Archives for November 2010
Never Bet Against Biology
Frankly, I didn’t much like my tenth grade biology teacher. I thought he was kind of a creep who was a little too excited about the grislier details of his field of study — evidenced by the roadkill deer he happily disected for us one morning. But, you should know, I was an obnoxious know-it-all kid.
After watching a video of a human birth during our reproduction unit, I boldly asserted, “I am never doing that.”
“Yes, you will,” he told me knowingly. I felt the urge to punch him in the mouth. Then he tried to explain the wonders of childbirth and parenting, and that I was biologically programmed to have children; it was not an urge I would likely overcome. This struck me as anti-feminist, surely, women in the nineties aren’t required to have children. It didn’t even occur to me that he was not trying to be anti-feminist, but rather pointing out the joy and life experience gained through parenting is one I may not want to miss.
“Bet you ten dollars!” I protested.
“I’ll take that bet!” he laughed.
“I will bring you the reciept from my tubal ligation,” I sneered. I must have been insufferable.
This story comes to mind when I see or hear people strongly voicing convictions — as if they will never think any differently than they do today. Think of any polarizing topic, and I’m certain we can find someone who has switched sides — even on the toughest issues.
These days I try to be careful of asserting my convictions too strongly, life is happy to prove me wrong. Though sometimes, being proved wrong is the best thing ever.
I should probably go write the poor guy a check.
The other day I tweeted, tongue in cheek, of some things I was thankful for: electronic devices that obviate the need for decent penmanship, wool socks, a husband who can do math in his head, sour cream.
The sour cream is what started it. I had just licked a large glob of sour cream off of a spoon as I was cleaning up after dinner, and I was feeling so thankful sour cream is not something diabetics are asked to give up.
So, while it may seem I’m being a smart-ass, my heart is filled with gratitude lately, even for little things like dairy products.
As I write this on Wednesday evening, I’m sitting by a warm fire with my daughter on my lap, my husband relaxing nearby. The bills are paid, my fridge is crammed full of food for the day’s feast. It’s beautiful.
No life is untouched by struggles and misfortune. Should I stumble upon a magic lamp, I could easily come up with three wishes, mainly involving the health and well being of loved ones.
But, by and large, I have the sense I am in midst of what could very well be the happiest and most productive time of my life. My cup runneth over — emotionally, materially, people don’t get much luckier. And I’m oh so thankful.
Wishing you and yours a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for reading.
Is She Still There?
Saturday was my mom’s 61st birthday. I didn’t know what to expect when I called her in the morning. Would she sound groggy and tired, as she so often does? Would she trail off in the middle of sentences? Would she be depressed — or excited?
My mom has suffered from bi-polar disorder (some of you may know it by the name “manic depression”) for decades now. Also, a few years ago, she had a very bad fall on the ice and suffered a brain injury, which exacerbated her tendency to call the dishwasher the microwave and refer to me as “Rachel” (my sister) or “Carol” (my aunt).
Lest you get the wrong impression, my mom is almost universally well liked — she’s got a good sense of humor and usually not a harsh word to say to anybody. Though I would say in recent years, new people she meets definitely look at her like she’s a bit “special.”
Several weeks ago, I got a text from my brother-in-law that my mom had just had a doctor’s appointment and I needed to call her.
Turns out, she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, “like President Reagan — not a lot of fun,” as my mom says.
That quote is actually from a voice mail she left me a few years ago, the first time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At that point, we all pretty much wrote it off as a misdiagnosis, thinking she was over-medicated and brain injured. Little did I know that at the time, her doctor put her on an Alzheimer’s drug called Aricept.
Lately, my dad had been noticing a steep decline in her abilities to carry out everyday activities and some pretty weird mood swings (imagine how tough that is to parse when you’re dealing with someone who’s bi-polar). He took her in to see a neurologist and got the diagnosis again. And this time, we all feel the truth of it.
The morning of the day she told me, she had her carpets cleaned, and when it was time to pay, she couldn’t remember how to write a check. She asked the carpet cleaner to write the check for her and she signed it.
She trails off in the middle of sentences and will say, “Shit, I don’t remember what I was going to say.”
Since this diagnosis, a sadness has crept into her voice that has never been there before, even when she’s clinically depressed. She knows she’s slowly slipping away, but she doesn’t know how long it will take.
As a daughter, and one who lives 1800 miles away, I’m having to seriously step up my game. I’m calling her more often, trying to make as much contact as possible, as there will come a time when I will call and she will not know who I am. And then someday, not remember how to use the phone.
Saturday morning, though, was great. Her doctor put her on another Alzheimer’s drug, and she was lucid and in good spirits (except for complaining that my dad had taken her checkbook away). She called me by the right name, talked about plans for Christmas, and laughed when I reminded her about how my Aunt Carol used to give her birthday away to my sister, who always felt cheated having a birthday the day of Christmas.
I told her I wanted to get together with all the aunts at Christmas and record some of the stories they have, and I asked for her permission to write about her diagnosis.
At one point in the conversation, I thought my cell phone had dropped the call and I asked, “Are you still there?”
And yes — she still was.
Book Review: Nurture Shock
Chapter Four: Why Kids Lie
This post is part of a book review series of NutureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.
Lately, I’ve been suspecting that Nora has figured out how to lie. She’s right at the age where kids begin to experiment with lying.
Lately, I’ll ask her if she’s wiped herself after going potty and she’ll hesitate and then say she did in an unflinching manner. The authors of NutureShock tell me, my chances of truly knowing when Nora lies are almost nil. And listen to this:
Parents often fail to address early childhood lying, since the lying is almost innocent — their child’s too young to know what lies are, or that lying’s wrong. When their child gets older and learns those distinctions, the parents believe, the lying will stop. This is dead wrong, according to Dr. Talwar. The better a young child can distinguish a lie from the truth, the more likely she is to lie given the chance.
It gets even hairier. All kids lie. Most parents expect kids to lie to cover for something they should not have done. So, the cover-up lie is almost never addressed. “The parent censures the original transgression, but not the failed cover-up. From the kid’s point of view, his attempted lie didn’t cost him extra.”
Also, a kid’s definition of a lie is more stringent than an adult’s. Kids think just getting something wrong is a lie. If incorrect information comes out of your mouth, you lied. So parents make a mistake, a kid feels lied to and therefore thinks his parent thinks it’s okay to lie.
And lying takes sophisticated thinking, it’s a develomental milestone. A child’s lying improves as they get older.
So what are we to do?
Well, let’s think about this. A child is lying to avoid punishment. Punishment is a symbol of a parent’s displeasure. Lying is really a way of maintaining a relationship. You want the candy, so you steal it, but you don’t want to upset your mom, so you lie.
The book outlines a fascinating study where children are read two fables about lying just before being asked a question where a lie is a likely response:
One of the stories read aloud is The Boy Who Cried Wolf — the version in which both the boy and the sheep get eaten because of his repeated lies. Alternatively, they read the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, in which young George confesses to his father that he chopped down the prized tree with his new hatchet. The story end with his father’s reply: “George, I’m glad that you cut down that cherry tree after all. Hearing you tell the truth is better than if I had a thousand cherry trees.
It’s the second story that reduces lying, by a wide margin. To prevent lying, your child needs a reminder that the truth will please you. The threat of punishment only serves to make better liars.
Bottom line, don’t set your child up to lie to you, and if you suspect them of lying, make sure they know the truth will set them free.