Saturday, July 28, 2012
A few days ago I asked which sounds more fun, attending a butterfly festival and playing Go Fish in the park. Wally and I were here after school one afternoon and I was just planning to take him to the local playground. Between various appointments, plans with friends and going away on the weekends we haven't really taken part in the local scene this summer (even though that's something I keep championing in my blog -- just hang around, run through sprinklers, see who else is outside -- more on that hypocrisy later).
So, just as we were gathering sidewalk chalk and a bucket, I got an email (Why, that last frantic email check? No reason) about a butterfly festival happening on the High Line. It would include making butterfly wings, wearing them in a little parade, then releasing hundreds of real live butterflies into the wild. Obviously we have to do that. We live right near the High Line, and we happen to be free, and Wally's not taking a nap so...
For about ten minutes I changed direction and was trying to figure out would he walk down or should I take the stroller (close to a mile work each direction, hot day, tired child)? But if I take the stroller he'll surely fall asleep either on the way there or back and that throws off the night. So should he just walk? But he'll be cranky and the High Line's so packed with people, it's not that much fun for him walking on it at this time. But once we get down there...to the butterfly festival...once we get down there, What?
What, really, would be so great about it? Yes an art project is fun -- and this is a great organization that runs these things, very into "loose parts" and kids' creativity and nature and revitalizing urban spaces. But really -- he's done art projects, today even, many of them. He just got out of five hours of "school". And a parade sounds adorable, but is it really all that much fun for the individual kids? Chances are he won't know anyone, so I'll be prodding him to go join in and he'll maybe not want to or want to do something else or the wings will be itchy... who knows? Yes it could be all beauty and light, ethereal and magical watching these butterfly children spreading their wings on this elevated futuristic city-park but that's almost never the way these things go. There is glue that won't come out, glitter that gets spilled, paper that gets ripped, cranky kids, hovering parents doing the project for the cranky kids, pushy kids, pushover kids whose paintbrushes keep getting stolen.
And then -- what about the pièce de résistance? The real live butterflies? Yes that would probably be really neat, if you could see it, if you weren't being trampled by snowplough parents pushing their way to the front? But we saw the butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum, and it was cool, and we were surrounded by butterflies, and watched some in the chrysalis (didn't we used to always call this the cocoon?) trying to hatch, and then Wally flitted over to the door and we were on our way to the whale room. I've seen him happier, thrilled even, at the sight of a single butterfly than in a room full of them. Kind of the same dynamic as presents. One is a treasure. A room full of presents dissolves into a debauched scene of kids ripping things open and tossing them aside.
Still, that's not to say the butterfly exhibit or festival isn't a neat thing, and that it might not be a great thing to do on an otherwise empty day, a fun little outing, rather than one more big push in an already busy (for a four-year-old) day.
But on that particular day, I realized I was grasping after one more cool "experience". Was it that it sounded more fun for me? Is that one of the big draws of these sorts of activities. As many moms have told me, they find it easier to schlep kids around to activities rather than be at home with them.
Mindy Berry Walker wrote in A 'Happy' Mom's Confession: I'm not so nice at home: "I know that my kids would rather be home making dolphins from Play-Doh with me than visiting the seals at the aquarium. They don't need to get out, but I do, in order to see the beauty of life at home. Otherwise, I lose control, and the hurt feelings, the extra snacks, and the spilled juice overwhelm me."
So maybe that is one of the reasons we moms go racing around to these things -- down to Battery Park City for the Brazilian music, to the library story hour, to the the Natural History Museum, the Family Jam, the art class at the Rubin. Ms. Walker also highlights the sense of being able to focus on one's children better outside the home. "Outside, in the big world with my girls, there is a sense of adventure that I thrive on. Unlike at home where I feel the simultaneous tug to engage my children and break down the mess on the dining room table..." That seems like as good a reason as any to go outside the house itself, but still doesn't justify going further than the nearest playground.
Choosing the local playground over the butterfly festival (or sunset drum circle, or whatever) is sometimes more difficult in the same way that quiet, un-rushed days are harder than packed ones. It requires drawing on inner resources rather than outer, quiet focus rather than crowd control, creativity--an answer, if the playground is empty or the kids who are there don't let you play with them--to the question "What should we do?" rather than an easy command: "Pass me the glitter!" hollered over the heads over other children. Patience rather than pushiness, mundanity rather than worldliness, slow, unremarkable boredom, maybe, rather than a dramatic meltdown, a hurried departure, a comforting refrain on the way back of, "Well, I tried."
