A little rain never hurt anybody

I read All Joy and No Fun over the weekend (I’m a binge reader). I even stayed up late to watch its author Jennifer Senior on “The Colbert Report” last night. She has a lovely laugh.

The book’s effect on me, at this particular moment in time, is reminding me of what happens to our windshields after my husband applies rain-guard to them. It can rain, hard, and the drops just disperse on the glass. They actually seem to run away, as if they’re sorry to have imposed on your line of vision. The rain’s still there. You still have to drive carefully. But you can see things with greater ease.

It rained, hard, this past weekend. And I was white-knuckling it, acting like everything was cool, driving along like I was in complete control.

The “rain” was just the news of some key information tied to my husband’s next professional assignment: dates and numbers. In writing. A monsoon of certainty, about him. None about “us.” Certainties (and uncertainties) which I embrace, but must also adapt to without getting washed off the road.

I’ve been worrying, a lot, you see, even though our kids are excited to move. I’ve been panicking about elementary school calendars, standardized testing schedules, curricular differences, expected skill mastery… Also, snow boots, state income taxes, heating expenses, winter blues, cabin fever, isolation, Lyme disease, and how to house-train a puppy. All those thoughts raced through my head over the course of two minutes, while washing a few dishes, and that was precisely the moment my husband looked at me and blithely asked, “What’s wrong?”

My personal takeaway from All Joy and No Fun? Being a modern parent is an act of choice, and our children have nothing–literally nothing else, really–to do but follow our lead until they move out. (No pressure!)

So if you have the luxury of time for any amount of self-reflection (if you’re comfortably middle-class), you are likely a continuous self-assessor. And the intense love you feel for your children–the love you feel because you care for them so completely and constantly… that joy, that “grief turned inside out?” You’re acutely vulnerable to loss, and intensely protective of all you have: you are waiting… trying to prepare for… imminent disaster. Always.

And you, modern parent, chose all of this.

But, BUT! All of that doesn’t mean that you have to choose worry over calm, or panic over preparation. It doesn’t mean that when a monsoon comes, you have to drive as fast as you can so that you can put it behind you. You can slow down. Tap the brakes. Appreciate the spectacular–and temporary–beauty of a storm.

You just need a little rain-guard. Thanks for the bottle of it, Ms. Senior.

mothering intellect

I’m reading “The Lowland,” by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s lovely, set in Calcutta and Rhode Island. I’ve read other work by Ms. Lahiri before, and I’ve noticed her male characters to be very sympathetic ones. (“The Lowland” is about, and I’m grossly simplifying, two brothers.)

But I’m irked.

The main female character in this book, Gauri, is described as highly intellectual, and independent, remarkable, etc. And she is a mother. But she’s not the mothering kind. Her mother-in-law could tell, knew this about her. Motherhood is “not enough” for her, does not define her life, does not give her contentment. (Gauri does not follow Indian tradition or social mores.)

It seems it’s her high intellect that blunts her mothering instinct. Or at least, I’m getting that impression. And it irks me. I guess it irks me because its converse would indicate that motherhood suits women who do not seek other things, who have no other intellectual pursuits?

This really, really irks me. I’m only halfway through the novel, so maybe I’ll be less irked as pages go by. But it seems to happen often in literature: women who are unhappy mothers are unhappy because they are, basically, too *smart* for motherhood.

I have had friends, mothers of young children, say that they need to work, that they need to “use their brains.” Each time I hear that, it’s like a little stab wound.

I am intellectually stimulated all the time. If not by the day-to-day parenting, then by the things I read, or hear, or see. And I enjoy motherhood, parenting as the at-home spouse. I have never thought, “I want to get back to work so that I can use my brain.” I want to get back to work, actually, so that more people, besides my husband and children, can enjoy all my brain has to offer. I just want to share, and show off a bit, coincidentally, if not intentionally.

Hmm. I’m now less irked by “The Lowland.” Gauri, the new mother, seems happier when she receives validation for actions that serve only herself–actions that have nothing to do with mothering, or being a wife. Who doesn’t feel better when they, and they alone, are rewarded, recognized, and remembered? She’s not too smart for motherhood. She just wants attention for herself, and not just for her time with her child, not just for her marital status. Who doesn’t want that?

We have egos for a reason. Why deny them?

netiquette needed

I accompanied our son on his first-grade field trip to the public library. They watched a video on internet safety, or manners, or “internet etiquette,” or “netiquette.” They learned how sometimes, when you’re at a screen, typing your thoughts, it gets easy to be mean. That ease manifested itself in the form of a stinky green fog.

Commentariat at NYTimes.com seem to be suffering from that same fog.

‘Maxed Out’ Author Thought Readers Would Critique Her Ideas. Instead, They Judged Her Choices. – NYTimes.com.