Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Squirt Guns and Barbie Dolls

Most new parents want to do everything right. When my daughter was born, I fed her only organic food, used cloth diapers, practiced baby signs, took her to infant swim lessons and purchased toy trucks for her, along with the dolls. My mother-in-law was quick to point out that I would eventually make a mistake, but I did not hear her. Oh, I was certain I would make mistakes in life but, with my daughter, not a chance. She would not be eating McDonald's, playing with Barbie dolls or toy weapons. Not even a squirt gun.
The cloth diapers lasted less than one month. They were a nightmare, even with a diaper service cleaning and delivering them. The swim lessons lasted even less, as my daughter screamed every time we entered the pool. We still eat organic, though only partially now. McDonald's entered our lives in the way most fast-food joints become part of our existence. After a long day of fieldtrip driving, music class and Color Me Mine. Our hunger was up, our defenses were down, we were 45 minutes from home and a good hour until dinner. I passed the first MickeyD's with no reservation but when I saw the second set of golden arches approaching and heard my daughter pronounce, "I've never been this hungry," I knew it was time for her first chicken nugget. As a vegetarian since birth, this was her first taste of chicken and it remains the only meat she will eat to this day.
When my daughter was six, she received a Bratz doll from her good friend at a birthday party. "Please, mommy can I keep her," she pleaded. I felt like Mommie Dearest in that scene where she allows Christina to keep only two of her birthday gifts and caved. We took her out of the box together and my daughter was interested in everything about her from her lip-lined mouth to the stilletos that clipped on. I, however, was intrigued and shocked, frankly, at her thong panties and seized an opportunity for discussion. "Where do you think she's going today in this outfit? Do you think she's going to work," I asked. "No, mommy, she's going to Dave and Buster's with her mom and dad to play the horse racing game." A six year old answer and one I was glad to hear. I realized that the little mistakes in life, such as the unrealistic proportions of a Barbie doll, give us opportunities to share thoughts and help our children grow into wise people. A few weeks later, during a heatwave, we went to Target to purchase a squirt gun. We also picked up a Barbie.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Role Model... Or Just Any Model?

I can't turn on the television, radio, computer or, even my facebook page, without hearing or reading that someone is disappointed in or shocked at Michael Phelps for hitting a bong.  A few days ago, I was having lunch with a friend when the subject came up.  "I just don't know how I'm going to explain to my son that his role model was smoking pot," she said, while taking a sip of her second vodka martini.  Hmm...  "Do you think maybe he should have a different role model or realize he can be something greater than that," I responded.  Athletes and celebrities don't save or alter lives.  Some do charity work and that is to be admired but most are just regular people with some talent.  Talent cannot be emulated.  Teachers, firefighters, and strong family members are role models.  People like that make a tangible difference every day and they are who we should look to, if not ourselves, when searching for a role model.  To me, the idea that Michael Phelps needs to apologize to the public is absurd.  Would any of us have cared, in the slightest, if this photo portrayed him with a bottle of Corona in his hand?  I'm not so sure.  It bothers me when those who drink alcohol, casually, regularly and party, sometimes to the point of getting sick and making bad decisions, judge others who smoke marijuana.  Marijuana is also used for medicinal purposes, my only known purpose for alcohol is pleasure.  Marijuana is prescribed to those suffering from cancer, HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, back problems, autoimmune disorders and many other illnesses.  It relieves pain and is proven to be much less addictive than many types of traditional pain medication.  In 1974, a study was conducted to prove that marijuana damages the immune system.  The study instead, showed, that THC slows the growth of three different types cancer in mice - breast, lung and leukemia.  Scientists in Spain repeated this study, in 2000, and received the same amazing results.  Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 10 states, with a doctor's prescription.  President Obama recently vowed to end the raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and to stop the federal government from intervening on state laws.  Many people feel we are living in a time similar to the alcohol prohibition.  Personally,  I don't think it will be long before we are seeing packs of joints at 7-11, right next to the Marlboros and American Spirits.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Are Fairytale Fantasies Destroying Our Happiness?