You did maybe try, but you did it, maybe (you, that is me, Rachel, for years past) without thinking about why you were trying, what exactly you were trying for. An escape from the boredom of playgrounds, the sense of isolation there, the impossibility of containing Wally inside one, (that is no longer the case), the refusal to miss out on anything. FOMO, the word my cousin Leah coined, fear-of-missing-out. And also because it is, like the "Happy" mom confessed, easier to focus and not feel overwhelmed when going on an adventure. Yet all this trying, all this chasing butterflies and stalking sunset family jam circles, all of it combined adds up to depriving us of that thing we claim to want more than anything, that ever-elusive jewel always slipping through our hands, that supernatural, hallucinogenic, fantastical dream from childhood.
So we went to the local playground. And we didn't find anyone we knew. Wally asked two different groups of kids if he could play and both said no or gave blank looks, almost equally hurtful. He skipped off. Ran through the sprinkler. Climbed on the ropes. And came back to me. We played Go Fish. The sun was in my eyes so we moved from the bench to the weird rubber ground. We played three or four rounds. Wally found a bus someone had left behind and took it for a tour. He kept looking around for someone he knew. The few hours we were there stretched out. Nothing exciting happened. On the walk home Wally felt sad that none of his friends had come out to play. There wasn't really much I could say. It wasn't an "amazing" afternoon, but it was time together, it was time, and you can't get better than that. And as Kim John Payne writes in Simplicity Parenting (yes I love this book), those everyday moments are what kids remember from childhood, not the "blowout trips to Disneyland".
Think back to your own, isn't that true? Playing in the backyard, coming down to a cozy breakfast in winter, reading books together before bed? Aren't those the phantom images that surface when those days return to you? The days before you left the chrysalis so to speak? Those are the ones that return to me. Playing with that cross-stitch game under the table on the back porch. Drinking orange juice and eating donuts by the pool on a quiet summer morning. Listening to my dad's best friend Alan play When the Ship Comes In on guitar. Reading a book with my cat curled up next to me. Those moments when I had time.
Assuming you are among the lucky few who has a choice about how your child spends his or her time, provided your children are not among the 215 million worldwide who have to work, and that you are able to find a work/life arrangement that allows for more than a rushed dinner, quick bath, and breakneck bedtime routine, then it would seem perverse to willingly deprive kids of that one essential promise of a summer in childhood.
*Title, novel Julia Alvarez
Friday, July 27, 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Plus it was originally published in 1961, so even back in the actual day when most people slapped some stagnant water on a handful of dirt and called it a banquet, there were girls (and, I hope, boys) plucking dandelion lollipops tossing leaf salads for their dolls.
In the foreword the author gives some general guidance for getting started:
"You can use a tree stump for a counter. The sea makes a nice sink; so does a puddle at the end of a hose. For a stove there is the sun, or a flat stone. And ovens are everywhere. You'll find them under bushes, in sandboxes, or behind trees."
So basically, you can start anywhere, with almost anything you find - bark, pine needles, rain, or seaweed. No batteries required!
I wrote the above earlier today - before I dashed out the door to pick up Wally. Early afternoon, hot sun, long afternoon stretching ahead of us. At that moment nature seemed serene and inviting. I was thinking back to a few weeks ago when my nieces and I made tons of mud pie "burgers" with sand at a local playground and set them out to dry in the sun. It was so much fun, coming up with all different kinds of burgers to pretend that we made -- can't leave out vegan and, on the other end of the scale, cheeseburgers.
Now there's a severe storm coming this way -- and a possible tornado watch (or is it a tornado watch with a possible tornado?). The rain has just begun. It will be coming down in sheets soon and the thunder will maybe wake Wally. Alex is on a neighbor's balcony. They should probably come inside. I don't feel the same kind of excitement that I did with storms as a child, and not because the spectacle appears any less spectacular. It's the other way around. Except for flat-earthers, who interpret them as either benign or a welcome sign of apocalypse, thunderstorms don't feel quite right anymore. They are foreboding, potentially grave.
I can't help but think of that line from Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.
"How do our lives ravel out into the no-wind, no-sound, the weary gestures wearily recapitulant: echoes of old compulsions with no-hand on no-string: in sunset we fall into furious attitudes, dead gestures of dolls.”
