The Very Human Need for Experience

Good and Evil

Good and Evil


I wanted to shelter my son from the world. I prayed away my foul mouth, hid my tears and played happy family with gusto. I wanted his world to be flowery, fun and fantastically clean. I didn’t tell him about my childhood unless I was telling a funny anecdote about a pet or a friend. I socialized him, took art classes with him and enrolled him in a co-op preschool where I could play perfect with other perfect mothers. Right out of preschool we enrolled in a perfect private school where I was sure he would bloom into the perfect prep school boy. In my search for perfection I lost something integrally important to the development of a well-rounded human. That important missing element was a well-developed sense of reality.

As time passed I began to see the holes in the world I’d worked so hard to create. I wasn’t being myself, my friends were drearily superficial and my son was unhappy in his school. Desperate for answers I turned to a book I stole from my high school, an ancient, dog eared copy of Herman Hesse’s, Siddhartha. I love this book for so many reasons. Like many other great inspirational books I can just open it to any page and find a piece of wisdom that will help me with whatever it is I’m facing. That day I opened the book at the beginning. I read of Siddhartha’s mother, her love for her child and her tragic early death. I read about the prophesy, proclaiming Siddhartha to be the greatest teacher of the age. Then I read his father’s reaction to this prophesy. Having just lost his wife and then faced with the loss of his son to a religious life, Siddhartha’s father created a perfect world in which pain, suffering and old age had no place. He imprisoned Siddhartha in a false utopia and robbed him of reality in order to keep him safe. How did Siddhartha react? He ran away in search of answers to the questions his father could neither pose nor answer.

Child in the Garden of Good and Evil

Child in the Garden of Good and Evil

Setting down the book I began to see the holes I’d identified in my parenting open into rather worrying chasms. I remembered the perfect children I’d known growing up, the ones who’d summered at the country club, vacationed in the tropics with their perfect families only to go slumming as drug using collage kids. I started remembering other sheltered kids who’d gone wild with sex and drugs the moment they’d found freedom from the suffocating control of their perfect worlds. Slowly I began to think that maybe by keeping our children in ignorance of pain and suffering we create a vacuum in their experience which will only propel them into a deeper need to experience the very things we try to protect them from. We cannot limit our children’s experience on this earth by sheltering them from a world they will someday have to live in.

So what is a frightened conscientious parent to do? I still only have a vague idea. In my heart I think a parent’s job is to guide a child through the world but not to shelter them from it. I feel that we must discuss even the small details of their day and how their different interactions made them feel. Most importantly we must validate their emotions with empathy, compassion and a willingness to hear while we admit our own feelings, failings and frustrations within the discourse. In other words it is very important that our children see us as loving, fallible humans whom they can trust with their secrets. We live in a tumultuous world of opposites. As much as we hate to admit it good lives in balance with evil and both must be experienced in order to be understood. We cannot end suffering any more then Siddhartha the Buddha did because suffering is a necessary part of experience and experience is the only true teacher. No matter how hard we try, we cannot recreate heaven on earth because that isn’t why we’re here.

Making Peace with Experience

Making Peace with Experience

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Merida: A Princess Mothers Are Proud Of.

Don't strip Merida of her authentisity.

Don’t let Disney sexy up Merida and strip her of her strength.

I was deeply saddened by Disney’s decision to slim down, sex up and disarm Merida, the princess from the movie Brave. In altering her we tell every American girl that she’s not good enough to be a princess because she doesn’t have a tiny waste, lots of makeup or perfect hair. If Disney had even bothered watching the movie they would know that Merida took off her corset, tangled her hair and ripped up her pretty dress because she knew there was more to life than being a pretty picture to attract a man. Women are more than their parts; this truth must be taught to our daughters or they will always be slaves to body image. Merida taught this lesson and now Disney is stripping her of what made her so magically wonderful, they are stripping her of her authenticity, her healthy figure and her freedom to be real. Please take a moment to sign the petition on Change.org. Sign for every girl who isn’t perfect. Sign for the real girls with brilliant minds, loving hearts and the courage to be brave.

Follow Up: as of May 15th due to negative backlash, Disney has decided NOT to revamp Merida. She will be a princess just the way she is. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition. Job well done.

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Mothers and Sons

mother's and sons

When my son crashed his scooter I patched up his cuts and gave him pudding. Pudding is the cure for all that ails us. It’s my go too medicine for post doctor’s visits, bad colds and scooter crashes. Nothing says, “There, there, you’re all better” like tapioca. My favorite brand is Kozy Shack because it really is Cozy. I taste it and I’m back in my grandmother’s kitchen watching her stir a large pot of pudding on the stove. Kozy Shack tastes like Grandma’s homemade pudding. It’s that good. But I digress.

My son crashed his scooter. He cut up his knee and was just fine until we went to change the bandage and found that the gauze had stuck fast to the scab. Horror struck, my son sat on the bathroom floor and refused all medical help. He’s ten now which means that he doesn’t have to do anything we tell him to. So we sat on the floor with him offering up salve, Q-tips and my grandmother’s advice. “Pull the band aid off fast honey. Doing it slow will just prolong the pain.” The look of horror he gave us after this bit of advice is forever emblazoned on my memory. So we sat, coaxed and cajoled for a good hour while he fought, cursed and accused us of thinking thoughts of unconscionable cruelty.

Children are god’s way of testing our sanity. I’ve failed miserably and come to the conclusion that crazy and child rearing are like oil and water. At one point as he yelled at us to not touch the band aid, I began laughing hysterically. There was no good reason why. The moment was far from funny but we’d reached that point in parenting when the good parent stands by and watches the crazy parent snap. I snapped and Dan sat there looking lost between his strong willed son and his madly euphoric wife.

I could have pinned Duncan down, removed his band aid and then washed out his deep cut. The old me would have done that. The old me was tough and efficient. The old me cornered injured horse and dressed their wounds no matter how bad it hurt them. The old me got things done. The new me is more compassionate and far less organized. The new me picked up her son, sat him in her lap and rocked him until we’d both calmed down enough to deal with our wounds. In the end we pocked, prodded and prayed the band aid off with gentle kindness and no old fashioned efficiency.

I like this new me, I like that my hardnosed, grab the bull by the horns upbringing has sloughed off enough to where I can sit, listen, crack up, recover and still stay nice. Maybe it’s the years of therapy? Maybe it’s my loving marriage? Maybe I’m just a better person then I was? Whatever it is, Duncan and his fear of pain were heard. No bandage was ripped away and no one’s boundaries where pushed. In my war with the moment I didn’t get mean or forceful, I just laughed until I found my patience, my peace and my unending love for this funny little boy who shares my life. God bless children, mad mothers, patient fathers and the tub of Kozy Shake pudding that made everything better in the end.

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