Well, my favorite dancer on So You Think You Can Dance went home last week (Nick, the tap dancer). I'm not sure what my favorite dance was on tonight's show, but my favorite song is easy: Fly Me to the Moon, one of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs (which they used for a foxtrot)(which wasn't all that foxtrotty, but which made a pretty good Broadway-style dance):
"You can't be your child's friend!" chirped the guest on the morning show - which I was not voluntarily watching. Unfortunately, the tv showing it was right next to the weight machine I was using for my physical therapy.
I looked up at the tv, and, sure enough, they were talking about the article which has been following me around for the last week - on blogs, Facebook, and now even at the gym.
Lori Gottlieb's Atlantic article does have a dramatic title: "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. A therapist and mother reports." I can see why it's gotten peoples' attention, whether deserved or not.*
She writes about how the young adults today that she sees in her therapy practice:
...suffered from depression and anxiety, had difficulty choosing or committing to a satisfying career path, struggled with relationships, and just generally felt a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose.
Rather than the usual bad parenting she has come to expect as a cause, she reports that:
They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life. Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment). In short, these were parents who had always been “attuned,” as we therapists like to say, and had made sure to guide my patients through any and all trials and tribulations of childhood.
She writes about the conclusions of a fellow psychiatrist, Paul Bohn:
[He} believes many parents will do anything to avoid having their kids experience even mild discomfort, anxiety, or disappointment—“anything less than pleasant,” as he puts it—with the result that when, as adults, they experience the normal frustrations of life, they think something must be terribly wrong.
She concludes that the parents are too helpful, and this helpfulness has created the current "burgeoning generational narcissism."
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
Do most people forget what it was like to be a young adult? Certainly theBaby Boomers, the generation of "Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll," can't condemn the current young adults as "narcissistic."** I know my post-boomer generation can't - I remember that we were all very concerned with ourselves and where we were going. For those who have the financial resources, young adulthood is often a time where people "find themselves" and their path in life. Some people, like the ones the author sees in her therapy practice, are using therapy, others still use the time-worn methods of sex and drink, and others find their way academically or religiously. Fewer find their way in these years through family and parenthood than in previous generations, and there are certainly more paths to explore than most eras have allowed. That is nothing new.
I've noticed that most people, along with Socrates, etc. above, think their generation wasn't self-absorbed and that the following generations are.
[This attitude is demonstrated in the musical clip that ends this post]
Another reason that I'm so cynical about her article is that it doesn't sound familiar. The parents who run to school to bring every forgotten item, who call the school when their child doesn't get a part in the play - where are they? More importantly, where do they find the time?! I know enough teachers to have heard that about these types of parents, but are they really all that pervasive? If so, how have I avoided them?
After a while, it feels like people are focusing on the the squeaky wheels - not only by giving them the grease, but by assuming that all wheels are squeaky!
This is an assumption that really irritates me. For obvious reasons,*** I regularly read the blog at The Center for College Affordability and Productivity. The authors keep mentioning, in post after post, how little college students work these days. Having two college students who are working their butts off, it really irritates me that people will tar a whole generation for the failings of a few.
The Atlantic article also goes through a section in the middle about how competition is wrongly discouraged by modern parents. I'm of two minds about that. On the one hand, I can be rather competitive. On the other hand, I think there's far more value in trying hard to do your best all the time - not just when you have someone to compete with. I also think it's also extremely important to step outside your comfort zone and try things that are challenging and where you may fail. I think that too much of an emphasis on winning can keep you from the joy of doing things where you may never excel. I doubt I'll ever have a minor, much less a major, role in theater, but I love being in the chorus, and I work hard to do my best.
She also mentions stories of parents who intervene unnecessarily in their kids social lives. This isn't anything new either. When I was growing up there were always kids whose parents did that.
