My new motto is “When in doubt, knit. You may not figure it out, but at least you’ll get a hat out of it.”
A few months ago, a friend asked me about my new blog. I’ve tried blogging before, and she wanted to know whether I had abandoned my old blogs completely in favor of the new project, and why.
I told her that my old blogs were too narrow. Both were about religion and Humanism, and while I’m interested in those things, they’re not my whole life. But, I pointed out, nearly everything I do is nerdy parenting, so I can really keep a nerdy parenting blog going!
I was half joking at the time. But this morning, something happened that convinced me it’s really true.
Today is the day before Thanksgiving, and the Kid’s school has a feast every year, which lasts an hour and a half. Because of that, I took a vacation day, which means the Kid and I woke up like we did in the olden days when she was little and I was a stay at home mom. The Kid slept in, and when she got up, we talked about a plan for breakfast. No rushing, no fighting.
“I know! Let’s make pancakes!” Offered the Kid.
I remembered that last night, before bed, the Kid had been reading The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, and we had talked about the recipe for “Big, Fluffy Pancakes.” I asked her if she wanted to make that recipe, and she ran and got the book.
We went to the kitchen in our pajamas, and the Kid read the directions aloud while I did most of the prep. Then, just like when she was very little, she sat and ate pancakes while I finished cooking the batter so we’d have leftovers to microwave for the rest of the long weekend. She even pitched in and flipped a couple of pancakes herself.
And then, in a moment of Ultimate Nerd Mommery, I realized that every pancake I was making was in the shape of the Lumpy Space Princess!
Days like this are my happy time. I love just hanging out with the Kid, doing what feels good, with an errand (or feast) or two in the schedule to keep us from forgetting to eat or get dressed (which we’re both capable of forgetting completely.) After the feast, if the snow isn’t too bad, we’re going shopping for a present for our 2 1/2 year old niece, a task that we will both enjoy immensely. And we should also pick up a dessert for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Other than that, there’s nothing in particular we’re supposed to do. Walk the dog, I guess, and if the snow doesn’t cancel it, Kid has swim practice this evening. But no time pressures, no school, no work. Just hanging out and being nerdy together, however we please.
And that’s why I keep writing this blog. Because there are times like this that I enjoy so much, and I want to remember them. And maybe there are other nerdy moms out there who might enjoy reading about some good times we had, so they can try out the nerdy cookbook we enjoyed together.
I’m now an Apprentice Official with US Swimming, and so I’m getting a bit deeper into the world of competitive swimming. I met a dad yesterday who told me his daughter has been on the team since she was four.
Just to be clear, I don’t mean for this post to judge that family at all. His daughter wasn’t swimming in the same session as mine, so I didn’t see her swim, but her dad told me about her, and her achievements are impressive. And I don’t know the kid or her dad at all. Every kid is different, and every family is different, and I assume he’s making the best decisions he can for the kid he is parenting, just as I’m making the best decisions I can for my kid.
But the conversation, and another I heard about balancing achievement and burn-out, at a session where the oldest kids present were twelve, got me thinking about the sport and our own decisions regarding our Kid. So I’m going to use what little I know about this girl from one conversation to illustrate the path we didn’t take, so I can think about what that path might have been like for my Kid, had we chosen it. And for the sake of argument, let’s get talent right off the table now.
It’s possible that this girl and my Kid are just on completely different paths. This girl might be one of the most talented swimmers in the country, and her achievements might have more to do with that than the hard work she’s put in over the past six years. The fact is, the jury is still out on both girls’ talent. We won’t know for sure until their careers are over, if then. The only way we’ll ever know if talent is a factor here is if my Kid surpasses this girl, and even then we’d have to factor in burn-out and puberty (which can have a wicked impact on girls’ swimming development, depending on when it hits and, er, how. Girls’ bodies are much more hydrodynamic than women’s bodies, and awkwardness, defiance, cramps and dating can all impact a girl’s willingness to practice.) So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that both girls are equally gifted.
