Archive for the ‘adult children’ Category

IMG_0105_2Ten days in, and hanging out at the beach with Peaches and her parents has turned out to be really sweet and easy. I do hold my tongue occasionally or make myself deliberately scarce — like the previous two days, when Nutmeg’s best friend came to visit with HER brand-new baby, and I thought the two new mothers might have lots they wanted to talk about without me horning in — but generally it’s been really easy to not get on Nutmeg’s nerves at all, and she hands me Peaches to hold and cuddle at least a few times a day.

It’s amazing how slowly things move when there’s a one-month-old around, and when there’s not anything you really must do but get her and her parents enough food and enough sleep. I’m trying to get into that nothing-important-to-do rhythm, which Nutmeg and Southpaw have adopted quite successfully — though I did write a couple of short articles this past week for a little bit of money, mostly to remind myself that while Nutmeg might be on maternity leave, I’m not.

I went to free yoga on the beach a couple of times, but I ended up thinking it might have made my ailing knee (a torn meniscus compilcated by arthritis, or maybe arthritis complicated by a torn meniscus) worse instead of better. Same for bike riding, which I did a few times when we first got here and haven’t done since. I walk some, and swim the equivalent of a couple of laps when we go to the beach at the bay, but by and large exercise has not been high on the activities list. The truth is, I don’t know what HAS been high on the activities list — there are so many things I keep meaning to do, various antique-shopping excursions, going to a picture framer, that kind of thing, but the slow pace of everything here at the house makes me sort of dozey, too. Instead I just do a lot of laundry, a lot of straightening up, and a lot of collecting groceries for and then preparing dinner — for the four of us, usually, but also sometimes (like tonight) also for friends of Nutmeg’s and Southpaw’s. I don’t mind the continual flow of their friends, and their friends’ kids, because one thing I really miss about the old days when Nutmeg and Meta were teenagers is the continual flow of young people into the house. And I do want Nutmeg and Southpaw, even as adults, to keep inviting their friends to stay over, because I want them to think of this house as their home, too.

Most of all I want to keep reminding myself that these are lovely, lazy, summery days, and that I should treasure them.

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IMG_1314Despite my angst of a couple of days ago about whether Nutmeg was irritated with me despite my best efforts at laying low — an irritation that iDaddy insists was all in my mind — I have to admit that it’s been a really wonderful interlude, all of us together here at the beach. Nutmeg and Southpaw are easing into new parenting like a warm bath — it’s not a show, not hiding their real feelings just to make us feel better; it’s the real thing. Southpaw told Nutmeg that he hasn’t felt this relaxed and happy since their honeymoon (which wasn’t that long ago — Nutmeg was six months pregnant at the time), and it’s probably for the same reason — there’s nothing much to do except focus on each other and now, also, this glorious baby. He in particular is incredibly smitten with Peaches — it seems he could spend hours just holding her and looking at her, if the world would let him. Supposedly he’s back from paternity leave now, working from our dining room table at the beach — but often when I pass by I see that his laptop is sitting unattended, and Southpaw is upstairs again while Peaches nurses, hanging around with his little family, changing a diaper, engaging in some quality “tummy time” time.

And Nutmeg is happy, too, for much the same reason — her maternity leave lasts longer, till early September, and between now and then there’s nothing much to do but focus on the baby. When I see her at her laptop, she’s not checking in at work, she’s uploading Peaches photos or looking on Amazon for a stroller or a little tent for the beach. When I catch her reading it’s nothing more serious than a novel (though the one she chose from my bookshelf, The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, is pretty damn dark).

iDaddy and I are not quite so relaxed, largely because we’re both actually trying to get some work done during this interlude. (Well, Southpaw is, too, but the draw of Peaches is even stronger for him.) And also because we think that our role here partly is a practical one, so we’re thinking about and preparing nightly dinners for 4 more intensely than we otherwise would. But a baby really does bring a sense of balance back into the picture. And occasionally she’s hilarious, all those creaks and grimaces and flailings and yawns that a beautiful baby cycles through. Occasionally, as in this photo of Nutmeg trying her hand at nursing in public for the first time, her parents are kind of hilarious, too.

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bassinetThere’s something of a sense of unreality to Nutmeg’s preganancy, which I guess is part of what it means to be an expectant grandmother rather than an expectant mother. Even when we saw her this weekend for a baby shower; even when we went up to her apartment and saw the little bassinet they’d set up in the living room with its bunch of teeny tiny gifts lined up in an adorable tableau; even when we went to dinner and I sat next to Nutmeg and was able to feel the baby moving, with an intense sense memory of how it felt to be the one carrying the child rather than the one with her hand on the belly; even with all that, I can’t quite picture what it will mean to have a baby in our lives, a baby crying all night long in our house at the beach, a baby AT the beach with us, wearing the delicious little bathing suit I couldn’t resist buying for the present iDaddy and I brought to the shower. (It was a co-ed shower, very low-key.) Maybe this is what it takes to make it super-clear to me that this is not really MY life that’s changing, it’s THEIRS, Nutmeg’s and Southpaw’s — another pivotal “aha” moment in the ongoing adventures of parenting grown-ups.

