Two-Car Family

You can call me on the (juice-stained) carpet for sweeping generalizations, but it’s been my experience that in your typical suburban household where each parent has a car, Mom’s car will be the messier of the two. Throw a pet like my Daisy (right, riding shotgun) into the mix, and disorder and debris are your destiny.

I don’t think I’m off base here. Just a cursory scan of cyberspace found plenty of mothers lamenting the woeful state of their minivans.  One even had a contest that sought out the most unkempt car.

If only I had known. If I’d submitted a pic of my own slovenly sedan, I guarantee I coulda been a contender. That is, if I could find my camera…

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Two-Car Family

His:
Sleek
Spotless
Toy-less
Tot-less
Leather
Shiny
Never whiny
Quiet
Yell-less
Calm
Smell-less

Hers:
Hatch-backed
Crayon-attacked
Vinyl cracked
Baby-yakked
Not compact
Toy-stacked
Ransacked
Mud-tracked
Never intact
Brat-packed

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©2009 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

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(note: this post has been updated and re-blogged from its initial appearance more than a year ago.)

The Tiger Mother (with apologies to William Blake)

It goes without saying that parents everywhere want the best for their kids.

We want them to be happy, healthy and loved. We want them to be strong and successful, ethical and moral, loving and giving.

But our definitions of these things  – and how we go about guiding our children to achieve and embody them  – may differ depending on our cultures, our upbringings, and our personal beliefs and goals. And of course we parents are bound to have strong opinions about our methods as compared to those of other parents.

Witness the controversy over Amy Chua’s book, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and the Wall Street Journal excerpt/essay encapsulating her parenting philosophy. Now, I haven’t yet read the book, but the WSJ article had me condemning Ms. Chua’s parenting as excessive, perhaps even cruel.

It seems I’m not alone, as everyone from Harvard’s Larry Summers to author Alan Paul has responded – mostly negatively – to Chua’s hard-nosed parenting tactics and portrayal of “Western” parents as slackers. Now, I have known a few Sloth Parents, and I suspect their laissez-faire attitude might be an equally harmful extreme. In all, I have to say that Paul’s “Panda Dad” take on parenting seems the most aligned with my own philosophy.

While my household is nowhere near as organized or orderly as I’d like, I make sure my girls do their required work and adhere (mostly) to schedules. We eat relatively healthy meals and I limit tv and computer time, encouraging books over electronics. And of course, they play — and not just because I think it inspires creativity. You see, as much I want them to be successful adults, I want them to be happy children, too.

Thus, my response to the Tiger Mom phenomenon, written with a nod to William Blake’s famous tiger poem.

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The Tiger Mother

Tiger Mother, Tiger Mother
With ambition like no other,
What aspirations running wild
Could force such rearing on a child?

Morning, night and afterschool,
Why so strict? Why so cruel?
To what ends dare you aspire?
Why straight A’s your goal entire?

Why deny your precious cub
Sleepovers and drama club?
Why no painting, only math?
Why condemn a laxer path?

What of games and kid pursuits?
Surely free time bears some fruits.
Lounging’s worth as much as learning,
Giving brains the fuel for burning.

What of giggling, goofing off?
At such slacking you doth scoff,
No activity’s blessed unless
It leads to scholarly success.

But shouldn’t children get to be
Little children, running free?
Making friendships and mistakes,
For that’s a lot of what life takes.

When the graduate’s off stage,
Freed from academic cage,
Let her meet each future challenge
With both work and play in balance.

Tiger Mother, Tiger Mother
With ambition like no other,
What aspirations running wild
Could force such rearing on a child?

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©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Days 7 & 8 of National Poetry Month: My First Newspaper Blackout Poem


After building/the world's biggest entertainment computer/he lacks the desire/for people.

After building
the world’s largest entertainment computer
he lacks the desire
for people.

–Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz
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I wrote my very first Newspaper Blackout Poem (above) at the BookPeople release party for Austin Kleon’s first poetry book, the aptly titled Newspaper Blackout.

I had been introduced to Mr. Kleon (a local artist) and his work at a Pecha Kucha event here in Austin, Texas, and loved this new form of poetry the moment I experienced it.

Mr. Kleon starts with a newsprint article from the New York Times, and then, like Michaelangelo chipping away the marble that wasn’t David, Mr. Kleon uses a marker to black out the words that aren’t his poem.

He describes the process on his website:

Grab a newspaper.
Grab a marker.
Find an article.
Cross out words, leaving behind the ones you like.
Pretty soon you’ll have a poem.

I loved creating my poem, and was amazed to find that being limited to using the words printed on the page was strangely liberating — as was the act of marking through words with a permanent marker.

No going back.

What’s done is done.

That’s all she wrote.

Hey, it’s National Poetry Month. Why not make your own blackout poem to celebrate?