the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

what fatherhood has done for me…

In observations, parenting on December 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm
oh, the horror!

oh, the horror!

It’s made me scared…more scared. And judgmental.

The other day I had a break between students, and I go get a coffee.  It’s a Boulangerie, which if you’re not from Cali, is a Disneyfied “French” bakery that was just bought out by Starbucks, which I guess makes it corporatized, as well.  It’s a big place.  Noisy.  Wood floors.  I am sitting facing a window, my headphones are on.  Behind me I hear a big family pulling tables together, but I’m not sure I was really aware of them–at least, I wasn’t until I hear a crash and then a woman making the most unholy sound.  It wasn’t a screech, not a wail, either.  I can say this honestly: the sound was that of a wounded animal.  Think pierced beluga in the pacific or a cat with a crushed leg after it’s fallen from a tree. Even as I write this, I can feel the sound in the pit of my belly.  It was the sound of horror, of loss–or at least, feared loss.

In this case, it was the sound of this mother looking at her child doing a face plant while strapped into a car seat. I turn and I see the woman’s face and then look down and I see the car seat butt-up, and a small hand wiggling out the side.  The child, as it turned out, was fine.  More freaked out than anything.  The edges of the car seat coupled with good straps kept the child in place.  But for those many seconds before someone–someone much braver than I–was willing to lift the chair up and see if the baby was ok, I thought I was going to be ill.  I thought that all that shitty coffee and the Frenchified sweet thing I was stuffing my face with up until that point, was going to splatter across that polished wood floor.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure I would have been moved by this before I had a kid.  But there is something so much more intense about seeing a child in that position after you have been up all night with your own, after you have handed that child over to your spouse ever so carefully because you realize how vulnerable he is, like some treasure.  NO, not LIKE a treasure.  He IS a treasure.  And well, not being a Buddhist who can just disconnect from this world and what I have in it, the fact that I have this treasure that I didn’t have before makes me scared for it.  It reminds me of a Louis CK bit in which he says that the best case scenario for any relationship is that after a life together, one of you will die before the other.  ckIt’s different with a kid, I know.  But it’s similar in the sense that when you love someone, it’s hard not to worry, not to look out for the possible threats to that loved one.

This is natural, I know.  But wait, there’s more!!

After the room returned to normal, the family recovered and stuck around and had their coffees and Frenchified sweet things, and I wanted to yell at them.  Specifically, I wanted to yell at the mother for being a dumb-ass and for being a fat-ass who loved her fucking crescent more than her baby (she wasn’t fat, but I’m just saying).  I knew it was crazy even then.  But I kept on judging her in my mind.  Here’s the highlight of that imagined rant:

of course you don’t put a car seat on a precarious wooden chair in the middle of Disney-croissant-land.

and if you’re lacking that basic common sense, then you don’t deserve your lame-ass coffee and sweet thing.

Go home.

Be ashamed.

Talking of shame, I am ashamed for thinking these things.  They are ridiculous thoughts.  I know.  But I felt them.  And damn it, what’s a blog for if not to share some of your most shameless thoughts?  I ask you.

No. Actually, I’m not asking that.  I’m actually asking this question: see below.  It’s a new WP function, a poll, so let’s try it out together.  Shall we?

buddhist, bad listener or something else?

In parenting, Uncategorized on September 5, 2012 at 5:55 am

 

Have you ever felt like crapper and told someone only to have that person pull some Yoda-Yoga-wisdom out of their butts and try to smear your face in it?  Graphic image, I know.  I’m probably sensitive to this kind of thing, more than I should be, because my mom is one of those people.  She means well.  But when I was a kid, and I had one of those teen-age tragedies: I sucked at the game, a cute girl ignored me–basically, when I had a true teenage dilemma on my hands–my mom would try and talk it out. For her, talking it out meant telling me that there were starving kids in Africa, so in the grander scheme, I needed to change my way of thinking.  She was pulling that Buddhist thing that suffering is caused by desire, and that the answer was to do away with the desire.

Wise words.  Shitty response.