The night before my wedding, my best friend and maid-of-honor asked me if I was certain I wanted to go through with it. Because if you are having second thoughts, she said, it’s not too late. I thought for a moment before responding. I loved my fiance. I wanted to fully commit to him and, although I couldn’t know for certain what the future would hold, I knew that night and the next day, when I said my vows, that I was choosing him to be my husband. In the eleven years we have since been married, I have made that choice again and again, every day and that, is the “secret” to staying married. Choosing your spouse over and over, despite the rough patches, and learning to ride the waves and weather the droughts. To give yourself to someone is to interlock fingers, hold on tight and jump off that cliff. There are no guarantees. The best of husbands can hurt us in ways only a wife can understand. If you’re looking to be treated like a princess, then marriage is not for you. Life is not a fairytale. There may be fairy-tale moments but, not even a prince, is Prince Charming. And, even real princesses, as in the case of Princess Diana, don’t always have fairytale marriages. What you want and what you need is someone that will wipe your brow and hold your hair back while going through rounds of chemotherapy.

Every long-term relationship goes through periods of closeness and periods of detachment. Sometimes couples experience personal difficulties as individuals and need some emotional distance in order to come together again and grow even stronger as a unit. It’s vital, during these times, to keep in mind the big picture, choose each other every day and simply not make divorce a part of your vocabulary. In the beginning of marriage, sex is wonderful. Usually, the children have not yet arrived and there is much more time for makeup, shaving/waxing, blow-drying and lingerie shopping. As the years progress, respect deepens, love grows and your husband becomes your best friend. Naturally, the freaky sex you used to have for hours on the living room rug becomes love-making, during which you are worried about how long it’s taking because the alarm’s going to go off in a few hours. The thing that married women need to realize, is that all the things they did to seduce their husband in the beginning of their relationship are just as important, or more important, to do many years into that relationship. And, it just doesn’t get any better than freaky sex with your best friend.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is Spanking A Black and White Issue?

If you have ever had a hand raised to you, as a child, your answer to the title of this blog is likely yes.  Spanking, whooping, beating - whatever term you use to describe the act, is terrifying to a child.  Often the parent will preface the punishment with, "this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you."  But does it?  I have frequently felt that the spanking type of punishment is much more about the parent releasing anger and frustration than teaching a child a lesson about life.  It is far easier to raise a hand to release the embarrassment you feel about your child stealing candy corn from a drug store than it is to have a discussion about how that small business needs to pay its bills.   Explaining how the stolen candy adds up to wages lost for the owner's family will make much more of an impact down the road.  A discussion teaches the lesson.  A spanking teaches violence.  This is the point I was trying to make to a single father a few nights ago.  This is a man who helps his son with homework for two hours each night, drives carpool, takes him to sports practice, makes certain he eats healthy and will go see "Beverly Hills Chihauhau" for the third time on a saturday night.  He is a great dad.  So, when he casually mentioned he had to "whoop" his son on occasion, I was shocked and immediately saw it as a character flaw.  I asked, "don't you worry you are teaching him it is okay to hit?"  Now, I had thought I have come a long way with black and white thinking and considered myself emotionally mature and worldly, but what I was met with during this conversation irked me for days and bore the realization that no situation exists without the gray.  He is raising a black son in Los Angeles, where danger and temptation lurk everywhere. His parenting issues are different than what some of us face.  If his son is out on the street, simply goofing around, too late at night, at the wrong place/wrong time, a fatal mistake could be made.  Those were his words to me.  He doesn't spank him out of anger or frustration.  He does it out of love.  And maybe fear.  As a writer, I'm taught to see both sides of the coin.  I don't frequently have strong opinions but, when I do, they are not easily swayed. This father made me understand something I  should have already inherently known.  Each family must parent their children to their own unique situation.  None of us face the same circumstances nor can we fully understand one another's struggles.  Through dialogue we can listen and learn that it is not always and never, one extreme or the other.  Although spanking is not something that fits with my parenting philosophy or family mission, this dad taught me there is gray here and that my mind was not quite as open as I thought it was.