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Here's a great list of resources put together by Outdoor Alliance for Kids and Michelle Obama's Let's Move Outside campaign website.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
A few months ago my physics professor friend M. sent me the above photo in response to a post about those carrot tops that just wouldn't sprout (never did). M. said she felt sad because she had to kill some of her perfectly good seedlings to allow others to grow. That seemed like a good lesson and it stuck with me. Quite a literal example of the saying "some must die so that others may live." It's the kind of thing that comes up a lot in writing---having to cut all kinds of good material that just doesn't fit, so that the rest of the poem or story or essay will work better. And it applies to other things too, like limiting the number of friendships you have, or activities you take part in, or projects you start, so you can focus on the most important ones. A perfect illustration of that quote -- I can never remember who said it -- "Better to do a few things well than a dozen things poorly." Or even more simply, the old adage: less is more.
I think "lessons from seeds" would be kind of a nice organizing theme for some sort of preschool lesson. Sort of like the rules for running, writing and life I posted here two years ago. Maybe one could do a whole book of these kinds of things. Lessons from one area that you apply to life in general. I think I remember reading one on swimming and life a while back. Let me see if I can find it. Yes, here it is: Swimming Lessons: Life Lessons from the Pool, Diving in to Treading Water.
Wally still waters the little strawberry plant that just won't grow, the carrot tops we've finally given up on. We also have plants from my grandmothers, still thriving. And a basil plant now on the porch. Plus we are trying various seeds from fruits and vegetables -- apples, avocados, oranges. I will let you know if anything grows. I will send word, posthaste. In the meantime, here are the lessons.
I like that it is so clearly a forced decision point, when it comes to seedlings. It may be hard to do, if you don't kill some off, they'll all die. (As Annie Dillard reminds us, "Nature is, above all, profligate.") In our busy lives, the same dynamic is more subtle. We can try to do everything, and the result will be most things done poorly-- that's probably the best-case-scenario. The worst is that plans will all get messed up, the activities will exhaust us, friends will start to get annoyed and grow distant, and we'll miss out on the one thing we want most: time. So we can choose, instead, to simplify, to kill off some seedlings. When it comes to events and activities for kids, we can do this to make their lives more expansive. Keep things little so the world can be big. In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne, M.ED. tells parents to cut down on activities for the sake of their children. Be willing to say "no", he advises, to "protect the space and grace of childhood years."
The Endless Summer by Mark Bittman
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Really liked this article Why Alone Time is So Important for Boys and Girls by Dr. Peggy Drexler.
Some great advice. Makes the point that it's not simply over-scheduling kids that's a problem, but over-entertaining them as well. Dr. Drexler opens with the example of a boy who walks in the door from school or camp and "...expectantly asks his mom, Maggie: So what do we do now?" The mom is clearly busy, but she lets herself be interrupted, and does something fun with her child. Nothing wrong with that, but "Maggie sometimes wonders if Tommy couldn't do some of these after-school activities by himself -- or maybe spend a quiet afternoon reading a book...". Still she gives in and they go to the park or play a game so that her son will have a fun afternoon. A reasonable position (and one I am almost always in myself).
Kim John Payne, M.ED. notes the parent-as-ever-willing-playmate trend in
her book Simplicity Parenting. "...As a society," she writes, "We parents have signed on to be our children's lifelong 'entertainment committees'. We're unpaid performers, that's for sure, but performers nonetheless...A break in the festivities (or in the string of classes and playdates) and we are liable to jump up and dance. No wonder we're exhausted."
I do try "quiet time" at home on occasion, and sometimes ask Wally to play alone so I can finish work. There's always this initial resistance, and then he often gets into a flow state and I hear him chattering away in his room playing dress up and flying airplanes. But still he often reports back at short intervals saying, "Was I playing nicely?" like a dog waiting for a treat to be thrown into his mouth. The initial resistance makes me think of the way many of us have that to doing something quiet that we enjoy in the evening. At first it is hard to pull oneself away from a screen or the sense of something you should be doing (much easier to pretend you are working when you're on the computer, regardless of what you're actually doing). But then within ten minutes or so of writing or reading or whatever quiet activity it is -- maybe weeding in the garden -- you get into that flow state and you think "Why did I resist this? It's so wonderful."
As far as alone time for Wally, this article made me realize I don't make time for it often enough, and definitely not consistently. I say no easily to the ice cream truck or toys in the grocery store (a huge display now, right when you walk in), but when the question is, "Will you play with me?" I am a total sucker, and give in.