Recently, I was scolded in this way after writing a guest blog post about my worries that my boy will not have all the things I’d like him to have.  I’m not talking bling-bling, btw; a humble house (rented not bought) with  a small yard, a dog if he likes.  This may not sound like a lot, but I live in San Francisco, and these humble wants are not so humble when you’re running up against the Facebook gaggle of new millionaires.  It’s not just the the things, though.  Part of my blog post was getting at the fact that I’ve never lived in a place that made me so conscious of what I do not have, and that I don’t think beautiful places like SF should only be for wealthy people.  There should be a place for a middle-income teacher/writer like me.

The person commenting pointed out that I shouldn’t worry about these things, that I should teach my boy to value real things, not status-symbols.  Fair enough, but I am left wondering a couple things and I want to share them here.  1.  when you’re ranting (even by blog) should you not have the right to be ridiculous, which means that you might not be in the mood to hear wisdom.

My sense of upset with this commenter runs deeper though.  I can’t say this is true for everyone, but now that I’m a parent, I am reminded of things I’ve put away in boxes in the dusty attic that is my brain: a love for Dr. Seuss books and Halloween, just to name two.  But along with these positive things, there are negative feelings that have come up as well, and some of those feelings are engendered by my family’s financial station when I was a kid, which in turn were partly brought about by my parent’s race and the discrimination they suffered through.

Fears are complicated.  My folks managed to succeed through hard work, but they suffered and it didn’t come easy nor early, which is why when I was coming up, we were pretty poor and I felt some shame for that, which if possible, I’d like to spare my boy.  Am I stupid? Maybe.  Is it unwise to get caught up in feelings of jealousy and disappointment? These are my issues.  But I think that people who are quick to dispense the wisdom, like this commenter, have their own.

To me, it’s facile to tell someone who is struggling that they should not want so much.  There’s no way for me to know this, but I suspect this person might be one of those people who have chosen a simple life, but it’s different when simple is a choice and not thrust upon you by the fact that you can’t afford complexity.  Hey, even the Buddha chose his life of poverty.  Let’s not forget, he was born into affluence.

SO, what to do?  Do I write this person?  Do I just leave it alone?  Comments are good.  Disagreements are welcome.  But is it cool to debate with a reader?  What say you guys?

what my baby boy has taught me about writing discipline…

In humor, observations, parenting on July 30, 2012 at 6:25 am

this isn’t easy, but it’s necessary–at least mom says so…

If you are a parent, then you probably know what Tummy Time is. If not, it’s basically torture for babies–at least it is for mine.  Every morning, while my wife tries to catch up on her sleep, I hang out with The Boy and at some point, I put him on his play mat face down.  The baby development books all say this is good for little ones because it helps them develop the neck and arm strength they need for crawling. I know this. But still, if it were left to me, I wouldn’t do it to my kid.  I like hanging out with him as he plays on his back.  He smiles when he’s like that and he tells me the latest, greatest news from Babylandia.  But when turn him over, he becomes monster-baby–red and crying.  My wife insists that we do this.  And she’s right because The Boy is getting stronger and as a result, he’s hating Tummy Time less and less each day.

There’s a lesson here.  Actually, there’s a few. As a parent, I’ve learned that I’m going to be the softie, which I guess makes my wife the hardie.  This probably means that in the future, I’ll be the go-to parent, whereas my wife will be The Enforcer.  That said, I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t question my wife, but that’s a lesson I already knew even if I forget sometimes.

Apart from these family lessons, I think that Tummy Time also presents a lesson for writers.  How many times do we all start our writing sessions in pain?  I mean, we wake up ok, maybe smiling even, but then we get in front of the computer and it’s all sloppy sadness.  We might not yell, but on the inside, we want to.  We want to yell and scream and kick and maybe even slobber a little.  Why?  Because writing is hard–just like Tummy Time.  And yet, and yet, it’s only in the doing that the difficulty abates.  Our creativity muscles grow because we are flexing them every time we put words to the page/screen, and we need to try to do this regularly.

