The parent trap

Memories of childhood, and the eternal challenges of parenting, this week in Table Talk.


Salon Staff
October 21, 2005 1:00PM (UTC)

Imagination

Answer a question, ask a question

Meera Hyphenated -- 02:18 pm Pacific Time -- Oct 14, 2005 -- #7435 of 7790

"Those were the days of typewriters. Turntables. Ugly cars and big-flower plaids. My parents' television was black and white, Judy Collins and Joan Baez were on the radio, my father's beard was eight inches long, and my mother wore bandannas over her hair.

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"In the early '70s I went to a preschool in Berkeley that allowed me to run around without a stitch on, and eating watermelon was always a dubious task because the juice would run down my bare belly and make me sticky everywhere. There were yoga classes for the kids and I remember making batik pillowcases. When the kids sat down at the big table for a snack of apple slices, bananas, and whole-wheat graham crackers, I thought that the phrase "Please plass the plate" was the funniest thing I had ever heard. It was there I learned to whistle and eventually to tie a bow, which I practiced by tying ribbons on all the doorknobs of our house ..."

You know, or something like that. Maybe not.

Private Life

Parent or Child-Free: The Road Not Taken

LauraBB -- 05:21 pm Pacific Time -- Oct 17, 2005 -- #343 of 360

There may not be a perfect time to have a child but in my opinion there is most definitely many situations where it would be terrible to have one, and possibly morally wrong. I've worked with abused and neglected children and it is incredible what stress does to families. A lot of loving nice people simply cannot hold it together -- and can't hold it together for a child either -- when life just gets too difficult.

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I sometimes think people who think that way -- that there's no perfect time -- must have grown up in a happy family and so can't imagine how toxic unhappy stressed out families can be. My mother was overwhelmed a lot of the time (not abusive but very unhappy) and that simple fact has made a huge difference in my whole life and our whole life as a family. For a long time I didn't want to have a family because I couldn't see why I would be able to do any differently.

Finally I realized how much circumstance had played a role in the way things were for us -- and by choosing my circumstances in which to have a child I feel I've already made a huge impact on the happiness of my family, my child and myself.

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A friend said recently when we were talking about having a number of children close in age, "you just cope. you just have to and so you do." I said "yes but who wants to just cope?" I don't know why so many people embrace, and even court, hard times. It's like seeing as we don't have a global depression, or a world war on, we need to somehow work out a way of nevertheless creating that stressed out atmosphere and down to the wire white knuckle way of surviving anyway. Too many kids too close together will do that for ya. And that way the workaholism, money stress, stress, stress can go on for another generation.

I think it's important to recognize you have choices in life and you're free to make them. What I like about this approach is it's taking responsibility for yourself and your choices, which I think makes you a happier and more fulfilled person the whole way along.

I chose to have my baby with all my heart, and that means no matter how hard it gets or may get I'm not a victim. It all feels like MY life, not an accident that happened to me, or something weird I got tangled up in somehow. It's a great feeling.

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Families Who Think

S/he Works Hard for NO Money: The stay-at-home parent thread

Jen Renton -- 12:57 pm Pacific Time -- Oct 18, 2005 -- #1045 of 1063

The fact is that there are a lot of people who don't like differences. They don't like new ideas. They won't ever be comfortable with the fact that something different works for you and your family, because they can't accept that different is not the same as better. If you do something differently than they do, it must be that you secretly think that their way is inferior, and that you are secretly judging them.

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Y'know, parenting is challenging. Striking the right balance between teaching and leading your child and empathizing and connecting with your child is difficult. I don't know anyone who feels as if she/he has never lectured when they should have loved, or sympathized when they should have put a foot down. But taking your own internal doubts about how well you are raising your child and pushing them on to others, criticizing their solutions and holding up your own as superior in every situation, is just stupid. It doesn't solve your own problems, and it magnifies the problems of everyone you criticize.

Are there stay-at-home moms who never feel as though they don't get a break? Are there work-outside-the-home moms who never miss their kids or wish they could spend the day hanging around with them? I doubt it. But rather than acknowledge the trade-offs, some people would rather use them to attack the other group. Damn, how judgmental can you be?


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