Saturday, August 18, 2012

travel day post script ie: the truth

Oh. My. Gawd.
Good new is, we made it to Florida and my Handsome Husband took the kids for a swim while I had enjoyed a glass of wine was able to diagnose that my wits are, indeed, recoverable.

When we arrived at the airport, I went over to a group of police and TSA and asked the guard to tell us (Z) the rules, because I was counting on this to set the tone. Well, the cop totally blew it. He went all, "aw shucks look at that face! Who could say no to you!" instead. So that was a bust.
No fear-motivated subdued behavior resulted there. What we got instead was a 4 year old who had just been handed the license to create mischief. 
And both walked away with a twinkle in their eyes.
And by the way, security guards, flight attendants, pilots and random people: making cute faces at my son and saying, "Aww, you look like trouble!" IS NOT HELPFUL!

But we got through security and all went well, We got some treats for the plane, waited for the plane, and around the time it was unloading, and we were queuing up to get on, that was about the time that Z ran out of his power not to wiggle. Considering it had been 75 min or so since we arrived at the airport you could hardly blame him, really. He spent the flight alternating between sitting upside down on his chair, hiding out under his chair, laying across the chairs and going to the lav. E was ever so helpful by pointing out how she was behaving so much better than her brother, until she reached her tipping point as well.  And after 2.5 hours in the air, my kids were visibly vibrating with pent up energy. But we did it and got to Chicago where we waited for the next plane.
And that was where things get fuzzy for me.

I don't know of anything that can be done with overexcited, overextended, travel weary young kids who are going to stay at a hotel on a beach and finally see their Dad whom they haven't seen in a month. This is where a working DVD player or a smart phone would have been a godsend. They cannot resist the hypnotizing magic of screens. It paralysis them.  Alas, I was traveling like one did in the 80's. So I just apologized to everyone they made casualties of and tried with various failing degrees of success to keep a grin on my face.

And I was reminded, as I read my pre-travel, post: I am full of shit.

Although being spies in the hotel is working, but this time they are ninjas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

airports, children, and coping mechanisms

I will soon be taking the kids to Florida to be with Dad. He is working there all this month and this is a way to have  "vacation" without having a vacation.  Flying with kids and staying in hotels can justifiably give some parents heart palpitations and IBS on the spot, I know this because I have been through enough airports and hotel lobbies to have experienced most every possible scenario. Including the IBS one. And also one that involved boils, but that is another story for another time.

Due to frequent travel and staying in many, many hotels with infants and children, I have some unsolicited advice for the panicking parent who dreads traveling with young children:

Be packed the day before. NOT the day of! (I tell this to myself all the time.)

So many things are out of your control: Long flights, layovers, security,delays, over stimulation, no naps, airport food, being stuck on a plane for hours... then when you finally get to the hotel, everyone is frazzled, over-tired, and crazy excited.  And the whole time you are displaying your children before strangers. So don't worry about it. This may sound trite, but I totally mean it. Give up the ties to control. I tell my kids that we need to work as a team, they like that.  Get there WAY earlier that you should be. (Sounds anti-intuitive, but I find it better to be early with some time to idle than fretting about being late.) Take an ativan if you need to,  or go visit one of the many fine establishments in the airport and have yourself a drinky-poo and get your kids a snack. Sit at one of those tables and watch people go by.  If you are tense, your kids are going to reflect that exponentially. If your flight is at 10 am note this: Airports run on airport time, not normal time. Remember that. Too uptight to have a drink or won't admit to prescription pills? You are just going to have it suck it up, ain't you Shirley? Do deep breathing, whatever it takes.

 Kids to young to sit at a table? Yay! you get to wander up and down the halls! Most airports have playzones that are usually really lame, but we go there anyway. After we get through security and find the gate, then we can wander around. We like to find moving sidewalks and go back and forth on them. Seriously, we could do this all day. I stay out of the shops as much as possible. We examine the airport sculptures and art in extreme detail. We take frequent trips to the bathroom. We wonder where people are coming from or going to. We also invested in a portable DVD player, but most of you have smart phones now, so you can just stick that in your kid's face and they should zone out happily enough, once you have exhausted the fun out of moving staircase rides. But I would recommend that as a last resort only. You don't want to use up all of its allure, you might need it more desperately later on.
Another thing I like to do is point out where I think all the hidden cameras are and see if the kids can spot them too. Note to the kids that there are always security guards watching their every move. Let them know that airport security guards don't like kids who misbehave. Fear is a great motivator!