Different story at playgrounds where I'm an expert at plunking myself down on a bench and talking to grownup friends while insisting that Wally scamper off. I love it when other parents follow suit. One even refuses to "help" a kid trying to do monkey bars that are out of reach, saying, "Do something you can do without me". I think that's great! Sometimes...and that at other times decide that you're going to spot or indulge the incessant "Look at me's!!" or whatever. Last week, a friend-parent of mine suggested we go sit on the playground structure because the kids wanted us to ride in their airplane. I did it reluctantly, feeling she won the "better mom" trophy that night for doing it happily, and sticking it out longer. But now I can refer to this article and quote it, saying:
"The role of the ever-present playmate that I see many parents slipping into can indeed be damaging. We've been reading lately about how Americans, by and large are raising a generation of spoiled children. In many ways, overindulging kids with scheduled time and constant parental attention is akin to spoiling them rotten with material goods."
"... filling our kids every waking minute, with sports or just plain companionship, we risk stifling their self-sufficiency, as well as their imaginations. We risk raising children who always seek support."
All this makes me realize that to raise kids who are grateful, self-sufficient and able to delay gratification means we, as parents, often have to delay gratification for ourselves right now, which is, by definition, when you have to do it. Sure it's a great feeling to see a giant smile on the kid's face when you turn away from the computer or folding clothes and say, "What should we do now?" just like it's great to see the smile when you buy the shiny red car or hand them the already-dripping-down-your-arm chocolate and vanilla twist ice cream. But you can't always give in--for their sanity or yours. First of all, always giving in will make you stressed and overwhelmed and lead to more tension overall, but that's for another discussion. Most importantly, you can't always give in, you have to be willing to be the mean mom, to sometimes relinquish your role as court jester, because it's what's best for your kids.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Parents, why are you pushing your kids? by Jeff Pearlman
"Hell, many of the parents I see gunning hardest for said success are, quite frankly, unhappy. They either work 70 hours per week at a job they loathe or count the hours until the kids go to sleep, or they just generally long to be somewhere — anywhere — but here."
Saturday, July 14, 2012
I often think about all the time I spent outside as a child by myself or with other kids, no adults, you know, "free-range" before it became a countercultural movement and it was just what everyone did. It's obviously insane to think about letting young kids run around by themselves in Manhattan, but it even seems that kids who are old enough to be on their own in a safe park are not, for the most part, allowed to be. Or maybe they're just too busy? And from everything I can glean anecdotally, kids are not outside by themselves in the suburban areas either. I've asked parents why not, and they say it just isn't safe. We know that's not statistically true, that violent crime has gone down since the 70s and 80s and that the number of children abducted by strangers every year in the country is the same number of people killed in car accidents every day. But the fear-mongering goes on--after all it keeps kids captive to marketing, inside, glued to computer screens and the TV, or in organized activities and camps (either way, cue the sound of the cash register going cha-ching).
I have this conversation quite often:
Me: At what age would you allow your kid to roam the neighborhood and come back when it gets dark?
Other parent: (panicky expression) I don't know. I...I dunno, maybe 15? I don't even know.
Me: Okay, so three years before he turns into a legal adult and--assuming he goes away to college--will be living on his own, he'll be allowed to walk around the neighborhood unsupervised.
Other parent: (confused, uncomfortable look).
Then I ask what age the parent was allowed outside without grownups, even if it just meant walking to the bus stop or to school. The answer is inevitably from as early on as they can remember, certainly by 5.
Same goes with babysitting.
Me: Would you be okay with a 15-year-old sitter for your kids?
Other parent: I don't think so. Probably not.
Me: How old were you when you first babysat?
Other parent, somewhat sheepishly, defensively: 12, maybe 13.
Something has definitely changed, and in just one generation.
And any mom or dad who would let their kids run around with the neighborhood gang reports that there is no neighborhood gang. Their kid --if allowed to roam free-- would be the only one out there...the last child in the neighborhood, so to speak, the suburban counterpart to Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods. No one's out there, so no one sends their kids out there, so no one's out there, so no one sends their kids out there....vicious cycle. And now it's simply "not done", even among parents whose best memories are making mud pies at age four in the local pond supervised by a neighbor friend who was a whopping six years old.
So obviously it's got to start somewhere -- with some parent letting their kid be out there, and maybe another kid will see him through the window and join him brandishing sidewalk chalk and maybe more kids will come and and a game of capture the flag might even break out.
