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#tearlesscrying (Or: Dealing With Whiny Kids)

#tearlesscrying (Or: Dealing With Whiny Kids)

My second born son, Colton, gives me tremendous experience in dealing with whiny kids. He is a magnificent study in extremes. He is adorable. He could charm the wallpaper off the walls. His seductive grin makes mincemeat of the hardest of child-hating hearts.

And at the opposite extreme, what I call: #tearlesscrying.

Not tantrums. It’s worse. He whines incessantly.

Seriously, y’all. It’s soul-sucking. Dealing with whiny kids is, well…parenting. I know. But this is another level.

Believe me, Colton does not lack for coddling. Remember the whole ‘He’s so cute” bit? He’ll snuggle for hours. (Well, 15 minutes). It’s heaven to hold him in my lap after a nap. (Though his nap mainly consisted of 30 minutes of silence and 20 minutes of what? You guessed it: #tearlesscrying.)

(more…)
frozen

frozen

You won’t love it.  Kids will basically like it.  Conversation starters:  Exploitation of indigenous people.  The importance of spirituality.

Rating:  3 bears (out of a possible 5)

Disney is not known for making kids more woke. Sure, they are often on trend for cultural movements like being super queer friendly and paying lip-service to environmentalism (Pocahontas, Moana). But with Frozen 2, Disney has blown up princess tropes and jumped feet-first into seriously complex themes of world society. We saw Frozen 2, this weekend. We spent a lot of time time with Arendelle Royalty several years ago. There was no way not to catch up with the Norwegian gang.

Frozen 2 blew my expectations to smithereens by (making kids more woke).

(And I was out for blood.)

Don’t get me wrong: over all, it’s fine. Frozen 2 is often ridiculous (a fire-creating chameleon? WTF?), perennially frustrating – seriously with the Barbie doll figures and ginormous eyes?), and occasionally touching (here’s looking at you: Olaf animators.)
But my main takeaway was the dense story. Frozen 2 dives into pagan nature worship and the betrayal of indigenous peoples by Western society. It’s utterly over the kids’ heads, I’d say. But down the line, the movie is making kids more woke. And I am HERE for it!

Exploration of pagan spirituality.

Frozen 2 has a through-line celebrating the nature-worship of the Northuldra, an indigenous tribe based on the Scandinavian Sámi peoples. (It was this culture that inspired the opening song in the first movie.) The Frozen 2 writers and directors signed a contract with the Sámi to avoid appropriation and respectfully celebrate their indigenous culture. Throughout Europe before the continental subversion of the Catholic church, pagan societies worshiped nature. They turned with the seasons, lived as one with flora and fauna, and shared a spirituality with the energy flowing throughout the world. These people worshiped five elements of nature: water, fire, wind, earth and then that “fifth element” nebulously defined as love/humanity/spirituality. (Yes, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is about this spirituality albeit set in the future.) It is these five elements of pagan worship that drive the plot points of Frozen 2. There’s never been a Disney movie that dives so deep into environmental spirituality. But then, with the growth of the Catholic church across the continent, competition and domination were the operating forms of societal organization. A symbiotic relationship with nature was replaced by fear and avoidance of the natural world. (Don’t stray from the path, avoid the wolves, “be good, don’t be wild”, state all of our nursery rhymes and fairy tales from Western “civilization”…and further developed by earlier Disney movies.) Anyway. Back to the five elements. We come to find that Elsa’s frozen magic has come from the marriage of her Arendelle father to her mother who was part of the Northuldra tribe. And her magic came from this environmental worship of the four elements. She is, in fact, the fifth element, placing her next to Milla Jovovich’s character in Baz Luhrman’s Fifth Element.

Betrayal of indigenous populations.

Further, Frozen II allegorically addresses the betrayal of indigenous populations by Western conquerors. It turns out that Arendelle society harnessed and limited the magic in nature when the “old white patriarch” literally stabs the indigenous leader in the back. Modern world civilization has been built on the backs of Native American genocide, African enslavement, and Asian colonization. Western societies have profited from the stabbing in the back of indigenous peoples throughout the world. All of these societies had symbiotic relationships with nature. (Meanwhile, Western/European society has always tried to harness nature.) The themes of the five elements and subjugation of indigenous peoples is not fully fleshed out in Frozen 2. It’s a movie with complex themes shoved between tongue-in-cheek 80’s power ballads and whatever tangent Olaf follows. But I appreciate that I will be able to point my kids to Frozen 2 for a simple jumping off point for deeper exploration of life’s complex themes. For that, I thank you, Disney. You done good.

