Friday, April 23, 2010

someone like me can learn to be like someone like you

well, as you might have heard, it's a girl.

though it was very obvious to anthony and myself what kind of parts we were looking at as the goo-covered wand passed that way, when the doctor announced the prognosis on the privates, in my excitement i literally almost quoted cate blanchett in lord of the rings: “i cannot deny that my heart has greatly desired this.”

which is true. i’ve received advice from lots of random people of late, and they all had the same thing to say: “oh, you’ll love it no matter what it is.” i always wanted to answer by saying, “sure, long as it’s white,” just to put somebody else on the receiving end of not knowing how to respond to unsolicited comments. not that they weren’t right.

but i’ve always wanted me a little girl-child; when i was much younger, it was mostly just because girl clothes tend to be way more fun and adorable to buy (this still kind of figures in). but these days i reckon the psychology behind it runs a little more deeply. i do think the impulse is mostly selfish: the desire to bring up a lil somebody in your own image. i’ve always had a hard time imagining how i would be able to connect with a son once he got to a certain age. but i’ve never had trouble with the idea of wanting to be close with a daughter, to supply information to her that i was woefully ignorant of as a minor, and, subconsciously, to impose my own interests on her, however selfish that might be. essentially, i’ve always wanted to raise a smaller, smarter, better-at-electric-guitar and less-prone-to-reading-fan-fiction version of myself. can any other would-be parent really and truly attest that they’ve not felt the same?

my friend leah, who just had a man-cub in november, told me that, quite honestly, she wanted a boy all along. she said it was because she thought she’d be less inclined to deal with the drama a girl brings along with her.

i didn’t take this comment as meaning that girls are inherently melodramatic (though that seems to be the consensus on which most female sitcom characters are based). i took her to mean that girls have it rough in the world. i don’t know how much rougher girls have it than boys, because i’ve never been a boy. it occurs to me that everybody i know has had it rough at one point or another. and that’s something i know i can bank on for my kid, too, because it was true for me, and it was true for you, and for everybody, even the lord and savior of the world, jesus christ himself. though he had it worse, i suppose: sometimes, when i, melodramatically, proclaim that "it's the worst day ever," anthony will check my 'tude by saying, "yeah, tell that to jesus/anne frank/hiroshima."

anyway, i know my kid is going to have some hurts, and already, less than four months before we’ve even met, i want to grieve for my kid. concrete is going to scrape some knees. swings and slides are, at times, shoddily made. sometimes it’ll rain on beach day. people will be mean. the person you like will like somebody else. failure will come out of nowhere. you won’t get exactly what you hoped for. and the things you always accepted as true will, one day, seem suddenly nebulous.

how do i explain all this to my baby child, before she figures it out on her own?

well, i guess don’t. i guess that’s the next hurt i’ll face in my life.

still, if i can selfishly impose one personal trait on my kid, it would be the impulse to recklessly charge into situations, regardless of the pain they may or may not reap, because it’s in these same situations that really awesome stuff sometimes emerges. in my case, for example, a daughter, to be expected shortly. i can’t complain.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

hoping you don't break my stereo (a lengthy, perhaps overly-detailed post concerning music)

today i was standing at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change, with headphones in my ears. as is common now when I'm standing and waiting, my hand went to rest on the belly. after several seconds, i realized that my hand wasn't actually resting, but tapping in rhythm to "handpocket" by best friends forever, which was coming through my headphones. i wondered if lil' laurence or antonia could hear my mad beats, and if she/he(/they?) appreciated them, and just as i was starting to wonder what other sweet tunes i could tap out for my half-developed kid, a car beeped at me, letting me know they'd tolerated my daydreaming for long enough, and that i should cross so they could turn.

but now i'm home, with my shoes off and eating easy cheese by itself out of the can, with the freedom to ponder this question as much as i like: what music will my kid like best?

i was a strange child. i grew up on bad late-eighties pop and contemporary christian music, with a little bit of country thrown in. i loved certain over-the-top classical faves, like palchelbel's "canon" and "danse macabre" by saint-saens. but the songs that pervaded my whole childhood and into adulthood were hymns. my dad is a preacher, and so i heard the same types of songs every sunday and wednesday until i was in my twenties.

the hymns themselves changed a little depending on region. our half-decade in kentucky saw sundays split between two rural churches: one that churned out the old familiars like "this is my father's world" and "holy, holy, holy" on the piano and organ, and one that occasionally broke out the guitars and the banjo for "victory in jesus" and "keep on the sunny side." then we moved to florida, and my dad's preaching took a hiatus for a while, during which time we began attending what was, even then, a much larger church than one we'd ever regularly attended (it's now on its way to mega-churchdom), and while a lot of the hymns were the same, some of them were much older and much larger, like martin luther's "a mighty fortress," which continues to overwhelm me sometimes with its grandeur. we also heard more from charles wesley, the consummate songman for any methodist church, and one of his songs, "come o thou traveller unknown" will probably make me weep until the day i die.

but my kid won't have the same experience i had; its dad is an atheist, and its mom a christian of a different breed than her own parents are. this knowledge is something that does sit in my thoughts on many days, and i have no doubt i'll end up writing another post devoted entirely to the notion. so while i no longer hear hymns on a weekly basis anymore, there are plenty of other things i hear, and that means my kid will hear them.

