Friday, October 24, 2008

Not for Love or Money, But a Tic-Tac?

In response to a post by amodernmother, I started thinking about how we so often end up bribing our kids either to speed things along or get our own way without a fight.

Her kid ended up getting a lollipop for going to preschool to avoid a scene in front of other parents.

Oh, I know the feeling. With a 3-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl, I'll do anything sometimes to get the boy to acquiesce.

Luckily, preschool isn't such an issue so far, but he is SO enjoying the knock-down-drag-out-all-out-screaming tantrum these days. I'm all for expressing oneself, but they are so tiresome.

A friend told me that she rewards her (same age) son with a single Tic-Tac (a tiny candy, half the size of an M&M) if he is well-behaved in the store. Her son is a much more docile kid than my little bulldozer/talk-show-host, so it works for them.

Gullible me thought, "Oh! This is a great idea. He'll anticipate the reward and behave nicely."

Ha! Now, all I hear when we are in the car is, "Can I have some candy? I'm good! I behave! Can I have some candy? Can I have some candy? Mama, I want some candy!"

I chose to stick with it, only because I don't want to switch gears on him and be wishy-washy.

Every so often, when he's been unconsciously sweet and well-behaved in public, I'll present him with this tiny white or orange ellipsoidal treat and he's euphoric. "CANDY!"

He holds it reverently between his thumb and finger and gazes lovingly at it while licking it gently and talking about it. If we're walking, he either drops it, crunches it up, or swallows it by accident. But seated in the car, one Tic-Tac lasts between 5 and 10 minutes. Now that's bliss.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Giant New Penis

So, I’m sitting beside the tub, flipping through the New Yorker and supervising my three-year-old son’s nighttime bath. My son, a.k.a. “the boy,” is lying on his tummy blowing bubbles into the bubbly bath water and talking to himself. A normal evening so far.

Then he stands up with the biggest boner ever and says, “Mommy, can you fix my giant, new penis?” I’ve never seen a little boy boner before, and hope to be spared ever seeing it again, frankly. It’s not a thing I want to think about. Ever. He pushed at it, trying to flatten it out, looking at me for help.

The magazine flipped up to cover my face while I tried not to laugh. “That’s normal, Honey. It’ll go away in a while. Just ignore it.” What do I know about erections? I’ve never had one. Can you ignore it? It was obviously irritating him (not for long, my dear, I know that much).

So he goes back to playing with the bubbles and I try to get back into my article. Then I notice he’s sitting up and squeezing his little woody with both hands. “Don’t hurt your penis, Honey,” I say, hoping I’m not endangering his relationship with his pointy little pecker by saying “don’t.”

He looks up with a frown. “I’m squeezing the water out of it!” Oh. Hmm. “I don’t think you need to do that, Sweetie. It’ll go away eventually.” He looks at it disgustedly and shifts his bum.

“Can we go to the doctor? He’ll fix it and I’ll get a red lollipop!” Oh, Hell, no.

“No, Honey. We don’t need to go to the doctor. Just lie on your back and it’ll go away.” Please go away! Go away and let me read this article about Obama becoming President and not think about my little boy becoming a penis-wielding teenager. Not yet! Give me a few more years of little boy stuff. Cars and trucks and airplanes, oh, my! Go away big penis! Go away!

It went away. But it’ll be back. Hopefully, Daddy will be on bath duty next time and can talk about it a little more with him. Not that I’m shy about body parts around the kids, ‘cuz I’m not. Getting dressed is a family activity in our house.

But these kind of questions: What is it supposed to feel like? How long will it last? Should I be scared? What is normal? Well, I’m leaving them up to Daddy, who can speak from direct, personal experience. ‘nuff said.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Evolution and (Progressive) Politics

As far as this presidential race is concerned, let’s keep one thing in mind.

Evolution, as we know it through scientific research and determination, concerns character traits which give some creatures a better chance of propagation and survival over others, right? So, that’s where the phrase, “survival of the fittest” originates. The fastest, wiliest, sneakiest, meanest, most something, of whatever species, is the one who will make babies and survive to raise them to adulthood.

But humans aren’t evolving physically anymore, or at least not at a currently measurable rate. We’ve already got the really big brains and the opposable thumbs. Physically, we’re at the top of our game. So if it isn’t our thumbs or our brains (shut up, you perverts), what’s left to evolve?

Social Character Traits. Strengths, skills, attitudes, abilities and behaviors in general that assist the greater society to improve its collective rate of survival.
“Survival of the fittest” doesn’t apply anymore. Nor does, “every man for himself.” We don’t choose mates who are good hunters or breeders. We choose mates who are socially mobile and mesh well in the greater context of society. Societal evolution has changed us from hunter-gatherers to social connection makers and facilitators.

