Monday, March 11, 2002

March 11-15, 2002

MARCH 11, 2002

Big news for our family last week: My son, who will be nine next week, learned how to tie his shoes! At least, I think he did. His teacher said so. She came rushing into the library where I was working on Wednesday to tell me that he paid attention for a very long time and tied a bow a bunch of times and what an exciting thing that is. I was excited, too, but could I get him to show me his new skill at home? No way. Not even the promise of Scooby Doo lace-up sneakers could get him to give me a demonstration.

And that's okay. We've been here before. With many of his major milestones -- walking, talking, potty training -- he's refused to perform until he could do it perfectly. So I'll let him practice and practice with the teacher, get all those frustrations out, in the knowledge that eventually, he'll tie me some bows in person. Sometime, I hope, before he turns ten. Or his feet get too big for Scooby shoes.

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MARCH 12, 2002

I didn't set out to watch the "9/11" documentary on CBS Sunday night, but I was flipping through channels and stopped there for a moment and got hooked. There was something mesmerizing about the "you are there" style of the thing, waiting for the bad stuff you knew was going to happen to happen. It was a striking piece of filmmaking in many ways, but I'm a little ashamed to say that the thing that struck me the most -- more than the depictions of disaster, more than the heroic actions of firefighters -- was the uncensored use of the "F" word on prime-time network TV. The camera was running through scenes of real-life trauma and tragedy and reunion and firefighters talked the way firefighters undoubtedly talk, the way any of us might talk in such an unimaginable situation, and CBS showed it all, bleep-free.

As they should have, certainly. Certainly the death and destruction of that day were far more obscene than any language could be, and there was no bleeping that. It didn't seem exploitive or intentionally boundary-breaking, just entirely incidental to the scenes being filmed. And yet, there was something jarring about it. Intentionally or not, a boundary was broken. You gotta believe TV writers and producers all over Hollywood are going to be eying the phenomenal ratings the documentary garnered and using them as proof that if you're telling a sufficiently dramatic story, people don't mind about bad language. I'd be surprised if that "NYPD Blue" squad room doesn't start sounding like that "9/11" firehouse any old episode now.

What I want to know is, how long until Lizzie McGuire and SpongeBob SquarePants start spouting undeleted expletives? As long as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon hold out, my kids' ears will be safe.

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MARCH 13, 2002

Well, add two more names to the list of celebrity adoptive parents. Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton have made their twosome a threesome with the addition of seven-and-a-half-month-old Maddox, who hails from Cambodia. According to a report on Yahoo News, the couple met their future son while visiting a Cambodian orphanage in November, underwent all that nasty paperwork over the course of four months and officially took custody of him on Sunday in Africa, where the new mom is working on a movie. They plan to raise the child both in the U.S. and in Cambodia, where they are shopping for property.

Now part of me feels all snarky when I read news like this. Celeb couple swoops in, picks a baby, flies through paperwork and has the kid wrapped and delivered to the locale of their choice. And how do people with such carefully cultivated reputations for bizarre behavior pass a homestudy, anyway? But I'm trying to keep a positive outlook in the New Year, and not speak negatively of people, so instead I'll reflect that it's always nice to see a positive adoption story. It's always good when a child finds a home. Even if celeb adoptions raise eyebrows, they do give adoption a certain cachet, and that can't be bad. And you know, if there's ever been a Mother with Attitude, it's going to be Angelina Jolie.

So I'm taking deep breaths, and wishing the new family nothing but happiness in their new homes. But hey, mom and dad? Wait for a while before giving the kid a tattoo, okay?

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MARCH 14, 2002

I've always been a little concerned about my daughter's taste in TV. And no, I don't mean the Disney channel sit-coms she spaces out in front of in the evenings; those are at least age appropriate. I'm talking about the fact that, at age 11 and in 4th grade, she's perfectly happy watching "Barney" after school, or taking in the entire baby-friendly Nick Jr. line-up on a day off from class. Should she really be able to sit through "Bob the Builder" and "Oswald" at her advanced age? It doesn't seem right, somehow, and sometimes I've felt a little embarrassed for her.

And yet... I have to admit, there are times when I see some value to her regressive viewing habits. Last night, for example, she had to memorize the order of the planets in our solar system for a quiz this morning, and we both broke into the song from "Blue's Clues" in which Steve names them all. (Oh, come on, join in with me, you toddler moms: "The sun's a hot star, and Mercury's hot too, Venus is the brightest planet, Earth's home to me and you, Mars is the red one, and Jupiter's most wide, Saturn's got those icy rings, and Uranus spins on its side, Neptune's really windy, and Pluto's really small, Well, we wanted to name the planets, and now we've named them all. Again!") My sometimes-memory-impaired girl can rattle off those rocks without a hitch now, and it's all thanks to Steve and Blue. Who's to say she won't one day have an assignment that will hinge on some long-lost "Barney" episode? It's pretty scary to think of, but you never know.

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MARCH 15, 2002

Lately, I've just been the best little mom in the world, serving my kids a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash-browns every morning before carting them off to school. Of course, they're the microwave variety, the kind you usually get served on airplanes, but the kids scarf them down and they're hot, all right. I'm usually dashing around like a crazy person trying to get these columns posted and get myself dressed and get backpacks filled and snacks made; the kids may eat alone, and I may eat a breakfast bar at my desk hours later, but I feel good knowing that they've had something that at least resembles real food.

And for lunch? Who knows what they eat. We pay for "hot lunch," but do they eat it? They say they do. They say they eat both the entree and the miscellaneous fruits and vegetables that go with. They say this, even though my daughter comes home so hungry she could eat a half a bag of cookies. My lunch responsibility is fulfilled by filling out the order form and writing out the check. Getting them to eat it should be someone else's responsibility. I don't know whose. But I've got breakfast covered.

Dinner is my husband's job, and it gets on the table eventually. Definitely before bedtime, sometimes just. My son is a pig at dinner, making up for any lack of appetite he's shown during the day. My daughter is exactly as picky as any other 11-year-old, contemptuous of peas and broccoli and anything not exactly like something she's eaten and enjoyed in the past. It often seems to take her hours to eat, and since I was young once, many centuries ago, I certainly recognize the "maybe if I eat my food one molecule at a time my parents will eventually get tired or bored and let me go away from here" strategy. It doesn't work, but I respect the effort. And I feel a secret satisfaction that however much she fights eating dinner, in the morning, she's always ready for eggs. I have a mean way with a microwave.

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