I wrote this post last week, but it got put on the back burner when rehearsals got busier. Reading a Blogher post, The Ongoing War Against Mothers, made me get it out again. In this post, Lisa Stromberg writes that this Atlantic article should have been named "“Yet Another Way to Blame Mothers for Their Children’s Failures.” She points out that, although the article carefully uses "parents" and "parenting" rather than "mothers" and "mothering," most of the examples used to demonstrate bad parenting have to do with mothers. After mentioning how mothers have been criticized in various ways over the last 17 years since she had her first child, she concludes:
Couldn’t the real problem be rooted in the fact that women in our society just never get a break? That no matter what we do we are criticized? That in our well-intentioned efforts to raise well-adjusted children, we are, yet again, falling short of some elusive ideal?
At one point, the author of the Atlantic article writes that maybe she was over-reacting when her child fell down and she ran to him across the sand.
It's no surprise that she's still over-reacting to young adults trying to find their way in life.
I could end there, but, as always, there's music so I'll leave the last word to Paul Lynde, the father in the 1963 movie, Bye, Bye, Birdie (starting at 1:15)
Kids! I don't know what's wrong with these kids today! Kids, who can understand anything they say? Kids, they are disobedient, disrespectful oafs, Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy loafers... Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?!*** What's the matter with kids today?!
* Why am I blogging about it? It's a good thing to vent my PMS on. You have a problem with that?!
** Yes, some baby boomers participated in the Civil Rights Movement. It doesn't mean that there wasn't still a lot of self-absorption going on.
*** Two kids in college and a third who is six years away.
*** Younger son just came up behind me and said, "Like he was any better?"
There have been many pictures of Peter Falk as the grandfather in The Princess Bride floating around online the last few days. However, as much as I love The Princess Bride and Columbo, my favorite Peter Falk role is in the 1979 movie, The In-Laws, with Alan Arkin. Nobody else delivers a line quite the same way as Peter Falk did:
I love the opening number from this year's Tony Awards (and I've watched it over and over). Neil Patrick Harris uses the opportunities given by this years Tony nominees to sing about the broadening appeal of Broadway, and he's aided by flight attendants, high-kicking nuns (Sister Act), Mormon men (Book of Mormon), businessmen (How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), manly sailors in tight pants (also Anything Goes) and (non) random guests in the audience (rated TV14):
A few weeks ago I was rushing around and pushing myself to get more and more done. At that point, I had to, but I've put the brakes on since then. There are so many household projects that need to could be done - cleaning, de-cluttering, sorting, etc. None of them are probably going to get done this summer.
Some people thrive on rushing around. I don't. I end up focusing on what needs to be done rather than on what's going on here and now. I get tired and cranky, and then I have a difficult time listening to people. I also don't think as clearly, and I get very nose-to-the-grindstone.
Daughter has been home for a month and a half now. It's less than two months until she goes back to college. Older son starts back at the same time. That really hit me last week.
I decided that, aside from the things that have to be done (bills, dishes, meals, homeschooling,* practicing music for the musical, etc.), when I was deciding what non-essential things to do, the deciding factor was: Which activity will help me enjoy my family more? If getting the house straightened up will make me feel less stressed, I'll do that (I'm approaching that). If sitting in the yard for half an hour reading a good book helps, I'll do that (happened last week).
Monday and Tuesday were rather busy with things I had to do. Today, once I did Jazzercise (helps with cardio health and keeping me off of blood pressure medicines)** and ran a few errands, I really slowed down. I had a relaxed, conversational lunch with older and younger son (older son is working at home today). I read some blogs. I wrote a long blog post (with music of course). I played a computer game. I took a nap.***
Daughter is taking two dance classes; older son is at a rehearsal; younger son is at a friend's house; and dear husband is driving back from Atlanta. They should all get back around 8:30, and my goal is not to have the house be perfect, but to be relaxed enough to really enjoy everyone.
* We homeschool, off and on during the summer. However, younger son's friends are usually not at camps the first few weeks of the summer so he spends as much of the day as possible playing with them. We'll start homeschooling again either next week or the following one.
