Saturday, November 25, 2006

Parental Guidance Suggested

My oldest child is a "tween." (Sidebar: He doesn't resemble any of the kids after that jump.)

I hate the word tween, but unfortunately it pretty well describes him. I've seen him struggle being the (way) oldest child sitting patiently at the Children's Sermon at church. Being the oldest volunteer in the group, when the youngest are not even school-aged. His siblings are six and nearly 2. He's the one expected to smooth the rough edges, grab a diaper, and generally be agreeable. We are just starting to see the first pre-pubescent signs of surly, moody behavior and attitude.

That said, as the first child, the world still revolves around him, his schedule, needs and wants. I have to supress a snort and eye roll when he complains about having to attend one 45 minute swim lesson for his younger brother; I wouldn't want to tally the number of minutes his younger siblings have tallied at football, soccer, swimming, piano, etc.

When he was a baby (our first baby), the world revolved around whether or not he got a good nap in his own bed. If my younger two could speak out on the issue, they'd reveal that both have been stripped out of sound sleep to pick the eldest up from school. As my (now-relocated) pediatrician, mother of four, used to say when I brought this up -- "My younger ones know that if they want a nap, it's in the car."

He is a smart, almost prescient kid, and I try to have open dialogue with him when I sense that the earth is moving under our comfortable relationship. Recently I've noticed that our movie choices are increasingly troublesome. Until now, it's been pretty much okay and accepted to say, "That's unacceptable for you." "PG movies have to be screened first by the parents." "There is no way I want you watching that." (Okay, that last one is more a bubble above my head in the comic strip of our daily lives.)

But as I examine the content and complexity of some of his reading material from school, the concepts that he grasps and discusses with me more or less in an adult manner, and the fact that he can usually beat me in chess in four or fewer moves -- I need to ask myself, "Is it really me who can't let go of his babyhood?"

I do relish telling him that yes, he did really watch "Teletubbies" over and over. (We own one VHS version. He watched it hundreds of times.) On the other hand, would it really be the end of the world if I let him watch "Star Wars" or "ET?"

I suppose it's hard for me to forget my excited (misguided) first attempt at taking him to the real movie theatre, to see "The Tigger Movie." Gone were the benign, happy go lucky characters we'd seen in the videos. This morbid telling of Tigger's search for "real" family left my then-3-year-old in tears. And not just for noise or overwhelming visual stimulation. He only cried at the sad parts. And it was more of a wail than a whimper.

So I stand, with my reviews at hand. Ready to say no. (I wish I'd used Screenit for "Monster House," an abomination by my standards.) And yet... he's 9. He gets things that I can no longer ignore. He's not a child anymore. So I need to let some things go, and let him absorb some "inappropriate" here and there.

After all, didn't my mom let me read Mad Magazine when I was not too much older than him?

What was she thinking?

Friday, November 17, 2006

On Being Both

While never in the conundrum the depth of say Sean Combs (Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy -- whatever), I have always been both. A given name (Kiersten) and a nickname (Kia). {And, to reveal my age if not my maturity level, I came first. Not the car.}

In the final analysis, Kia and Kiersten are one in the same, if the latter used only on official forms and documents and as the occasional party conversation starter. In fact, though I was named for my mother's college roomate from Sweden (who also was born Kiersten but always called Kia), and it is a fairly unusual name, I do run into the occasional Kia from time to time. Or see them in credits. The most ironic crossing was when my brother's art teacher learned my name, and was stunned. My blonde, blue eyed self didn't quite match up to his notion of "Kia" -- his daughter, for whom they had concocted what they thought was an African sounding name!

Now that I've gone through the excruciating process of naming three children, I do wonder why we as parents plan for the name on the birth certificate and the name the child will actually go through life answering to.

In truth, I've never been anything but "Kia," since I was always called Kia from birth. Only twice have I switched gears.