Look, it’s not easy. But you don’t want to be a baby.  Even my son, who is a baby, would tell you that if he could.  So, if you’re reading this post instead of writing your stuff, I want to thank you, but I also want to scold you.  Go forth and do your writer’s Tummy Time.  It’s good for you.  And if you don’t, I’ll tell my wife to pay you a visit.  She’s tough, so don’t mess.

writing through the fear..or is it riding?

In humor, life, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on July 9, 2012 at 6:31 am

Lately, I’ve been getting panic attacks on the freeways.  I’ve never been in an accident; knock on wood, I’ve never even been close to being in one.  But along the way, I have developed this lack of ease on highways.  This experience has made me wonder if this is the beginning of fear taking over.  I say this though as this weird fearful cloud is enveloping me so is a realization that I don’t get to avoid things just ’cause I’m afraid of them.

Is that a duh-statement, or what?

It’s not like I didn’t have fears before.  I certainly did.  I remember this one time as a kid.  I was supposed to compete in a track meet, but I woke up the day of so scared that I was going to fail, that I told my mom I was sick, which wasn’t a lie, not exactly.  I quit playing basketball in high school when I was a sophomore out of fear that I’d bring my team down.  To put it simply: I’m scared. I’ve always been scared.  And if you ask me what I’m scared of, I guess I’d have to say it was failure–of letting people know I suck at something.

Which brings me to writing and to making a career of it somehow.  Last week,  I met with a film producer here in San Fran.  He’s young, successful, very cool dude.  I asked for the meet-up because I wanted to get his advice on next steps–what can I do to get to a next level in storytelling–whatever the medium.  If you’ve been reading the blog, you know I’ve been reading books about branding and trying to implement a strategy to makes me some dough, but truth is the plans these books set out are not very useful. The authors make it seem like if you follow a set recipe for success then soon, you’ll be feasting on a nice, warm Success Pie.  But recipes for success are nothing like recipes for pie.  There is no set order of steps, and more times than not, you have to break the rules in order to break through.

I know this, and still, I came home from that meeting feeling a little bit sick in the stomach because this producer told me to break one of the rules I’ve set for myself. Basically, he told me that the way to making money for creatives in this city is for them to get jobs making commercials/ads/mini-webisodes for the tech companies up here.  He gave me amazing tips to that end, and I’m thankful, but I felt a little sick, as well.  Why?  I could say that it’s because I’m an artist, because I don’t want to work for The Man….YAWN…because The Man is evil and will eat my soul like a well-baked Success Pie, etc.  But truth is I’m scared.  Writing has always been a solo sport for me, and the idea of creating narrative within a company structure when money is on the line, scares the bejeezus out of me.  Or, to put it more accurately, I’m scraed to put myself out for that kind of work because what if I find out I suck?

I kind of want a blanket or my son’s binky right now.  But I don’t get to have either.  I need to get writing, not only the fiction or the scripts I want to make, but also the emails, letters, texts and tweets that will get people to hire me to write them some kind of story.  Fear be damned. I’m hungry and I needs me a slice of that Success Pie.

10 rules for being a better writer and parent…

In humor, life, observations, writing on July 3, 2012 at 7:32 am

1. Don’t feel guilty when you’re holding your baby in the wee hours of the morning and you’re thinking, Jesus, kid, could you stop making faces and go to sleep ’cause I need to write my blog post about parenting and writing.

2.-9. Repeat Rule #1 often except for the last part about having to write the blog post about parenting and writing  because you’ve already written that.

10. Take your head out of your selfish butt hole and look at the wondrous bundle of weird grimaces and toothless smiles you’re holding.  He/she is amazing–probably more amazing than anything you’ve written or will write.

OK, I’m going to admit that I wrote the title of this post with a little nod to the branding books from last month–seems that 10 Rules for X,Y or Z sells in the blogger/Twitter Universe.  But my nod is only a small nod–kind of like when two dudes pass each other on the street and only barely acknowledge each other.  I wrote this because I was up with my two month old boy this morning, and I kept thinking that he needed to sleep.  I wasn’t thinking this out of parental concern that my boy is an insomniac; rather, I was thinking that if I’m going to be up at some crazy hour, I should be writing since I enjoy writing at ungodly hours though I hardly get to anymore because I’m too tired due to the child not really napping anymore during the day.  He’s not cranky, mind you.  It’s like he’s curious.  He just takes it all in all the time.  He’s like my mom, who swears she can function well with 3 hours of sleep a day.