** 132/84 at my last doctor's appointment. That's a lower BP reading than dear husband has had lately - and he's on BP medicine. It's nice to be down from around 160/100 - what it was last fall. I've been taking my BP daily, and it's amazing how closely it tracks with stress. If I'm stressed, it's high. If I'm not, it's not - even if I've been doing something physical like taking a walk. Even though it's also physical, practicing singing also results in some of the lowest BP readings. Aren't you glad I didn't post all the BP rants I wrote this winter? It would have been boring.
*** Not every day will be as relaxed as today, but it's amazing how rejuvenating relaxing is.
I was just listening to the album, Sky Dances, the other day and wondered if I could find any Holly Near videos on YouTube. She's been a favorite folk singer of mine for a long time - with lovely melodies, beautiful harmonies, and thoughtful words. Comparing her 1989 photo on the album of Sky Dances to this video reminds me of just how long she's been a favorite. She had smile lines around her eyes even 22 years ago.
The song starts around 0:95:
The album is out of print, but some of the songs are collected on Early Warnings. Other favorites of mine on that album are:
I'm two days late for Bloom Day - for good and bad reasons. The bad? - daughter and younger son have been sick this week (they're better today). The good? - dear husband has actually been home all week!!!!!
Larkspurs are so easy to grow! Just plant the seeds and you'll have them all over!
This is the first year (out of about five) that I've ever had any success with them.
Cabbage leaf coneflower (or great coneflower)
The goldfinches love the seeds. There were two hanging on to the stems yesterday morning.
Yarrow and phlox
Sneeze weed - new for this year
Double shasta daisy (leucanthemum)- also new for this year. I'm not sure about it yet. It occasionally has a mutant looking blossom where the center is like two 3/5 pieces of circles put together.
Cosmos and lilies
Gaillardia, "frenzy" - also new this year
Butterfly weed (flowers are even better with bees attached)
A kind of malva
Another missing tag on this type of coneflower
I usually end up writing Bloom Day posts in a rather tired and cataloging type mood. Last weekend, I taped the Tonys, but didn't get the opening number. I ended up hearing about it all week and watched it right before writing this post. I loved the number! I also realized that watching it helped me loosen up my writing.
I might post it this weekend for those who missed it.
I've cared less and less about writing as the winter and the spring have gone on, and I finally realized why. Was it the fact that we had at least one of us sick constantly from the end of January through Easter? Partly. Was it that, between missing daughter at college, being sad about my father-in-law, and being extremely lonely,* I turned most of my emotions off somewhere in the late winter? Partly. I didn't do it on purpose, and I didn't even realize that I had done it until after daughter got home from college, the emotions came back on, and I ended up crying at random times for an entire week. I think all the emotion from months was pouring out.
Last Friday, I realized another major part of why I haven't cared about writing.
I've always loved our family conversations - ranging over books, movies, politics, and lots and lots of ideas. We had another one of those conversations on Friday evening, but, instead of feeling happy and energized, I ended up feel tired and exhausted after it - even rather cranky. Why?!
I realized that, what with my recently greatly diminished conversational life, I've grown unused to having to put my thoughts about ideas into words.
I'll back up. Daughter said, quite a while ago, that she doesn't read my blog because I've already mentioned the ideas at the dinner table. In fact, I've always considered that any given day to be a failure - not if the house isn't cleaned or dinner is late - but if I don't have any new ideas, insights, or observations to bring up at dinner. Because of the way this winter and spring went, I totally got out of the habit of doing that. When he's out of town, my phone conversations with dear husband are usually late at night. We're both tired so they tend to be more a rundown of what went on during the day than like idea-filled dinner conversations.** If older son is tired, as he was for most of the semester, I don't ramble on at him at dinner. Younger son shouldn't be the only conversational outlet for me so I don't ramble on at him either.
Over the last few months, I've gotten more and more used to keeping my ideas to myself and not expressing them. Last Friday evening, I found that I was having a difficult time putting my ideas into words. I was totally out of the habit. I had gotten used to living inside my head.
So much for blogging.
