Spring!

I am aware that it appears as though I’ve been loading up my  u-haul for the last three weeks in preparation for my move to the East Coast, where I will be pitching a tent in the Guilford Green and taking showers in the Guilford Free Library, because I will have no home and no job there when I arrive.

But, in fact, that’s not what happened after my recent trip to the east coast.  I got home to Berkeley.  Spring’s arrival is unambiguous.  Poppies everywhere.  Jasmine blooming in huge bunches.   Meyer lemons bursting on our bush outside.  How could I live anywhere but where I live?  And so I became distracted from blogging and everything else, and for three weeks I’ve been picking bunches of blooming things and coloring easter eggs and cooking stuff.   Lovely.

While doing all that, I’ve been thinking about this particular time in my life.  Spring is universal and timeless.  It comes.  It goes.   Things burst into life and then they are dormant.  Against that backdrop though, my children are becoming teenagers — a season I won’t ever see again, but one I love watching from a distance.

What I’ve noticed is that this  bursting-into-life, their spring, is actually pretty wonderful.  Adolescence is a time of big, gusty emotion, which can be a pain to deal with and can really unbalance a woman who isn’t used to that kind of drama (except when she’s doing it).  It’s also, though, a hugely fun time.  My kids are mischievous — they tease each other and me, and although I know that doesn’t sound like a big thing, I love it that they feel enough freedom to give me a hard time about listening to Lady GaGa.   I also love it that Lady GaGa, with her many weird outfits exists this spring.  And my kids are excited about being freer, about going to a big urban high school in the fall, about finding their own way — on the bus and at that school and then into the bigger world.

This weekend, Jack’s performing in Rigoletto — he has three lines on that huge stage, but he belts them out beautifully.  And Charlie?  He’s jumping off things on his skateboard that are very big — and spinning around when he does it and then landing and looking like it was all no big deal.  (While he wears the helmet I force him to wear).  It’s scary and exciting and fun to watch them.  I love being the mother of these kids, love the way they’re stepping onto the stage and launching themselves into life.

Happy Spring!

Shared Parenting

There was a big thing in the New York Times Magazine yesterday about “equal parenting,” which apparently is a kind of stealth movement out there in parent-land, where both parents juggle it all instead of just one parent juggling it all.

I was sort of busy revising my novel while W (my husband) was outside finishing the skateboard thing he’s building for the boys and running around town to buy Jack some last minute items for his choir tour, but I did register the thought that we’re those kind of parents. I mean, I think we are, because I didn’t have time to read the whole article and most of what I know about it comes from the captions on the pictures of people who looked awfully young to me.

The thing is, though, that the last time we were able to talk about our shared parenting (in some way other than a two second conversation about who’s going to pick up William from his drum lessons) was in 1990. Okay. Since it’s been 18 years since I last really articulated the thinking that goes into the parenting I do with W , I’m due for a little talking about it. Oh, and also, it was Father’s Day yesterday, so it seems appropriate to talk about fathering.

Here’s the setting for that conversation. Fall 1990. We were probably having a drought here in California, because it was hot, hot, hot and we had all the windows open. We were driving to Yosemite, on one of those very windy roads where to keep yourself from getting sick and to make sure the driver (in this case W) is not falling asleep at the wheel, you must absolutely bring up a controversial topic in a loud voice so you can be distracted from getting sick and he can be distracted from falling asleep.

We were about to get married, so there was a ton of stuff to talk about. (Don’t get me started on why it was that I had to wear the complicated dress, complicated both from a fashion and political point of view and he got to rent the same penguin suit thing all men wear.) The discussion I chose to start had to do with whether we were going to have children. Of course, the reason we were getting married was because we were pretty sure we’d have some children, but we’d never really discussed it, so it seemed like a good thing to bring up.

At that time, I could still remember some of the feminist theory I’d read in college. There hadn’t been a lot of stuff about parenting. In fact, the only thing I knew about feminist parenting came from Dorothy Dinnerstein (remember her? Mermaid? Minotaur?). From her, for some reason, I had drawn the conclusion that the Reason There is So Much Fighting in the World is because men aren ‘t properly parented. Which is to say they don’t have fathers who mother them and so they end up killing each other. Or something like that.

So I said, honey, I’m not going to have children unless you’re going to raise them as much as I am. Half and half, okay? At that time, W was busy thinking about whether he was going to take one of those jobs where you go to far away places and make a bunch of money as a consultant, and see your wife and family not that often. So he took this statement seriously. We drove and drove and drove on that twisty road talking about mermaids and minotaurs and consulting jobs and stuff, and by the end of it, we’d agreed — we would be equal parents. I am not surprised that he agreed to this because he is a person of integrity and fairness and he likes to work hard at things, which, it turned out, is what parenting is all about.