So I admit that this morning while holding the boy, all I could think about was wanting to write.  I also admit that I don’t really feel much guilt about it.  I AM a writer, and maybe writers are selfish twats.  It’s possible.  But then again, I think it’s not that simple.  I have a friend who I’ve avoided of late because she’s one of those people who reads every child development book that comes out and who waxes California-yoga-mommy about her child’s expressive ways (read, her baby cries).  That alone wouldn’t stop me from calling her.  What is stopping me is that at some point in our talk, she will start asking me about how I’ve changed now that I’m a dad, about which of my moments so far is the most miraculous.

Look, I know I’m experiencing amazing events.  But there’s something about talking about that amazingness that cheapens the feeling for me.  It’s like those religious people who are always sing-songing their love of God and then wanting you to witness in tandem.  I’m a believer and that kind of thing just makes me want to start scribbling I Heart Satan all over the nearest wall.  Likewise, with my boy, I do not feel the desire to talk about how he’s completed the circle of my being or whatever other trite new-agey thing my friend says on the regular.

What will I say when I speak to her next?  I will let her know about this blog, for one.  But I will add the following: I will tell her that this morning, in addition to selfishly wishing that the boy would sleep so I could write, I thought about his little bear-paws that kept twitching around.  Big hands run in the family on both sides, though I think he’s got my variety of big hands–long fingers, large, narrow palms.  I wondered what he would do with those hands.  I also wondered what he’d look like in 20 years–he will look like my wife, but how exactly?  And as I held him and he smiled and grimaced and dreamed God knows what, I, quite selfishly and darkly, thought about a time in the future when the table might be turned.  When he might have to help me eat or go to the bathroom, and while doing so, would he think about the things he had to do.

Jesus, that would be pretty damn selfish of him, would it not?

some thoughts from a new father

In life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on June 17, 2012 at 7:03 am

 

My father is crazy.  And by that, I do not mean that he is certifiable and needs to be locked up.  But I also don’t mean that he is a harmless eccentric, either.  The word, “crazy,” is often thrown around.  I hurl it at people all the time, often playfully.  Can’t say the same for my dad, though.  He is crazy, and that craziness is harmful. But where does it come from?

I am new father, my own son will be two months this week.  That and the fact that it is officially Father’s Day as I write this, has made me pensive about what it means to be a dad–well, both of these things combined with the fact that last weekend my father came up for a visit, and it was one of the more disappointing experiences I have had in a very long time. In the grand scheme, my father was a good role model for me.  I was a sensitive kid, some might say soft.  But my dad, a man who grew up fending for himself on the streets, was ok with my softness.  He encouraged me to be who I am.  If I think of one gift my father gave me it was that permission to be who I am, to define for myself what it meant to be a man.  I hope to teach the same lesson to my son–hopefully in word and in deed.

In general, I try not to change the people around me.  My father’s acceptance of me taught me to be that way.  But there are limits.  So, like I said, my father came to visit last week, and it was odd.  No, it was sad.  Yes, sad is the right word, and crazy, too.  My father-in-law who lives across country, flew in the week after my son was born.  My father waited nearly two months to visit though he lives in the same state.  This is disappointing.  More so after his visit, which was short and odd and…crazy.  When he arrived, he sat down in the kitchen with my mother, and he seemed tense.  I know this because he didn’t really talk, and when my mother asked him what was wrong, he got defensive.  “You two are talking English, what do you want from me?” He asked in a voice too loud for the situation.  My father’s been in the US since 1964.  He has college degrees from schools in the states.  He’s a smart man.  Yet, as he’s gotten older, he speaks less and less English.  He’s also hard of hearing but refuses to wear a hearing aid.  So, unless you are willing to scream in Spanish, communication is difficult.