Exploring All the Pronouns

Welp, we’ve hit another funky milestone.

We’re trying on different pronouns in our household.

Before school started, my partner and I asked the big kid, “What would you like to say, this year? ‘He’ or ‘she’?”

Kiddo answered sheepishly, “She.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, we were discussing my show, Head Over Heels,in which a trans actress plays a non-binary character. My older kid is officially obsessed with this gender-bending character (played by Peppermint, the drag queenfamous for her stellar turn on RuPaul’s Drag Raceas well as for being the first contestant who was outwardly trans beforecompeting on RuPaul.)

In the conversation with my kiddo, I had to backtrack withhersaying, “But wait. You know Peppermint is a trans woman playing a non-binary role?”

“Yeah! A ‘they’. Like me! I’m ‘they’!”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, I sat with her/theyand said, “Now, sweetie, do you want me to say something to your teachers about how you want to be addressed?”

“Daddy,” she/they said, “can we stop talking about this? I’ll handle it.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The first day of school passed uneventfully.

On the second day, while walking back from school, I had both kids with me and inadvertently referred to she/they as ‘he’, at which point I turned to she/they, again, to ask, “Wait, honey, where are we, now? ‘She?’ ‘They?’ ‘He’?”

“Whatever,” she/they/he responded. “I’m flexible.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The more time passes, the more I feel like I’m betraying her by ever calling her him. “Her” feels more right.

Which leads me to our milestone: we alerted the teachers via email about my kid’s fluid self-expression and let them know, “We’re just rolling with it. Hopefully you can too?”

There are times it’s cool to be flexible. And then I realize (as much as I’d like to live in a world without definition) that people need labels and definitions so we’re all speaking the same language.

Yesterday, my kid was benevolently outed by an old friend in class to one of the new friends. The old friend said, “But he’s a boy. He just likes to wear dresses.”

The new friend said, “But she talks like a girl and dresses like a girl.”

Which then led to a cavalcade of questions for the teachers, which freaked them out (understandably) because we were all just “going with it.”

Suddenly, my agenda became very clear.

I want my child to be proud of who she is. I want her to celebrate her differences and never feel defensive or shamed. I want her to be able to speak about who she is and inspire the truth in others.

I don’t think she needs to be locked in a box of hyper-definition. In fact, I don’t think my kid can really be defined, right now, except as gender-fluid. Nor need she be.

So my partner and I put our heads together and strategized how to let our precious first-born write her own narrative, be in charge of her story, and define herself for others.

The worst thing would be to pretendshe never was a boy. I don’t want her peers, teachers, friends or acquaintances to think she’s keeping secrets or making things up. We have old friends at school who know from whence we’ve come. There’s no reason to shun/deny/erase that part of her history.

What she isis what she’s choosing to be, right now; and we get to celebrate it and show how badass she is for choosing to be her.

Suddenly, in discussing this with her (which is taking time) I’m this over-aggressive tiger dad suffocating my child in inspirational sayings like “you’re all the morespecial for being so brave and special!, for choosing your own path which isn’t always clear or easy. But you’re doing it! That makes you so awesome!”

She is FULLY giving me the rolled eyes and begging me to “stop talking about this.”

Sorry, kiddo. Can’t stop; won’t stop. Because I’m doing my best to armor you for a tough world – and it’s tough for allof us. So you might as well suit up, now. Because you’re way ahead most of the rest of us in terms of knowing yourself and speaking your truth.

And I’m so proud of her for that.

So that’s where we are, now.

Break Some Rules Kids – Please?

I’m nice and I strove to please my teachers.

But nice people who please teachers don’t paint the Sistine Chapel. They don’t break sound barriers. They don’t develop Apple Computers, right?

Crazy people who break rules and smash conventions do big shit.
I say that I just want my kids to be happy.

But also kind. And smart. And independent. And creative. And change the world. No pressure, kids.

Of course I want my kids to be trailblazers.

Like the kids about whom the teachers throw up their arms and say “what am I going to do with you?” And then they end up being Einstein.

But aren’t genius/artistic/world-changers often miserable, asocial sad-sacks destined to substance-abuse who cut off their own ears and live within prisons of their own artistic genius?

So then will they be happy?

Maybe we should just hope for nice.

But am I trying to raise  nice kids? Those rule-following, vanilla, boring goody-two-shoes?

(Who wants to be nice, anyway? Nice is so…insipid. Do you ever want to share a drink with someone first described as NICE? Zzzzzzzzz.)

