Sunday, August 21, 2011
Pizzas and Parenthood
What a beautiful day it is today! Joey and I just got back from two hours at the dog beach - heaven for both of us. I sat solitaire again today with my own thoughts - happier thoughts today. I made a sand castle with my empty Starbucks cup that the dogs quickly knocked down. And I wrote in the sand with the little green stopper that keeps the foam from escaping the coffee cup - the word "Hope" over and over in different scripts. I got an idea for a book plot where a suicidal man watches a woman writing in the sand and is overcome with curiosity. He makes a deal with himself not to commit suicide if, what she wrote, has meaning. She leaves the beach and he walks to where she was sitting on the sand and sees the word, "Hope". He decides to live - it is a turning point for him, this single word of inspiration. He is convinced she sensed his pain -that her message was meant specifically for him to discover in the sand. He considers it a gift from God - her, his guardian angel. The next week they introduce themselves as their dogs play. She says, "Hi, my name is Hope." He is crushed.
I didn't cry yesterday for the first time in 68 days. Progress. And I had a great time last night at the Bloom School of Jazz - it was a really fun party - thank you David Bloom for hosting it! I spent the majority of my time in the amazing industrial kitchen turning out pizza after pizza: pear, gorgonzola and walnut; Greek with feta, mint, sundried tomatoe and kalamata olives; Sicilian with Italian sausage, peppers, arugula and roasted garlic, steak pizza with carmelized onions and shitaki mushrooms, Southwest pizza with black beans, fresh salsa and cilantro, barbecue chicken pizza with red onion, smoked gouda and cilantro, artichoke pizza with lemon artichoke pesto, Asian pizza with asparagus, water chestnuts, chicken and teriaki glaze, Hawaiian pizza with pineapple, ham and bacon, and so many more - twelve in all! I love hard work like that with something creative to show for it.
Today housekeeping and then dinner guests - we will sit out on my twinkly deck and talk about my friend Steve's international travel. He is a hired gun network guy who spends 3/4 of the year in places like Thailand, Iraq, Mongolia, Vietnam, Columbia, etc. He always has amazing stories. One time when I had a large dinner party, I asked the guests to bring an object of special significance and discreetly put it into a bowl in the middle of the dining room table. At dinner we all examined the objects and tried to match them to their owners. Finally, the owners were revealed and they explained the significance of their object. Steve brought a large smooth oval rock and explained that, when he was in Mongolia, he had been invited to dine with locals he just met. They sewed fire-hot stones into a goat's stomach to cook it from the inside out - he saved one of the stones as a souvenir.
Steve and Helen don't have children....which is something I've been giving a lot of thought to these days. James and I recently had a conversation about the biological imperative of having kids and whether having children really brings joy. He also has no children, so his perspective is colored by a desire to experience fatherhood. This is my position these days that may or may not resonate with you. It could be that I've hit on a universal truth or more likely my feelings about motherhood don't represent the norm. And I want to be careful here and not sound bitter because really I'm just feeling philosophical.
I think there is joy and unhappiness with either choice and it's definitely one of those, "the grass is always greener..." things. We are programmed as mammals to propagate the species so the pull to bear offspring comes from deep inside of us - a possession of sorts that we don't understand, that can't be denied. It is a primitive need that defies rational thinking. And for childless people there must be a sense of incompleteness without having fulfilled that biological need to replicate....a gnawing feeling. But, the flip side is that children are born, you fall in love with them, they adore you for a time, you invest everything in them - your time, your resources, your focus, your worry, they grow, they hate you for time, then they leave and they don't really look back much. It's their job. And what I'm experiencing is that it's not a two way street. The parent/child relationship is pretty much all about the kid and it will probably always be that way until the time when you become their responsibility and they have to decide what to do with your decaying self. If you think the relationship with your kids will mature so that you will be peers, equally invested in each other, equally interested in each other, mutually supportive, think again. You witness your kids take their place in the world, show consideration for friends and strangers, express themselves thoughtfully to others, open up and reveal themselves to those they choose as intimates - you will see and be grateful for all of this. But don't be fooled for one minute that they will ever give you, their parent, their best. We are too angry with our parents to ever see them as people - they never measure up in our eyes and, because we can't get past the hurt of the past, we can't really enjoy them much....we keep them at arm's length and punish them for their mistakes. You can't enjoy someone when you have rage deep in your gut - you can never fully relax with someone who has been the source of misery. And I think, it is all too common, that the parent/child relationship is one of misery, no matter how much you love each other.
It's a human paradox - the misery of being childless and the misery of having children - and a certainty that if you were the other, you would be happy. I'm not so sure, if I had it all to to again, I would have had children. But I am sure that, if I had elected to be childless, I would be writing, "I'm not so sure, if I had it all to do again, I would have decided NOT to have children." Damned if you do and damned if you don't! Damn!
I guess the challenge today should be thinking about parenthood. If you are a parent, what do you hope to get from your kids (whether you will ever get it or not - maybe having high expectations will set the bar higher for the relationship), and if you are not a parent, think about removing the rosy glasses and realizing it is not a guarantee of happiness to bear children - there really are pros and cons to both choices. The second part of the challenge is to translate how we hope our children will treat us into how we treat our own parents. Can we finally stop acting like children and leave our childhood expecations and hurts in the past? Can we approach the relationship with our parents the same way as we do with dear friends - open, trusting, interested, with humor? Can we try and see our parents as people who don't owe us anything anymore - their job is done - and spend time with them because we have history, blood ties and affection? I would like there to come a time when my kids can sit down with me at a table and we can share equally - that we give each other space to "be" with each other, find each other interesting and treat each other as we would dear friends. But first I guess I need to finish growing up see if it's possible to do that with my own mother. Tough.
PS. Picture is of my beautiful deck that twinkles at night, where amazing meals are served and even more amazing conversations happen.