Graduate school for the soul

One of the best parts of my job is that I feel like I get a mini-masters degree in, well, life. I get paid to listen to the top experts in health, fitness, psychology and many other fields give me private tutorials in a variety of subjects. Then i get to drill down to the core of the matter and ask even more specific questions.

And when I tried my hand at teaching this year, volunteering to lead a Junior Great Books program at my son’s elementary school, I realized that one of the best things I could do was to “interview” the students to get the skinny on what they took away from the stories we read. It was as good an education as any I got when I was on their side of the learning curve.

Thing is, when my most important job is on the line, I sometimes have a hard time committing to this practice. That is, in parenting, I’m often guilty of lecturing rather than listening. If I could just get myself to bite my tongue and not look for the “teaching moment” in the simple tasks of the day (getting in and out of the car, for instance), then maybe I’d have a clue why my kids evade my brilliant parenting moves (clean up your room…or else! Do what I ask the first time…or else!) which mainly involve removing access to electronic toys.

Today, I read a great essay on Babble.com, which reminded me of just that. The author talked about her own limitations in getting her kids to open up—mainly that she was so preoccupied with solving it, with “actively” parenting, she missed the cues to shut up and listen. And by listening, I might just learn something—about my own parenting, about my kids and the people they are becoming, and about the quiet spaces where change happens. Whatever that may be.

This got me thinking about something I heard last night, when I was watching  Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, in which Senior Producer Jack thanked Oprah for all that he learned in 15 years of working for her. “This is where my soul went to graduate school,” he said, which stopped Oprah in her tracks. Me too. “I learned to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, right here.”

So, now I have it in my head that parenting itself is the graduate school for the soul. And I’m gonna see where that takes me. Starting now. What’s your take on graduate school for the soul?

 

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Restless RV wishes

I’m not sure which of us got the wild hare one day in late Spring. Or as the weather folks were trying to call it, “Sprinter” As in: Spring + Winter = Sprinter. But I suggested it might not be a bad plan to scope out areas within 60 miles of home to see if we could find RV destinations that wouldn’t break the bank in gas money. As in: Hey, kids, let’s see what happens when we keep driving West on I-80, and check out some of those towns we’ve only heard about on the local news.

So, we headed for the Salt Flats, driving on a road that is, more or less, built on the Great Salt Lake, and then doubling back to see what the towns on the other side of the mountain ridges to the west of Salt Lake City had to offer. Turns out, it was Denny’s. But I digress.

The drive was rather chill. The kids watched a movie in my Mom Mobile, which they like to say, “has a movie theater.” And they played various personal video consoles. But they also looked out the window as wildlife spotters. And cool-stuff spotters. Which is how we happened to notice this cool hotel.

No Tell Motel

And stopped to take some pics.

The Wide West

After which, we needed refreshment:

Chocolate Twizzlers=official road warrior cuisine

Then we cruised around the area looking for campgrounds. I considered it a scouting venture to see if we could find places to go in the RV on less than a tank of gas. Hmmm….Well, there’s always Miller Motorsports Park, which allows camping on site.

The Bagel

Picky eaters no more?

I’m Babbling about how to eat out on vacation…with kids. No typos there, I swear.

The behind-the-scenes babble is that we just got back from a vacation where, in spite of the kids behaving mostly like kids, they did, in fact, branch out, try new things, and, once they relaxed into the process, had fun. They also indulged in a fair amount of comfort food. Witness: The bagel.

The Bagel

Little Guy chows down on an old standby

At Bonefish Grill in Boynton Beach, one kid in our formerly-known-as-kosher brood tried fried shrimp. But it was from the kids’ menu, and tasted so bland he peeled off the breading and then declared the seafood unseasoned. One grownup taste frm proved the junior taste buds to be accurate. So dad fed the Big Guy some steak off his own plate, and both kids tried the garlic mashed potatoes – Little Guy tends to say he hates things on sight, so the fact that we got him to eat “different” (read: homemade) Mac-n-Cheese that night, plus “hated” mashed potatoes served as a win. And a dessert-earner. Hello, Rita’s! As Ski Dad put it: “I never thought to put custard and Italian Ice together in the same dish. Why did I never think to put custard and Italian Ice together in the same dish??

Anyway, we didn’t go full-on fine-dining, but even someplace like Bonefish, which is a casual dining restaurant, was a stretch given the extreme heat and everyone’s general grumpy temperament at the end of any given day. I am looking forward to many more opportunities to exercise that checklist.

Electronic survival kits

I’m not ashamed to say I carry backup iPods!!
We’ve boarded the second flight of the day at 11pm EST, fir a 1am arrival in Ft. Lauderdale.
Both kids were well-entertained on the first flight, with the added bonus (it turns out) that we had to split up with one parent and one kid each in different rows. Absence made the hearts grow fonder & they are reunited in adjoining seats swapping tips on iPod use!

I know some really cool authors. You should, too.

It’s summer reading time! I’m dying to know what’s on everyone’s list. I’m also thrilled, thrilled to have some recos for you. If you haven’t yet read Playdate, by my friend Thelma Adams, then get it. It’s a smart send-up of suburbia, a in intimate look into the secret life of the stay-at-home dad, an honest account of parenting and marriage. So go get it. Now. And don’t just take my word for it. O The Oprah Magazine put it on the list of it’s must-read beach books. And if you haven’t heard me crow about my talented cousin Erica S. Perl, now is your moment. Her new book, When Life Gives You OJ, for kids ages 8-12 (and those of us who are, at heart, that age, or parents of kids that age) promises to be a touching, funny take on inter-generational family life, exploring one summer in the life of a Jewish girl in Vermont, her desire to own a dog, and her relationship with her eccentric grandfather. My Big Guy (almost eight) and I are fighting over who gets to read that one first. We’ve loved every one of her picture books, and I devoured her YA novel, Vintage Veronica (all featured on her webiste, linked above). So go get ’em. And let me (and my pals here) know what you think of their books. Post your summer reads in my comments section, too!

The sweetest thing

You have to read the blog by my former colleague Nicci Micco.

Her post tonight left me with a case of the warm-and-fuzzies.

The familiarity of the lovingly crossed wires that come to a marriage that is mired in raising small children was heartwarming.

The frustration of her husband was palpable.

The net effect was hilarious–we try so hard to consider each other in spite of the fact the needs of the kids are so much more urgent, that we can goof it up ’cause we’re too busy to think it through.

 

Go on, tell Nicci what you think of the situation. I already did.

WHY chromosome

My mother said it best tonight. “Honey, that’s why they call it the “Why” chromosome.

Because, I was explaining to her the injustice of having sons who appear to have a surplus of IQ points and a deficit of common sense.

Why, I wondered aloud, did I have to sound like a broken record all weekend: “Don’t run with sticks.” “Don’t wrestle on top of the loft bed.” “Put the Sticks Down!”

Why, oh WHY was there, yesterday morning, before 8AM a bloody nose and cut lip on the elder son?

I told her a pediatrician pal told me that the condition is incurable. It’s called the Y Chromosome.

“No, honey. WHY. WHY chromosome.”

Mom knows best.

Boymom motto: It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Truer words were never spoken.