Speak Up or Suck-It-Up?

So I’m just a small town girl who grew up in Colorado.  There really wasn’t all that much training in the art of speaking up.  Even in my adolescence, when I tried my hardest to start controversy, or to raise eyebrows with my bleached out spray painted jackets and blue (then red, then blonde, then silver, then shaved) hair and nose rings and army men hanging from safety pins off of my ears – even then I would get a mostly warm reception from the good people of my rural community.  Sure sure there were a few jocks who were all, “YOU’RE A FREAK!” but then they would secretly pass me notes saying they were sorry, and any chance we could hang out some time?

So my assertive voice was never really groomed.  Fast Forward to 2010, and I’m living in Brooklyn, New York.  I feel like my Old Mother-Hubbard age, combined with my experience in the world has put me in a pretty competent place to stand up for myself when I need to, but I still shrink a little when people are bugging me, and if the choice is suck-it-up and not cause a ruckus, I keep quiet.  But this weekend, I got to experience two girls born and bred somewhere in New Jersey, who were not taking *it*  from anybody.  It made me think – do I have a lot more to learn in being assertive?

Two Happy Mermaid Parade Fish

Let me set the stage: on Saturday, we went to The Mermaid Parade in Coney Island.  This is sort of a Brooklyn community event, a nod to the Mardi Gras Parade, complete with tons of topless women, lots of body paint and glitter, sea creatures, floats, children, adults and New York icons (this year’s King and Queen of the parade were Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, and Neil Patrick Harris was spotted getting his groove on) mixing it up on a hot summer day.  My crew arrived to the parade early, to secure a good view.  As expected, the crowd was epic.  But we were right on the front.  Soon a boisterous woman elbowed her way to right behind us, with her young daughter clutching her hand.  The woman poked me in the back and said, “My daughter wants to see”.  My response, while not confrontational, was assertive enough in my own head when I replied, “Yeh, well I think we all do!  Huge crowd, huh?  We got here early to get these seats, and my son and his cousin aren’t going to give them up just yet.”  Or something like that.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, no?

It kept her at bay for all of 30 seconds, when she started muttering, “My daughter wants to see, my daughter wants to see” and essentially was trying to walk through to the front.  And then I got schooled by this girl to my right, sweet and slight and totally unassuming.  She had talked to my sister and me for a while, just small talk, and couldn’t have been nicer.  She turned around to the woman and said, firmly and snarkily and with no fear, “Lady, you’re getting annoying.  You need to go.”

And the woman left.

And I was all, like whoa.

Easily Roan's favorite costume of the day

Soon, people were dodging the police barricades, climbing under them to get closer to the parade to take pictures.  At first, it was just photographers with their fancy press passes.  But soon enough, teenagers with their cell phones were snapping away, right dead in front of us, blocking the view pretty effectively.  New Jersey wasn’t having it.  She called a cop over, and the police man stupidly (I mean honestly, it was stupid) said, “Those are professional photographers taking pictures for the newspaper.”  New Jersey then pointed to the teenager, with her celly, and said, “Oh really?  Her?  She’s professional?  How about him?  Her?  Him?”  She plucked each poser out of the crowd and got them put back behind the barricade, with us common folk.

And again, I was all, like whoa.  Because she did it with no discretion, not hiding from the teenagers she was calling out.  They knew who was ratting them out, and New Jersey did not care at all.

No need for costume. Naturally fabulous.

Both of the times she spoke up, I would have liked to.  But I didn’t.   I’m revisiting that now – I’m wondering now where’s the line between being assertive and aggressive, and did she cross it?  Or am I just a natural-born wuss, whose time has come to step-it-up at least a bit more?  How about you?  Do you correct strangers?  Or do you just avoid that kind of confrontation?  Where’s the line?

Getting Away

King Roan, Co-Ruler of The Empire

In Roan’s little-boy brain, there is a magical land called Beckett, Massachusetts.  In this land is a mansion a castle an Empire where we stay, whose land is surrounded by a forest filled with woodland creatures who demand peace-offerings consisting of whatever doesn’t get eaten for dinner.  Roan and his cousins Emmie and Boone rule the The Empire, having full control of all of its facilities including the Wii they bring from the Motherland, Brooklyn.  There is no set bedtime in The Empire of Beckett, and all children can go outside and run around like crazy people with no adult supervision when they wake up in the morning.  Also: there is caffeine-free diet Coke there, which is strictly forbidden in real life but somehow gets a pass.

"Heaven" according to the kids.