At this moment, it seems I cheated my Kid out of quite a lot, swimming-wise. My Kid is still learning the rules of US Swimming. She’s building up her cardio capacity to swim 50-, 100-, and 200-yard races, where previously her longest races were 25 meters. And she’s learning the whole routine and rhythm of attending a large invitational. Out of three meets, she’s been disqualified five times, missed a race, scratched a race, withdrawn from a race, and finished with times so low they aren’t even categorized by US Swimming every time she’s qualified except once, when she received the lowest possible rating. I don’t mean to be overly harsh, here. The Kid is just starting out, she’s learned a TON in three meets, and I’m enormously proud of her fortitude, her hard work, and of the fact that she’s beaten her qualifying time almost every time she’s gone out there, even when she DQ-ed. Her improvement since joining this team two short months ago has been astronomical, and I don’t want to short-change that, but just starting out is just starting out, and that’s where my Kid is right now.
As I said, I don’t know much about this other girl, but I do know that she’s been to some Regional meets, she’s meeting Gold times in at least some events in her age group, and she swam a 1650 (One thousand, six hundred and fifty yards. That’s 34 laps of the pool.) in under twenty minutes this weekend. At ten years old. Holy hell.
So that’s a pretty significant difference. My Kid could probably complete a 1650, but not at any good pace, and she hasn’t trained enough to have any kind of strategy for a race of that kind.
But then I think about this girl, and I realize she probably does not remember a time when swimming was not as important in her life as school. My Kid has spent her time–the time she might have been at swim practice–doing amazing and mundane things. Things like drafting most of a novel, or climbing trees, or playing with friends, or reading, or watching TV with her parents. Instead of going to swim meets, we’ve been going on hikes, or to Star Trek conventions, or watching movies and playing board games.
Only time will tell if we’ve handicapped our Kid’s swim potential. Or maybe we’ll never know. I guess we’ll never know if she might have won an Olympic medal unless she wins one.
The Kid got braces today, and she decided to smash her Growth Management Appliance to smithereens. I apologize for the vertical video. I have no excuse.
I somehow missed The Snowmen the first time around. We watched Season 7 of Doctor Who in pieces, and I guess the Christmas Special slipped through the cracks.
Now, I want to work the phrase, “I’m the clever one, you’re the potato one,” into as many conversations as possible.
Also, “It’s smaller on the outside!”
And, best of all maybe, is this one:
You know what you never see anymore? Cap guns. Or those little fire crackers that pop when you throw them at the ground. Or sparklers.
When we were kids, we played with lots of things that went boom. I remember spending allowance on cherry bombs, and playing with them with my brother. I hated them because I don’t like being surprised. And I was never good at those little popping ones. I’d throw them at the ground and they wouldn’t go off. So then I’d have to step on them or hit them with a rock, and that scared me, too.
But I loved sparklers. My favorite was waving them through the air and watching the trails of light on a dark night. We’d write our names out in cursive, then realize that nobody else could read what we wrote, because it was backwards, and then we’d try to write things backward for other people to read.
And cap guns were fun when they worked. They really helped to lend reality to a game of cops and robbers, or whatever.
But these days, kids never get to play with explosives. Another thing lost to the law suits.
And no, it’s not “Because Arthur Darvill.” Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Arthur Darvill, and he plays the part like a maestro, hitting all the right notes, but Rory’s genius is in the writing.
When we first meet him, he’s completely overshadowed by the amazing that is Amy Pond. We know Amy. We love Amy. She gave The Doctor fish fingers and custard. And sure, she’s dating this guy, this nurse, but that’s only because she’s stuck in that small village waiting for The Doctor, we think.
But the next thing we know, Amy’s about to marry the nurse. No worries, though. She’s run off with The Doctor and it could be a few seasons before she makes it back to her wedding. After all, Donna never did get married.
