Sunday, April 29, 2012

Partying with the Girls

Last night was one of my closest friends' Bachelor Party. Of course, someone had to whip out the wigs at some point and here we are ready to play celebrity (Madonna and Rupaul were the most common celebrities that came up--how shocking!) Oh and then there was a knock on the door, it turned out to be the "police"....

ok... it was actually pretty tame... I then decided I look better in long hair...

It was great fun. And then the clock struck 11pm and I was wiped out! My bachelor party days are definitely behind me. Next big night out... the baby shower...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

French Parenting

I'm just in the middle of Pamela Druckerman's Bringing up Bebe and I have to admit I really like it. It seems to be part of a whole slew of books trashing American parenting (like the Tiger Mom) and lavishing praise on the French (French Women don't get fat). Normally I would say that she is exaggerating for dramatic effect, but the way she describes American parents sounds an awful lot like some people I know. For instance, I know someone who insists to everyone when they visit that they spend time playing with her children. It's not that I don't enjoy playing with children, I do, but when I was growing up, when we had adult visitors, my sister and I would sit at the table and politely answer their questions. Now her kids either leave the table and adults get on the floor and play, or if they are at the table, they need to be entertained by the surrounding adults. In France, according to the book, all children say "Bonjour" when they are visited by adult friends or relatives. Sometimes the best I can get from some of my relatives children is a quick acknowledging smirk! Its not that I think that kids should be "seen and not heard" as the old expression goes, but it seems sometimes (again, this is among the children I know, not a great sample), that the children get to decide which social rules they follow and which they reject.

The thing the book talked about the most which impressed me what the idea of the "pause." Whether with sleeping, playing, or getting something, French parents seem to encourage their children to wait a bit in order to help them tolerate the frustration of not getting what they want right away. So, for instance, after about 2 months or so, they might wait a couple of minutes before tending to a crying baby in the middle of the night to see if they can self-soothe or if they are genuinely hungry. I have friends that are parents the believe waiting even a few seconds to respond to an upset child, even if they are a bit older, is an act of extreme cruelty. My sister, who is an example and defender of American style parenting par excellance, admits that she regrets not putting her children down for naps when they were awake as they never learned to fall asleep without her help. From my vantage point, I see that my nieces and nephews--who are wonderful--have a hard time tolerating frustration, which can sometimes lead to tantrums and meltdowns.

My sister tells me she feels French parenting is too distant and harsh. She says she likes the, what she calls, the warmer loving American approach (I'm not sure the French see it that way). My Mr. M. is from Britain where they seem to sit halfway between the American and French versions but he seems to lean toward the French one temperamentally. He seems to be okay with the idea that once in a while his children won't like him, if it helps them in the big picture. We will see whether he can actually live up to this. I'm a bit more in the middle myself. I can be strict with the dog, stricter than M, but with a baby it will be hard to gradually allow them to self-soothe as part of the joy of being a parent is the wonder at being able to soothe your children. Anyway, this is all so abstract. I'll come back to this in a year with real babies. If we get too "American" in our parenting, we can always move to Quebec. They are kind of French.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Families... you can't live without them!

I love modern family. It is such a funny show. But the thing that speaks to me the most is how easy it seems for Cameron and Mitchell to be completely integrated into their families. One of the things that has really surprised me about this process, is the different responses M and I have received from various members in both of our families. I guess I live in a bit of a bubble--downtown Manhattan--We both have lots of friends gay and straight where sexuality is a non-issue. Obviously with family it is different, but I guess I was surprised at how different. We've experienced three very different reactions to the news we are pregnant. The first and most common reaction has been happiness for us and excitement about whats to come. This has come from most of the people we are close too and for that I am not surprised. I couldn't imagine anybody in my life having children and not being thrilled for them. To repeat, that includes most members of our families.

The second category, in order of frequency, seems to be a kind of benign neglect. Occasionally we get asked a question about it, but for the most part it feels like the new don't ask, don't tell. There is little excitement in this response and a lot of "I'm not really comfortable but I'll keep it to myself." Finally, a rare but still surprising response has been downright hostility. The subtle (and sometime not so subtle) message that M and I are making a terrible mistake, that two men cannot raise children, that there is something unnatural or provocative about us trying to start a family in this way.

Again, maybe I've spent too much time in the bubble of downtown Manhattan but I can't believe that people can think this way, especially people who know me and M well. I've spoke to one of M and my close girlfriends about this and she told me to try to understand how new and foreign this is for many people. But, I have a hard time accepting that. Having a baby in India via surrogacy, guess what, that is pretty new and foreign to me. I don't understand people who can treat heterosexual and homosexual couples so differently. How can they be thrilled when a female relative gets pregnant and then offer a completely different response when a gay couple tries to have a baby. I just don't accept the "foreign" thing. Many people in my life do things that I might not do or consider for myself, yet I can be happy they found a path toward happiness and fulfillment in this life, which doesn't always give many people opportunities for that. Mr. M is the more tolerant between the two of us. He is willing to accept what people can offer. I can too, but at the same time, I don't think it is fair to expect us to accept less. I think sometimes we need to communicate to people what we expect from them.

I know we live in the real world. Being in a family means accepting people for what and whom they are and I need to offer the same acceptance I ask for. But, I do worry. I don't want our children to feel that they are less valued by their family because of how they came to be in this world. I don't want them to feel like they are marginalized in their own families. Again, most people have been wonderful and so I don't want to paint with too broad a brush, but for the ones that can't be, I just don't get it.