Most importantly, there is a destination called The Old Country Buffett (OCB) which, if gone to at exactly the right time, a person can eat both breakfast AND lunch, with as many servings of everything that they can handle.  The OCB has a Slurpee machine.  And a soft-serve ice-cream machine.  And the most astonishing amount of bacon one could ever hope to lay eyes upon.  Roan effectively looses his mind every time he visits, and desperately, passionately would like to extend an invitation to the owner of the OCB to please for the love of God open one up in Brooklyn.  I will go out on a limb and guess that this plea could extend to Chuck-A-Rama, Sizzler, Ponderosa, or any number of other disgusting fine dining establishments.  So there’s that.

Nevermind that they're rowing in opposite directions. It's pretty.

Beckett also offers a lake, and The Empire we rule comes equipped with a canoe.  The canoe gets used.  Once docked on the beach, Roan is particularly fond of trying to walk on water (no God complex there….) and believes that if he just gets a fast enough running start he will indeed one day make it happen.  I have to admit – I kind of believe it too.  Fortunately Roan has been built with a faulty internal thermometer, and can swim and swim and swim for hours and probably days in cold water without breaking a chatter.  The only way to bribe him out of the water is with the promise of yet another Beckett perk, a BBQ on the deck of The Empire.

We went to Beckett over the long weekend, and I cannot even describe how fun it is to see my boy go completely cuckoo for space, nature, freedom and really bad food.  I love love love Brooklyn but for the love of Loretta Swit, it sure is nice to get outta there for a spell.  And I know these are the memories that Roan will refer to when he thinks of happy childhood times.  The same way I remember my childhood family vacations to the beach in North Carolina, or camping with my Dad.  What a cool power as a parent – to help build these memories.

What? This? Oh, just meditating in the lake.

And How Dirty Are You?

Last Friday, I let Roan skip school to go to a casting call my friends over at Planet Awesome Kid hooked up for a Benetton Ad photo shoot.  Roan’s friend Sachin went with us, and I just have to admit one thing.  The weather was much too nice to let them go back to school, even though there was plenty of time.  After such a mean winter, this day with its sun and its flowers blooming and its two boys of summer practically exploding with electricity was too too much to deny.

Breaking the Law

After a quick session with the Benetton folks, we went to Chelsea Market and got a few snacks, then headed over to a park near Chelsea Piers.  Sachin and Roan couldn’t have more excited.  There’s something extra magical that makes everything extra fun when you know you’re getting away with something, no?  Missing school to be at a park = heaven for a six-year-old.  Anson was working just a few blocks away so he snuck off for lunch and joined us at the park which totally made Roan’s day.

We headed back home in time to go teach our kickboxing class (per our verbal contract, Roan is not a student, but an assistant).  We walked Sachin home, and Boone (who also happens to be an assistant in the class) managed to convince us to go to Target and then host a sleepover.  That kid is like a ninja with getting me to say yes to things.  Because I would really never go to Target voluntarily.  He’s dangerous with persuasion.

The following day was a the Planet Awesome Kid event at Milk Studios.  This is where I had my run-in with Brooke Shields that I couldn’t help but write about.  I know, I’m pathetic.  But you know what redeems me?  The fact that I didn’t mention that Beastie Boy Mike D was there, and didn’t even hint that super duper coolness ultrahipstess Agyness Deyn was also making the rounds.  So you know, I’m cool like that, unaffected etc.

Whatever.  I’m lame I can’t help it I love to star spot and tell.  That’s my weakness.  The only one.

And the grand finale was Boone’s Birthday party at the park – with beautiful weather and good friends and three-legged races, (which Emmie figured out how to win), and my favorite thing, frisbee playing with my kidney-challenged nephew, Dallas.

Three-Legged-Race

That's Not Cheating, Right?

The weekend took one shower and three baths to finally get all the dirt off of my son’s body, but that to me is a badge of honor.  I believe the amount of dirt on a person is directionally proportionate to how much fun was had.  And makes no mistake, this was one filthy child.

[P.S. Momversation is running my City Kids vs. Suburban Kids piece.  Go see me at the big time!

P.P.S. The Stir is also linking to the piece.  Checkitout here!]

Boyish Things

Not too long ago when Roan was dressing up as lady superheroes and princesses, I worried that he was going to be on the catching-hell end of some mean kids’ mockery.  I wasn’t worried at all about his affinity for the women’s clothing, but I did worry that he’d get his feelings hurt eventually if his friends laughed at him.  I was a little concerned that he wasn’t really getting into any of the normal “boy” things, which please do not crucify me for because I know I know I  shouldn’t be hung up on these gender divisions but c’mon I’m his mom, and I worry.  Life’s hard enough without getting your chops busted for loving the pretty stuff.

