There are moments when I look at my son, him sitting at the kitchen table dutifully crunching up cereal while staring at a picture of a sea turtle, and I feel this surge of warmth and joy and love. It’s overwhelming, and I often clutch my chest because my heart feels like it may just expand beyond what it made to bear or cave in on itself. And sometimes, acting on that swirl of pride and adoration, I reach out for his little, caramel face, and I kiss him over and over and smell the crook of his neck and nibble his cheeks and rub his nose with mine until he bursts out in a fit of giggles.
I love this child with everything that I am, everything that I have, and then some more.
Then, when he randomly looks my way, me helping him unzip a stubborn coat zip, slicing his tuna sandwich in fours or just minding my own biz reading a magazine sitting next to him, and he says, “Mom, I love you. I love how you were made,” that everything-love takes over again. It’s sweet and beautiful and something I hope every human is fortunate enough to feel.
I thought about that everything-love while reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book, The Lowland. There’s a chapter where a daughter is talking to her father. They are lying in her bed at night just before she’s to go to sleep, when she holds her father’s face in her small hands. She asks her dad, “Do you love me?” He, of course, tells her yes. She responds:
“I love you more.”
“More than what?” the dad says.
“I love you more than anybody loves anybody.”
Here Lahiri writes: He wondered how such powerful emotions, such superlative devotion, could exist in such a small child.
I read the section twice, because I often wonder the same thing — but both ways. How could such powerful emotions exist in this little kid, and also in me? I guess the simple answer is, That’s just how love works. And all of it could fit under the Joy of Parenthood category.
But then there’s the flip side to this golden coin: those moments when my son is not being sweet. Instead, he’s being crabby, whiny, stubborn like that coat’s zipper. Obviously, I still love him in those moments, but I’m definitely not feeling pangs of joy. I’m annoyed. I’m frustrated. I’m rolling my eyes. I’m frowning. I’m repeating myself for the 40th time (fine! Nagging. I’m nagging!)
I’m not joyful. I’m parenting.
This paradox — the joy and strain — is what Jennifer Senior’s new book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, talks about. Senior, a journalist and mother of a young son, drills deep into what it means to be a parent today. Through impressive research and honest interviews with a group of middle-class parents, Senior delivers an engrossing snapshot of the hard, “high cost, high reward,” overwhelming job of raising children.
I’ve read nearly all of the reviews of this book (there have been many; all glowing) and I’ve also listened to several interviews with Senior, and the consensus from these early readers is clear : This book will make you think differently about parenthood and parenting.
I’m. all. in. You had me at Jennifer Senior, frankly. I’ve long been a fan of her work for New York Magazine, where she is a contributing editor. In fact, MMM just featured her last cover story for NYMag all about the stress that is raising teenagers.
I haven’t been this excited to get my hands on a parenting book since Madeline Levine’s Teach Your Children Well two years ago. Looking forward to my copy coming this way soon.
Actually, maybe you should get a little excited too, because … GIVEAWAY TIME! That’s right, one of you good people will win your own copy of All Joy and No Fun. And here’s how you can enter this All Joy, All Fun giveaway …
Do one or all of the follow:
- Leave a comment below about the paradox
- Like Ms. Mary Mack’s Facebook page* (This one is mandatory.)
- Tweet about the giveaway (limit: once a day)
Good luck! Maybe we can read it together.
Yesterday I wrote about the “Room For Debate” piece in the New York Times that asked the question, In adoption, does race matter? But after walking away from it, something kept bothering me. Bothered me to the point that I’m here writing about it today. And it’s this:
How is a conversation about race and adoption happening WITHOUT even one transracial adoptive parent weighing in?
Now, I highly doubt that the organizer of this NYT roundtable intentionally excluded transracial adoptive parents from the debate. Let’s call it an oversight. However, it points to the broader issue of failure of representation. The same issue that bubbles up throughout the book I’m writing, Nope! Not the Nanny. Too many important conversations about race, parenthood, privilege, and rights are being held well outside of our — mothers of color, mothers of mixed heritage families — earshot. This underserved and often marginalized community of mothers (and fathers) need to be in the room, sitting at the table so that we may speak up about our real-world, real-time challenges, and be duly counted and considered.
Just yesterday evening I heard back from the same mom (of the cute-pie brown bear) who sent me the NYT debate link; she was sharing this ridiculous story: Her mother was at a Super Bowl party on the weekend and decided to do what Grandmas do. She was showing off pictures of her new grandson. A white woman at the party took a look a photo and dropped this line: “Cute. I just hope he doesn’t turn out like Obama!”
*blink … blink … mouth ajar*
What in the hot hell? Listen, lady. Don’t let us all collectively take off our earrings!
Fine. Let’s say this woman’s comment was about her political beef with President Obama. Why go the ignorant, meant route? Just leave it at “Cute.”
I know another mother whose close friend asked her “why don’t you go for a regular white baby” when she was told that this woman — dealing with years of fertility challenges — was planning to adopt a child from South Asia.
It’s galling. It’s rude. It’s hurtful, maddening and so unnecessary. These women, mothers, parents, who are facing the comments and the judgement and the wrong-headed assumptions daily as they try to build confidence, culture, and a rooted identity in their children, they are the people I want to hear answer the question: Does race matter?
Related: Longtime friend of MMM, Kristin, sent me a link to Barneys New York’s Spring 2014 campaign: Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters. The campaign features photographs of “17 extraordinary men and women, transgender individuals with diverse experiences and unique personal stories.”
Meet Ryley Pogensky (center) with his grandparents, Leonard and Gloria, as well as with fellow model Valentijn (left), whose story will be featured in the campaign next week. More proof of the glorious and beautifully updated face of the American Family.
