Monday, January 16, 2012

This is why you're fat dot com

If I weren't on Weight Watchers AND if BMG weren't home I just might drink the leftover Hollandaise sauce I made for our breakfast of Eggs Benedict.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"I have a question for all you parents..."

"Other parents: how did you handle yada yada, if/when it occurred?"

If your friends are anything like my friends this is a question you've seen a gazillion times on Facebook.

And...I find it annoying.


Not because parents are asking for help. Goodness knows we can all use more help with nearly everything we do. And I have great admiration for the work parents do - work they do with inconsistent role models, no instruction manuals, no training. Nope, that's not it.

This is annoying because it presumes that those of us who haven't gone the parenting route don't have any experience that might inform their question.

Let me make myself clear.

  • I'm trained in social work and public health. I spent four years studying and doing work in the field of mental illness, infectious disease management, human behavior change, and human and organizational development.
  • I am a sexuality educator who has been trusted by complete strangers to help their pre-teens as they navigate the world of sexual and gender identity, sexual expression, and love of self and other.
  • I worked in public education for nearly six years. In my work I regularly talked with families about their hopes and dreams for their children's education and aspirations. I also talked with teens about their experience of school and their aspirations. I was a generalist and was required to know the current trends and literature about the PK-12 educational process, special education, school choice, art and music education, recess and school lunch politics, PTA/PTO organizing, the college prep process, etc.
  • Prior to this job I worked for nearly four years for a nonprofit that helped people of tremendous wealth come to terms with their financial circumstances. Many of these people were parents who sought to find ways to help their children have balanced and generous lives because of their circumstances. In my work I listened to them and directed them to resources to help them realize this dream.
  • And now? Now I work for a nonprofit that helps parents of young children develop, practice and maintain habits of reading together as part of healthy individual and family development.
  • I am an auntie to six little people on my side, and six on BMG's side - now ages two through 16. I've observed five siblings and their five partners parent twelve children. I've listened to each one work their way through the "disposable versus cloth" diaper debate, home school versus public versus independent debate, you name it, I've heard it. 
  • I also offer my own unique and supportive relationship to each of my nieces and nephews, as well as (although to a lesser extent) the children of my friends.
My point? I know a shit ton about kids, families and parenting. I don't know any of this from the experience of being a parent, but it doesn't make my knowledge and opinions any less valid.

And, because I don't have kids, it is highly likely I have more time. Time to read your questions and thoughtfully respond.

And, because you are my friend and you have kids, I understand that much of you life centers around your children and your ever evolving role as a parent. Being excluded when you pose your Facebook questions just to other parents doesn't inspire me to learn more about the person you are as a parent.

So, when people direct Facebook questions about their parenting journeys exclusively to parents they are discounting all the experience people like me - who aren't parents - can bring to question with which they are grappling.

Dear friends. Keep asking questions. And please don't exclude me. I want to be involved in your life and I just may have a perspective that helps.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

INTP (or why I try to avoid medium-sized chit chat parties I'm not being paid to attend)

I was reminded today that few things make me more uncomfortable than a medium sized party where I know only the hosts.

A medium-sized party is not small enough to lend itself to deep conversation, nor is it large enough to comfortably abstain from interaction while merely observing the crowd. At a medium sized party most people already know one another fairly well; there are fewer tagalongs who are socially unanchored than there might be at a larger party and the setting isn't intimate enough to make it easy for a new person to insert her/himself into a pre-existing conversation.

The wizards at Myers-Brigg Type Indicator recently reminded me that I'm both Introverted (I) and Intuitive (N) (I'm also a T and  P). This means I am most gregarious in situations where I know the people well or where I know what to expect from the conversation. In other situations, I'm extremely shy. 

So the medium sized party this afternoon? Where I (essentially) knew only the hosts and BMG? Where I perceive most guests were parents (where I am not)? Within five minutes of being there (and two minutes after anxiously slugging down a can of seltzer), I knew I needed to leave.

So I did.

Many people are shocked when they learn I'm introverted. "But you are so good with people!" they exclaim. I am what my friend Rita once referred to as a "socially adept introvert." A potentially uncomfortable social event where the immediate purpose is clear to me is a challenge I can rise to. Like the office cocktail party where I'm meeting new donors? Obviously no problem. And the networking event BMG asks me to attend to help him chat up a new client? Being an "INTP" means I'm a unique and original thinker; being charming and interesting can come quite naturally. And in these situations, where I overcome my natural inclination to be introverted? I nearly always have fun and meet people I hope to know for life.

But today's party, where there was no obvious role I needed to play or purpose to my being there? I couldn't do it. As I politely fled I felt guilty, felt like I had let BMG down, and that I was being rude to the hosts. But, I also remembered that when I turned 40 I vowed to take more control of my life, to stop doing things I didn't have to do that didn't make my heart go pitter pat, and to be unapologetic about it. 

So I left.

It doesn't mean I don't love the hosts, or wouldn't enjoy the company of any of the people there. It just means that size party with that many people I didn't know was not an environment where I could be my best. And I prefer, when I have the choice, to choose environments where I can be as close to my best as possible.

So, if you want to spend time with me, consider inviting me to a dinner party with eight people, or a drink after work, or a Sunday afternoon coffee date. If you invite me to go on a pub crawl with 40 of your closest friends, don't be surprised if I say no. But I will say no with grace, and suggest an alternative activity for you and I to do together that speaks to my INTP self and to our friendship.