He bought a small company of his own, in the end, and never did become a consultant, in part because when you are the boss you get to decide how you’re going to run things. Which is to say that the single best way to institute family friendly work policies is to own the company at which those policies are in force. What are those policies, you ask? The ability to work at home is one. The flexibility to do things with your children when those things must be done, and then stay up until midnight doing the other things that could wait just a bit so you could take your child to the orthodontist is another.

It turns out, though, that our equal parenting also had a lot to do with having twins. I can see how we might not have ended up the way we did. That’s because my impulse when I became pregnant was to just take over. Look, I can carry two at once! Next, I’ll give birth to them in beautiful pain! And then, hey, how about all that nursing I will do! I had no idea what he’d do, before he started doing it.

That happened when they arrived — both of them. Fortunately for me, the babies and W, you can’t monopolize parenting if you have two babies at once and you discover all that nursing is making you really, really tired. And so, because we started off having to share, it just never ended. It’s not exact — but for both of us it feels pretty even. (Lately, W would say it is not even, and that I spend so much time writing that our children don’t know what a mother looks like, unless it’s the OTHER mothers they see way more than they see me. He might be right, you know. I wonder what Dorothy Dinnerstein would make of that. Still, equal parenting can sustain a little unequal stint every once in a while — it rights itself, I think, if you pay attention to it.)

This is what it looked like today, for example. It is summer vacation. We both work. Jack had to be taken to the airport. I took him and came into work. Charlie and William have no plans today. W arranged for them to meet a good friend at his work, and go to the park with her. (Please note that I did not make this plan. Shared parenting means being totally responsible for the planning of the days you are on duty as the parent.) I am writing this afternoon and tonight. W is taking the boys out to dinner. Tomorrow he is working at home, while they are at home hanging out. I am working, and writing. I’m in charge of Wednesday and am working on childcare arrangements for the time I will be at work. Thursday he is in charge. Next week, after I get back from a weekend away, he and I are on vacation and we will all be in charge. That is usually a very exciting free-for-all of strong willed people that sometimes ends in tears or a lot of yelling and sometimes is a lot of fun. After that, the camps I organized, and the two nice young women I’ve hired to hang out with the boys take over the childcare.

Which brings me to another important point.  We share parenting between more than  just the two of us.  Important people in our lives and the lives of our children have helped us raise our children.  I have always worked part time (except for a year or so of full time work) and W has always worked a schedule where he either does the morning shift at home or the afternoon school pick up shift.  When the boys were little, one woman — Aurelia Madrid — cared for them during the days both of us had to be at work.  It is hard to think of a name for her — she’s neither an aunt nor a nanny.  She’s a third parent, really.  She brings things into our lives that we wouldn’t otherwise have:  she has a better sense of humor than I do, she’s more easy-going, she keeps them busy really beautifully, and she loves them, as they do her.  So, you see, shared parenting isn’t a two people endeavor, not at least in our life.

And so it goes. A lot of stuff around here gets done at the last minute. Sometimes it is more W doing the child care, sometimes it is more me. We are both sometimes up very late doing the things we love to do that we did not get to do during the day because we are also parents. Shared parenting may not change the world and stop wars, but it does make people happy — both of us. My husband loves his fathering work as much as he loves being an engineer and designing amazing things, and being a windsurfer who’s very fast out there on the San Francisco Bay and a great skier and rock climber to boot. He does all these things, and feels, as I do about my own passions, that he doesn’t do any of them as well as he’d like, but at least he gets to give it a shot. So, yes, I can honestly say, 12 years into the shared parenting endeavor, that it’s a good, worthwhile thing to do. Not everyone can do it, or wants to do it and that’s fine too. I know plenty of families where one parent specializes in the on-site parenting work and, honestly, I no longer believe those children are going to go out and start a bunch of wars. The funny thing is that if people choose that sort of parenting arrangement (women mostly, I think), rather than have it thrust on them, that works pretty well too.

I can’t think of how to end this post except to say that my husband is a remarkable man, and I am lucky to have met him and married him and had those three children with him. He’s a gem. Tired, but a gem.

