Monday, February 27, 2012

Loving and Protecting Other People's Children (and Their Privacy)


Hi. You. Yes, you , my fellow parent. Here you are, in the class with our kids. Aren't they incredible? It's amazing, isn't it, how cute they all are, and how warm and fuzzy it makes us parents feel to see them having fun with each other. Cameras and video cameras don't even really capture it. We'll have to make an emotion memory that the photos and videos will trigger.

The little inside jokes. The things they like. The toothless grins. The grins with teeth a little too large yet for faces still sort of small. Not as small as last year, though, or even last month. They all have something just so particular to the special stage of this age. I don't know how to explain it. It's how they like certain things now, things they didn't appreciate or even know a few months ago, things that may not matter in a little while from now.

There are things right now that our lives revolve around and sometime soon, it will be a memory.

Remember that lovie, the one that had to go everywhere? And it was as important to you because you knew the devastation forgetting it would bring. But really it's because of the unbearable love we have for these precious children. We love them thus we love what they love.

I except some music and television and popular culture things that will unite them in laughter when they are older, "OMG remember when we ADORED Selena Gomez and she was the COOLEST?!?!"

Here our kids are: in this state of who they are right now. Having fun. It's a special occasion, a class party, a performance. Something that brings a little lump to our parental throats if we ponder the path to now -- from squirming newborn to tall, proud child singing and laughing.

We want to capture this, treasure it forever in our hearts and on film.

Someday our children may be apart, moved on, and these photos and videos will remind them Of When. They will point and laugh at photos, "Oh wow, remember her? We were best friends, and were all into pillow pets, loved them!" They'll feel happy and warmed from recalling, and maybe a wee bit sad to have that as the past.

I wasn't there, for that one event, whatever it was, but I was so glad you were, Other Parent, and that you took these super cute photos and shared them with the rest of us on the school photo site.

I also really appreciated that you did not post them on your social media sites. You didn't put my child's image and name on your blog, on your Facebook, on your Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, Storify, etc. I appreciated that you respected my child's privacy and did not, at least not without asking me first, share my child and her moment with the world at large.

Respecting my child's privacy is so special.

It means you understand that just because my child was there and part of the story that you preserved on film doesn't mean you have the right to distribute that story -- my child, her face, her name -- across the Internet. I'm not sure whether you came up with this on your own, if you read an article somewhere, or if the school was wise enough to say, "Hey parents, remember to respect the other children's privacy and not share their names and photos online," or something like that.

Either way, thanks for not sharing it with the whole world, and thanks for putting it on a private and protected place to share it with me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day -- Oh Yes, the Little Gestures Matter

Guys (men and women) you have to celebrate this holiday. In some way. Any way. Big. Small. A way that will let the person you love know you love him or her. Old or young, it matters.

It matters for a lot of reasons. The surface one is that it's because our culture celebrates this holiday and all around each of us is this huge message of SHOW YOUR LOVE.

We may say we don't buy into it, or shun "Hallmark" holidays but I am going to call BS on that. Nobody is that cool. Nobody never needs someone to show their love. Nobody ever learns to live perfectly well without love. We all need to feel loved, in some way.

And, on special days, like today, we like to see it in some special way.

I say this as someone who used to think she was too cool, too strong, too modern to need flowery hearts and fake holiday sentiment.

Until I finally admitted I did, said so, and improved my marriage.

When we got married, we had an emotional "pre-nup" in which he made me swear to never surprise him for his birthday (party-wise) or have waiters sing to him in a restaurant. He hated that stuff. We were still in our "cool youth ennui" stage of life. We eschewed artificial trappings and Hallmark holidays and materialism. We were about modernity and independence and keeping it real, man.

See, we met (and married) when we were really, really young. Like wet behind the ears, barely formed frontal lobe young. Sure we thought we were adults: out of college, degree(s) in hand, paying our own way, real professional jobs. HA! I can look back now, nearly 20 years later and say that: HA!

We were young and silly, but the emotional "pre-nup" was a pretty decent idea, except we didn't do a "what to do" part. We only did a "don't ever do this to me" part, which was fine, but only half the story. To tell the truth, I don't think we even knew what we needed, at that time. Or maybe we didn't know how to express it, fully.