This reminds me of a hilarious recent tweet I saw: “Parenting looks so hard. You need to raise your kid with just the right amount of trauma so they end up funny.”

Because funny is more interesting than nice.

I’ve been thinking about achievement in the context of my older kid’s soon-to-be immersion in the ballet world. He is going to begin the first ballet classes of his life and, while I’m excited for him, my Libra nature has invented this dilemma: “Do world-changers come from ballet class?”

Think about it: the point of classical ballet is to conform, to dress identically as surrounding dancers, to dance with perfection so that not one pinky finger is ever out of place.

The dress code for these classes is rigid, for both boys and girls. (More on that in my next posting because do not get me STARTED about the anxiety I’m feeling in saying to my kiddo, “sorry. No tutus in this class. It’s white t-shirt and black pants.”)

At least there’s no hair protocol for these little boys. I guess my little gender renegade will be able to rock a ballet bun.

My French sister (the witch) talks about the point of nursery rhymes was to separate European society from nature so that Little Red Riding Hood stays always to the path (dictated by the church) to never stray (citizens shouldn’t color outside the lines) and to always fear the woods (because nature is bad) and always be nice.

Oh, and sex. Because duh. Nature = sex and sex is bad and the church and society need to tame sex and pleasure. Because people should be worshipping the Church’s appointed dogma, fighting wars, and making stuff for the nobles. Not having sex.

(And of course – burn the witches. )

And I see her point. Nursery rhymes teach children the way to be good. To follow rules. To conform. To obey. To be the perfect ballerina/o in the back line.

Now…we all want our kids to be good and obey their parents.

But it’s true – the world is more colorful with the rule-breakers, by those who stray from the path, think differently and write their own destinies.

I suppose it’s all a balance, (Please reference aforementioned Libra nature.)
My kiddo already writes her own rules evidenced by her entire comportment.

So maybe classical ballet will be the perfect balance for her? You gotta learn the basics…

So then you know what rules to break and re-write.

Right?

Moulin Rouge – My Age Doesn’t Get It

I just saw Moulin Rouge on Broadway and my age doesn’t get it. I went from “Team Christian” to “Team Satine” to my utter shock. But let’s rewind.

Moulin Rouge is a spectacle that gives you everything you hope for – massive production numbers, a dazzling cast, and a badass update to the music (as if that was even necessary). I had a great time.

And, although the plot is not at all child-friendly) nor is the spread-legged g-string choreography) I couldn’t help thinking constantly about the lessons I’d hope my kids could garner from the message…were they ever to see the show.

When I first saw Moulin Rouge, the movie, I was alllllll about Christian’s dreams of living for love and truth and beauty and freedom…the four pillars of Moulin Rouge’s message.)

And now? As a jaded father with life experience, I empathized slightly more with Satine’s dilemma.

My age doesn’t get it.

And that makes me kind of sad. But also – shrug – it’s life.

The story (if you need a refresher) is: Satine (played ravishingly by both Nicole Kidman and Karen Olivo) falls in love with Christian (Ewan McGregor and the vocally-stunning Aaron Tveit) but must also indulge in a love affair with a Duke, without whom her beloved Moulin Rouge would close and she’d be back on the streets as a struggling artist (and probably prostitute).

Romantic escapades and pleading scenes “what more is there to live for than love?” scenes ensue.

The frequent reference to the bohemians struggling in the squalor of 1890’s Paris is the principle that life is only meaningful with truth, beauty, love and youth.

And I quickly thought: you know what’s sexy? Truth and beauty and love.

You know what’s not sexy? Poverty.

What else isn’t sexy? Endless struggle, even in the name of art.

So once again: my age doesn’t get it.

A few times throughout the show, Christian begs the indulgence of the audience to “remember the thrill of your first love.” That was a smart “breaking the fourth wall” device allowing cynics (guilty) to put aside eye rolls and appreciate Christian’s infatuation.

And I totally went to my own “folly of first love” – to my obsession with Jenny in seventh grade, Lori in 8th, Eileen in college, and the uncontrollable, untethered, schizophrenia of the beginning of my current relationship with my partner (which of course still has that burning passion 15 years later.)

But even without my cynicism, I still empathized with Satine (who’s quickly losing her youth.). If she indulges the Duke, she gets to continue to perform at the Moulin Rouge, will have relative stability (for Bohemian Paris in the 1890’s) and a working artist.

Sure, she lacks the love. And joy. But come, now. Even Satine and Toulouse Lautrec (her friend in the show for fictional but historical context) muse about the purity of their art, but misery of their poverty.