Mike Lanza turned his family's property into a playspace for neighborhood kids, with great success, and wrote about families throughout the country (and Canada) engaging in similar community-building activities that encourage playing in his book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into A Place for Play. Though it may be a little less send your kids out the back door and tell them to come home for dinner and a little more neighborhood kids painting together in the backyard and the parents setting up the barbecue. But that's okay, too. Certainly better than isolated cyborg-families in silent houses staring at screens while the kids are considered hyperactive by teachers maybe just a tiny little bit because their schools cut out recess and they never play outside. Someone pointed out, I forgot who, that in my organized sports, there's a lot of sitting and waiting, less running around than in your standard game of flashlight tag or hour at the local playground. (Although somehow I can't imagine that being true for soccer. I remember that being a killer.)
In our neighborhood, especially in the summer, the kids play late into the evening, scavenging for stuff to eat and treating squishy brown bananas someone digs out of a backpack like they're Magnolia cupcakes because they're so hungry at that point and it's so far past dinnertime but they would still rather stay out and play than go home and eat. (Just like how kids would rather stay in a pool purple-lip freezing than come out and warm up. Kids really have their priorities straight -- fun trumps most anything.)
Last night watching this scene of kids scampering about throwing water balloons while parents ate pizza on the benches along the sides, it occurred to me that living a simple, natural childhood in the city is actually easier than you would think.
We all know about learning tolerance and diversity and soaking in culture in the city and yadda yadda, but my argument goes beyond that. It really is possible to have something close to an old-fashioned, simple childhood in NYC, maybe even more possible than in the world of suburban sprawl because it's still operates on a village model. Here are the top ten reasons why it's easier to approximate that mythical carefree american childhood in the city than anywhere else.
1. In the city you run into neighbors by chance all the time because you live so damn close to each other and there are so damn many of you that you all converge on the same playgrounds all the time (in Manhattan; my sister hasn't found this to be true in Brooklyn--less dense, bigger apartments, sometimes even private yards). Here in the concrete jungle though for the most part you don't need playdates. You can go out and play (unfortunately with parents nearby).
2. You don't have a garage, attic or basement so you can't collect a bunch of sh*t you don't need. Instead you have fewer books (go to the library more), fewer toys (get more excited when you visit a kid who owns a Q train!) and fewer clothes (easier to clean your room).
3. Since no one else has any room to store anything either they're always giving you clothes and books and toys.
4. Going along with the lack of space, people are out and about interacting with the community all the time because there just aren't that many places to be inside. Plus there are so many great public spaces a stone's throw away. And unlike in the empty suburban yards and streets, people are actually at these public spaces. (In fact so many people perhaps they fall prey to the Yogi Berra dilemma: "It's so crowded, no one ever goes there.")
5. With all the free concerts, free movies, free drum circles, free garden adventures for kids, river walks and nature games outside in the parks, along the river, on Governor's Island and other places, summer evenings are spent outside and you get that lovely, protracted, expansive, wide open shapeless summer evening feeling that you used to have as a kid as you drift from one place to the next and dig around for squishy bananas.
6. Shuttling kids around is done just as much as anywhere, but in a more eco-friendly way--subway or bus rather than an idling minivan. So you're exposed to a lot of culture (Gospel singers in Union Square station/Jews for Jesus handing out pamphlets (if you can call that culture--it is, if nothing else, a topic for discussion)) rather than a DVD player to keep you entertained.
7. Kids get used to shared resources -- sand toys, rides on the slide, turns at the water fountain -- because they have to. Kids taking turns on the swings --> adults who understand one country can't use 1/4 of the world's total energy.
8. Instead of collecting stuff, kids collect experiences. Another plastic truck? Why not a trip to visit the sea lions instead. Forget one more Barbie doll--no where to put it anyway. How about splashing paint at the Children's Museum of the Arts or taking a picnic lunch to the creative little garden instead?
9. Kids are free at an earlier age to get around by themselves. Maybe most affluent parents with another option won't follow Lenore Skenazy's suit and let their 9-year-olds ride the subway, but certainly most reasonable parents will let junior high kids walk to school and back alone. I've seen it!!
10. Kids don't have to prove they are cool by watching violent movies aimed at teenagers or wearing cool brands (What are the cool brands by the way? I'm so clueless I don't even know. Like is Gap still considered cool? Abercrombie? DKNY? Someone cooler than I am, let me know). But anyway, city kids don't have to prove they are cool because they know they inherently are. They live in New York City for crying out loud. They see Sarah Jessica Parker and her kids at the playground and they say goodnight to The Empire State Building every night. (Substitute whatever urban environment you live in, unless it's Chicago. Just kidding! I like Chicago.) And when they go to college, they can authentically channel Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and say they're from (sing this part) "New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of/there's nothing you can't do".