My mother absorbs the difficulty.  She always has.  Which means that like a snowball, he keeps growing as he rolls on.  So he comes to the house, gets pissy that my two-month old son is nursing and not “ready” to receive him.  He goes out back and sits in the garden.  He acts like a child.  He acts like…a crazy man, by which I mean, he acts in a way that seems contrary to what he should be: a joyful father and grandfather.

I know how my father is, and I have always tried to accept it, as he accepted me. I guess I had taught myself not to expect joy from him.  But last week, when he acted like a sulky child and sat in my backyard instead of talking to me, and when he repeatedly wanted to leave early even after my wife brought my boy out, a sense of disappointment hit me hard.  I imagine it hit hard because though I can accept my father’s joylessness regarding me, it’s an insult when pointed at my boy.

It’s impossible to know for sure, but I think my father’s biggest problem, the root cause of his unhappiness, is that he expects too much from life.  This might sound…crazy, but really, don’t they say that the flipside of every romantic is a cynic?  I think my father enters every situation with an idea of what should happen.  Most times, life doesn’t work out that way, which is especially true in my dad’s case since he probably is always being a little too unrealistic.  So he gets disappointed and hence, he misses the joy in front of him.

I’m sure that my mother was telling the truth when she told me later that he had been excited to come see my boy.  But when the reality hit.  When the boy was nursing in the bedroom instead of cooing in wait of him, the disappointment was too much to recover from.

Does this sound crazy for a grown man?  Should he just grow the fuck up?  Yes, I’d say.  And yet at the same time, I am also aware enough to know that the apple doesn’t fall far.  I spent the today, the day before Father’s Day, quietly with my wife and the boy.  I napped. I ate. I held him. I walked around the neighborhood with him and his mother.  The day was great, but there was this part of me that wanted to gnaw away at my contentment.  It wanted GREATness.  It asked me if I wouldn’t be better off doing something else, something less domestic, more dramatic.  I can’t tell you exactly what that other more dramatic thing would’ve been. And though it’s true that going to Whole Foods at the end of the walk with all the other yuppy dads and ordering an ice-coffee is ver ordinary, not GREAT at all, it is great all the same.

I think today was a microcosm of what I hope for with my son.  I hope that we will have a great relationship.  There will be disappointments and there will be moments of amazing happiness, and there will hopefully be joy throughout.  But more important still, there will be joy for the all those middling moments in between.  I guess I can thank my dad for that wisdom, too.  Even if he doesn’t follow it himself.

 

fathers and Ginger Rogers…

In humor, life, observations, writing on June 6, 2012 at 6:20 am

With this post, I’m not going to make any friends with the moms out there, but it’s almost Father’s Day–isn’t it? And so this post is for the papas out there. I am a new father, so this is self-serving, but I think that if you serve enough people, sometimes Self deserves some attention, too. Self can be deserving at times. Last night, as I was changing my boy, who I call The Boy in my very original way with words, I was thinking that fathers don’t always get their due during pregnancy and that trend continues through the early life of children.

OK, OK, I’m not going to say that I even now what it’s like to have a human being squeeze out of me, I admit this. And for that alone, mamas of the world, you deserve more credit than a hedge fund banker, but I think fathers do a lot–at least they do when they’re worth a damn.

I cannot breast feed, true enough. But dads, my friends at least, all get up with their wives and change their children before feeding begins, and though we don’t have to stay up while the feeding happens, it’s not always easy to get back to sleep. In fact, a lot of times, I don’t, which is good because when The Boy decides that he wants to stay up after he’s done draining boobage, I get to take him on the Magic Mystery Tour of the house until he falls asleep in my arms.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I love The Boy, and I know that my wife gets it harder than I do, but at the same time, I have to leave the next day, go teach a bunch of kids, try to write, and then come back and start up daddy-dutoes again. The outside world is not forgiving of my lack of sleep.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were both amazing dancers, but somehow, Fred, because he was the lead, eclipses Ginger in most people’s imaginations. But Ginger did everything Fred did and did it backwards and with heels on. Mothers are like Fred and Dads are like Ginger, I think. Well, maybe not exactly. We don’t do everything mothers have to do, but we do a lot. (And there are probably some fathers who do what they do while wearing heels, so there’s that, too.) I’m just saying.