What should she prize more? Love and joy? Or warmth and food and choose to be happy as the concubine of an insanely rich man?

I honestly don’t know what is the “right” choice.

Of course I want my children to experience the insanity of youthful love. And I hope they experience that passion throughout their lives. That ravishing thrill of love can re-visit throughout the ages, but it definitely mellows with romantic commitment. I hope they experience it over and over.

I hope my kids realize that burning passion often (maybe not always) fades, and, in the end, making practical decisions about life is necessary to live with relative comfort and stability.

Ugh. I feel like I’m undermining my own principles of beauty, truth, love and freedom. But those massive values aren’t always timeless.

If I were Satine’s or Christian’s parents, I’d definitely counsel “I’m sure it was fab to be so in love with this penniless artist. But it’s time to make life choices. Christian: go get a real job and call me when you’re done. Satine: choose to be happy living in comfort as a working actor(!) in 1890’s Paris!”

Further, I suppose this fading of beauty and youth (and transition of love through experience) is quite possibly the point of art – to bring us pleasure in the things that fade, remind us of bygone emotions and feelings; and to help us connect to our faded passions.

Such practicality is foreign to the folly of youth.

And perhaps why art is probably appreciated all the more with age.

As was my experience with Moulin Rouge.

Thank goodness for art and music and stories, because without their focus on love, beauty, freedom, and truth, our stories would be dull and cynicism would consume us. We need art (and to force-feed culture to our children) to remind us of bigger ideas and a connection to these Moulin Rouge pillars.

We need the romance and beauty (and the pain) to move our emotions in our busy lives – so we can remember that glorious insanity of unlimited love…without always having to live it.

Cuz let’s face it… no one can get shit done when in the throes of Satine-Christian passion.

But it’s fun while it lasts.

I’ll have to add this to my canon of ageist idioms:

If you’re under 25 and no Christian, you’re a heartless, capitalist pig. If you’re over 25 and not Satine, you’re an idiot.

Sigh.

Age doesn’t get it. Sigh. I’m so old.

*** Quick side-note: I LOVE that Moulin Rouge is devoting some of its commercially-won dollars to support “The Bohemian Project“, pledging grants to help emerging creatives and artists. (Though the website states “more info and partners coming soon” and the show’s been open for months. So.)

Potty Training Kids to Poop Healthily

Potty Training Kids to Poop Healthily

During a recent conversation with parents about potty training kids to poop healthily, a friend of mine stated unequivocally, “Pooping in the ocean is the best.”

Meaning: when they are at the beach, they have no problem just letting a turd slide out and float away.

I thought, “Really? It’s that easy? And don’t you think that, even in the ocean, that’s pretty disgusting and a turd could float next to a child who’s playing in the surf and they could ingest that shit?”

Then again, I get the curiosity…. you’re on a hike on the NaPali Coast of Kauai and there is literally not a soul around you and you’re on a gorgeous beach all to yourself and you might or might not be clothed and you’re like, “Hm. I wonder what it would be like if…”

Not that I would know.

This all makes me think that we, as a society, are far too preoccupied with our bathroom habits. I mean – don’t get me wrong, I don’t want someone else’s poop floating past me. Ever.

But as a parent, I’ve had a lot of poop on my hands; and I survived.

A couple of years ago, I had my kids in France visiting family. We were at a playground and I had with me my own two kids and my niece.

Seconds after our arrival (and certainly after I’d said “before we got to the playground, anyone need to poo?), my older kid approaches saying, “Daddy? I need to go.”

Me: well, go behind the bush.

Kid 1: No…I need to poo.

So I grabbed my kiddo’s hand and we jogged over to public toilets that strike fear into the hearts of Americans – just two foot prints in the middle of a porcelain square with a hole in the middle.  The French call them “Turkish toilets”, which I’m pretty sure is tremendously derogatory and not one that immigrated with the “technology” of a squat-and-hole. Oh, well.)

Anyway, yeah: a squat-over-the-hole-and-go.

Luckily, my kid wasn’t remotely fazed. When you gotta go…

So I hiked up her dress and watched as she squatted all the way down (surprisingly easily), one hand holding the dress, one hand paranoiacally on a questionably-dirty porcelain wall. She relaxed and went.

Phew. Crisis averted.

Then I looked around for toilet paper.

None to be round. Zero. Nope. No toilet paper.