All this is not meant to sound smug or superior to non-city dwellers. If you have a backyard or communal space like we had in the apartment then condo where I grew up, if your kids can run around with paper airplanes and water balloons, digging for worms, spitting watermelon seeds and chasing the ice cream man, then you've already got it made and you can ignore what I've written here. Or write it off as rationalization for not giving Wally the kind of childhood I had. As long as your kids do actually play outside. And you don't buy them too much stuff. Or spend too much time schlepping kids around and waiting for them in idling minivan. And come visit us sometime--the big lights will inspire you.
*Empire State of Mind
Jay-Z & Alicia Keyes
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Friday, July 6, 2012
(Actually -- Disclaimer: This happened in my house growing up! Dara and I wanted a cat and my parents did all the caretaking. They spoiled us. We helped so very little -- a few chores on weekends and setting the table. That's about it. Why did they do this? Topic for another post...yet I'm going to claim that it wasn't nearly as bad as what's going on now because isn't that always the point of these sorts of arguments...)
My parents recently pointed out to me that we still (Alex and I) feed Wally on occasion. As in, he just sits there like a little king while one of us takes his fork and stabs a green bean with it and brings it up to his mouth. Even though he's perfectly capable of doing it himself, and has been for years. I really don't know why we do it, except that he's tired, and would otherwise stop eating. So, the obvious answer is, let him stop eating. Maybe he's not hungry. Or maybe he just likes to be spoiled. It's fun to be king for a day. Kids don't--should not be expected to--always know what's good for them. Sure he may have "wanted" us to feed him, just like the little girl across the street "wanted" to take gymnastics AND dance AND swim class AND art. But that doesn't mean it's what's best for either one, does it? Father Knows Best is outdated and sexist, but Child Knows Best is a ludicrous surrender, a renunciation of our responsibility as parents. We're making their ladybugs for them, and letting them make major life decisions. Something is clearly not right.
Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Tapioca Syrup Solids, Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate, Pectin,Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Color (Black Carrot Juice Concentrate), Natural Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Organic Sunflower Oil, Carnauba Wax (From Palm Leaves).
Thursday, July 5, 2012
This is a book that I wrote for young adults. It's coming out in November. You can be the first one to write a review about it! Okay, so how does a collection of gross facts for preteen/tweens connect to sustainable living, natural childhood and community revival? (Because, you know, in the author bio on the back cover of the book it says that's what I like writing about.)
Okay well...let me give it a shot. Kids love gross stuff (in my day it was Garbage Pail Kids with their exploding heads and peeling skin and now it's people on TV eating cockroaches for money or The Wimpy Kid stashing a deviled egg in a neighbor's plant). And the natural world is absolutely crawling with vile stuff, from banana slugs to corpse flowers to fossilized dinosaur vomit. So, if kids claim to be bored by the outdoors and roll their eyes at the mention of a day in the local park, maybe you can get them interested in joining The Bug Club, or hunting for wolf spiders, or pressing leaves of skunk cabbage into a nature journal.
I'm happy because this is the first book I've written for kids. Or I should say I'm happy not because it's the first, but because I finally got to publish one as a person rather than a ghost. I wrote a bunch of picture books for kids but my name was not attached and I can't identify them, so it feels like it never happened. Which is weird. Why would it feel that way? Part of an invisible life.
I'm also happy that I got to give a shout-out in the book to my 5th grade teacher Mr. McInerney who led us bravely through the natural world in all its gruesome splendor.
Monday, July 2, 2012
"More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary." (Tim Kreider)
Those are never the answers as to what really matters. Those things are almost always all free -- family, friendships, art, music, time outside, time to oneself. Everything that Betsy Taylor writes about in What Kids Really Want that Money Can't Buy. Yet we live as if we have unlimited time. We'll cling to any illusion -- Hollywood celebs having babies in their late 40s (using donor eggs-- but no one tells you that) and they look like they're 25 so it doesn't seem to odd -- that confirms that to be the case. Everywhere you look in our media-saturated world an existential crises about mortality appears to be outdated. Our modern-day idols--like our previous ones I guess--are ageless, and live on after their death. But the truth is -- as far as we know, trusting science, and I trust it as the best data we have -- we don't have unlimited time.