sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

April 20, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things

Filed under: parenting, politics, Soviet Union, the Holocaust — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 2:01 pm

We recently watched The Sound of Music with our kids, and, dear readers, I’d like to share our observations:

1. The songs, once they got into our head, seem to have permanently settled there, but mostly in a good way.  Even if Do Re Me gets a little annoying, I’m always able to chase it away with A Few of My Favorite Things;

2. Loved the film, but it’s strange, is it not, to march to the altar to a song that declares the bride “a problem”?

3. Loved the film, especially because it featured a lot of kids and the central story was that of a man and a woman meeting, falling in love and getting married, and their lives are better for that.  So quaint.  Contemporary Disney can’t get around princesses who are not ready, get entangled in relationships with trust fund babies or, worse yet, so obviously represent the frigid dead end of feminism.

4. Watching the movie I found it necessary to explain to my children, 7 and 5, about the Nazis.  I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I had to be explained such a thing.  I just knew.  VE Day, or, in Russian parlance,  Victory Day, was a major national holiday, every family was touched by the War and the media was saturated with War-related materials.

My husband, born and raised in San Fernando Valley, doesn’t remember being explained about Nazis either.  He does remember playing WW2 with his brother, though.  I’m quite certain I played the War a few times as well, even though I was a girly girl — because it was happening on the playground.  I’ve never seen American kids today playing anything violent with a reference to historical fact.

When we talked about Nazis being “the bad guys” my 7-year-old daughter promptly found an analogy: “Or, like they litter”.  Years ago I posted about a Soviet science fiction story where villains litter.  We can find faults with the Soviet story, but it’s my children who are living the life so overprotected, that they are unable to even begin to articulate the nature of evil.  (We shelter them from good, for a good measure, too, see number 3).

I recall, years ago, reading an article in local Jewish paper about teaching kids about the Holocaust.  It recommended waiting until they were 8 to explain that something horrible happened to Jews in Europe.  Perhaps I’ve forgotten some of the detail.  Maybe the conversation didn’t have to be postponed until 8, maybe the experts thought that parents need to wait until 5, but somehow I suspect a generation ago the issue was handled differently.

Granted, I didn’t know about the Holocaust until I was a teenager when my parents taught me about it.  I thought Nazis invaded our country and burnt villages, and my family, having no problem with this narrative, simply added on to it later.  Soviets weren’t big on Jewish issues, albeit there is the frequently played song about Buchenwald performed by Muslim Magomaev, but its subtext was by no means obvious:

My daughter shared her excitement about The Sound of Music with a girlfriend her age.  She told her not to worry, the movie is not that scary, although it has Nazis in it.  “So you get to learn abut the nuns?” inquired her half-Israeli friend.  Each year, Israel commemorated Holocaust remembrance day.

5. DH further researched 60’s musicals and found the following review of My Fair Lady:

No one younger than 50 will remember My Fair Lady. When it came out on stage and in movies it was wonderful. But now it just seemed dated. Radical lesbians will hate the thing.

But we are only interested in what gay men have to say about it!

6. Were The Sound of Music a Soviet film, Captain Von Trapp would be joining the Austrian partisans. Or at least the Italian ones.  And it would be no family fare.  Soviet and Russian WW2 films do not require redemption, are quite excellent, but very very difficult to watch.

June 19, 2014

Dear Parents of Russian Federation, Are You Nuts?

Filed under: parenting, politics, Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:39 am

Echo Moskvy, one of the few opposition media sources (this is not an all-out endorsement, there are some despicable opposition figures in Russia) retells a personal story, corroborated with pictures, that previously made the rounds in Russian social media.  The event took place in late May:

Sick and sunburned, my daughter Ksenia returned from a Saturday celebration staged for Putin on St. Petersburg’s Isaakievsky Square.  5000 people, most of them from children’s’ choirs were appropriated to sing songs for the leader!  It was titled “The Limitless Wonder of the World”.