So, what’s your point? My point is that in this election, more now than in any previous election, we need to choose the man who will bring our society forward, and up to the next level of our evolution. Frankly, we’ve stagnated a bit since the fall of Rome. Yes, of course, art, science, medicine, mathematics, and academic thought in general has developed fantastically in the centuries since the fall.

What I’m talking about now is electing a leader who will take what we have, the way it’s always been, and bump our society into making the evolutionarily necessary changes required for us to survive as a species. As a species, and as a country, we need to move away from the status quo thinking of, “well, we’ve always done it that way,” and toward a type of thinking that encourages change and philanthropic thought patterns that affect everyone positively.

Warmongers won’t help us evolve. Facilitators who possess strong empathy and foresight and communication skills will. This leader has the ability to negotiate positively with adversaries, or with societies whose mores conflict with ours, and facilitate a win-win relationship, not a conqueror-conquered relationship with them.

Building relationships and accessibility to communication and education, not bombing cities and citizens and citadels, is how we will move up to the next stage of our societal evolution. We have the pieces pretty well defined for how we can move up the ladder, now we need someone who can collect and place all the pieces in a way that will allow all of us, globally, to use that knowledge to take a big step forward.

Enough with the rights of individual groups. Why can’t all of us have the rights we need to thrive? I’m not talking about making the most money or having the most things. I mean thrive, in the sense of growing and learning and becoming the best possible iteration of ourselves possible, both as individuals and as a society.

Our children do not thrive when we still go to war. Our children do not thrive when we continue to group society’s into us and them or right and wrong. Different isn’t wrong or worse. Building a bigger army isn’t going to bring us closer to our friends and enemies. But bringing our friends and enemies closer to understanding and sharing life with us will build a stronger global society and eliminate the need for bully tactics and posturing. It doesn’t matter what we believe; all religion is counter-evolutionary. It holds us back and requires us to adhere to behaviors that were valued more than 2000 years ago. What is important now is what we know.

A leader who facilitates evolutionary thought processes will bring us toward global peace, responsibility and stewardship.

Who will that be? Barack Obama. Not because he has any particular plan, but because he is capable of thinking ahead, off the track of “what we always do,” and because he has a personal viewpoint that is counter to the entire history of political decision-makers. Historically, our leaders have always come from the privileged class of educated, white, land-owning men. Never have we had a leader whose personal experience represented so closely the average, current American citizen. Of course we’re not all lawyers or as educated as Obama, but he and we have all experienced struggle in a way that the white men in the economic top 10% never have. Not getting into the college of your choice isn’t the same as working 2 jobs to put food on the table. Losing money on the stock market isn’t the same as not getting a job because of your skin color or country of origin (and don’t think it doesn’t still happen). The fact that a man’s name, something not of his own choosing, is held against him as a good reason not to elect him, shows how far we need to go and how much we need Obama’s leadership to get us there.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Family Photos, or Why Can't We Look Normal?

Family photos are next week. They always seem to creep up on me. So I spend the two days right before them searching for clothing that will flatter us all (me especially). Kids look cute in anything, and if it’s dorky they can blame their parents 20 years from now. I, however, being an apple pants must search for just the right pieces of clothing so as not to loom over my family like Jamama the Hutt or the Staypuff Marshmallow Mama.

Last year we ended up in jeans and black shirts, which looked great. But can we do that two years in a row? Does that make it a tradition? I won’t complain if I end up wearing black in all my family photos. Our mothers always told us (everyone together now), “Black is slimming.” Who doesn't like to be slimmed?

Will we be able to tell the years apart after 5 years of black and blue photos? The kids will be the barometer, I know. At least this year the boy (age three) has a decent haircut. Last year, my girlfriend, and fellow mama (gal-o mama?), cut his hair the week before the photos and did a great job until he moved his head. So that collection of pictures features bi-level bangs on a 2-year-old boy. Well, not so much bi-level as bangs with a big chunk cut out.

Oh, and yesterday, the girl (age one) fell and whacked her tender little cheek on the ground. So she has a lovely blue bruise on her cheekbone. So now it’s, “Family photo with abused daughter,” NOT. I can’t pad them and restrain them for weeks before a photo, so we just have to go along with whatever slip of the scissors or onrushing terrain comes their way.

Will some new catastrophe come our way in the next few days? Oh, I’m sure of it. Like life in its greater context, metaphorical bruises and bad haircuts will plague our paths throughout our lives. Panic or ignore them, just don’t be paralyzed by them. At least the blue bruise will bring out the color in her eyes.