my obsession with wordpress themes only means i am avoiding writing…

In humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized, writing on May 17, 2012 at 9:20 am

 

My son, Elias Mercer Martinez Bodden (sans hyphen, thank you very much) was born on April 21st.  Yes, congrats to my wife and I are in order.  Partly, this is why I have not been writing on this lovely blog, which I know must bum all of you 65 readers.  I was warned that fatherhood would slow my writing down, and I am sure that my 3 hours MAX of sleep doesn’t help any.  But I come from a long line of crazy people who can function on less than normal amounts of sleep until they can’t.  All kidding aside, I will admit that much of what people have told me about parenthood is both surprisingly spot-on and equally surprisingly full of s**t.  Or maybe it’s just that though I’m Latino and open-arms and flappy-happy in some ways, I also have a little Scandinavian reticence about things that mean a lot to me.  So, I will not say that everything in my life is different now because it isn’t and because it is. I still have to work and I still have to write and I am still the same crazy me.  And yet things are also different, as is the simple fact that almost out of whole cloth, I have a new loved one in my life.

On a couple especially bad nights, when Elias was especially fussy and I when managed to walk him into something resembling calm, he has, out of nowhere, opened one eye as if to say,

HA, SUCKER, I AM NOT SLEEPING AND I AM NOT CALM.  RAHHHHHHHHHHH.

Well, yes, I tell Elias under my breath, I am a sucker for what I am assuming will be my wife’s eyes, which he inherited.  I was a sucker for her eyes and I am a sucker for his.  I am in love with a baby boy.  Instant love, like Yuban or NesCafe.  My boy is the instant coffee of love.  That may not make sense, but I didn’t sleep much, so lump it.

And yet, the boy is not solely responsible for my lack of verbiage these last few weeks.  No, the real cause of my absence on this wordpress blog has been wordpress itself, or at least, the third party creators of wordpress themes.  I am chill in most thngs, but I have a little OCD streak that arises from time to time, and wordpress themes bring that streak out in spades.  I’m changing.  It’s not the fatherhood, damn it.  Stop thinking that it is, I know you, my readers, think it is, but its not.

I’m becoming techie-boy, or at least, wanna-be techie.  I’m letting my New Yorker subscription lapse and am replacing with a re-up of Wired and a new subscription with MacWorld.  Favorite artist of late?  Steve Jobs.  I get excited about some websites and how they are put together the way some get woodies for Michelangelo.  (That might be overstating things, but I do think there is some real artistry going on with a lot of sites.) And if you pay attention to such things, you start to notice that many of the most beautiful sites up are doctored wordpress themes.

I live in San Francisco, which makes one more susceptible to an appreciation of all things techie, but it’s not just that.  I spent the last two weeks scouring the web for a couple wordpress themes that would fit my portfolio site, which I am hopeful you will check out. (Please do so now, if you like.)  I also was looking for sites for another couple projects.  There are thousands of themes out there, and I think I saw all of them.  Yes, as Elias was keeping me up, only sleeping when nestled on my lap, I looked at over a thousand templates ver the course of a week.

This is disturbibg on many levels.  Disturbing enough that I will now share my crazy inner dialogue with you:

1.  Am I a bad parent because I should’ve been completely focused on my baby’s every facial mannerism/tick as he slept?

Not sure about this one.  He was sleeping, and I wasn’t.  AND I do pay attention to that kid’s face in daylight, damn it!

OK, how about this?  2.  I spent hours of my life looking at mocked up sites–by the way, if you ever buy a theme, don’t be confused.  They look great when they are all tricked out, but when you first get that thing uploaded or downloaded (I’m obviously not that much of a techie), the thing you get is so lame and plain that you will want to cry.)

