Tag Archives: Childhood

Five Ways To Stay Positive While You Move

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

We’re moving in exactly one week. And so I’m pretty single-minded right now. When I’m not actually doing something connected to the move, I’m thinking about the move.

I’ve fessed up before to just how very much I hate moving. (Some would say irrationally so. I name no names.) But I’m also trying to take my own advice from last week’s volcanic ash crisis and remind myself that “Ce n’est pas gràve.”

And it really isn’t all that “gràve.” In fact, there are a lot of positives that emerge when you move house and they aren’t just the simple pleasures of decluttering.

In that spirit, here are five ways to stay upbeat during a move:

1. Reconnect with your kids’ childhood. One of Gretchen Rubin’s four splendid truths is that “The days are long but the years are short.” She employs this principle to capture what it’s like to be a parent:  how those long, seemingly endless days of reading Good Night, Moon and potty-training dissolve – overnight – into adolescence. Her point is that you really need to savor your kids’ childhood while it lasts because while it may feel long in the day to day, it’s actually fleeting. (I had this same realization last year while re-reading Peter Pan with my daughter.)

Moving helps you to savor their childhood. Because of the many things you unearth as you re-open those frightening storage containers that you hid in the depths of your closet when you first moved in are the myriad art projects, report cards, essays and birthday cards that your kids have done over the years. My own favorite was a picture that my son drew when his (quite progressive) nursery school did a unit on Martin Luther King. I’d forgotten all about this picture, which used to hang above the desk in my old office. It depicts a sort of Monsters, Inc.-style version of MLK addressing an audience with a disproportionately large microphone while saying “I hope that one day Black people and White people can be friends.” Priceless.

2. Reconnect with your own past. You may not have any kids. But you’ll still be forced to take a trip down memory lane as you yank stuff out  of those dusty old cupboards. I found a pair of my father’s orthopedic shoes. He left them here on his last visit to London in October of 2008. We saved them so that we could give them back to him on his next visit. But he never came back. He died, suddenly, of a heart attack in March, 2009. Back when he was alive, I hated those shoes. They were large and clunky and a visible reminder that the body of a man who used to take jump shots in our driveway well into his 50s was slowly giving out on him. (It ended up giving out on him much more quickly than we expected.) But seeing those shoes again actually made me happy. They were a tangible reminder of his presence in our lives. And I needed that.

3. Allow yourself to let go of the *shoulds*. I’ve written before about how many of us go through life tethered to an endless list of things that we feel we ought to be doing, yet never quite manage to accomplish: making photo albums, reading the Bible, joining a gym. During the course of going through my files the other day, I came across some notes from a Hebrew class that I took while pregnant with my son and which I’ve schlepped around with me for (gulp) ten years. The thought was that some day I’d get my act together and really learn Hebrew. Well folks, I still haven’t let go of the goal of figuring out my relationship to Judaism. But I think that I’ve finally acknowledged to myself that despite my best intentions, that process will not entail learning Hebrew (a least for the foreseeable future.) Toss. Ditto my hopes of ever actually using that over-sized fish poacher that we got for our wedding. After twelve years doing noble service as a de facto spice rack, I think it’s finally time for me to dispatch that particular item from our lives. Phew.

4. Imagine new vistas literally and figuratively. One of the most exciting things about moving is that it offers the prospect of a whole new neighborhood to discover. There will be new cafés, new book stores, new dry cleaners – not to mention new neighbors!  I love change so imagining these things is always a way to motivate myself when I just don’t feel like calling the Gas company to request new service or whatever arduous task lies at hand. It’s a bit like singing My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music, if you’ll forgive the cheesy Musical analogy. And change in one’s physical scenery can also furnish a new take on life psychologically. Out with the old and in with the new, and all that good stuff. I really believe that.

5. Trust that things will be better once you make it to the other side. Like childbirth, if you really remembered all the gory details, you’d never move more than once in your life. And yet, most of us do it several times. So, yes, moving is painful but it also does come to an end. And when the clouds part, there’s a whole new world to explore.

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For those of you who’d like to hear my latest thoughts on this unbelievably exciting British election, please head on over to PoliticsDaily.com.


Image: Statue of Dr. Martin Luther King by zug55 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Why Don't Europeans Like Kids?

So I opened my Facebook account early this morning and came across this gem.

A friend of mine had linked to an essay at the BBC by a woman named Joanna Robertson. It was about  a new ordinance in Berlin making it legal for children to make noise between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 pm. That’s right. The Germans had to pass a law in order for children to be…well, children.

When you read the author’s very funny account of what it’s like to raise a child in Germany, you may be a bit taken aback. As she reports, “‘Excessive child noise’ warranted a police call-out to our building for the crying of a newborn baby and, one Saturday afternoon, a group of cheerful 12-year-olds playing a game of Monopoly.”