It's not that I was totally isolated the first part of this year. We got out and had chats with people. Small talk, however, doesn't do the same thing for me as idea talk, and it doesn't come from the same place. I know that there are lots of people who don't want to get into ideas and prefer small talk so I'm careful not to impose my conversational style on them.
[Mini rant warning here]
I've read a number of places lately where introverts are criticized for not engaging in small talk, or for not liking it. This really ticks me off. I can do small talk and enjoy it, and I know when it's appropriate or expected. Sometimes it leads to deeper conversations, but most of the time it doesn't.
However, a constant diet of small talk without ever getting to other kinds of conversations eventually seems like constant foreplay without ever... coming to fruition. Don't get me wrong, foreplay is wonderful. Particularly in the right hands.*** Really, I find it much more... engaging than small talk so it's not the best comparison. I know that some people are most comfortable with small talk, and that's fine - as long as they're not self-righteous about it being the best kind of conversation. Because, for some of us, a constant diet of nothing but small talk is the equivalent of conversational blue balls.
[End of mini rant]
[Note: If you know me in person - THE PREVIOUS RANT DOES NOT MEAN THAT EVERY CONVERSATION I HAVE HAS TO BE DEEPLY PROFOUND. I'm talking about the impact that overall trends have had on me - not each individual conversation. If I usually have more casual conversations with you, that's fine!! It's not the small talk that irritates me - it's the people who are self righteous about small talk.][You know, I don't know many other bloggers who put caveats like this in so TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY!}
People who don't like small talk are often accused of "not caring about other people." Really? Because I'd rather discuss something we're both passionately interested about rather than discussing the weather?!
Actually, that's a bad analogy too. As a gardener, hiker, photographer, sunlight-lover, and general person-who-hungers-to-be-outdoors-but-gets-woozy-when-it's-too-hot-but-overdoes-it-anyway,*** the weather is a fairly significant thing for me. It often determines my mood.
I didn't totally get away from writing this winter/spring. I have a number of really angry posts that I never put on my blog. It seemed to be about the only thing I had the energy to write for a while.
The first half of this post was written on the front porch on the netbook while enjoying the breeze and listening to the birds. I can't write for too long on it. It's got one of the largest netbook keyboards (part of why I got this one), but, even so, I can't write for more than about 20 minutes. Maybe I'll get more used to it as time goes on.
I don't like navigating on the netbook (touch pad instead of the mouse and differently placed keys) so I actually do more writing when I'm writing on it that on the desktop computer because I don't get tempted to check Facebook or the news. I don't even edit while I write - I leave that for later on the big computer.
I'm hoping it will help me write more.
*The loneliness was due to a variety of things. Dear husband traveled a lot. Because younger son and I were sick a good bit of the time, we were stuck at home. Older son had his busiest semester so far so, even though he lives at home, we just saw him for about half an hour at dinner. The theater dance class at my longtime dance studio was cancelled so, although I did start a class at another studio, I didn't know anybody there. I also missed the people at the former studio - not only fellow classmates but the other parents that I got to know over the years that daughter took classes there. I could hang around and chat for a while with them after my class was over. Also, between being sick and general busy-ness of life, both for me and for friends, I didn't see much of them either.
What with daughter being home, older son having more time, summer musical rehearsals, and friends being more available and outside more, the last month has been dramatically different than the rest of the year. The only drawback is still dear husband's travel.
** You know those articles about how seldom families eat dinner together - that only happens with us because we're in different cities. If we have rehearsals or classes until 9:30 pm, dinner can occasionally be really late, but we make it a point to eat dinner together as often as we can - lunch too, if that's possible.
*** That sentence was dear husband's when I talked to him about this.
**** My current motto, given the unusually hot weather the last few weeks (mid to upper 90's - too hot for June!) is "Garden 'till you pass out." I finally got the last of the annuals planted yesterday. Now I just have to keep them alive.
[Totally irrelevant photo from the Wilmington, NC waterfront - from a post which I never got around to putting together.]