And then Rory joins the cast. He gamely plays Amy’s brother in Venice. He fights. He runs. He stands by Amy no matter what. And when anyone is really in trouble, who do you want? A doctor? No. Doctors just give orders. Nurses actually take care of people. When things really get bad, Rory jumps in and heals people with actual medical know-how.
And then he’s gone. Vanished from history. And when he comes back, he’s the Last Centurion. And once he and Amy are married, Rory loses all his insecurity. He attains a quiet assurance that nothing can really go wrong in the world, because Amy is okay, and as long as Amy is okay, everything is okay.
Once we find out their whole story, it almost seems like Rory is a doormat, until you really think about it. Sure, Rory pined for Amy through his teen years, too shy to say anything. But it’s not like Amy was out dating anyone else. Amy wasn’t his girlfriend, but she was with him, and that was good enough. In every reality, Rory is ready to do anything for Amy, but that’s what’s so great about him. His love for her is so strong that it gives him strength to sit for two thousand years, or to withstand the pain of an eye drive, or to give her the divorce he thinks she wants. And in every reality, Amy has to realize that she needs to deserve that. It’s not easy to receive that kind of love.
Because in the end, Amy gives up the Doctor for Rory. And we have to understand that she made the right decision. We have to see the pain that decision causes the Doctor and we have to keep loving Amy for knowing who loves her most in this or any other universe. Otherwise, the Doctor’s pain would be hollow, and we would resent him for spending time with Clara. And worse, River Song would have given up her regenerations for someone who loved a selfish friend. But Amy is not selfish, she just understands that she loves Rory every bit as much as he loves her, and she can’t live knowing that she had a chance to be with him and didn’t take it.
Best character ever written.
Update: *Yes, I know he thinks he’s a Williams. He’s a Pond.
It happened again today. I was talking to another mom about the Kid’s love of Adventure Time, and she said, “You let her watch Adventure Time?”
I do, yes. And I don’t understand why others don’t. Of course, you make the decisions for your kids, based on your own calculus. I’m not judging, and I’m not trying to start an argument. But if there’s something objectionable about that show, I don’t see it.
I see why it appeals to stoners. The logic of the show is free-flowing, at most, and you kind of have to release your brain to watch the show, and just accept what happens. So it’s probably fun to watch while high. But my Kid isn’t high when she watches it, so that’s not the problem.
And I know there are a lot of fart jokes. Do I wish my Kid wasn’t so into fart jokes? Yeah. That’d be nice. But eleven-year-olds like fart jokes. They just do. And fart jokes don’t hurt anybody.
You know what I don’t want her to watch? Sexism. Families being rude to each other. Needless violence. Inappropriate sexual images. And I don’t see any of that on Adventure Time. Here’s what I do see.
Finn and Jake are a profoundly loyal and loving adoptive family. They truly appreciate and respect each other, and they have fun together. Sometimes they argue, but they always make up. They work together and rely on one another all the time, and although they are not the same species, they always call each other “brother.”
Although Finn is the only human in Ooo, he has no magic (except his hair), and he’s not royalty, his friends love him anyway. He sometimes feels sad that he doesn’t know other humans, but when he does, his friends show him that they accept him for who he is, and although he’s the only human around, he’s never alone. His friends don’t focus on what he lacks, they appreciate his strengths: he’s brave, loyal, heroic and strong.
There are strong female characters. Princess Bubblegum is smart and a good leader. Marceline is powerful, talented, and charming. LSP takes all comers and gives as good as she gets. These female characters are admired for who they are, not what they look like. Finn is MORE attracted to PB when she is working on science he doesn’t understand, not less. And the only people who are ever thought of as ugly on the show are people who do ugly things. The most sexist character on the show, The Ice King, is ridiculed for his sexism and repeatedly defeated. And although Finn and Jake spend quite a lot of time saving princesses, they are also frequently saved by princesses.
I’m not trying to suggest that Adventure Time is the smartest show on television. It’s not, by a long shot. It’s just a stupid cartoon. But it’s got a good heart, and in this day and age, that’s nothing to push your kid away from.
