Thursday, June 17, 2004

Quick Thoughts on Dispatches...

I finished Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life. Overall, I'm still lukewarm about the book. (Did you know Faulkner Fox is a feminist? No? Read the book. She'll tell you that she is about 800 times. After about 500 times I kind of got the point.)

One part of the book did resonate pretty deeply with me, though. The author talks about her desire to connect with other mothers in her neighborhood. Ultimately, though, she isolates herself because she fears being judged by the other mothers or judging them too harshly.

I feel the same way; I teeter between confidence in my parenting abilities and a deep-seated fear that I will somehow unknowingly inflict grievous emotional harm on my children. I sometimes cast a stern eye on other mothers and use what I perceive as their faults to bolster my own parenting ego:

"Look at that," I cluck to myself. "At least I don't let my kids eat junk food/watch a lot of TV/jump on the furniture."

Not exactly me at my best. And since I have this tendency, I assume that others have it as well. If I'm feeling insecure about my parenting, I can only imagine that other mothers who obviously are better at this gig would recognize my faults and judge me harshly.

When I have more time and energy, I'd like to spend some time exploring why mothers engage in Competitive Parenting like this.

More time and energy ... I like the sound of that. Where can I get some?

Westward Ho ... and Back

Well, we all survived our trip to Pittsburgh. Despite my dark fears that we'd be on the PA Turnpike for 8 hours, stuck in a traffic jam with two shrieking children, the drive itself turned out to be almost completely benign.

Sean had a fabulous time at his grandparents'—I know the weekend was for Natalie and her graduation, but Sean and Allie seemed to receive (and bask in) a fair amount of limelight themselves. Sean in particular blossoms in the presence of other people (he must take after me [that's sarcasm, people, in case you couldn't recognize it]). Of all Sean's cute moments, for me the cutest was his karaoke performance. His star-making rendition of "Strangers in the Night" had Jeff and me nearly in tears. It went something like this:


Miss Allie had trouble adjusting to the different environment, especially at night. As a result, none of us got too much sleep. She also developed an acute case of Mommyitis; she cried whenever I left the room or gave her to someone else to hold, or if she saw me walk by or enter the room. I will admit to be slightly proud of the attachment, but at the same time I felt bad for others who wanted to spend time with her and weren't really able to.

Next stop, the shore ... a tiny house, eight adults, one toddler, and one baby. And one bathroom. Stay tuned for the Brigantine Travelogue.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A Once and Future Bibliophile

In my former (pre-child) life, I was an avid reader. A book a week or at least one book every two weeks kept my spirits up and my literary appetite relatively sated. I had my book club, my frequent trips to the library, my guilty purchases at In retrospect, quite a gluttony of book reading.

What a difference a few years and two kids makes.

Since Allison was born 8 months ago (8 months ago today as a matter of fact), I've read seven books. And three of those were about parenting.

Between working and taking care of the kids, the only time I have for reading is, of course, bedtime. And when it comes to the battle between reading and sleeping, guess which side inevitably wins? I start off with good intentions, but within about 7 minutes after I get in bed and begin reading, I fall asleep. Thunk! That's my book falling on the floor, awakening me and reminding me that I've once again read about three paragraphs.

I haven't given up the battle completely. I still read reviews and articles about books to keep myself somewhat up to date on the current literary scene. It's not quite the same as actually reading the books, but a cursory familiarity with what's being discussed on the Bookslut site and blog makes me feel a little bit more linked to my old life (and, yes, more than a little chastened at what I had thought was my wide but instead seems to be pitifully limited universe of authors).

I'm in the middle of reading Faulkner Fox's Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life: Or How I Learned to Love the House, the Man, the Child. So far, I'm a little underwhelmed. I want to like the book, and the author, more than I currently do. I admire her verve, her forthrightness, her feminist ideals and activism and how she tries to balance them with her life as a mother and wife. Maybe the whining tone I've detected will dissipate as I get further along.

After this I should take a break from parenting books. Even someone (that would be me) with a pretty bottomless capacity for reading about child-raising and mothering needs to fling open the windows and let some other air in. One strong candidate is Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight; friends of mine whose opinion I trust have recommended it strongly. They assure me that despite its subject matter---a childhood spent in Rhodesia with white-supremacist parents---the book is, in fact, funny. Jeff would say the topic is right up my alley: depressing and probably guilt-inducing. I say, bring it on!