It was 30 degrees Celsius [~90 F – ed.] in Peter [St. Petersburg — ed.] that day.  All 40 under the sun!  The children were sent off at 8 am.

Prior to the entrance to the square, the children’s choir was thoroughly searched. Documents were required (my child is 12, so I provided her birth certificate), then bottled water and juices brought by children were confiscated.

And then as usual – everyone waited several hours for the tzar, who’s always behind the schedule.  A five-thousand-strong crowd was blazing under the sun until noon.  The only entertainment was watching the snipers that swarmed all the roofs around Isakievsky Square.  Six out of the 37 children in our choir fell ill, and, our daughter observed, people were fainting right and left — volunteers and doctors were barely able to take them away and treat them with water.

Putin appeared for about 3 minutes in the middle of the concert, took pictures against the background of several thousand children (the leader and children — always a good picture!), then gave a short speech and departed.  The concert went on until 2 pm.

Ksenia did not last until the end of performance. She regained consciousness in medical tent where they threw water on her.

With all the traffic jams, the children returned to Sestroretsk by 4:30.

The child was hungry — she was not allowed to take any food — sunburnt, and in wet clothes, so she refused to go to the Birthday party of our friends’ child.

She also missed school on Monday because she wasn’t feeling well.

She is still not 100% after this show-off (Russian показухa — ed.) for the leader, which should really be called “The limitless shame of Peter”…

Words fail me.

Words fail me too, but for a different reason.  It’s not merely that the children got sunburnt — kids get sunburns — or even that so many of them fainted. It’s that the parents allowed the state to use their kids for propaganda purposes, when they should have expected the state to use them up and spit them out.

How to raise a slave

When in 2008 a group of Beverly Hills parents encouraged their children to sing a silly ode to then presidential candidate Obama, at least half the country was vocally disgusted by the creepy production.  But note, that was parents raising their own kids.  And while some of these parents surely think, in abstraction, that children belong to the “community”, they do not realize that the logical outcome of this line of thought is wholesale child abuse.

The fatalistic submission of St. Petersburg parents is not at all surprising.  When I was growing up in the former Soviet Union, subjects, young and old, were herded to all sorts of mass events.  We went because we went. Adults had their own parallel holiday — gave to Caesar what was Caesar’s and had a semi-discreet swig of vodka.  Children came, and our little selves were twisted into submission early on.

Not much has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It did not occur to the parent, who obviously dislikes Putin, to excuse her child from the event, however easy that would had been to do.  Nobody called in sick. Everyone knows their place.

March 13, 2014

Why I Can’t See Myself Homeschooling, Even Though I Kind of Am

Filed under: education, parenting — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:15 pm

A few weeks ago, I attempted to show my 6-year-old how to sew.  When I was her age, I knew how fabric was made and had the basics of needlework down.  I tried to show my daughter how make certain stitches and planned on helping her to sew a small toy.  I don’t know why I was under the impression that she would listen to instructions.  She immediately decided that she wanted to make a more sophisticated toy, and that she could do it all on her own.

First, I panicked, because OMG she’s setting herself up for failure. Then I figured that maybe she needs to fail and learn from it.  Only she didn’t really fail.  First, she asked me to thread her needle, a process in which she had no interest.  I showed her that she needs a knot at the end of her thread, which she watched me tie.  Then she proceeded to making a toy out of a sock, occasionally asking me for assistance with some technical details.  I finished off some of the elements (like tying the knots on the other end of the thread) when she was done and wasn’t even looking.  Her “pet” turned out touchingly crude, and she was very disappointed in some of her failures in the process, but at the end she succeeded.  All on her own.  I’m very proud of her, but she took on an open-ended project.  I can’t teach math or spelling in this manner.

But I am teaching her math and spelling.  When I went to school, I did homework on my own and was graded for each assignment.  Now I find that all parents supervise homework, and that homework is not graded because that would amount to grading parents. I frequently find myself explaining rather than reviewing.  I find that basic penmanship was never consistently taught, and for that reason I have to break the bad habits she’s already developed.  Why did I ever assume that a public school teaches students?  In the best schools in our area, students are red-shirted and start kindergarten already knowing how to read.  They don’t learn in school, they learn for school, often in private tutoring that starts at kindergarten or earlier.

