Thursday, July 2, 2015

Epic Parenting Fail: Erotica

In which my efforts to re-stimulate my daughter’s interest in reading are just a little bit too stimulating.

[I am back to blogging, at my daughter’s behest, after a long (2 year!) hiatus. Jessie is now 25, still dancing with Propeller Dance, still dating Drummer Boy (who has morphed into muscleman, but more on that in the next blog), and getting ready to move out. It’s been a bumpy road, but she is still keen, for some reason, for me to blog about her transitioning and my particular challenges in teaching her anything! I have a whole long list of parenting fails since the last time I wrote, but let’s just start with the most recent].

While Jessie used to be an avid reader, she now prefers to devour episodes of Say Yes to the Dress or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on YouTube. She is beyond the age where I can make her do anything that might be good for her, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. And failing. You think I might learn at some point, but this letting go is a difficult business (even with therapy). My most recent parenting fail on this front was particularly epic. I share it with you to let you feel much better about your own parenting skills. You’re welcome.

Jessie learned to read when she was about 5 years old (using perhaps the very first edition of Patricia Oelwein’s Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome)and was an avid reader—devouring first Frog and Toad, then Beatrix Potter (hence her bizarre vocabulary), then Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea, and anything by Stephanie Calmenson. There were a whole slew of books read in our local library’s Mother-Daughter book club, and of course the Harry Potter series when it first came out, and then Ella Enchanted, and Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I do have to say that reading is highly valued in our house: Jessie learned to pull herself up on a bookshelf, to pull things down from a bookshelf, and to stack things on a bookshelf. Our house is filled with books—on tables, under chairs, in boxes, and sometimes even in bookshelves. It is a habit or an addiction, depending on your point of view.

So you can imagine our despair when, towards the end of high school, Jessie just sort of gave up on books and transitioned easily and totally to the internet. TV was (and is!) still limited to set times in our house. As is the internet, except as it relates to work (for Jessie, that means advocacy or dance). Perhaps this was her way of stating her individuality, or maybe she was just needing to put less effort into her down time. Whatever the impetus, it was not something I wanted to add to our list of things over which to fight. I did, however, keep picking up books that I thought she might like from the library or the bookstore, and left them lying around on the coffee table or in her room. So in addition to her Archie comic addiction (fed on the same now falling apart compilations over breakfast), she did read (and loved) Wicked, The Notebook, the biography of Taylor Swift, and Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. But it’s been a while since we found a book that appeals.

So, you will have to forgive me if, last week, when she and I were at the downtown main library, I quickly perused the “new releases” and “recommended” section and came across what looked like a quick summer read. It looked romantic (see for yourself). And the author was a so-called “best” seller. And I thought it was from the young adult section. Really. So it would be appropriate, right? And would fit right in to the romantic life she is leading and aspires to.

So we took it out.

Then, that evening, the inimitable Gray sisters came over (Jessie’s friends “since elementary school,” and an integral part of both her our lives) and were, of course (in their campy and curious way), intrigued by this book sitting on the coffee table. They picked it up and began to read out loud. And then louder and louder. And Jessie yelled “NO!” and covered her ears.

That’s when I walked in. In my apron, my hands covered in whatever I was preparing for dinner. And I said, innocently, “I picked that up for Jess, I thought she might like it.”
And they said: “YOU picked it up for Jessie? Do you even know what this is Nancy?”
“A book?” I knew I was on thin ground here, but I wasn’t sure why.
“It’s erotica! You got erotica for Jessie! Listen!” And they began to read me the opening paragraph. Which I can’t even copy here because it would, well, not be fit for family consumption. Let’s just say it involved flesh and seduction and maybe even a few shades of gray. In graphic detail.  

In my defence, I had read the back cover: Breathe Into Me is a story about a broken girl called, Lacey. She has a stalker ex-boyfriend, a bad reputation, and not really much else going right in her life. Enter gorgeous Everett..... He's dropped into town to house-sit a mansion..... He's drawn to Lacey and wants to show her how good life can be. Can. She. Trust. Him???  Now that kind of sounds Twilight-ish, doesn’t it?

The girls, all three of them, could not stop laughing:
“You got Jessie porn! You got your daughter porn! O. M. G!”
“You got me porn Mom!” Jessie yelled, both embarrassed and delighted.
“Just wait ‘til I tell ….”

I made her promise NOT to tell my mother.

And then I got Dan to bring the book back to the library. After all, he walks by it much more often than I do. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

For the Pedestrians and Coffee Drinkers on Wellington Street: An Apology, An Explanation

Last week we had a particularly bad morning—Jessie and I. I think the pedestrians and coffee drinkers on Wellington Street—who witnessed a car suddenly swerving to the curb and braking and a young legging-clad woman jumping out, yelling in furious anger and then slamming the door shut—might agree. So might those inside the trendy stores who just may have seen the rock-clench of my jaw and the full-body energy stomp executed by Jessie on her way to rehearsal. Where I had “kindly” driven her, as a favour, in an effort to get her to rehearsal on time in a rainstorm.  

I am learning that you must NEVER, EVER do a favour to an adolescent-brained being. Or at least only deliver the favour with the understanding that it will immediately and forever more be held against you in some Freudian warp that has morphed you into an evil car-driving, dinner-making, message-taking, cell-phone-bill-paying necromancer whose only intention is to entrap the adolescent-brained being forever in some hell that resembles, uh, let’s see, a house with people who love you and feed you and drive you places and ask you every now and then to do your laundry.