Yes, I am silly.  But I can’t help it.  I like beautiful things.  I’m a Libra, zodiacally programmed to make up words and appreciate lovely things.

3.  I should’ve been writing instead of worrying about how to get a site together that, at least in the abstract, is supposed to be there for others to come check out my writing, which I am not doing because I am too busy looking for a theme, buying that theme, setting up that theme so that it will awesomely show off my writing, which, as stated above, I am not doing.  JESUS, I’m looping.

I have no real excuse for this last point.  It’s not really a new thing for a writer trying to break through to have to be his own business manager, which in this day and age, means being a bit of a social media guru.  But there’s something deeper going on.

I’m going to save those thoughts for the next blog post but suffice it to say that I am changing and it’s not the fatherhood, for f&*k’s sake.  My brain is changing.  I am becoming more of a multi-tasker, more of a visual person, or maybe I’m just embracing what I always was.  But there’s a price.  Let me leave it there.  I need to tweet and read through the recent Wired and look for an app.  And if there’s time tonight, as Elias sleeps on one arm, I will start my shrine to Steve Jobs–that guy was a genius.

All-Day Birthing Classes–Where Irony Goes to Die…

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 6:23 am

Irony and parenthood–they don’t mix.  God, I hope that’s not true.  Yesterday, I spent the day with my wife at an all-day birthing class. You can say a lot of positive stuff about technology, but one thing you cannot deny is that for all the steps forward, we do take a few back.  Artisanal cheese and bread and soap, these overpriced things are what our grandparents called bread and cheese and soap.  Now, we celebrate people for doing things the hard way, the old-fashioned way.

The same idea is at play with birthing classes.  As the nurse-instructor said a million times yesterday, we have classes like this because we do not have community.  So, my wife and I and about 15 other couples got together in a hospital basement to talk about stuff that the instructor said is natural and cannot be taught.  We were celebrating the fact that even with all the virtual communities we have in our lives, there is only one way to learn about birth–the hard way.

There is some irony there to be sure.  You pay a couple hundred bucks to hear a nurse tell you that she can’t teach you what you paid to learn.  You just gotta go through it.  That’s irony, but it’s not the amusing kind.  The other couples were very serious.  Still, I know the class was worthwhile for my wife. We broached those topics that no one wants to discuss: the pain of childbirth, and for some unfortunate families, the potential difficulties/problems that accompany that pain.  So, in the end, I will say that I’m glad we took the class even though, I can’t really say I learned anything, except that I’m serious, too.

But what did I expect?

Well, I’m glad I asked myself that question because one thing I didn’t expect were the videos, which were serious, as well.  This blog is a family production, so I will not go into details, but there were some graphic scenes.  We’re talking NC-17 stuff.  I write this and I know it sounds juvenile. I am sounding like an adolescent boy squealing at the sight of stranger’s vaginas.  I know the birthing process is life and it’s serious.  I will also admit, quite surprisingly to me, that mixed with the shock of watching a person come out of another person who I don’t know, was true feeling.  I was moved more than a couple times by what I saw in the videos.  As hard as some of these women had it, and as awful as some of the voice-overs were (some were done by the fathers of the children after the fact, and there’s nothing worse than genuine feeling scripted out), when you get right down to it, there’s something truly touching about a baby just born being held by his/her mother and father.  Jesus, I’m getting a little weepy just thinking about it.  Really.

I don’t like snark, let me say it now.  I do try to be amusing in my blog-persona and in my life-persona, too.  I like laughing, not so much at people but at situations.  The older I get, the more I feel like the only quality in people I really can’t abide is humorlessness.  (I’m glad that’s a word, by the way.)  But as you get older, you kind of have to temper the chucks and the wucs.  You can’t push it.  Sometimes, they’re just not there

I started this post off with the intention of showing how silly a thing like a birthing class is. Though there is a part of me that wants to hold that there is something kind of ridiculous about the concept and its execution (and I haven’t mentioned the fact that, as always is the case, there was an overly-serious, overbearing, teacher’s pet in the group) the reason behind such a class is not worthy of laughter.  And that reason is, and I know this is hack, mystery and wonder.