The first was when I was in Kindergarten, and came home sobbing and asking my mom why she'd burdened me with such a weird, ugly name. "Why," (I'm imagining a dramatic face here) "couldn't you have named me something pretty -- like Candy?" I did indeed have a girl named Candy E. in my class, an adorable, long, curly brown haired Latina -- apparently my vision of beauty and class. From that moment on, after what I'm sure was a detailed account from my mother of how my true, glamorous name was Kiersten, I insisted on being called that from that point forward. Which, with the attention span of a five year old, lasted approximately ten days.

The last time I attempted to throw Kiersten around was when I'd stupidly put my given name on my resume, only to have my first employer address me by a name I'd never used. (Except on paper.) With the patience of a 22 year old, it lasted about... ten days.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The O's versus the C's, a/k/a The Walgreen's Parking Lot

You just never know when your past is going to come back to haunt you. Or make you wet your pants from laughing too hard. It all depends on whether you're an O or a C. (Not to be confused with "The O.C." -- and no, I don't watch it!)

I realize more and more that people are generally divisible into roughly the following two types:

Wear their hearts on their sleeves (Type O)
Prefer the comfort of secrets (Type C)
Enjoy belly laughs at their own expense (Type O)
Would rather boil in their own blood than suffer that embarassment (Type C)
... Where O stands for Open/Out and C stand for Closed/Contained

Suffice to say, the fact that this blog even exists should give you a clue that I'm more O than C. (Although, to date, to my knowledge only four people have ever seen it, so this is hardly about the need for exposure.)

Recently I had an email exchange with my friend, who is also the husband of another friend. (This matters later, stay with me.) Almost as an aside, he made a reference to something having to do with me and the Walgreen's parking lot. Huh? I had to get to the bottom of it.

Let's rewind a few years, back when my Thursday nights consisted of (A) putting the kids down, (B) holding either a board or committee meeting then (C) dovetailing into an ER night with girlfriends. Apparently, during one of the (B) to (C) crossovers, his wife stayed on after the meeting and met the ER contingent of friends, including my friend Karen.

Karen and I always laugh (and apparently talk) about when we first got to know each other, we would always ride together to whatever event or goings-on was happening (we met through Newcomers), and then spend an inordinate amount of time gabbing in the parking lot at Walgreen's (read: our park'n'ride). Instead of the evening lasting say until 10:00pm, it inevitably would go on and on as we started one topic, tangented onto another, and another, and another.

One night I had turned off the engine to my car, because we were clearly not finished with whatever topic was at hand. It was a cold midwest evening and eventually the windows were completely fogged up. Then the security lights in the parking lot -- now activated because it was past midnight, I'm guessing -- were going on and off in the parking lot whenever one of us would make a gesture. This made us laugh even harder. So went the (really not that interesting) tale.

Back to the ER night when two factions of friends collided. Apparently Karen talked about our lengthy conversations in the Walgreen's parking lot. In fact, several other friends chimed in with similar stories.

The takeaway was that I had had "interesting escapades" (my words, not hers) with girlfriends in the Walgreen's parking lot. Or rather, that was what he heard.

So all these years later, an innocuous comment became a punchline about some wild streak I didn't even know I had.

Maybe it's time to reign in myself a bit and at least pretend to care how things might appear. Then again, my "O" personality has really done nothing but serve to provide me (and apparently others) lots of laughs over the years. Why quit now, when I can most use the humor?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Red Red Wine

I was poking around the options on my new phone yesterday and came across this song as a potential ring. (Incidentally, searching for a ring is not nearly as compelling as online gaming. But I digress.)

It reminded me of the last time I used this song to describe a crazy event in my life...

The time: Fall 1985
The place: Paris, France
The reason: Junior Year Abroad with Ripon College

I'd determined in high school that I wanted to go to Paris. To drink in all that the city had to offer. I wasn't disappointed.

Signing on with AYA meant traveling with one fellow classmate, Kathy, and a bunch of strangers. One of them was a petite, bottled-magenta, funky dresser by the name of Jessica. She was funny, as brash as her hair color, and generally fun to be around.

