Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I'm in the zone; head down, butt up, as close to a perfect inverted v as I can manage. Blood rushes to my head as I let go of all my worldly cares and concerns. I imagine I am floating above the earth , maybe just a little superior to other earthlings. I'm in the classic Yogic position of "Downward Dog".

Just as I reach a near state of nirvana, the pounding rhythm of a techno beat comes crashing through my inner calm. I focus on my breathing as I've been taught, to observe the distraction but not judge it, not own it.

I can't do it, I'm distracted and I sneak a peak under my arm and see the idiots in the studio next door. They're all jumping up and down on the step like their lives depended on it while I and my enlightened sisters continue to seek the path to truth. I can see their instructor, a skinny 20-something who is shouting out commands like "GET YOUR KNEES UP! YOU WANT YOUR BUTT TO LOOK GOOD IN THOSE NEW JEANS DON'T YOU"

Fools, I think, as I move into a near-perfect triangle pose. (That entire previous sentence is anti-Yogic by the way). But I can't help but look down on those sweaty people in the next room. In Yoga we are taught to accept ourselves where we are, to know that we are just where we should be and to never push or punish ourselves. Yoga is a healing, not punitive, practice. And above all it's about the spirit and the body as one, not looking good. We would never discuss how a pose might help us get into our jeans.

Of course, we might be thinking it. Because the truth is, that after 25, no wait, probably closer to 30 years of jumping up and down in aerobics classes, sweatin' to the oldies, using goofy excercise devices from leg weights to the Bosu ball at trendy gyms from Elaine Powers to Bally's to keep in shape and be heart healthy (yeah right, that's why I was doing that, so my heart would look good), I am now --ohm---a Yoga convert.

I didn't move to Yoga intentionally. In fact, I stumbled across it. I had taken a few classes but always thought, "What a waste of a perfectly good hour I could have been exercising." In short, I lacked a bit of respect for the centuries old discipline. But then they changed the class schedule at my gym and the Yoga class worked best into my schedule. After three consecutive classes I was hooked.

I'd like to say I was drawn to yoga for it's calming and enlightening benefits. But the truth is, after just a month or two of Yoga my husband said, "You look great. What are you doing? You have back muscles, and abs all of sudden." And he was right! Though aerobics and weights kept me in decent shape they did not give me, in 20-some years, the definition and strength that Yoga has given me in 2 years.

Tight abs and defined back muscles drew me there but the whole idea that exercise can be healing and nurturing has kept me there. That and I look great in my jeans. Well, really, you can put a little eastern into the girl but you can't take the western out of her. She needs results, she needs outward proof of her inward growth and maturity and what better way to show that growth and maturity than by slipping into a pair of skinny jeans?

I finish my Warrior II pose and look over at the sweating people in the next room. I wonder how it is that they (and I for years) haven't noticed that the people in this Yoga class all look noticeably more fit than they do. I want to run in there and turn off that stupid, migraine inducing music and push those people off their exercise balls and say, "Look at us in there! If you want to look good AND be relaxed then grab a Yoga mat and leave this nonsense for the twenty-year olds!"

But I don't. Instead I breathe in rhythmically as my Yoga teacher gently brings me mindfully back to my Yoga practice and leads us all through a strenuous but not unpleasant Sun-Salutation. She encourages the newcomers to rest if needed and then says calmly, "And when you're done, we'll all meet up in Downward Dog."

Indeed, I hope someday we can all meet up in Downward Dog.


By Judy Zimmerman

Thursday, October 05, 2006


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Helicopter Parent--Wikipedia defines this as “a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.”

I was discussing this type of behavior with my friend Dan, a stay-at-home-father with a set of triplets and a pair of twins. We like to make fun of helicopter parents, because it’s fun and it makes us feel better about our own style of parenting. He told me he’s reading The Price of Privilege, which is a parenting book that explores why children of affluence are so depressed, angry and bored. This book suggests (among other things) that we should teach our children to be autonomous and we need to set boundaries between our lives and our children’s lives. The book says that a lot of parents have trouble distinguishing where their own life ends and the life of their child begins.

No shit.

