Monday, April 11, 2011


“But who will cut his toenails?” she asked despairingly. She was an older mom sitting beside Dan and me at a meeting we went to when Jessie was still quite young. I think it was about futures planning. Dan and I looked at each other and thought, “Bhah! What kind of concern is that? We don’t care about stinking toenails! We’re more hip, more progressive than that!” We were much more concerned about inclusion and education and friends. We were, well, a bit smug.

Neither of us remembered this incident until last week, when, after Jessie had gotten out of the shower and I had to remind her for the umpteenth time that she needed to actually DRY her skin, I began to fret over the little details that were hindering her full ascent into independence. It isn’t the larger issues—such as expressing herself or taking the bus—that are the problem, but the so-called smaller issues—such as closing the front door and turning the tap off completely. And my mind began to drift down the list and I became more and more agitated as they added up. I finally turned to Dan—who has invested a whole bunch of energy with me into this planning for Jessie to move away from home at some point—and wailed, “But WHO will cut her toenails?” in deep despair. Yup, the only thing standing between my daughter and full independence were her toenails! I had turned into that Mom who had wailed the same fear so openly at that meeting long ago, and now I understood.

The next morning I called my friend Claire, who always has sage advice and an uncanny sense of perspective. Without even saying hello first (thank goodness for call display) I blurted: “Can Julie cut her toenails?” Claire paused. I think she is used to these random calls from me and actually takes the time to think about my panicked questions. “No,” she said, adding, “And she doesn’t know how to trim or file her fingernails properly either.” “What about her hair?” I asked. “Is she good with her hair? Like, does she rinse it properly?” “No,” replied Claire, “What about Jessie, and her face?” she continued, “Can she wash and tone and moisturize it? Every day?” “Ha!” I replied. Now we were on a roll and kept adding to our list: toenails, fingernails, hair, skin … These were all the things our children did not master while we were busy including them in schools. But then those in segregated settings didn’t seem to have learned these skills either. So possibly, it had nothing to do with the schools and everything to do with us. Oh, here we go again! Blame the mothers!

Well, if we were going to be blamed, we might as well try to find a solution. However, one of the things that Julie and Jessie have in common is an uncommon ability to totally ignore any small (or large) skill their mothers might be trying to teach them. Mothers are unfortunate appendages best left ignored, unless needed for transportation.

Claire came up with a brilliant solution. Figuring that we probably weren’t alone in having failed to teach our daughters the rudiments of self-care (or having failed to teach them to care about self-care), we would find others who wanted to join us and hire someone to do it for us! We would approach estheticians that we knew (Claire and Julie have pedicures regularly and Jessie knows a delightful young woman, Athena, who does her eyebrows) to see if they might be open to developing a series of workshops specifically for our daughters. Each session would focus on one aspect—like nails, hair, or skin—and teach the girls the very basics in a very hands-on manner.

Okay. So here is where those of you with younger children shake your heads and turn away saying to yourselves … Wow! Get a grip! You older parents really have your priorities screwed up! But the crone here, who has earned every wild gray hair on her head—and in her eyebrows, which is why she needs an esthetician—says: start early on the toenails! Or they’ll trip you up every time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Time of My Life

Really. Here I am working diligently, hard, in the back room that is my office. Jessie has come home with her new boyfriend, whom I will call Drummer Boy (because he plays the drums, luckily we don't have drums ), before I drive both of them  to H'Art studios for a new Thursday night art session (where old boyfriend, Tall Thing, will also be, that should prove to be interesting!).

They are in the living room. Talking. I am in the back room. Working.

Jessie comes in and turns on the stereo, thoughtfully. She mutes the speakers in the back room, leaving the ones in the living room on where she and Drummer Boy sit. I wait to hear maybe Disney, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, even Blink 182. I listen and expect to hear dance music, hip hop, funk. Because they both love to dance.

But instead, loud and insistently filled with gag-reflex romance (okay, guess I'm old and have turned more toward jazz) and hormones (the teen ones, not the middle-aged faulty ones) I hear "Time of My Life." From Dirty Dancing.

You know the one: I've had the time of my life ... and I owe it all to you ... and lots of oh babies and woooo hoooo and mmmmmmm and with my body and soul I want you more than I'll ever know... and then lots of silence from that front room.

Hmmm. Gotta go!