I thought, silly girl, that I wasn't worthy and anyway I was a Modern Woman and we did not need that crap. Plus, after my experience growing up, I swore on my own grave I'd never need a man to fulfill me. In fact, we each had our own reasons for having up a pretty solid emotional wall. So we were both stalwart. HA!

But he is a sap and I am a romantic. He's got a better backbone, though. So for years I did all those silly little things: little birthday wishes all over the house, cake with candles after dinner and the occasional party; notes in his briefcase or shoes; special made plans; gifts; poems; even sent him flowers etc. These were all double messages, you know:

Love me love me love me
show me show me show me
see what I love to give and to get I love you
here's how I see love
I tell you this way and
hear it from you this way too
do you see how love looks to me
love me love me love me
show me show me show me

And he, not so much. From the very beginning, I steeled myself and pretended I didn't need it, didn't care. But I was unhappy about it.

I loved him every other day because he is a great guy, except those days. I started really hating holidays and birthdays.

I grew to understand what it was that I needed, and turns out, it is paper hearts and flowers. Or sticky notes with poems. Or a box of chocolates. Or a foot rub. As it turns out, I am not that picky and am pretty easy to please, so long as you try.

See, what I really needed, just sometimes, was for my love to step out of the daily box and do a little something special. I needed my love to know how I saw love, and put effort into speaking my love language for a day. Because that's love.

So I told him this.

He confessed he liked my little things I did, that they mattered to him.

Now he does those little things for me because he learned to value them, to admit he needed them, but mostly, because he values me and our marriage and is willing to do these things for that. That's love.

I don't know what your love is, who it is with or how it looks. It might be roses. It might be a sticky note with special words on it. It might be a lover or a best friend or a child or a parent.

But you...YOU...deserve to get that love today and on other special days. YOU deserve to give that love, too.

I like Hallmark or contrived holidays. I like a cultural tradition of take time, be together, express care. It's easy to take things, people for granted. It's easy to get consumed by the rote and routine of life. Do a love day today. If you just can't bring yourself to buy into it, say I love you along with a why, at least. And make sure you do something romantic, special, loving and passionate on another occasion.

Today I am looking forward to a Valentine from him. He tells me he loves me in many ways every day, and that's nice. I do see that. But getting something special, that's nice too.

In a relationship, it is so important, those expressions of passion and love and romance and sentiment. In fact, it's priceless.

Have a very expressive Valentine's Day, friends!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

We Are Unfair to Grief

A painting from Hope Lodge, NYC, taken during a tour with our ACS BAC group, which included Susan. A painting we admired.

When you are grieving, I told my friend Devra as we talked last night---the last day of our friend Susan's life--when you are grieving, I think you are insane, a little. Devra explained to me that in Judaism the literal translation for grief is "out of your mind," and you must give space to grievers to be out of their minds.

That’s right.

In the face of loss, people deserve space to be out of their minds. And they will get back in their minds in their own time, not when people are tired of their grief and ready for them to move on.

We are unfair to grief, I think, treating it as an enemy or a disease to be fought. We do not succumb to grief. We do not lose to grief. We engage grief. It gives us the time our hearts need for us to be out of our minds.

Right now I am a little out of my mind. A lovely, amazing, inspirational woman is finished. Her body stopped.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
-- WH Auden

I mourn. Oh all the wonderfulness of her, all she was and did in so little time. How much more might she have…but, it is a design, I have faith. Thank you, God, for the time of Susan that we had.

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam:27, 1850

Cold comfort. Because we mourn. We grieve. We are out of our minds. Thank you grief, for the space to admit the blessing of a person, and the pain of her loss; for the time to know who she was and what she meant to us; for the loss of sanity when we mourn out loud so the world knows the new hole in our sky, the tear in our hearts.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one.
-- W H Auden

And then, one day, our minds will return to us, when our heart retreats, our grief recedes. One day we will know the miracle it has been, the life, and that is the part we’ll think of most of all.

Oh what better thing to finish with for Susan--bright star always, lady of planetary science, answerer of why, belly laugher, sensitive understanding heart, tremendous warrior advocate, bringer of greater good, feet on the ground, 200 watt mind--than another beautiful quote about still being there just because we knew her.

In one of the stars, I shall be living.
In one of them, I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky at night.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Many blessings to Susan’s family. And wishes to you for all that you need during this time.