1. (Mom Friends) - Meaghan O'Connell's article about needing to make mom friends after having a baby reminded me of how hard those early years can be (it really does get easier - kids, babies, mom friends, the whole thing).
" 'Well, are any of them cool?' my friend asked me.
Actually, I said, yes. Most of these women are cool individually. One woman at story time had these great sparkly shoes. Another is a midwife. One woman started her own company and is really funny. Another writes for the Times. Collectively, though, they are mothers. They park their goddamn strollers everywhere and they are alternately dressed like shit or way overdressed for someone who has nowhere to be at all. They’re either miserable or fake happy or smug. They’re lost, too, scrambling for affirmation that they’re doing things the right way, that their kid is going to be okay. Okay or a genius. They’re knee-jerk judgmental, compensating for their own lack of conviction, a little defensive, hiding their deep fear just below the surface. They’re tired. Their clothes don’t fit. They miss work, miss people, miss drinking. They have no idea what they’re doing and have spent way too much time reading about it on the internet. They are, I’m sorry to say, just like me."
2. (Chris Rock) - I feel like social media is abuzz with talk of Chris Rock's New York magazine interview, but have you read it yet? The whole thing is quite brilliant. As in every quote.
"I don’t think I’ve had any meetings with black film execs. Maybe one. It is what it is. As I told Bill Murray, Lost in Translation is a black movie: That’s what it feels like to be black and rich. Not in the sense that people are being mean to you. Bill Murray’s in Tokyo, and it’s just weird. He seems kind of isolated. He’s always around Japanese people. Look at me right now."
3. (The Most Powerful Woman In the Free World) - And speaking of influential people, the New Yorker has a fascinating profile of Angela Merkel, "the most powerful woman in the free world."
"She once joked to the tabloid Bild Zeitung, with double-edged self-deprecation, “The men in the laboratory always had their hands on all the buttons at the same time. I couldn’t keep up with this, because I was thinking. And then things suddenly went ‘poof,’ and the equipment was destroyed.” Throughout her career, Merkel has made a virtue of biding her time and keeping her mouth shut.
. . . .
Merkel, at sixty, is the most successful politician in modern German history. Her popularity floats around seventy-five per cent—unheard of in an era of resentment toward elected leaders. Plainness remains her political signature, with inflections of Protestant virtue and Prussian uprightness. Once, with a group of journalists at a hotel bar in the Middle East, she said, “Can you believe it? Here I am, the Chancellor! What am I doing here? When I was growing up in the G.D.R., we imagined capitalists with long black cloaks and top hats and cigars and big feet, like cartoons. And now here I am, and they have to listen to me!” Of course, there’s something calculated about her public image. “She’s so careful not to show any pretensions—which is a kind of pretension,” the senior official said."
4. (The Central Sadness) - New Yorker also published a wonderful essay on "the childless, the parentless, and the Central Sadness."
"I thought I’d undertaken volunteer work with kids because I was, above all, a realist. I thought it showed the depth of my understanding of my own psyche. I thought it was a way of turning my limitations, specifically my reluctance to have children, into new and useful possibilities. I thought the thing I felt most guilty about could be turned into a force for good. But now I know that I was under the sway of my own complicated form of baby craziness. Wary as I’ve always been of our culture’s reflexive idealization—even obsessive sanctification—of the bond between parent and child, it seems that I fell for another kind of myth. I fell for the myth of the village. I fell for the idea that nurture from a loving adoptive community could erase or at least heal the abuses of horrible natural parents.
I’d also tricked myself into believing that trying to help these kids would put the Central Sadness on permanent hiatus, that my husband and I could find peace (not just peace but real fulfillment) in our life together. Instead, we continued to puzzle over the same unanswerable questions. Were we sad because we lacked some essential element of lifetime partnership, such as a child or an agreement about wanting or not wanting one, or because life is just sad sometimes—maybe even a lot of the time? Or perhaps it wasn’t even sadness we were feeling but, simply, the dull ache of aging. Maybe children don’t save their parents from this ache as much as distract from it. And maybe creating a diversion from aging is in fact much of the point of parenting."
5. (Busyness) - Another great article on the "disease of being busy."
"Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?
What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?
How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just . . . be?"
6. (College Admissions) - Another article on "letting Harvard go."
"Q - How do I motivate my child to get straight A's? (I wish, actually, the question was: how do I set reasonable academic expectations for my child?)
A - you don't. Encourage your child to do his or her best work. Check in often to feel out how much and how well they're learning. Offer support if your child is struggling. And when your child gets a B, C, or D -- or even if he fails -- don't overreact. Review mistakes. Ask the child to fix them, even if it's not for credit. Ask how he feels about his performance and what he might do differently next time. Never express disappointment, but it's okay to encourage improvement. There's a line, and you know it. Expecting A's is pressure. Expecting learning is awesome."
7. (Elf on the Shelf) - And finally, this article on why "Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state" sounded absurd, until I read it. And now all I can say is "ummm??? (Full disclosure, we are an "Elf family", my children know no other way).
“I don’t think the elf is a conspiracy and I realize we’re talking about a toy,” Pinto told The Post. “It sounds humorous, but we argue that if a kid is okay with this bureaucratic elf spying on them in their home, it normalizes the idea of surveillance and in the future restrictions on our privacy might be more easily accepted.”