Christmas on the Prairie

                     

I’ve been feeling less than literary these days, which is one of the occupational hazards of teetering on top of the work/life balance.  I’ve noticed that when you’re up there on that precarious perch, it’s hard to keep your balance if you have a book or a pen and paper in your hand.   I’ve also noticed that it’s particularly difficult to keep yourself from crashing to the ground during the holidays, a time when there are more than the usual number of things to do that I’m not particularly good at doing.   Like sewing.   

Since I’ve been on the subject of household management lately, I want to discuss sewing with all of you.  First, let me say that I do know how to sew.  I’ve never thought of myself as being from any particular generation, much less one that’s been around for a while, but it turns out that I’m from the tail end of a generation of women who had to take home economics in junior high, which makes me a person who’s lived in a world that many young women don’t know anything about.

If you missed it, home ec is what you took when the boys were learning to weld in shop.  It was where you learned to make coffee cake, muffins (don’t stir too much) and dresses.  They waited until the spring for sewing, wanting to make sure they could trust us with dangerous objects like knives before setting us lose on machines.  My sewing project was a dress that had six zillion darts in it.  To this day, I can’t see a dart without having a shuddery flashback to myself, c. 1974, hunched over a dress that, even by the very low standards of that decade, was terribly, terribly ugly.  

After that one dress, I put the sewing machine away for a few years.  Until 1976, in fact, when for some reason I am unable to quite fathom, I became a high school cheerleader and actually had to sew an entire uniform to wear during basketball season.  Apparently, it wasn’t enough to have one expensive uniform, the skirt and sweater you wore to football games.  Nope.  You had to have another entire get-up for the sport that mattered more than football in our town, which was basketball.   

So there I was, 16 years old, a recovering seamstress, with a pattern and a lot of red and blue and white material that I’d stuffed under my bed the instant I brought it home from the fabric store right before Christmas vacation.  It was clear to me that I was on my own when it came to sewing that basketball uniform.  My mother was busy working as a bookkeeper at J.C. Penney’s and she really didn’t want to hear about my issues with the uniform, a piece of apparel that was way more complicated than anything I could handle, involving as it did buttons and fabric that was slinky in that way only a 1970s cheerleading uniform could be slinky. 

Part of the problem in getting help with this whole uniform issue was that neither of my parents understood or approved of cheerleading.  (I don’t blame them, I don’t approve of it either.)  My mother was sort of circumspect about it, and just didn’t mention it, the way you wouldn’t mention somebody’s obvious physical handicap.  My father, on the other hand, routinely referred to my fellow cheerleaders as the vestal virgins, a phrase I found really embarassing and hoped he’d stop saying in that loud snorting way.   I was pretty sure if anyone I knew heard him using the word virgin (ick) or that whole phrase, my cover as a sort of normal girl would be totally and utterly blown.  I couldn’t talk to either one of them about the uniform, that was quite clear.

Adding to my angst over this uniform problem was that the other girls on the squad were named things like Cindy and Debbie and Tracey and Vicki and Linda and they were perfectly normal girls (not like me with my weird grandmotherly first name) and every single one of them had a mother who happily whipped up a perfect basketball uniform during Christmas vacation.  Still, I didn’t really expect anyone to come to my rescue, because I never even mentioned the problem this presented for me.  I just ignored it until it was almost too late. 

And that is how it happened that the night before the first basketball game of the season, a cold, rainy night in January, after the heat had ben turned off in our house, I stayed up until about three in the morning, like Dr. Frankenstein, piecing together odd bits of this and that, all the while holding my breath and hoping against hope I’d end up with something that sort of looked like a basketball uniform. 

Let me just say that a more misshapen thing was never worn by a Washington Patriots cheerleader before or since.  It was too big in the places where it was supposed to be snug and too snug in the places where it was supposed to be loose.  I kept it together for almost three months, and a series of championship games, using a combination of safety pins,  masking tape, and hope.  And now I’ll close the curtain on that episode in my life.

Which brings me to last night, to the Secret Santas, and to the Christmas on the Prairie. 

At the very nice school one of my older boys goes to, they do Secret Santas during the last week of school before the Christmas holidays  The children pick names out of a hat and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, they give their secret friend a gift.  Okay, you’re thinking, no problem.  Five bucks, a few hairclips, or a bunch of chocolate, or a paperback book. 