Only after this visit to the squat-over-a-hole-and-go did I learn these Turkish toilets are meant to be a clean drop. Even in diarrheal emergencies, it’s how our bodies were designed, you don’t really need to wipe, and it’s how we should be pooping all the time, anyway. The toilet (most likely an invention by European royalty to separate us from the “savages” have resulted in generations of IBS, colon cancer, and hemorrhoids. We really just need to squat in the woods and go, like our ancestors.)

No toilet paper necessary.

But I digress.

So I’m looking around for toilet paper and see nothing. In desperation, I searched in a trash can to see if there’s something, ANYTHING I can use.

Nothing.

My kid’s yelling at me from the toilet, still hovering.

I’m in a flop sweat frantically searching for anything for wiping.

“Oh, well, I thought. Don’t some societies wipe with their hands and consequently don’t eat with that hand?”

So…

I walk into the toilet and reach over to wipe my kid’s bare ass.

It was completely clean (see aforementioned discussion of clean drops.)

A second sweep for good measure (still nothing), at which point slow-motion set in:

I felt a movement in the breast pocket of my button-down shirt as I slowly felt my Ray-Bans fall…

…out of my shirt…

…and straight toward the 4-inch Turkish hole of French poop.

One hand was wiping, the, the other hand steadying myself against the wall, and I’m literally bent over my child who’s squatting under me. The probability of a disaster where I fall on top of her and we both end up sitting in a (remarkably clean) 3’x3’ porcelain basin that catches poop AND pee, was high.

I couldn’t catch my glasses.

They fell out, circled the hole like those quarters–in-a-spiral-thingy at museums, and plopped.

Basically: my glasses into the toilet hole.

Into my kid’s poop.

But reachable.

And you bet your sweet ass I got my kid safely out of the way and re-robed, and then I figured, “I already have one hand dirty,” and reached into the hold and got my glasses.

They were shitty, for sure, but just a little bit. I washed them at the sink, nearby (that didn’t have paper towels. Because of course it didn’t) and, well…put them back in my pocket.

Fear not – I wasn’t going to wear them, and the shirt needed cleaning, anyway.

Sigh.

That was a lot.

I happened to be at the playground with a friend (a French dad) and I asked him about the toilet paper situation, and he said, “Well, Gavin, that’s why French parents carry this.”

He pulled out Kleenex from his denim jacket.

Mind you, it was summer, hot as balls, and this guy wore a jacket to the playground. Because that’s how you do it in France. Shorts aren’t fashionable – it’s just the Germans who would wear shorts in public (along with their Birkenstocks and socks.) And you bring a jacket. Just in case. Or at least a scarf.

Some guy demonstrating the French fashion of using a scarf to regulate body temp and eating a chocolate croissant, because of course.
Just a scarf and a choc croissant. Squatting. But in a different way, of course.

(And mind you – I love French scarf culture. We need to adopt that, America. Do you realize how effective it is just to wear a scarf in the fall and spring? No jacket necessary.)

Anyway.

Kleenex. Carry Kleenex. For toilet paper.

Noted. I should’ve just brought my ECKnox. (Wink wink.)

Seconds later, my younger kid told me he needed to poop.

I exchange a look with French dad friend, he hands me his Kleenex, and away we go.

Second kid also needs to poop badly. And he’s never done a Turkish toilet, either. We run up, he squats, balances, all’s fine, no biggie. Funny how, in the moment, apparently potty training kids to poop healthily won’t stop them from squatting, like this. When you gotta go…

And thank goodness I won’t have to sully my hands, again. Phew.

He poops super fast (partly out of necessity, partly because this is the WAY WE SHOULD BE POOPING, PEOPLE – IN THE SQUAT!) and I’m ready with an (unnecessary) tissue.

I find my balance, bending over his squatting body, reach behind, it’s a clean drop (nothing on the Kleenex) and…

Yes. You guessed it.

My glasses fell out.

Again.

Because I’m an idiot and forgot I’d replaced them.

Same scenario: same unnecessary wipe, same retrieval of my Ray-Bans from poop.

Because obvi.

I wash off poop, return them to my pocket, and off we go.

By this point, less squeamishness. I’m a veteran.

Also, though? – gag.

But that night I sanitized the shit out of my glasses (pun intended), and tossed the shirt in the laundry.

And it was all fine, and no one had rashes from insufficient wiping and no one got pin worms from sunglasses.

But let’s face it: parenting seriously lowers the bar for excremental evacuation, don’t it?

And that’s a good thing.

In the process of potty training kids to poop healthily, we all need to give less of a shit and move on with our lives.