/End rant

January 26, 2014

Is It OK To make Fun of Women Nearly 20 Years Younger Than Me?

Filed under: feminism, parenting — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:20 pm

It’s easy to go incognito with a name like Amy Glass.  When a feminist named Amy Glass wrote an anti-mom screed, my first thought was to check out her age.  It was practically impossible since there are so many Amy Glasses out there, so all I have to go by is that she sounds like a rather immature 23.

Ms. Glass confidently announced that she looks down on young wives and mothers:

You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.

I hear women talk about how “hard” it is to raise kids and manage a household all the time. I never hear men talk about this. It’s because women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments. Men don’t care to “manage a household.” They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are “important.”

And there I was, thinking that I’m doing the most important job in the world — raising the next generation of citizens.

It’s amazing how little respect people who make the world go round get these days.  Me, I’m just a lowly housewife — but Amy Glass, she blogs for Thought Catalog.  Now that’s a job for the ages!

Judging by the originality of her ideas, the young woman is destined to be a foot soldier of the pink sneaker brigade for years to come.

Feminist leaders want followers, and they found a faithful one in Ms. Glass; good for them.  But what’s in it for Ms. Glass herself? Perpetuating one’s genetic material and one’s values onto children is a kind of immortality.  Very few women (or men, but especially women since we are more ordinary) are capable of achieving immortality by other means.

Amy Glass’s profile photo.  Ripped jeans + laptop = free spirit + “big ideas”

On the plus side, by eschewing young motherhood Amy ensures that she has time to party.

I’m looking forward to reading about Glass injecting round after round of hormones 15-20 years from now.

UPDATE: Linked by Linda Szugyi over at Da Tech Guy — thank you!

November 14, 2013

Loosing Innocence

Filed under: parenting — edge of the sandbox @ 9:41 pm

My six-year-old daughter was screaming her lungs out.  I sent her upstairs to get ready for her ballet class, normally a seamless procedure, save me raising my voice a few times to remind her to stay on task.  She’s an actress, my six-year-old, so, once she started with the yell I had to pause to consider if it was real.  I knew her brother was in the room with her, but he seemed to stay silent.  What could be happening?  I went up.

DD was covering her body with the curtain:

“He just wants to see me naked!”

DS, now four, was dumbfounded.  If being naked means anything at all to him, it’s that it feels rather good, even if mommy and daddy do not approve.

That same night they changed into PJ’s together, so, I guess, the girls in her ballet class were talking modesty which she connected specifically to changing into her leotards.

She’s generally becoming more self-aware.  For instance, she came out with an idea of wishing grandma a happy birthday on a “float”.  The “float” was a large cardboard box in which she was pushing herself.  She made a flag out of a pencil and a paper on which she drew a fancy heart, and she wanted to wave it as she was pushing herself.  She loaded her float with gifts she made for grandma.  Somehow the whole project didn’t work out.  I offered to help, but she immediately became self-conscious.

At the same time she’s very unselfconscious when it comes to her table manners.  She just wants to kind of eat as quickly as possible and then play.  I’m going to miss that once she grows out of that stage.

July 9, 2013

Growing Old Is Hard To Do

Filed under: parenting, society — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:50 pm

Heather Havrilesky had her her driver’s license picture taken at 33.  Ten years later she has this to say about the woman in the picture:

Her hair looks unnaturally shiny. Her smile says, ‘I have nowhere in particular to be. Let’s go grab a cocktail!’(Via Instapundit)

It’s a strange state of affairs when a 33-year-old middle class women has nowhere in particular to be.  I should know; I was one of them myself, albeit I was planning my wedding part of that year and gestating a baby the remaining time.