Okay. I am not being totally honest here. It’s true; I did drive Jessie when she usually takes the bus. But I think I also took advantage of the captive audience bit and may have nagged her. About getting to bed on time (so she would wake up on time and get to the bus on time), or about writing things down so she doesn’t forget them, or about being responsible, or about how if she doesn’t get her act together the only place she might be able to move out to is a GROUP HOME. . . and well, that’s probably how it went.

So when she told me that I wasn’t the boss of her and that she could do whatever she wanted and I should just deal with it, I may have pulled over to the curb a bit too quickly. Where I told her, calmly, to get out of the car. (I did check to make sure that we were close to the dance studio and that she could find her way there.) Where she heard that very dangerous calm tone and knew to step out. Where she had impeccable timing that allowed her to yell angrily at the top of her lungs “I LOVE YOU. SO THERE!!” just as she slammed to door shut. Where the pedestrians and coffee drinkers on Wellington Street (referred to at the beginning) got their mid-day entertainment.

Three blocks up the road, my cell phone binged with a text message. Jessie, as always, had the final word:

Notice how she was able to cap "NOT," just to make sure she was being clear.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Livin' It Up on a Friday Night, or Ghost Mom

I’m jumping back in here to the blog after a long hiatus involving work and more work and then some work, and lots of bickering with Jessie—as we tried to find our way through the new “no-rule” experiment we are trying at our house (and a few major performances involving ALL our time and energy). I will share the best of the worst with you tomorrow (involving infamous text messages and a meditation breakdown) and hope that that will bring some closure to a difficult period and lead us into a joyous summer. Or at least make you laugh. Or at least make you grateful that a)your daughter has not yet reached puberty, b) your daughter is way past puberty, c)your daughter is not my daughter, or d) you don’t have any children at all!

But just in case you were wondering what I might do with all this spare time I have not blogging, or what I do for fun on a Friday night . . . I offer you this:


 Yes. That was the total number of notes on Jessie’s iphone when I first opened it up Friday night. Well, to be honest, the number was actually up in the 700s, but I didn’t think to photograph the number until I started to weed through and delete some of the notes and realized just how MANY 700 and some odd notes was and how long this was going to take me—since I couldn’t just batch delete, as there might be some that she wanted to keep.

Now, you might wonder why I would be the one sorting through her notes. The simple answer is because it needed to be done. And who do you go to when something needs to be done? Ghost Mama. That’s right… Us Ghost Mamas are the ones that slip in and start the work that needs to be done, leaving the finishing (and upping the odds that tasks actually will be finished) to the ones who actually own the task. I know one Ghost Mama who is, at this actual moment, virtually lurking, from her comfortable kitchen office chair up here in Ottawa, somewhere near Humbolt Redwoods State Park in California scouting out good biker/hiker camping sites for her daughters who are cycling down the West coast. There is no doubt that technology makes Ghost Mama work much easier, but it also, as I am finding, creates a new kind of adolescent messiness that rivals the proverbial teenager’s room in the kind of madness it can create. Whole gigabytes of garbage.

So. That’s what I was doing on Friday night. Taking out the garbage. Most of which involved wedding planning, along with a few Glee scripts and an invitation to Daniel Radcliffe to come volunteer at the Foodbank where, Jess assured him “I would make sure you were treated like a normal person.”

As I started to weed through the notes (and look at the clock), I realized I could be there all night. So I narrowed it down, making sure that she knew that cleaning up her note list would be one of her chores Saturday, to just the wedding invitation list, variously labelled as: “ Who’s invited to the wedding,” “who’s coming to the wedding,” “wedding guest list,” and of course “Hollywood people invited to the wedding.”

If you were not aware, my daughter is planning her wedding to her boyfriend, Drummer Boy, who seems to be as involved in this process as she is, although he doesn’t seem to have the same level of commitment to Yes to Dress. Also note that this wedding is not high on our “to do list,” as we have told Jessie that she has to live out of the house with friends before even considering booking the Santa Monica pier for her interfaith marriage (as you can see, she has spent a lot of time of this). Given that it took Dan and I 25 years to get married, I was finding it a bit disconcerting to have to scroll through more than 300 notes dedicated to guest lists for a glitter wedding in some foreign country.

But, once I had done deleting those, we (ah, I’ve gone all communal here, having spent more than half an hour swiping my finger and tapping delete. Swipe, tap; swipe, tap; swipe tap; sip coffee; swipe tap) were down to (see the number at the top of the phone screen):


Woo-hoo! 281 is a perfect number. Low enough for Jessie to be able to delete or sort, high enough to make it boringly painful, perhaps painful enough to convince her that having MORE THAN 300 notes about one topic is just a bit over the top.

So it went on her Saturday to do list, along with the chores she didn’t finish throughout the week, and which she had to complete before going out on her date with Drummer Boy. Ah motivation.

When Dan and I returned from grocery shopping Saturday morning, I reminded Jess that she had to sort through the notes on her phone.
“Oh, I already did that!” she said.
“How many are left?” I replied, telling her that I could show her how to email them to herself and then convert them to word docs to ….
“None!” she blithely and proudly announced.
“No, I deleted them all at once. I don’t really need them,” she said as she disappeared into the family room to watch something on her computer.

Dan had to pull me away from the kitchen cupboard where I was slowly, repeatedly, gently—yes gently—banging my head.