to develop mentally and physically. Rolling around on the floor, reaching for and examining objects is the way for babies to do this.  But the joy he gets out of it? That’s pure bonus.      When I think about going to work, a small (or sometimes large) sense of disappointment envelopes me. Another day at work. Another day not doing what I want to be doing.  I don’t mind work once I’m there, but do I get joy out of it? Not so much.

Another thing Greyson does is look around. I don’t mean that he casually glances around his environment. He looks. He looks hard. He examines statues, pictures, our dogs, our activities, our faces. He takes it all in and processes it into something he will one day apply to his own life. Aside from the last time I was at an art museum (and even not 100% then), I can’t remember the last time I really looked at something. I certainly can’t remember the last time I really looked at someone. Quite frankly, the thought of really examining an object makes me tired. That’s a lot of work and energy. And, again, who has time to exert that much energy on just looking? There’s real work to be done.

Really though, when you think about it, what work is more important than taking care of yourself (stretching), being happy (playing) and appreciating your life (looking)? I can’t think of any. I can definitely think of tons of excuses why I don’t do these things; But good reasons? None.

So, today, I’m going to start small. I’m going to really look at something or someone. I’ll make an effort not to creep anyone out by staring, I promise. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll stretch when I wake up. That is, if I remember before jumping out of bed to get a move on.

Always Save the Original

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I’m a native New Yorker.  I got tired of looking at everyone else’s pictures of my city.  In August 2001, I spent a day walking around with my dad and my camera taking pictures.

When I looked at the negatives, I decided I didn’t like the construction in the middle of Washington Square Arch in this photo.

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So, with the help of my mom (who understands Photoshop), I removed it.

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Not only is it not as interesting a picture, it was missing a key element.  Look closely in the middle of the arch…

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On September 11, 2001, I went back to the original photo. I was lucky, I could simply go back.  The Towers couldn’t.  The victims couldn’t.  The first responders couldn’t.  New York couldn’t.

The moral of this story: Always save your originals. You might want to go back to them.