So imagine my pleasure when Roan came home from a sleepover at his cousin Boone’s house, with some artwork for a video game he’d like to invent:

"Company Boxing" presents "Kick Boxing" (roan)

And I think to myself, “Ah, well done old girl.”  Because I always think in the Queen’s English.  Still talking to myself…”He’s enjoying the classes you teach, picking up some self-defense skills, and doing it all in a non-violent yet decidedly boy-ish way.”

Then there was this:

"Blood" then "Guns and Blood" and finally, "Guns"

I especially love the happy little stick figure kid in the middle with two guns.  That’s adorable.

And, finally:

"Blood and Guns"

Are those two characters standing in a pool of blood?  Why yes.  Yes they are.  Luckily Roan has taken precautionary measures, and  rated this would-be video game “M” for “Mature” so children won’t be exposed to it.

Now, I think I’m going to have to excuse myself and go smother my son in some pretty make-up and force him back into a dress.

Career Suggestions for the Unemployable

BooneRoanPixieStick

Too Much Sugar?

“Dad!  An auctioneer!  Auc-tion-eeeeeeeer-ing!!”

These words came out of my nephew Boone’s mouth last night as I arrived at my sister’s house.  Boone was jumping from his bedroom floor to the living room table (we can do these kind of things in our limited-space homes in Brooklyn) and was clearly on white-hot fire about an idea.  I can only guess a conversation was happening prior to my arrival regarding employment and Boone’s dad, Dan.  Maybe a conversation wherein my sister, in her Nelson-Girl style was gently suggesting that Dan start looking for work outside of his entrepreneurial comfort zone.  On a side note, if you’re not married to one of The Nelson Girls, or one of our kind, be just a little grateful.  Because just then….where I said “gently suggesting”?  That actually means we are the bossy bosses of our beleaguered husbands and while they all know it and deal with it in their own ways, each man married to a Nelson girl has a special burden to bear.  Anyway – I can only assume Lori was talking to Dan about him going into the world, in this economy, and getting some work with The Man.

Dan has been more successful in his own business endeavors than anyone I know.  He’s an amazing idea man, and has a brain that comes up with things that even when spoken SLOWLY and LOUDLY to me make no sense, but do make money.  Still, even with Dan’s Midas Touch, his family is suffering the same lean reality as most people…in this economy.  And while Dan is easily one of the most intelligent men I know, he (like Anson!) is a High School Dropout.  This fact is not lost on Boone, who was carefully sculpting ideas for his dad’s next professional styling.

“Auctioneers,” Boone began “only really have to know how to talk.”

“I can do that,” agreed Dan.

“Really fast, though Dad.” Boone cautioned, and then continued on with the hard sell, ”And you’re really good on eBay”

“True.  I’ve been on eBay a lot and can buy almost anything.” Dan honestly seemed to be considering this idea.

“And the best thing is that you don’t have to have a college degree, or even a High School Diploma to be an auctioneer!” Boone was triumphant, if only a little condescending.

It was a beautiful thing, this career advice earnestly being given from a son to his father.  Possibly Dan doesn’t quite quite have the right stuff to make it as an auctioneer, but how lovely that his son can craft dreams for him.  Is there anything your kids are hoping you can be?  Anything you hoped your parents would make the professional jump to be?  I remember lying to friends that my mother was a nurse, and that my father was the King of a small country.  That was around the 1st grade, Roan’s age now.  Dreaming of a nursing-royalty combo isn’t quite as practical as dreaming of auctioneering, but still a dream.  Anyone else?

Easter Lessons


I don’t think his expression would be much different while listening to Bible stories
 
My 10-year-old nephew, Boone, hasn’t really been raised in any religious tradition.  He’s a little suspicious of the old Christian parables, proclaiming after visiting his grandmother’s Mormon church this past Sunday that “I don’t really believe in the stories, but they are pretty interesting”.  Indeed.  Boone is also a Brooklynite, through and through, and has a pretty good grasp of the spectrum of religious beliefs around him.


While attending Primary on this same Sunday (Primary is the children’s program in the Mormon church), Boone was gamely trying to participate in an activity they had going.  Easter Eggs full of candy were given to kids who had the right answers to questions based on the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  Since the questions weren’t multiple choices, and Boone’s ability to pluck information out of the air doesn’t work so well, he was striking out each time.  Undeterred, his arm shot up again and again with the hope of a right answer and the treat of candy.  No dice.

 

The question was posed, “What do the letters INRI which were above Jesus’ head on the cross mean?”  A well-versed child piped up “King of the Jews”.  Boone finally saw his chance for redemption, for the Egg of Candy.  Referencing his many Jewish friends in Brooklyn, he proudly, confidently and triumphantly put his hand up and corrected the child.  “Excuse me, but I think you mean King of the Christians”. 

 

I’m just hoping that the Easter Bunny has the same sense of humor as me and bestowed a bounty of candy-filled eggs on that child.