And it’s not just in Berlin where things are rough for kids. Robertson also describes the rigorous and hyper-centralized French educational system her daughter was forced to endure, as well as the prohibition on getting your kids’ clothes dirty in Italy.

My friend on Facebook added this comment to her link: “Interesting comparison – wish they’d included London!”

Funny she should ask. One of the very first essays I published after moving to London a few years back was tellingly entitled “Where Have All the Playgrounds Gone?” It ran in the International Herald Tribune and it was an account – based on my then-newbie American eyes – of just how eye-poppingly different British expectations of childhood were from those I’d experienced in America.

As I wrote at the time: “Drama classes don’t advertise creativity; they talk about self-confidence, public-speaking and diction. Swimming lessons are not about making kids more comfortable in the water. They’re about learning the backstroke, dammit!

(Of course, Americans are also annoying in their own right. Robertson notes the advice she got from one American parenting coach about how her family should all just “sleep together on cushions on the floor and switch to unpasteurized milk.”)

So today – to let the world know that it’s not just Germany and France – but all of Europe that seems to want children to grow up really quickly, I’m going to link to that early pre-blog essay I wrote on parenting culture in the U.K. and my own reactions therein.

Enjoy.

Image: Pondering At The Playground by christopherdale via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Speaking of kids, I am off to the hospital for the last of my son’s in-hospital allergy tests. The score so far: Peanuts: win. Milk: loss. Let’s hope that sesame is more than a draw…

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

This Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I thoroughly enjoyed this in-depth description of what it’s *really* like to read something on the Kindle by Nicholson Baker in last week’s New Yorker. Especially loved how he threw in the odd literary reference throughout the piece. Fun writing!

2. Beautifully written piece on The Wilderness of Childhood by Michael Chabon in the New York Times Book Review about a month or so ago that I just discovered. The sentiment isn’t all that original but the writing is.

3. Slate ran a thought-provoking series entitled “The End of America” this week by Josh Levin. Among the things he contemplates:  climate change, totalitarian rule and Mormonism. Pick your pleasure.

4. This was a particularly moving account of the impact of the recession on one family in the Washington Post.

5. My two cents on a new immigration reform proposal here in the UK over at politicsdaily.com.

6. Finally, in the realm of “just because,” here are Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Penny.

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Tips for Adulthood: Five Signs that You Feel Nostalgic for Your Childhood

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s post builds on yesterday’s post about whether or not kids are growing up too quickly. Today, in a nod to my own early years, I post about five signs that you’re feeling nostalgic for your childhood:

1. You have an inappropriate attachment to Monopoly. You know it’s bad when you hold up Monopoly as the paragon of a “real game” to your kids (unlike that “junk” they play on the computer). As a recent article in Wired magazine points out, Monopoly is actually a really stupid game because the only strategic question is “buy or not buy” and you spend the whole time trying to reduce your opponent to dust. And yet, I still find myself oddly drawn to the role of deeder (or whatever you call that person who hands out the properties). Then again, my conception of a video game doesn’t extend much beyond Pacman, so maybe that’s what I really ought to be concerned about.

2. You still buy candy necklaces. And eat them. What? Am I the only one who does this?

3. You tear up at children’s concerts. Worse, you sing along. Especially when someone plays Puff the Magic Dragon. The worst part is, it doesn’t have to be my kids who are singing. I was at a farmer’s market a few years back when this pudgy 11 year old girl from the local junior high got up and sang Tomorrow (from Annie). Before I knew it, tears began to slowly fall across my face. Someone next to me asked if the little girl was my child. “Um…no,” I was forced to reply. “I just like this song.”

4. You wish you had a mood ring. Remember those? The ones that told you what mood you were in by the color of the ring? Mine always seemed to be black, which I think meant “nervous.” Pretty much tells you all you need to know about my childhood.

5. You still find yourself attracted to Luke Skywalker. My son had a play date recently with another little boy and they started arguing over whether or not Anakin Skywalker was ugly. (Read here for a great article by Slate’s Emily Bazelon about the enduring appeal of Star Wars for little boys.) I suddenly felt compelled to jump in and defend Luke’s looks. The little boy turned to me and said: “Oh! Do you fancy Luke? He looks very smart.” At which point I had to admit begrudgingly that, yes, I do in fact fancy Luke.

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In case you missed it – and because it’s already making the rounds of the Mommy Blog circuit – here’s a link to Ayelet Waldman’s remarkably candid interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where she talks about her new book, Bad Mother.

Image: New Monopoly Board by Vinduhl via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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