Wednesday, August 14, 2013

All I Could Never Be

There are some things I don’t miss about mothering my children. I was always such a bundle of nerves that every “first” terrified me. First night of sleeping all the way through?  She’ll never wake up!(even though she was months older hitting that milestone than my friends’ kids). First solid food? He’ll choke! (even though it’s fairly difficult to asphyxiate on runny rice cereal).  First walking? She’ll take a terrible fall! (even though she was only toddling three steps into my arms). And don’t get me started on first bike ride without training wheels! Agony! Even as I pretended to smile and cheer, inside I was jello. And old habits die hard. Just today, Sheridan took a swim in the very choppy bay waters and I didn’t take my eyes off him the whole time (and he’s—ahem—29 now).

Neurotic and panicky as I was, my five managed to get through their childhoods remarkably free of my quirks, and are all pretty darned adventurous now.  For example, last year Evan, Rose and Julie were on the Big Island of Hawaii together. In short order, Rose and Evan jumped off a cliff into the ocean; all three hiked a volcano, navigating rocks with oozing lava on them (they poked the orange
stuff with sticks, which immediately caught fire); they drove to the top of Mauna Kea at 2 AM on pitch dark and winding mountain roads to look at the spectacular display of stars. It would have been my Vacation from Hell, but they had a blast. 

All around me these days, my friends are becoming grandparents. One by one, Becky and Perrin and Sue and Janine and Mary Ellen are turning into “Nana,” “Granny," etc.  Someday it will be my turn, and while I can’t wait for the babies, I fervently hope I do not maintain my fever pitch of fear and worry about these precious children-to-be. 

I think of my Nana a lot down here at the shore.  Nana and her sister, my Aunt Rose, rented a cottage at Normandy Beach, NJ from Memorial Day to Labor Day every summer. As a treat, my sister Mo and I got to spend two weeks with them in early July. Nana loved us to distraction, but child care was definitely on her terms. On the sand, she plied us with a picnic hamper full of food—sandwiches, chips, cookies—and told us we had to wait 30 minutes to swim after eating. At the 29 minute mark, out would come more food. Took us quite awhile to catch on—she was really afraid to watch us in the ocean at all.

While I adored her, I don’t want to BE her. She, like my own mom, like me, was just too nervous. So what kind of Grandma do I want to be? Above all, cool and calm and serene. I want to rock my little ones, and soothe them, and reassure them that the world is a truly wonderful place.

Soooo….personality transplant, anyone?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No News Is...

“And that’s the way it is, Wednesday, May 9, 1973. This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News. Good night.”

“But the BIG story on Action News is (fill in the blank: house fire, overnight shooting, or car accident).”

Time was, I was a news junkie. No one could scoop me on happenings, around the block or around the world. I was a particular expert on pop culture. I loved the “feel good “stories, royal weddings and such, but also knew the rehab status of everyone from Elvis to Michael Jackson. I could hold my own when discussing the Middle East or dastardly doings on City Council.  We got the daily newspaper, which I devoured front to back. From acrimonious political campaigns to local cat ladies, from the space shuttle to space-y actors—I was virtually unstumpable.

At some point recently, the internet and cable TV, and the 24/7 barrage of data, overwhelmed me and I quit checking the news, cold turkey. I couldn’t begin to keep up with all the disgraced sports stars and toppled governments. Plus, it was all too depressing! I yearn for a simpler time, when the manageably-sized morning paper was flung onto your porch, and the avuncular network anchor told you what you needed to know every night at 6 PM.  Now, it has to be a pretty darned big story to get my attention…only disasters or scandals on an epic scale register on my info-meter. It’s all too, too much to process, at least for me. I figure, if it impacts me directly I’ll hear about it. Otherwise, ignorance is bliss!

My sole exception? NPR in the car. For some reason, I can handle the flow of events when chronicled on “All Things Considered” or “Morning Edition.”  And I ONLY listen in the car (perhaps because my alternatives are the classical station that plays mainly obscure works by the 19th century Alsatian composer Gustav Snortfelter, or rock with tons of commercials.) Catch me after a long road trip and I’ll tell you what’s happening, locally and globally. On my ridiculously brief daily trek to work, I’m lucky if I can get Shadow Traffic and the daily weather forecast before I arrive at the office. 

 So I am one of the poorly informed these days, and I hate it. I’m at least 2 presidents behind in Egypt, and I may be the only person on the planet who doesn’t know the name of Kate and William’s baby (I was pushing for Spike—was I right?) I take a deep breath and flip on the set, and am immediately turned off by all the SHOUTING (note to Fox and MSNBC alike: volume does not equal effectiveness).

Is there a kinder, gentler way to ease back in to following the news? Perhaps a return to the weekly Gazette circa 1776, complete with ye olde spelling? Nope, Pandora’s box is opened and there’s no going back. But I wonder, do today’s kids know more of our collective story—or less?