But nooooooo.   That’s not how it works.  The children, you see, are meant to learn about giving from the heart.  Which means they have to make the damned presents.  Themselves.  Except they don’t really make the presents themselves.  We do.  Apparently, people like my parents no longer exist, and so no child actually has to do this project on their own while their parents are busily balancing the books of the Penney’s at the Tacoma Mall, or sitting in the brown chair in the corner of the living room reading Nietzsche, which is how my parents occupied themselves during the Christmas season.  Or at least I am not capable of being like my parents and ignoring the whole secret santa week and making my son deal with it in his own special way.  (Which would be to give the girl who’s his secret santa old baseball cards.)

My son (aka me) made his secret santa person some brownies the first night.  I thought that was pretty good, and we (me) even put them in a nice cellophane bag with a cute ribbon.  The report on the brownies’ reception was lukewarm, however.  They got crushed, he said, and were only “okay.” 

Instead of thinking, okay’s pretty good, I thought, Jesus, we’re (me) going to have to think of something genuinely charming, handmade, rough hewn and useful.  Something Laura would make for Mary in the Little House books.  (Aha!  A literary allusion.  Whew.) 

We (I) looked around, considered and disgarded hand made stationery (no nice paper in the house), more food (not special enough and besides we’re out of sugar), and came across the Martha Stewart website which is a very bad thing for a person like me, a person with a history of handmade failures, to come across at times like this. 

Too late, we (this time, both of us) saw the Christmas stockings.  Too late, we (both of us) committed to the project.  Too late, the sewing machine happened to be out (for hemming pants, something that doesn’t involve darts).  Too late, too late, too late.

And so, dear reader, we made the stocking you see at the  beginning of this extraordinarily long and rambling post.  Surprisingly, my son did a lot of the stocking.  He sewed the button ornaments on the little felt tree.  He downloaded and printed out the stocking and tree templates.  He cut stuff out.  He admired my erratic sewing.  (Mom, you’re like, so fast with that thing.)  The end result looks like it should:  utterly handmade.  But this time, thirty years later, handmade is really okay.  It’s good, in fact.  I don’t want people thinking I made it, for heaven’s sake! 

The odd thing is that making this stocking was actually a lot of fun.  Maybe it was having my son’s help, and company.  Maybe it was the fact that my son now knows how to sew on a button, something his father can’t do. Whatever it was, this project seems to have exorcised the memory of being alone in my room on a cold January night, hunched over all that red and blue slinky fabric.  I know making a stocking was a hugely inefficient way to spend a Tuesday night.  It messed up our living room, and everyone got to bed half an hour late, and I probably should have let my son have a go at the sewing machine.  (I didn’t let him.  It was too much fun to do it myself.)  But among the many redemptive things about being a parent yourself, is that you get to correct for your children a few of the things that hurt more than they should have when you were young.  Were I to come up for air from this sentimental paragraph, I’d also observe that in so doing you add a few problems of your own — in this case, maybe it would have been better for my son to do more of this for himself.  Still, having said that, I’m okay about it all.  And you know what?  I stayed up another hour after they were in bed and made another Christmas stocking.  For my son.  From his secret santa.  Me. 

A Bunch of Gorgeous Guys

A few days ago, I thought I’d do a little computer housekeeping. You know, erase the 26 episodes of the Daily Show I’ve been hoarding, see if Jon Stewart’s the reason why I keep getting the spinning disco ball whenever I try to do online banking. And while I was at it, I thought I’d put some documents in folders of my own choosing, maybe even answer some emails. That sort of thing.

But what began as a quick cleanup occupied the better part of two days.

That’s because at the same time I was doing my electronic housekeeping, I was also taking care of a flu-stricken 11 year old boy. He seemed to regress every six hours into an even more helpless version of himself. Every time I started to do something that required concentration, he’d shout my name (which is mom, by the way, but pronounced like it’s a three syllable word, like this: maaaaahhhh-ahhhhh-aaaahhhhhmmm). And then, when I’d come running upstairs to see if he needed immediate medical attention, he’d ask me to do something like hand him the glass of water that was on the bedside table inches away from his hand.

Before long, I was muttering dark things about the male sex and their well-known difficulty dealing with illness. Right around then, I got to my iPhoto library. And right around then, any irritation I might have felt about having to take care of a helpless pre-teen was banished. You see, dear reader, what I found on my computer was something that made me look at men and boys in a completely different way. I discovered — right in front of my eyes — six gorgeous, inspiring, amazing 21st century male role models. And I didn’t even know that’s who they were when I took their pictures. It could be that’s because most of them were dressed in Halloween costumes. Still, here they are — the sort of men I wouldn’t mind any of my sons growing up to become, after he gets over the flu, I mean, and starts growing up again:

I’ll start with Farmer Jonah. He’s new at the school. The regular school farmer is named Farmer Ben. But his first baby arrived over the summer and he took a leave. He won’t be back until January. So Farmer Jonah arrived. He’s dressed, in case you’re wondering, as a giant ear of corn. Obviously, he is not bothered by itchy things and he loves the garden. He’s a gentle soul — and very funny.

