Susan's Blog

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Bread and Chocolate Of Parenting

I have been uncharacteristically busy this year because of the book and I have become more conscious of my parenting. I now think of my parenting styles/moods in two ways: maintenance mode and connection mode. Bread and chocolate.

Maintenance mode is what it sounds like: it is all the basic stuff you’ve got to do for your kids. In my case, maintenance mode is meal-making, school shuttling, activity shlepping, playdate-finagling, homework checking, that sort of thing. Being there, in the house, on call, for any of their needs and for general conversation, nothing pithy. Bandaids, kisses, and generally providing them with a soft, omnipresent backdrop of comfort for their lives.

Maintenance mode may sound exhausting, but it is actually easy for me (other than the meals) because although as I have said I am no hausfrau (do ye thinks this lady doth protest too much? Maybe I am just a bit of a hausfrau — I do own four bathrobes, after all –) I am around the house and I naturally and unconsciously go around mutchering (as my mother would say. Not sure if “mutcher” is a Yiddish word or a word Mom made up, but it means to fiddle with a lot, too much, perhaps.) I keep a running social calendar both in my head and in my Palm Pilot, (which I have named “Pontius” because it allows me to wash my hands of scheduling responsibility) so keeping up with my boys’ lives is a fairly mundane task. Maintenance mode is everyday parenting.

Then there is connection mode. Ahh, the Promised Land of parenting. Connection mode is what I aspire to, but rarely reach. I have written before about the moments I have been able to connect with Nat. Connection mode is the same for all three of my sons. It requires a complete submersion in the moment, a real letting-go of the concerns and demands that press in on me — ironically, a letting go of maintenance mode. Therein lies the rub. Maintenance is tantamount to getting the day’s work done. It is the bread-and-butter of parenting. But man (and children) cannot exist on bread alone. So connection mode is like the vegan friendly drinkable cocoa powders of parenting. I know that sounds silly, but I like the hot chocolate analogy. It is the moment I leave thought behind and just drop down into the warm, sticky, sweet universe of busy boys. I sometimes wonder if , being a girl myself (or a former girl), I’d had girls, would it be just a little easier or natural to fall into connection? I don’t mean doll play or dress-up. I mean floating into their orbit, the place where they are being themselves so thoroughly and so defenselessly and yet they unconsciously let you in.

What does it take, to get to connection more frequently? Perhaps it is best left as it is, as it comes, the unconscious, purely being; the surprise of the unplanned. All the more satisfying when it occurs, and you realize it just as it is over, with a delighted sigh, that you found it today.


Hi Susan,

I’m sending you an imaginary batch of “fresh from the oven” chocolate chip muffins!

Happy Valentines Day.

— added by Do'C on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Dad of Cameron –
Brilliant! While you’re imagining them, make them lo-carb! Thnx

— added by Susan Senator on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 at 5:56 pm