My good friend’s son is auditioning for The Sound of Music, and hearing about it roused my inner drama geek. I think he’d make a great Rolf, and so I started humming Sixteen Going on Seventeen while I was at work today.
And I realized there’s some bad advice in there. Not just the obvious sexism of a young woman needing a man to help her navigate her budding sexuality. That goes without saying at that point.
It’s that advice about roués and cads who are going to offer you food and wine.
Honestly, if you think about the kind of girl who’s going to pay attention to Rodgers and Hammerstein, this is the wrong advice altogether. I’ll admit, that I was “totally unprepared…to face a world of men” when I was sixteen going on seventeen. And I’ve met a few cads in my time who offered me wine. But that I could handle. I can honestly say that none of my man trouble was ever caused by food and/or wine.
What I really needed when I was sixteen, and what most girls who memorize that song really need, is a working gaydar. Watching musicals makes you think that gay men are some kind of ideal, which is fine if you’re a gay boy, but isn’t great for the young, straight girls out there. I would have had a lot more free time when I was young if I hadn’t wasted any having crushes on and/or dating gay men.
So I spent my time looking out for the roués of the world when I should have been paying more attention to the boys I liked and whether or not they were checking each other out. Seriously, the roué thing is totally overblown. You steered me wrong, musical theater.
This is kind of an odd one for this blog. I’m going to link to Savage Love. Be warned! It’s a sex advice column, and the ads alone can be NSFW. But in a recent column, Dan Savage took a question from someone about having children, and that’s what I want to address.
For those that don’t want to click through, here’s a simple, safe summary:
The writer is a married woman in her early 30’s who’s ready to have children, but her husband is concerned that once they have children, they will stop having adventures together.
Savage assures her that the reason most married people with children don’t have adventures is because they have children at a point in their life when they don’t really feel like having adventures anymore. He points out that stopping at one child makes adventuring easier, and that while planning adventures is a bit more complex with children, it can still be done.
All good advice, but I’d like to go one further. And I’m no fan of adventures.
Yes, for the first few years it’s hard to have adventures. Small children need a lot of time and attention. They like stability. They love routine. And while some kids think nothing of traveling all over the place, many react badly to things like time changes, unfamiliar food, hotel beds, and even babysitters. For a few years, adventuring can be hard or even impossible.
But then you get a new person in your life. A person who has her own interests, passions, and adventures. Dan Savage’s son taught him how to snowboard, a hobby that Savage now loves. Mine has taken me to Disney World, Vermont, and my first Star Trek Convention. (Okay, technically I paid for all that, but I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for her.)
For someone like me, adventures don’t come in the form of backpacking across Europe or bungee jumping. But my Kid has introduced me to some great books, to Adventure Time, and the pleasures of a weekly pilgrimage to the comic book shop. She’s helped me make friends and taught me to play foursquare. I’m now a certified Official with USA Swimming. And I’ve learned to knit and even tried my hand at art a few times because of her.
I’m can’t wait to see what I learn from her next. And at eleven years old, she’s only begun to engage with the world on her own. If you’re really open to your child as a human being separate from you, if appreciate that the way to make a life-long relationship with your child is to engage with her interests, then your world grows as hers does. And as delightful as it is when your child shares an interest that’s important to you, it’s also really fun to learn to love something through the eyes of your child.
So having a child doesn’t have to be the end of adventures any more than marriage does. And like marriage, learning to love another person helps you to grow and change in ways you never expected. And sometimes to have adventures you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Those needy years don’t last long. In a few years, your child will be going on sleepovers and overnights and sleep away camp. And then you can have whatever adventures you’ve been missing that you really can’t do with children, be it kinky sex or dinners at elegant restaurants or a quiet weekend at a bed and breakfast. Before you know it, especially if you have one child, they’ll be grown and gone, or grown and not caring what you do, and you can go back to adventuring with your spouse the way you always did. But you’ll also have new adventures, down roads you didn’t even know were there, or never bothered to explore on your own, with a person you love more than anything.