I always have a little kit with me full of fun stuff like:

BANDAIDS! (never gets old-they have bandaged me, my bags, willing bystanders...a must have.)
Tin of mints
Gum or gummies (for take offs and landing which are hard on kids ears)
String liquorice (takes forever to eat, fun to tie knots in)
Pad & pens pens also good for drawing faces on hand or fingers for puppets
Sticker (activity) books
Those sticky, waxy craft strings or pipe cleaners
Sticky google eyes (Another must have for us-makes everything funny)
Tag readers
all that stuff can fit in a regular size purse, & can be brought out piece by piece like a big surprise.

I always make sure, when we are settling on the plane, to congratulate the passengers around me on their great luck being stuck next to kids. It usually throws them off guard and slices through the hostility and we all have a laugh. And if it doesn't, then I know the person is a dick and I stop caring about their comfort all together.

So, that should get you through the airport, now on to the hotel.

Check in:
If there are two parents, this is a no-brainer. One checks in, the other hangs with the kids.  Easy.
Now try it alone with 2 kids under 5...a wee bit more interactive.
Really I have no insights to this one, sometimes it has gone smoothly, with the kids beside me the whole time, happy to 'guard' the luggage. Sometimes they have both abandoned me to whirl around in the cool door that spins or ride the elevator. We now spend the extra time doing a couple of door revolutions first, before we get to the counter and also check out the lobby a bit, because they just want to see it, so I let them. There is no rule that you HAVE to go immediately to the counter and check in, you can sit in a chair first, walk around a bit, then the kids are usually able to wait for the business of check-in to happen. Usually.

If you are like us, elevators are the coolest things. Ever. And if you are also like us, the kids are no longer allowed to push the elevator buttons because of the 'me first/not fair' fight that happens over who gets to push which buttons when. By the way, this fight can begin before we have even entered the hotel. Starting with a whisper and escalating into actual in public screams and punches. So the only time kids get to push buttons is if they have displayed beautiful manners the whole way through check-in, and decide quietly who gets the inside/outside button. And further button pushing is allowed only if the strictest criteria of manners has been met.

Which brings me to stairwells.
We have had to deny use of elevators altogether in the past, due to unrestrained sibling insurgencies and, instead, used the stairs, which are an untapped source of hilarity and joy believe it or not. On the stairs, we are secret agents and up and down we go. Z once flat out ran up and down 6 flights of stairs 10 times in a row before passing out from sheer exhaustion and elation. Beats TV.
Do not underestimate the entertainment value of a staircase.

Now the kids are 4 and 6 this has gotten pretty easy, but it was not always so, and having very young kids in a restaurant that is not used to appalling examples of human behavior can be a challenge. I have two tricks that worked almost all of the time when the kids were younger.
1- doopy fingers: where I walk my index and middle fingers around the table saying doopy doopy doopy then 'trip' over a spoon, or fall of the edge, or doopy up the arm of the child. When the kids were little, that would do it for the whole time we were waiting. Of course you don't get much of a conversation in with anyone else, but kids like doopy. But only bring out doopy at a restaurant! Do not dilute the power of the doopy!

2- 'mind stories' where the kids choose characters and I make up a story. Sometimes I am feeling inspired and sometimes I am re-telling what we did that day, but as long as I am telling a story, the kids are in their chairs and not climbing up the buffet table.
When these don't work I just scream at the wait staff and make a huge mess. Kidding!

Hotel pools:
Yes. As much as possible for as long as possible.

These are a few coping mechanisms off the top of my head.
Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A few moments in the life of Mr. Z:
I challenge you!

The now.

"You are goners!" (Actual quote).
Pardon me, while I mine my nostrils for power nuggets.

Now I shall shred.

I shall shred and slay simultaneously!
Now for a little spider-man training...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

conversations with my sister

When I got home from meeting my big sister and taking her to the airport, I put the kids to bed then poured myself  glass of wine and did research. I had to do research because what my sister was talking to me about was so far over my head that I had no choice. She is smarter than me (along with being faster-that bitch.) And time has not closed that gap. So here I now sit with a smidge of wine left in my glass, (I might just have to refill...) and three pages of notes on a subject called "Social Constructivism".  She was in Boston presenting a paper on this matter as part of her PHD and when I picked her up at the hotel and asked what she was up to, I got enough esoteric mind gum to keep me chewing for years. We talked about the a whole rang of things through the filter of social constructs,and I just had to try to share our conversation.