Oh, here’s Farmer Jasper. He dressed up as an ear of corn for Halloween too. In this picture, though, he’s holding a giant sign he and Farmer Jonah made. It announces the First Annual JackRabbit Juice-A-Thon, in which I assume, things will be liquefied and then drunk. He’s explaining this to a child in the lunchroom. Y ou will also note that he is wearing a sticker. It says I voted. And a good thing too. Thanks to Farmer Jasper and others like him, we now have the first woman House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

.

Farmer Ben came by the school on Halloween. I’m pretty sure he’s dressed as Che Guevara. His daughter’s very cute. As is he. All the farmers at the school have lovely patches of color on their cheeks because they’ve been working hard showing children how to juice things and how to bring in the harvest. Everyone misses Farmer Ben. He could be counted on to play long games of kickball after school. He went to this school when he was a child. The children love that.

This is Damian. He’s the student teacher in my son’s classroom. He plays the congas. He was responsible for the spirited parade around the neighborhood on Halloween.

He’s also a wicked dancer, even when he has a lollipop in his mouth. Here he is with my son’s teacher. What you don’t see is the swirl of little kids all around him, dancing along.

Here’s Luis. He’s one of the fifth grade teachers. He dressed up as a very natty Latino guy. Come to think of it, Luis IS a very natty Latino guy. It’s just he doesn’t usually do his hair like a pop star.

Luis is a fabulous kickball player. He and Farmer Ben are the go-to guys for kickball. But in Farmer Ben’s absence, Peter’s been in charge. Peter works in the afterschool program. It was dusk when I took this picture, but here he is, Peter, a man who loves hanging out with children:

One last note, something I think registers a sea change in what it means to be male. Peter is wearing Ugg boots. The kind of boots Kate Hudson wears.They’re not very practical for kickball. So, when they started getting in his way, he took them off and played in his bare feet. He was very matter of fact about it. He liked those boots. But he didn’t need to try to run in them. Every child out there, including the little girls who’d been wearing those princess shoes that kill your feet earlier in the day, must have been delighted to see Peter take those boots off and run around the playground barefoot. It’s probably not allowed, regulation-wise, but as a model of how to get around your gender get-up, it seemed perfect to me.

And that’s what all these men have in common. They’re very male — but they also mix it up with things you’d think of as female: they dance, they dress up for Halloween as sexy pop stars, they wear impractical shoes, they show little kids how to make juice, they take time off to be with their new baby. And they all play a really fine game of kickball and every single one of them has chosen a job where they look after children and teach them how to grow up in the 21st century, a time when maybe men and women will be allowed to be whoever they want to be.

In Defense of Halloween

 

There’s a funny article in this morning’s New York Times about the British reaction to Halloween. (Unfortunately, it’s behind their subscription firewall so I can’t link to it. It’s by the wonderful Sarah Lyall.) As far as I can tell, our neighbors across the Atlantic don’t at all care for this holiday which, it seems, involves hordes of demanding, poorly behaved British children, howling for candy, and roaming the streets, making ordinary citizens feel a little nervous. In Britain, householders cower in the back of their houses with lights turned out and just wish the whole thing would end.

A.N. Wilson’s grumpy response to Halloween is: “Trick or treat? I don’t know about you, but my answer to this question, if I’m honest, would be unprintable in a family newspaper . . . Let’s say it’s stronger than ‘push off.’ Yet the little beggars will soon be round, banging and ringing at our doors with this irritating refrain.”

Faced with this sort of grousing, I wish to write today in defense of Halloween. One objection to Halloween that got me thinking was the notion that the children aren’t doing enough to justify that candy. One citizen said something like, you’d think they’d at least sing or tell a joke or be charming before you give them the candy.