Remember to “Like” Ms. Mary Mack on Facebook. Things are always on and poppin’ over there. Plus, there’s usually some fun giveaway happening, too. You don’t want to miss it!
A friend, who recently adopted this sweet baby boy, shared a link to the latest “Room For Debate” piece from the New York Times. This friend is white, her chubby, little bear is black, and the debate this week is: In Adoption, Does Race Matter?
I finally got to read through it (none of the “debates” are terribly long — don’t worry. It was just Monday being Monday.). There are some solid points made by all five debaters. Like this one by Syracuse law professor and author Kevin Noble Maillard, who also organized the conversation:
“Interracial adoption shouldn’t be such a completely black or white issue. The complexity is not going anywhere, so we should promote and embrace the gray.”
However, none of the pieces — except maybe that of Twila L. Perry, a professor at Rutgers School of Law in Newark — delved into the gray of this issue. Perry answered the original question most directly:
“Race matters in adoptions because race matters in America.”
No one really moved the needle on the conversation — which is a complex one, for sure. There is no obvious “right” answer here, but I think the piece would have benefited by hearing from families of transracial adoption, parents keenly aware that “love is not enough,” trying to sort through the heavy, real-world challenges of figuring out identity and raising children who do not “look” like you.
All said, the NYT piece is a good read, and I would definitely like to hear your thoughts.
Do weigh in below!
Remember to “Like” Ms. Mary Mack on Facebook. Things are always on and poppin’ over there. There’s a giveaway going on right now, and all you have to do is make a comment over there to maybe walk away a winner!
“Mom, am I taking home-lunch to school — for real?!”
The level of excitement at this prospect was just too sweet. My son’s preschool serves hot lunch, plus two snacks. We parents get a calendar print-out with the menu for the full month. It’s fantastic. The kids get delicious food that’s healthy (fruit is served with everything), and they are also introduced to new things (hummus, lo mein) that they might not have tried at home. And the group dynamic thing helps too, i.e., since all their little buddies are trying the new/different/weird food, they probably will as well.
Then there’s the “no thank you” bite, which is adorable and effective. The kids are taught that if they’re served something at lunch or snack that they don’t want to eat (because it looks strange or green or wet or crunchy or whatever kid complaint you’ve heard), then they should at least take a “no thank you” bite before completely dissing the dish. As you can imagine, often they’ll take the one bite and then want to take another because, hey, this green/wet/crunchy thing ain’t so bad.
Yesterday, my son asked if he could take a banana to school. More specific, he wanted that banana and he asked if his name could be written on it. Turns out, one of his classmates always brings a banana to school … yes, with their name on it.
Easy enough. Done. He and I wrote his name on the peel with a Sharpie. (For a split second I thought about this dad’s commitment, buuuuutt that passed, quickly. Listen, hats off to that guy, but mama’s on deadline and the essay wasn’t going to write itself.)
As we were talking about fruits and lunch, The Youngster asked if he could take home-lunch to school as well. One of his class friends “always bring home-lunch, and I want to try that too.” We were five minutes away from leaving, so I told him he could do so the next day. We then plotted out what kinds of things he would take: tuna sandie, raisins, fruit gummies, and an apple. Yaaay, he cheered. This kid was super hyped. About lunch. Well, all right! No complaints from this gal.
The whole exchange reminded me of something I heard on “This American Life” last week. The episode was called “Stuck in the Middle,” and in the prologue we’re introduced to a mom named Rachel. She has two boys: Elias, 7, and Theo, 5. The older brother is a vegetarian. Actually, I should say, he’s an ALL CAPS VEGETARIAN, as in he doesn’t eat meat — hasn’t since he was 3 or 4 years old — and doesn’t want anyone else to eat it either. Especially not his brother.
Theo wants to eat meat sometimes, like pepperoni on Pizza Day at school. Elias gets really angry about it. This all causes a lot of conflict between the siblings. So much so, Theo calls his brother The God of Food, and really resents that Elias tries to control what he eats.
A year into Elias’ vegetarianism, he asked that no one else in the house eat meat either. Rachel and her husband gave it some thought and actually stopped eating meat. When this is revealed in the show, host Ira Glass calls out the exact thing I was thinking: How is a 7-year-old making the decisions on what the family eats?
The mom concedes that, on paper, it seems like this kid is running things, but says that if you were to hear Elias talk about meat and vegetarianism, you would immediately see why the family acquiesced. (I’m not all the way convinced, but then I’m big on establishing a balance of power in the family and parenting in the lead. Bending to a child’s demands will often create more challenges for you a parent. My two cents.) Elias is deeply emotional about animals being killed to feed humans. In fact, Elias is so disturbed by people eating meat that he freaks out and often ends up crying. For example, he got so upset smelling meat cooking in the kitchen and watching people eat their meals at a restaurant that he had to go sit up front by the door alone.
Theo started lying to his brother, willfully, about his meat-eating, even sneaking out with his dad to have turkey sandwiches behind Elias’ back. (Really, Dad? Come on. Not helping.) The mom feels caught in the middle. Both boys have strong feelings — and strong personalities — about their food choices, and she doesn’t want to crush either one of them.
Can you imagine, though? This daily dance has got to be frustrated and, frankly, annoying. What would you do if you were Rachel? How do you juggle both of your children’s choices and allay their concerns? Is there a middle ground? Leave your comments below. Always like hearing your take!
Remember to “Like” Ms. Mary Mack on Facebook. Things are always on and poppin’ over there. I heard there’s even cake sometimes. Plus, legit giveaways. You don’t want to miss it!