I remember waiting to be four and then five and then six.  Waiting, and waiting, and whining to my mom that my Birthday just never seemed to come.  Mom always smiled: “When you are a kid time moves slowly, but when you grow up, you want it to stop, or at least to slow down.  I’m not too exited about my next Birthday because I want to stay young.  But time doesn’t stop.  It seems to go faster and faster.”  I am now older than she was when we were having this conversations.

Anticipating Birthdays in my teens didn’t seem like such a terrible ordeal.  I was fairly content with the passage of time.  And then something happened.  I turned a corner, and half of my twenties were gone.  I blamed it on the climate.  In the old country we had seasons.  Looking out of the window I would see a maple tree shedding its last leaf and babushkas doing a balancing act on newly formed ice; that’s when I knew it’s time to get the fur hat out of the wardrobe.  Another year went by.  In Northern California fashion conscious “girls” wear knee high boots with sundresses year round.  That was my excuse for wasting time.

My thirties flew by pretty quick, but at least I have something to show for it: I’m raising kids.  I can’t say I never feel nostalgic for my “have nowhere in particular to be” days.  The other day on the way to pick up the progeny I spotted a young couple walking into a bar.  Just like that.  In the middle of the day.  Then I had to remind myself about the hangovers.  20’s are not what they are cranked up to be.

Amazingly, in our frank age Heather Havrilesky managed to pen an essay on aging without mentioning the m-word.  She’s 43.  I’m 40, and I have to admit that the commercials on talk radio about women over 40 needing to exercise an hour a day just to prevent weight gain fill me with panic.  Someday soon the day will come when I will find myself reaching the age when women are no longer attractive.  And even if an aggressive facial regime and a splatter of hair die can deceive casual acquaintances, I will know the truth.  Havrietsky complained that motherhood aged her (that she shifted that stage into advanced maternal age is part of the problem).  But childbearing is a function of youth.  My young children make feel young.  It’s the knowledge that a few years down the road (if not now) I will be no longer able to bare children that really saddens me.  What’s left are wrinkles and decay.

My mother is now switching to orthopedic shoes.  I look into my closet.  Do I have another decade of stilettos?  Fifteen years?  Is a 55-year-old allowed to wear a heel over 2 inches?  When to I bestow my collection of fashionable footwear onto my daughter (if she happens to wear my size)?

April 17, 2013

Why This Blogger Doesn’t Believe Boston Bombing Was The Work of #Occupy

Filed under: parenting, politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:28 pm

Not that anyone is suggesting otherwise.  A certain guy from Barack Obama’s old Chicago neighborhood might have built bombs filled with shrapnel, and I’m not sure what the Anarchist Cookbook advises on this matter.  But that was baby boomer radicalism.

Bill Ayers might have been a rich brat, but the brats of his era grew up playing cowboys and Indians with gangs of friends and siblings.  Around the time of puberty they got jobs at fast food joints and bought cars. They were the risk takers.  I’m not saying they were good at making bombs; they weren’t.  They were mostly blowing up each other.

The parents of #Occupy alumni glued corner guards to coffee tables once babies started to crawl and shuttled their progeny from one activity to another in [improperly installed] car seats. Instead of mowing neighbors’ lawns future occupiers spent their adolescence on social media.  The only thing they thought of doing once college diplomas were placed into their hands is to demand cancellation of student loans.  And sure, they’d like to be dangerous, and from time to time #Occupy grads do get caught with explosives, one occupier was sentenced just a few days ago.  But that’s the thing: they get caught.

Radicals of the crawling helmet generation. Unlikely to be capable of much, including much evil

Whoever planted the bomb at Boston marathon (and like all normal people I suspect Islamists) was a deliberate sadist. The bombs were created to inflict maximum damage, and were placed at a location where relief effort would be difficult.  The Left today is incapable of such forethought.  They thought of targeting an iconic event that has little symbolic importance to the left.  The right, for that matter, is also not interested in the Boston marathon, but, nasty fantasies of progressives aside, most of the political violence in this country comes from the left.

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