Jesus.  That’s pretty serious, isn’t it?  Well, as the good actors of Downton Abbey (a very serious show, I might add) say, Lump it.  It’s life.

I Am Going to be a Major Pain in the Ass for My Unborn Son…

In humor, life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on January 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

i am spratacus, I am.

OK, so I teach adults–young adults, mainly–and I do this because I don’t love dealing with parents, or at least, I don’t love dealing with the fear of parents complaining because I assign too much or too little homework. I taught high school for a year, and beside the irritating nun who was my department chair, the only thing I really hated about the job was the way my vice-principal worried about our parents. It was a Catholic school, so it was private, which meant that parent-money supported us, but sometimes I felt like I was working a retail job where the customer was always right. We were never officially told how to run our classrooms, but if a parent complained about excessive assignments, or if a student felt her grade was unfair and her parent said as much to our VP, then he would “conference” with the teacher in question to get at “best practices,” which then lead to a “best practices” meeting for the whole staff. Let me say this now: the phrase, “best practices” with its corporate smell and its pedigree in powerpoint presentations has no place in a school setting. I would even go as far as saying that curse-words, which are a complete no-no at the high school level, are nowhere near as dirty as the words, “best practices.” Principals of the world, be principled. I would advise you all to let out a collective FUCK before you ever let even one corporate-lingo-lame-o word escape your lips. Come on, the future generations need some guidance here.

Professionally speaking, my feelings about trying to please parents has limited my job possibilities. It’s why I teach alternative adult education in an nontraditional setting–how’s that for corporate-speak? But personally, I might not be able to avoid the bullet. The son my wife is currently carrying is in for it because his pops is on the loose. You see, I am going to be one of those parents I hate as an educator, but not for the same reasons. I don’t think I’d ever complain about a teacher’s grading policies or about the amount of homework assigned. As a teacher myself, my position will be to make the best of the situation and to help my boy do the same. No, my problem will probably be with the administrators.

Let me explain why: one of the centers I work out of is housed in a middle school. Usually, I don’t get there until evening when the kids are gone, but a few months ago, I had to go in during the school day, and that’s when I saw it, the reason why when my son has his first teacher-parent conferences, my wife is going to have to put me on a leash and tether me to a pole outside. I turned the corner and saw a teacher walking in front of a group of students walking single-file with a teachers-aide bringing up the rear. Most people would think this makes sense. It teaches order, keeps the kids from disrupting other classes. I get it. I remember having to walk in single-file formation as a kid.  But as an adult, I see that and I think, jail or chain-gang. Can you see where this is going?

I had the same feeling teaching high school.  I remember filing into the gym for pep-rallies and watching the administrators stand on the gym-floor hands behind back, walkie-talkies at the ready, scanning the room for potential disruptions. Like the other teachers, I would sit in the bleachers with my kids, but unlike them, I didn’t want to just sit there and watch. I wanted to lead a revolt. I wanted to let out a rebel-yell to the Deans of Discipline and to the Best-Practice-Loving VP and to my annoying nun and tell them all that they weren’t the bosses of us. Mind you, I was in my late-20s at the time, a responsible adult, and yet I was fancying myself a modern-day Spartacus leading the slave-adolescents out of tyranny. What’s my name? I am Spartacus, bitches!!

Now, do you get it? Do you understand why I fear for my unborn son’s future principal?

Listen, I know I’m probably the only one in that gym who wanted to rise up. The kids didn’t care. They took things in stride. Except for the real hard-asses on faculty, they were indifferent to us and rightfully so. And that’s the only thing that’s going to save my son, apart from wife muzzling me. Every evening, I’m going to fuming in some corner of the house, asking my boy if he is ok with the police state that is his elementary school, and he’s going to be looking at me like I am a lunatic. Still, I will be vigilant. If I sense a principal is a little to into the whole control thing, if she likes her walkie-talkie and single-file lines a little too much, I will speak my mind. I will lead the children on a walk-out.

What’s my name? I am Spratacus, bitches!!

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