no mean happiness

Lori Gottlieb's article "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy," in The Atlantic Monthly (which had nothing new to say but got lots of press because it's on a subject people love to flog on an on (I wonder if Gottlieb is any relation to a reporter named Gottlieb who writes "stories" for my hometown rag that combine a remarkable lack of content with blatant small-town sensationalism, like "Sequim model shown on Playboy website")) had this one rather interesting paragraph:

“We want our kids to be happy living the life we envision for them—the banker who’s happy, the surgeon who’s happy,” Barry Schwartz, the Swarthmore social scientist, told me, even though those professions “might not actually make them happy.” At least for parents of a certain demographic (and if you’re reading this article, you’re likely among them), “we’re not so happy if our kids work at Walmart but show up each day with a smile on their faces,” Schwartz says. “They’re happy, but we’re not. Even though we say what we want most for our kids is their happiness, and we’ll do everything we can to help them achieve that, it’s unclear where parental happiness ends and our children’s happiness begins.”

(Btw, if you found Gottlieb's article depressing, here's a good antidote from Dr. Laura Markham. (Not that Dr. Laura. This one's an attachment parenting proponent, which I don't altogether agree with, but I find her blog is really useful to keep my parenting focused on my son's needs rather than my own baggage.))

It strikes me that with all the energy this generation is putting into child-rearing, we are missing the obvious.Someone should conduct a study of the childhoods of the world's most successful people, and write a parenting manual based on it. I think it would go something like this:

Chapter 1: Give your child very little attention so that s/he will go to great lengths to earn your love and approval.
Chapter 2: Raise your child in poverty so that s/he will be hungry enough to stay manically focused on amassing wealth.
Chapter 3: Expose your child to violent oppression so that s/he will become passionately dedicated to eradicating it.

Et cetera.


Book Review

Lovejoy: A Year in the Life of an Abortion ClinicLovejoy: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic by Peter Korn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating and compelling. I don't read nonfiction unless it's got enough of a narrative to keep me turning the pages, and this one more than fits the bill. More importantly, it's an unblinkingly honest look at what abortion really means, to the women who face that most difficult of choices, and the medical providers who make that choice possible. Including a detailed description of a second-semester abortion that was very, very hard to read--the sort of thing I could imagine encountering in pro-life literature. And yet I think it would be impossible to read this book and walk away thinking women should be denied that choice.

View all my reviews

Book Review

Alias GraceAlias Grace by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That rare gem: a page-turning plot that makes you think deeply about universal issues, peopled with compellingly flawed characters and rendered in lip-smackingly delicious prose. Highly recommended for anyone. And it would be a great movie. Imdb says it's in development--I hope it gets made.

View all my reviews


most courteous feathers

Last night I watched the three Law & Order: LAs on my DVR and felt like I'd accomplished something. Had I watched three Law & Orders in a row on a TNT marathon I would have felt like a lazy goodfornothing slob, but because they were waiting for me on DVR and I cleared out the queue it felt virtuous. Yet another reason DVR is awesome.
I got Nugget a new Spiderman shirt over the weekend, which blew his little toddler mind, and when he arrived at school on Monday I reminded him that he should show his friends his new shirt--a way to distract him from the fact that I was dropping him off at school and leaving, because dropoff has been difficult since his best friend changed schools.

It worked. He swaggered (seriously. he swaggers. it kills me.) into the other room, holding his sweatshirt open and throwing his chest out. He does the same thing with his Superman and Batman shirts. We could be sitting around eating dinner or something and suddenly he'll yank open his sweatshirt and yell "Supermyaaaan!" Just like that, with the "y" in "myaan."

And it wasn't the first time I'd used his obsession with licensed clothing--Toy Story and Cars are also favorites--to smooth the way at dropoff. Yesterday it occurred to me afterward: am I putting too much emphasis on material things? Does he think he needs a cool new t-shirt every week for kids to like him? And how do the other kids feel about it, that he's always coming in saying look at my cool new shirt or check out my temporary tattoo (yes. those too.)?

So it's started, already. Mostly in my head, probably, but I now know how unprepared I am to watch him navigate the social minefields to come.


is he not stupid*

From the toddler development newsletter produced by Northwestern Memorial Hospital: "Research suggests that a child's vocabulary at 4.5 years of age is the single strongest predictor of overall first-grade achievement." And as we all know, "first grade achievement" is a significant predictor of ... uh ... what? SAT scores? Income level? Risk factors for alzheimer's? Holy shit, I'd better get out the flashcards and start cracking the whip on my Nugget.

*my 200th post!


count them happy that enjoy the sun?

I haven't posted in quite a while, although I have a half-dozen abandoned draft posts in the queue. I'm not sure what or why but I've been avoiding something here. When I start to write I feel that reluctance you feel when you're getting vulnerable and you're not quite ready. For some reason I just don't want to live the examined life right now. MY GOD, what is it I'm hiding in there? What is it that makes me shrink from opening the door to my inner consciousness?? What will I find??? Or maybe I've been reading too much Virginia Woolf.

And now I have a great excuse for any sort of procrastination or avoidance: my study program for the Washington bar has begun in earnest, and I am Buckled. Down. To the blanket spread out on my sun-dappled lawn, with my head resting on a contentedly snoring dog. I'm getting serious, here. Do not disturb.