Once we got to France, I saw quite a bit of Jessica and enjoyed her company. When the family I was staying with announced they were going "en vacance," I pounced on the opportunity to have a party at their appartement. Kathy and Jessica were eager co-conspirators.

Fast forward to the actual event. Being a midwestern college beer-drinker, I was not yet a red wine kind of gal. But that was the libation of choice that evening. I have a feeling all of us were treating the good, cheap French wine with the flagrant disrespect Americans are known for. (How many stories did I hear from the French about how no one is ever drunk?) There was music playing, great food, fun people (all American, none of whom had yet to learn the art of holding their liquor), and lots and lots of empty bottles.

As my friend Kelly would say, we all had a good shine on. It wasn't until several bottles deep that I began to perceive a change in one of my guests. The usually perky and positive Jessica had taken on a sad, Modigliani-esque mime quality. Her lips were an angry smear and her crocheted beret sat askew. When I asked her what was wrong, she stormed out of the apartment.

Lesson learned. We switched to a different red.
Why, Ryan, why?

Reese and Ryan (Witherspoon and Phillipe, the latter pronounced "Fee-Lee-Pay" for some unknown reason by our local DJ) splitting up makes me sad. Maybe because, in another life, I'd have her life. Maybe it's because her daughter shares a name with mine. Maybe it's because -- oh, I know, who cares, right? They're a young hollywood couple who didn't make it. A dime a dozen.

I guess I always admired their admitting to getting couples' therapy. That she confessed to having cellulite (though I personally never have seen any, despite frequent stops at celeb sites). Their working out schedules so one of them is home with the kids.

On some odd level, I identified with this couple. I also married young (24) and though I didn't have kids right away, since I did have children I've often re-thought that decision. As a 40 year old with a bad knee and shoulder, I have to wonder -- is it better to just plunge right in young and stupid? Would I have been more inclined to jump, skip and run? To eschew television and encourage Tae Kwon Do classes? Would the day to day fatigue of raising children have been less of a stress on my marriage?

It's curious to me, since a lot of people respond to Reese and Ryan's news by saing "They married young." Not all young marrieds wind up separated or divorced, G-d knows. My in-laws married very young, in fact my MIL had my husband before she was 30 (right around the age we had our first child). My own parents, married 41 years, were under 25 when they married. Nor do all "older" marrieds/parents suffer more stress.

That said, not all young-ly marrieds live in the white-hot heat of the Hollywood spotlight. Nor do they hold jobs that require them to work on location (read: away from home and responsibilities) with attractive members of the opposite sex. Isn't the point of history not to repeat it? Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

May the details of their divorce remain private and amicable. May their children live through it outside our nosy glares.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Also known as: Why you need a professional photographer.

(Follow the link. Heather is my BFF and an amazing photographer. So if you live near Franklin, TN -- you're in!)

Part of the reason I just can't seem to plunge into the scrapbooking craze is that my pictures are generally pretty crappy. So why embellish crap?

Anyway, a photo I recently took of my kids pretty much sums up the problem. (Email me if you want it -- I'll be happy to send it your way if I know you!) I have two boys and a girl. Don't get me started about what a hoopla that causes in casual conversation -- "Aren't you so relieved you finally have a GIRL?!?!?" and other completely ridiculous comments. (Which usually subside when they meet said girl, who is pretty much out there on the tomboy scale and counts a stiff-arm "get away from me" as an early achievement.)

Suffice to say, girl or not, people want to see how the baby of the family is growing. My daughter is just under two years old. Last Christmas she was an itty bitty thing. So people want to see what she looks like now. Let's face it, this is one of the only times in life (boy or girl) that people are gracious and generous. Babies, toddlers and even preschoolers, as long as they don't have too much contact with anyone, are pretty much the center of the "oooh and aahh" world.

This photo would simply not "do," in polite terms, for those people looking for this type of affirmation. Yet my daughter insisted (maybe on purpose) to rebel against this pose, while her brothers were cooperating. She refused to take her brother's skeleton mask off.

Bully for her.