Tag Archives: Family

“Still holding on to that torch for life”

A song for New York, from Lucy Kaplansky:

It’s been eleven years, and songs like this — and the memories of that day — still bring tears to my eyes. I don’t think I’ll ever be over it.

My daughter is eleven now. She was just four months old on 9/11 and has no memory of that day, only the stories her parents have told her — it’s history for her, just another thing that happened in the world before she became aware of the world. Maybe that’s the way it should be. I wouldn’t wish this quiet grief to haunt her for the rest of her days. Let her acknowledge that day and move on with her life, in sunlight and in joy.

They’re teaching her in middle school to accept — “not just tolerate” — all cultures. I temper it a bit, telling her that all people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. Where cultures have wrong ideas — honor killings, female genital mutilation, the belief in the supremacy of one religion or another — people must speak out against them.

But perhaps the middle school teachers are right to emphasize respect and acceptance first: if respect is the foundation, perhaps it will help kids grow up to remember that whoever they disagree with is a human being too. In the end, after all the many important issues to disagree about, there’s nothing more important than that.

More thoughts on 9/11 here.

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I already know that Brave will rock

Daughter: “Can we see the clip again, Dad?”
Me: “Absolutely.”

We are SO there.

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The bullshit of gender-coding, cont’d

Nate DiMeo writes an open letter to the toy company Melissa & Doug, care of two of their merchandise characters:

Dear Abby and Emma (the girls in my daughter’s magnetic dress-up doll kit from the toy company Melissa & Doug),

[…] I’ve decided it’s time for you two to get jobs. Because, now that [our daughter] knows that pants don’t go on your head, all she’s learning is fashion — which super-cute top goes best with which skirt. But, I figure work clothes are different. A firefighter’s clothes are functional. She needs gloves. She needs a helmet. A doctor needs scrubs, maybe one of those old-timey head mirrors. Work clothes would inspire imaginative play and prompt questions beyond do these jeggings make my wooden butt look big?

But guess what, Abby and Emma, Melissa & Doug don’t make work clothes for you. They do for these two bigger, girl dolls. But their clothes won’t fit you. And yes, ballerina is technically a profession. I’m less sure about princess. There is one of the larger dolls who does have cool work clothes. His name is Joey. So, Abby and Emma, you can’t be astronauts. And you can’t help our daughter dream about being a scientist or a police officer either. Sorry girls. And — while I know there is more to parenting than purchasing — if you do talk to Melissa & Doug, if they maintain some sort of  magical, Geppeto-y psychic link to you two, can let them know that there’s more to being a girl than just being girly.

Heard on the radio program Marketplace, and posted here at the request of my daughter, who nodded vigorously as she listened and now insists that this be included in “our permanent records.”

More on gender-coding bullshit here and here.

(Image via The Baby Habit)

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“An invention that’s killing us”: The double-edged sword of modern time

Our daughter is waging a losing battle with time.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make that sound morbid. No, she’s fine and in good health. But she is discovering what most of us eventually learn — that in the most prosaic day-to-day sense (and therefore the most profound), much of life is a race to beat the clock.

No matter how much her young body needs its nourishing sleep, she must be awake by 7:00. No matter how much she’s savoring her breakfast, she must be done by 7:30. No matter how much she’s engrossed by a fascinating book, she must be out the door by 8:20. The school frowns on tardiness, and coming to class five minutes late earns you a mark in your record. Being on time is apparently one of the shining qualities that middle schools will look for when considering applications.

After school, she must read an assigned book for at least forty-five minutes. Not a problem for her, except that she’s itching to read other, more interesting stories and chafes at having to spend time on a book she doesn’t care for, with one eye on the clock. Apparently the mark of a “good reader” is not the ability to engage with a fascinating story and lose yourself in the tale, but the ability to sit and turn pages for three quarters of an hour. To be a “good reader” one must keep track of time — whereas our daughter, already a voracious reader, desperately wants to lose track of it.

And in the evening, of course, it’s bedtime by 8:40. No matter that the Family Ties episode on the Declaration of Independence is really interesting, or that the DVD of Back to the Future is getting to the really exciting bit with the lightning and the clock tower (there’s that motif of time again), or that Jon Sciezka’s Knuckleheads is so hilarious that we just have to read the next five chapters. It’s 8:40 and time for bed — so that she can wake up tomorrow and race the clock all over again.

We constantly want to stop for things — to experience something more deeply or to do something well. But we can’t stop; the clock is ticking. We are slaves to time.

Adam Frank discusses this in a fascinating post (the first in a promised series) on “The Tyranny of Modern Time”: Continue reading

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“The Luckiest”

For my wife, on the eve of our wedding anniversary.

I love you, my dear.

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Ten years on

We heard the first boom and didn’t think much of it — perhaps a van or garbage truck or some other anonymous vehicle backfiring outside our Brooklyn apartment. Maybe it rattled our windows, shut against the heat. Maybe the sound was masked by the hum of our old AC. If the second boom was audible, we paid no attention to it. My wife was at home on maternity leave, I was taking some time off, and we were preoccupied with something more immediately important: giving our little six-month-old daughter breakfast and getting her ready for the day. With nothing but a clear blue September sky outside, it was shaping up to be a beautiful one.

A little while later, as I was lifting our girl out of her bath, my wife’s sister called, frantic, asking if we were all right. Of course we were all right, my wife said; why wouldn’t we be?

Do you even know what’s going on? asked her sister. When it was clear we didn’t, she said: turn on the radio.

And then Bob Edwards on NPR was telling us that the World Trade Center was gone. Continue reading

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The infinite city, cont’d: Riding the taxi

From a New York Times editorial in praise of the yellow cab:

Sometimes it occurs to you that if you raised an arm at the curb on most of the streets in America, nothing would happen. […]

[I]t’s almost impossible to resist the seduction of the passenger window, the chance to gaze privately at the city sliding past. There is a certain inertia in taxi-gawking. At first, you merely glance out the window and then turn back to your own concerns. But after a block or two, the window demands all your attention. It is like snorkeling through a crowded coral reef. So many colorful creatures getting on with their living, making their way, such elaborate structures, such curious relationships to observe.

That is the nature of New York City — to realize, now and then, that there is something extraordinary in the very things you take for granted.

The rest of it isn’t much longer, but it’s a lovely read.

We’re more often straphangers than cab-hailers, my family and I, but on the rare occasions when we do use a taxi it seldom fails to be a quintessential New York experience. When we arrived in JFK after our vacation in Idaho, we piled our luggage and ourselves into a cab — and I soon realized that the vehicles clogging our stretch of highway probably carried more people than we ever saw in our entire two weeks away. (We’d visited, for instance, the town of Cottonwood in Idaho County, which according to Wikipedia is roughly the size of New Jersey and yet is home to barely 15,000 people — a population that a few blocks in our Brooklyn neighborhood would swallow whole without noticing.) Our driver announced that he was from Pakistan — that’s the infinite city at work, I thought, casually bringing people from far-flung places together. But in the next breath he called out a greeting to the driver of a passing cab, then turned to us and explained that the fellow was from his home town, living only a few streets away; shaking his head with incredulity, he told us they’d never met until they both wound up driving cabs in New York.

The metropolis, then, is also a village, as cozy and intimate as any Idaho town. Just another one of this city’s commonplace paradoxes.

(Photo via Flickr)

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