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dorothy_parker_kris_hedingWhen you use a Dorothy Parker quote from three generations ago to highlight a phenomenon you’re trying to suggest is something new in this generation, maybe you need to consider whether the phenomenon you’re talking about is actually all that new. That’s the advice I’d give, gratis, to David Brooks, whose New York Times columns are often provocative and interesting but are occasionally a bit smug — especially when he’s talking about his new favorite topic, morality and character-building.

The Dorothy Parker quote in today’s column concerned child-rearing. Americans children aren’t raised, they’re incited,” Parker supposedly said. If it was true then, it’s even truer now, Brooks continued; “a thousand times” more true. Maybe he just had a bad day at the Google quote machine.

His point is one that many others have been making for a long time — and I hope they’re all wrong: that this latest generation of kids is being excessively praised and excessively “honed,” to the point that they feel that the only approval and love they get from their parents is contingent on their performance. Quite apart from the fact that this is an argument that is internally inconsistent — how can you object to parents praising their kids for just being themselves, but also object to them praising their kids only if they show their talent? — I think it’s just plain wrong. I like to read pieces like this in a different way now, with an eye toward imaging what life will be like for my incipient grandchild. I’m afraid that this time, Brooks offered me nothing interesting to think about.

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images-1The Word of the Day today on the Word Spy web site is niephlings, a new portmanteau that means one’s collective nieces and nephews. It seems like a good idea for there to be one word to mean all those kids, no matter what their gender — though an earlier version of that word, niblings, is a lot more appealing to me. (Word Spy explains that niblings comes from niece/nephew plus sibling, which is something you probably know without having it explained to you.)

This all puts me in mind of how lovely Meta has been about Nutmeg’s baby, Meta’s own little nibling. It’s been wonderful to watch her excitement at her impending aunt-hood — something made possible partly, I think, because Meta so sincerely likes Southpaw (and has always loved Nutmeg). And it’s made possible, too, by something I suspect is true about Meta but have never felt it was my place to ask: that she doesn’t really want kids of her own. This little niece/nibling/niephling/sofralia — or, as we like to refer to her in our mostly-journalist family, TK — will be Meta’s chance for a baby to love and nurture at close range. I’m delighted to see how much pleasure she’s getting from it in prospect.

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c26-B00009YEGL-5-lI had coffee with Nutmeg before work yesterday, and she walked into the cafe wearing a beautiful new maternity dress in an animal print. It was tight and sexy and showed off her fast-growing belly. She looked gorgeous.

“Wow, the world’s largest giraffe,” I said.

Luckily, Nutmeg heard the admiration and love in my voice, and not only didn’t take offense at my comment, but repeated it to Southpaw when she got home that night. And Southpaw, who’s a world-class son-in-law, promptly sent me an email thanking me for giving him the best laugh of the day.

Nutmeg laughed, too, he wrote; “she fortunately has an excellent sense of humor about growing bigger at a strikingly rapid pace.” And then he added a sentence that melted my heart, and made me know that Nutmeg had made exactly the right decision when she waited for a man like Southpaw to come along (ignoring all the “case for settling” messages she was getting from the media – and even, I’m ashamed to admit, from her own mother): “Also that giraffe is the most beautiful pregnant woman, ever, as I’m sure you would agree!”

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5920123882_08625a21cb_zI love this series of photos of empty nesters standing in the room their kids used to live in, which was recently written up in Slate. The project, by Dona Schwartz (who also took a series of photos of couples at the other end of parenthood, standing in the rooms they were preparing for the babies they were about to have), is a fascinating one, trying to capture the emotions of this particular rite of passage using images rather than words. But there’s a weird sameness to the photos, too, and I can’t figure out whether this is reassuring or discomfiting. Almost all the couples (and one solitary mother, who is either divorced or widowed; the text doesn’t say) stand side by side in the bedroom of their college-age son or daughter. Maybe it’s because the kids are still coming home for school breaks that the beds are still there, though some are piled so high with boxes, books, and clothes (and, in one case, a discarded exercise ball) that it’s hard to imagine Junior actually finding any place to sleep.

The only couple that’s gotten rid of the bed is the oldest one, whose children have been out of the house for five years. (The length of empty-nestdom in these families, at least those whose photos were used in the Slate piece, ranges from two months to five years.) No one in these photos is smiling. Is that the way they really feel when they go into their children’s empty rooms, sad and lonely and regretful? Or are those hangdog expressions just the ones Schwartz chose among the many photos she took of each couple, because she was trying to say something about how it feels when a child grows up and leaves? Her own picture, alongside her partner Ken, is the last one in the Slate collection. She says her somber expression is largely because she’s sad about the end of this interesting project. But shouldn’t she and Ken be a little more elated now that the last of their SIX children has flown the coop?

The expressions of these empty nesters are a contrast to the ones Schwartz caught in her series of parents-to-be. While there were a surprisng number of serious (frightened?) expressions among the younger subjects, about half of them were smiling, some quite expansively, as they looked happily into the future, their eyes shining and their faces lit with expectation.

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