Good heavens. Has this woman never seen a child prepare for Halloween? Around here, weeks of strategic planning go into the preparation of the costume. It’s as much work as planning a Broadway show, or a wedding. After all, the point of that costume is to entertain or charm or seriously disturb the adult who sees you. When the door is opened and the person standing there clutching their bowl of Snickers bars looks you over, you do NOT want them to say, in a quizzical tone, what are you? That’s bad. You are stifling hot in the ghoul costume you spent a lot of time putting together out of old sheets and a flashlight and that cobwebby stuff that costs almost nothing and the idea is that they will shriek and say, my god, what has happened to children these days!? Or, if you’re the parent of the two year old child you’ve taken great pains to dress up as an M&M you want to hear how adorable before you take that Snickers bar as your reward for sewing the M&M logo on a pair of red sleeper pajamas, something that is not simple in a sleep deprived state. (I did this with twins, so I know what I’m talking about. I ate every one of those Snickers bars with great satisfaction over the course of the next several months.)

This year, in my house, one twin dressed up as his brother, a sort of homage to the skater, athlete, hip kid his brother is. He spent a lot of time figuring out just which items were truly representative of his twin, a process that actually brought the two of them together in a very nice way. The skater brother dressed up as a more extreme version of himself — pink hair goo, a ripped-up t-shirt that took as much work to deconstruct as it did to construct, mandella tattoos strategically placed to have maximum effect, converse all-star hightops, ripped jeans (carefully ripped to look accidental), safety pins through everything (except skin: I drew the line.) And the smallest boy dressed up as…. well, a general. He’s as militaristic as they come, and although it’s a little embarrassing to walk down the street with a small person dressed like a guy in the R.O.T.C., he looked more cute than fierce, because he’s seven and that’s his lot in life. Anyway, I’m used to his choices, which are instinctively transgressive choices for a child who lives in Berkeley.  Last year he was a cop.  Next year, I’m guessing he’ll be Dick Cheney.

The military costume was acquired after much looking around at a huge flea market held — where else? — at a decomissioned naval base. The uniform belonged to a guy named Strickland. He was, apparently, a short fellow because the shirt and jacket pretty much fit a larger than average seven year old boy perfectly.  There was a lot of speculation around here about whether Strickland’s uniform was for sale because he’d died (the uniform was carefully examined for evidence of combat death), or if it was for sale because he became a General. (He started as a corporal, so the latter seems as unlikely as the former.)

As for the candy itself, it doesn’t hurt a child to have a day of excess. In fact, Halloween reminds me of other holidays — European in origin, if I’m not mistaken — where the idea is that it’s good for people if there’s a day when all the normal roles are subverted. And so it is on Halloween. Children get to scare adults. Children get to decide what gets eaten. Children get to be out at night while adults stay home in their beds, afraid of what’s out there in the dark. Children get to wear weird and inappropriate clothing, which is to say they get to dress as adults. I honestly cannot see how anyone could object to that, but possibly it’s because they didn’t start life out dressed as an M&M or a bumble bee, like most American children, and so this wonderful ritual isn’t in their blood the way it is in ours.

Writing About Children

There’s a temptation in writing about and describing childhood and children to forget that both are most interesting when they are least about us — the adults, that is. There’s a reason why so many great children’s books begin with the death of parents. The true life of a child, the one most children want to read about, is the one in which children have free rein to be the weird, obsessive, imaginative, odd and powerful people they both are and would like to be.  Which is to say, people a lot like adults, except the wildness that we’re all capable of flourishes in great children’s literature because, well, because the adults who’d tell you to stop climbing trees or escaping into a different dimension or lifting horses up over your head are all dead.  Or on very long vacations or sea voyages.  Or have left the children with nannies who aren’t really adults but are instead magical people.  Or are away at war. 

The books I most liked as a child had very few adults in them. Books like the Chronicles of Narnia (Aslan wasn’t really an adult was he?) and Pippi Longstocking. You wonder, though, who the adults were who remembered to leave themselves out. So much contemporary children’s fiction fails to do this, because it seems most motivated by a desire to teach children how to become adults. And when that’s your goal, then you end up with an adult-child ratio that’s about even.  Not what you want if you’d like to eat candy for dinner.

And because I have to leave for the dentist in about half an hour and still have to make lunches and get dressed, I have to cut this meditation on writing about and for children short. I just want to say this: Alison Lurie had it right in her book about children’s fiction: the best writing for children is subversive, writing that doesn’t really have anything to teach children except maybe that they should hang onto who they are and not be in such a hurry to be adults.

When you become an adult, after all, and wake up in the morning, you will discover you have to go to the dentist. When you are a child and wake up in the morning, you will lie in bed looking out the window and wonder how it is that the moon can still be up in the sky and what would it be like to go up there some morning instead of going to school. And you don’t hear your mother downstairs in the kitchen getting ready for the adult day because you’re inventing whatever you need to invent to get yourself out the window of your room and into the adventure that is your childhood.