My sister has always been a giant pain in my ass. When we were growing up, she was this bossy, popular, smart jock with glossy curls and impossibly high waterfall bangs.She knew everything before I did. She was an intolerable know-it-all.  She used to talk me into her wearing my new school clothes first. She was good. she was smart, and I was...not so much. As we matured, or I should say, as she matured and I got older, Our differences became even more of an issue. She went to university, I dropped out. She dated an Olympic luge guy, I dated epic stoners. I went to art college and experimented in undocumented performance art and puppetry, she became a consultant. She took on marathons, I took on drugs. She made seemingly reasoned decisions about her future, I followed a seemingly random desire to build wooden boats in Downeast Maine. She left relationships that were doomed to failure, I married into them then divorce out of them. You get the picture.

So as we look at this sibling relationship through the lens of social constructivism, the rivalry my older sister and I have negotiated is through a complex combination of decisions based on reacting to each other throughout our whole lives. (R. Edwards -Who wrote a book about social constructs as seen in siblings)  She, being the first born was placed into a position of power over me, aided by the preconceptions of culture and negotiated by our every action; reinforced by our parents.  Which I take to mean: If she had never been born, my life would have been easy-peasy and trouble free and also it is all my parents fault.

Is how we behave produced by culture or biology and nature? Social constructs are either a by-product of countless human choices building upon each other or laws resulting from nature.
Perception is so dependent upon prior experiences that what people observe cannot be uncompromisable. How you view the world -what your truth is, is directly related to your experiences up to that point: There is no such thing as a fair and balanced opinion.

So our categories of what we perceive as right or wrong are entirely subjective to our experiences. What is "normal" for us can be "wrong" to someone else. Take an untravelled person from United States and switch them with an untravelled person from China and both people will be shocked by the differences of social construct. Their personal representation of the world can be totally undermined by looking through the filter of someone else's culture.

Homosexuality is another good example: It took until the 19c for the concept of homosexuality to be expressed in Western culture. Up until that point, people just fucked. But now, we have categorized and sub-categorized sexuality and in doing so have created cultures and sub-cultures and what a fine mess we have made. People have linked sexual behavior with morality. Now people have to suppress their sexual natures for fear of stigma, which drives human behavior underground and into toilet stalls (looking at you Larry Craig) while at the same time, these very humans are staunchly opposed to the "Immoral choice" of homosexuality. Sexuality is nature, to categorize it and stigmatize it is the choice.  And because we humans are so concerned with belonging to the dominant tribe, which keeps narrowing the definition of itself, we are left with no alternative but to lie about our very human natures. Which is very weird.

How about maps. Before we had satellite imagery, we sent geographers and cartographers into unknown places to draw up maps. They went out, tested, observed measured, then gathered together to agree on what a location looked like. These maps were then peer reviewed, discussed and declared official. They were presented to the population who accepted it. Even when the maps turned out to be inaccurate. But once something had been accepted as truth, it is very difficult to change that perception.

 Another,sobering example is Rwanda. When the Dutch decided to move in to Rwanda, they categorized the population as "Hutu" and "Tutsi" based on their appearances and characteristics, then they favored one over the other. These definitions were repeated and accepted enough and decisions were made based on these physical characteristics until one day things get ugly and: Genocide. The reality of social constructivism.

And the core of  all of this, how we see people, how we organize ourselves into class, professions, culture, sub-culture, how we educate, what we educate, what we accept, what we reject, our lives, our society, how we view emotions, roles, gender, race, sexuality, mental illness, facts, reality, this: We make it up.
It is like the bloody Matrix.
So I am going to keep my notes handy and remember when I am worried about a social faux pas I might have made, or concerned that I might not be doing things "right",  that all of this has been constructed  by decisions that the masses have made over time, and I know that the masses are not very smart because I have history to look at to confirm that we do an awful lot of very stupid things. And also I can just look around me. Also I can just look at my own life. There are plenty of examples everywhere.

 My sister told me this:
"You can do whatever you want. Anything. Just know that humanity has created rules. Use them. Play by them, but do what YOU want to do within it."
She also said, as we were saying goodbye, "It has been great to talk with you now that you are no longer a colossal idiot. I can say these things, because I don't care about social pretenses anymore."
To which I reply, "It is great to talk to you too, now that you are finally cool."


Helen Moussa,
  1. Canadian citizens' idea of "the woman refugee" is not inevitable, but historically contingent. (Thus the idea or category "the woman refugee" can be said to be "socially constructed".)
  2. Women coming to Canada to seek asylum are profoundly affected by the category of "the woman refugee". Among other things, if a woman does not "count" as a "woman refugee" according to the law, she may be deported, and forced to return to very difficult conditions in her homeland.
  3. Such women may modify their behavior, and perhaps even their attitudes towards themselves, in order to gain the benefits of being classified as a "woman refugee".
  4. If such a woman does not modify her behavior, she should be considered un-Canadian and as such should not be admitted to citizenship.