listen, i'm pretentious. i'm considerably less knowledgeable about music than some of my friends, and even than i used to be. i don't have the skillz to write a music blog (though i can direct the reader to one kept up by a good friend of mine:, but i know what i like, and more importantly, i know what i don't like, and maybe most important of all, i know what i hope my kid won't like. i remember trying to engineer my eight-year-old sister madison's musical taste before she could even talk, and how i begged my mother not to let madison watch "hannah montana" and other similar shows when they rose to popularity. i made a lot of talk at the time about how they forwarded misogynist values, blah blah blah, but mostly i just didn't want any sister of mine listening to bullshit music. (you heard me, disney; after i defended you in my last post, i think we oughta call a spade a spade. or, in this case, call bullshit bullshit.)

i'm hoping i'm a little more loving and a little less douchey when it comes to my own kid now that i've gotten older, and i certainly don't think i'll tell my kid not to listen to something just because i don't like it. but it don't hurt nothin' to expose junior to some tunes in utero and afterwards, does it? no, i thought not.

luckily for me, bands that i already like have likewise gotten themselves or their woman-types knocked up, and have thus felt the urge to produce albums appropriate for their own offspring. to date, i own innocence mission's "now the day is over," a quiet album comprised of songs the married band members have supposedly sung to their children as lullabies. after birthing her daughter panda, kimya dawson released "alphabutt," which was only slightly more adorable than all of her previous albums. i also have they might be giants' album "no!", which has some songs that sound like their normal fare, and some that sound like they belong on the segments that come between the shows on nick, jr. and then there's the lyrically simple but totally dance-able self-titled album from robert bobbert and the bubble machine, which is actually robert schneider of apples in stereo. (as a side note, robert schneider once walked into the bakery i used to work at with his curiously well-spoken young son and bought a king cake from me, and gave me a five dollar tip. i think he tipped me because i kept calling him "famous.")

there are other albums i own that weren't made for kids, but that i think would appeal to kids. off the top of my head, matty popchart's "good old water" is one of the sweetest and most fun albums i've ever heard. some of the songs are bittersweet and quiet, but some of my best childhood memories are, too, and deserved a good soundtrack. a co-worker of mine said her kids love "milk-eyed mender" by joanna newsom, and i think some of her songs would be good lullabies ("sadie," "emily"), not to mention an epic introduction to story-songs ("monkey and bear").

then there are individual songs that come to mind that i wish i could pump right through the placenta to baby shows-fife's developing ears. "golden slumbers" makes me cry just about every time i hear it these days, though i blame that on hormones. another one, oddly, is david bowie's "queen bitch," though i don't want my kid learning the word "bitch" (or the word "coozes," for that matter) until they're old enough to know why it's not nice. at which point they'll be allowed to listen to rap music.

like any (potential) parent, of course i'm projecting. but some of these songs and albums, and many more not mentioned, seem to represent the kind of emotional environment, sensitivity to imagery and subtlety that i hope my kid will also learn to love. and yes, i want to raise somebody as pretentious as i am.

but i say all that to say this: what kind of music do you think a kid should grow up on? what would you play for your kid, or what have you played already? what did you love when you were a kid? it takes a village to raise a child, supposedly. but more important, it takes an army of internet-friends to properly season a child's musical appreciation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

oo de laly, oo de laly, golly what a day.

i was going to write a post detailing my various stages of reaction when i found out there was to be a new person living in my belly, and i probably still will, but i seem to have lost interest in that topic for today. it seems more relevant, at this point, to write about an argument a conversation anthony and i had the other night over delicious mexican food.

almost since the first day i met him, i have known about anthony's distaste (probably a mild word in this case) for the disney corporation, and pretty much anything it has touched. he makes an exception for the disney version of robin hood, but it is awesome. the system of values, as i interpret it, which leads him to tout such a distaste is one of the reasons i was sure he was somebody I could be convinced to hang out with for the rest of my life; why support an organization with a history of indifference toward the problems it creates? this includes the obvious economic globalization and the purveyance of sweatshop conditions for the corporation's overseas laborers, but also extends to a history of racism and misogyny. social justice is something anthony cares about, and it's something i care about, and the fact that he clearly cared about it is one thing that made me care about him.

so how did this figure into our dinnertime conversation at los mariachis restaurant?

well, we're about halfway through the baking process of our kid, which means we only have a few months left to decide what colors to paint the room, what kind of sheets to get for the crib, and, of course, what philosophical tenets to raise her or him on. anthony asked the all-important question as i was wolfin' down some delicious chips and queso: are we going to let our kid watch disney movies?

anybody that has known me for more than 20 minutes knows that i love disney movies. are they racist? sometimes. are they misogynist? almost definitely. but so is half of my family, and i still love them. the more important question to me has always been this: do they deliver show-stopping musical numbers and heartwarming, if overtly simple, moral conclusions? you bet your ass they do. and i know all the songs. ALL THE SONGS, my friends.

but anthony's simple question, which was only a question, meant to spur an important dialogue, put a fear in me that it took me a while to identify. i'll do my best to explain it now:

i want my kids to be the best people they can be. i want my kids to know what it means that every other person on earth is just as important as oneself, is just as worthy of compassion. i want that knowledge to inform the way my kids treat everyone they meet. and i want it to inform the way they live their lives.

basically, i want my kids to be better people than i am.

but in order to teach my kids these things, in order to be an example, i have to be a better person than i am. and that means changing the way i live my life.

so it stops being a question of "do we let our kid watch disney movies," and starts being a question of, "how do we re-evaluate the things we make important in our lives, for the sake of our future child?"

this is a terrifying question. i don't have an answer just yet.

in the end, it's my opinion that it won't hurt our kid to watch disney movies. i don't think it hurt me, and i certainly don't think it hurt anthony. but, then again, would it hurt any of us if we didn't play them in our home? the only one it would hurt, i think, would be me.

and there's always my ipod.