Is it just me, or has anybody else noticed that a number of parents these days seem to be afraid of their own children? Perhaps afraid is the wrong word, more intimidated. I’m not sure if this is coming from the wealth of parental guidelines they are given on how to achieve perfect parenthood or from the heightened competition among parents to provide the latest and the greatest for their progeny. Children are enrolled in kindergarten before letting loose of their first good cry. Two year olds are given lavish parties that cost more than a half year’s mortgage payments, and designer clothing lines for these age challenged humans are flying off the racks. Yesterday I saw a mother interviewed at an upscale fashion show who said she would sacrifice anything for her children. It seemed this included providing them with pricy jackets lightening her bank account to the tune of thousands of dollars and indulging their every whim. It is almost as though if parents pursue a career or enjoy outside activities that do not include their children it is viewed as somehow taking something away from their offspring or being neglectful.
On Good Morning America this morning they interviewed an author, Pamela Druckerman, who has written a book titled “Bringing up Bebe” in which she discusses the French child rearing ideas and how they differ from ours. Children are treated, well for lack of a better way of putting it, like children. They are not deified like some diminutive mini-gods as we do across the pond.
As I’ve said previously, our fourteen year old granddaughter is living with us for an undetermined time. I believe when she opted to stay with us she viewed us as the kindly couple who occasionally slipped her a ten under the table, rather than war-torn parents who have already survived the trenches and have a clear understanding of how the game is played. Testing the water, she announced yesterday that she was going to pierce her nose at school but thought I might get upset so decided to wait until she’d spoken to me. An excellent choice. I explained that if she had, in fact, poked a hole and stuck an earring in her nose, I would have gently removed it and returned it to her when she was; a) eighteen, or b) the Queen and Camilla stopped wearing those ridiculous hats, or c) when Snookie gets her growth spurt. Ahhh, the sweet facade melted like Swiss cheese off a hot burger quickly replaced by one that said “I wish you would be run over by a riding lawn mower”. Let the games begin.
After some pouting, she said”when I’m eighteen I’m going to do whatever I want”. I replied that if she wished at that time to pierce herself with connecting chains to the extent that when she bent her right knee her eyebrow would arch that would certainly be her choice, but, this was not going to happen on my watch.
While in the market yesterday waiting in line at the checkstand, a woman, probably in her late forties, came up behind me, her teenage son in tow. I heard him before I saw him. Holding his cell phone as if it was his last chance for communication before the meteor hit, he was texting with the speed of light. Sparks flew off his fingertips while his mother carried on a conversation with a head of long black hair. Finally, he looked up, or I think he did, it was hard to tell as his hair covered about ninety percent of his face, and muttered, “whatever”, and resumed texting. After several further queries from mom I determined that “whatever” seemed to be the lone word in his vocabulary he used when addressing her. I found myself wanting desperately to ask, although not a physical person, if I could just cuff him once or twice solidly on the back of the head to see if any new words might be jogged loose. Good God.
Growing up I never shared my parents bed unless I was ill, and not often then. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room when it came to rules and Supernanny never pulled up in her little black cab with her naughty step in the trunk. For the most part when I was told, told, not asked, to do something, I had two choices, do it now, or do it right now. I earned my allowance by working for it, and if I’d had the temerity to look my mother in the face and tell her to shut up (not that I didn’t picture myself doing it more than once) I would have found myself smiling out of the back of my head. Different world.
For me, these are new and untraveled waters. I was certainly not always right as a parent, but I have shared this earth for many years longer then my children and grandchildren and hopefully I’ve gathered a few morsels of wisdom and a pointer or two about life along the way. Also, unless I’m mistaken, it was my name written on the checks that made the television come to life when the power button on the remote was pushed, and the potato chips appear as if by magic on the shelf in the cupboard.
I have a friend with four children who complained to me the other day she can never watch TV because her children are always watching it and they won’t let her. Really? They won’t let you? Splain that to me Ricky. I suggested that maybe she might try the word “no”. It’s an amazing word. Only two letters and yet it carries such weight. I asked her to repeat it several times and get the feel of it flowing off her tongue. Going a step further, perhaps instead of turning on a video game or a new episode of Bad Girls Need Love Too, the children could step outside in the sunshine, yup it’s still out there sun and trees and everything, and get some exercise, or maybe help clean up the mess they just made.
I adore children. They’re wonderfully receptive little creatures prone to magical thoughts, imbued with imaginations as big as the world around them. Small people filled with whimsical dreams whose enchantment with life should be able to be captured in vials and sold to adults to remind them to exercise the child within themselves. Still, to my mind they require structure, and guidelines to make them feel safe and secure balanced with lots of laughter and love. These are radical concepts, I realize, but my thoughts for the day.
Cheesy Spinach Stracciatella
12 1/2″ diagonal baguette slices
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
Parmesan cheese, grated
8 cups rich chicken stock
2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (plus extra for garnish)
1 6 oz. pkg. baby spinach
2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil. Cut garlic cloves in half. Mix together olive oil and parsley. Brush oil onto both sides of baguette slices. Rub with cut sides of garlic. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese. Bake 8-10 mins. until golden brown.
In large saucepan bring stock to boil. While heating whisk together Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and eggs. Stir into hot stock and cook for 2-3 mins. stirring constantly.
Break spinach into smaller pieces. Add spinach and basil to hot soup and cook for an addition 2 mins. until slightly wilted.
Place 2 bread slices in each bowl. Ladle soup over top. Grate fresh cheese on top if desired. Serves 6.