I’m surrounded by boundary-less, hovering parents who know WAY too much about their children’s world-- like when the next science quiz is, who’s taking whom to the prom, who’s doling out blow-jobs under the bleachers, and where you can score some smack. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating—I haven’t really heard any parents talking about where to score smack. But they do know other things.

This is in stark contrast to our parents of the sixties and seventies who barely knew where the school was and didn’t feel it was necessary to show up for every single blessed practice, rehearsal, game, and performance we attended. They just dropped us off and went back to their own lives, confident that we’d find our way home eventually. In fact, things were so lax-- we used to wait for the bus by ourselves! Yessiree, kids were kids and parents were parents and we were all slightly neglected.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t ideal either, but for some reason the pendulum has swung from a kind of benign neglect all the way to helicopter parenting in which we see parents calling college campuses to complain about the quality of the dorm food.

You may ask, How did we come to this? To which, after careful consideration and contemplation I say--I have no idea. But it ain’t right and I’m here to say stop the madness!

Maybe you’d like to stop the madness but you’re not really sure about your own parenting. You’re not really sure if you are a helicopter parent yourself and would like to know how to gauge your level of involvement. Well, a good rule of thumb is this--everyone who knows more about what’s going on in her kid’s life than I do is over-involved and everyone who knows less than I do is under-involved. Just kidding, (no I’m not, do you see the title of this website?)

Okay, that is a little bit subjective so I’ve devised the following scientific quiz you can take to find out where you fall on the spectrum of “neglectful to helicopter”. Good luck and no fair asking your kid for help.

1. Your toddler comes crying to you at the playground because another boy pushed him. You:
a. Tell him to go back and tell the boy to stop doing that
b. Find the bitch who brought the little felon to the playground and threaten to sue
c. Tell him to quit crying or you’ll give him something to cry about then wave your hand around like you’re going to smack him

2. Your 12th grade son is sad because the girl he asked to prom turned him down. You:
a. Tell him you know it’s disappointing but not everyone goes to the prom
b. Tell him he’d better start calling around because you already bought your chaperone dress and you are not going to miss prom this time around
c. Tell him to get used to it—life’s tough and then you die

3. Your daughter comes home from school and says all the kids were talking about a birthday party she’s not invited to. You:
a. Explain to her that no one is invited to every party and that’s okay
b. Call the mother of the child and say, “I’m sorry but Caitlin didn’t receive her invitation to the party. That darned post-office is so unreliable! What time should I bring her by?”
c. Tell your kid to quit whining—she’s lucky she ever gets invited to any parties

4. Your son forgets his social studies project that you reminded him to put in his backpack (three times) the night before. It is the fourth time this week he’s forgotten homework but this is for a big grade. You:
a. Leave it on the counter but it about kills you and you have to call two friends to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
b. Drive it up to school and make sure it gets taken to the classroom--you didn’t work that hard on a replica of Fort Dearborn made of toothpicks just to get a zero!
c. Throw it in the trash and think “That’ll teach the little bastard some responsibility”

5. Your child complains that she can never remember her locker combination. You:
a. Suggest she write it on the inside of her notebook.
b. Tell her what it is since you’ve memorized and she’s just called you on her cell phone to ask you
c. Tell her she’s lucky she has a locker—when you were in school you had to carry your books around all day—uphill both ways.

Scoring the quiz: Oh come on now, you know how this works. If you answered “a” to most of these questions you’re a concerned parent who respects the boundaries between yourself and your child. This will serve you both well as he grows into adulthood and with any luck he will be independent enough to move out of the basement by his 30th birthday.

If you answered “b” to most of the questions then you really are a helicopter parent and you should consider backing off. Your kid deserves a life of his or her own and so do you. Also, the other moms are totally making fun of you

If you answered “c” to most of the questions then your boundaries may be a little too well defined. Oh, and come on over Friday night. The kids have plans of their own and I’m hosting cocktails.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


When you go into any kitchen around here you will see a fish bowl with at least one goldfish swimming around inside of it. The reason you will see this is that everyone around here attends the annual PTA carnival at which the poor deprived children of this suburb are given the opportunity to win a goldfish.

No parent really wants a goldfish but no parent wants to be the one to stand up at the PTA meeting following the spectacularly successful PTA carnival and say, "For the love of god can we lose the friggin' goldfish!" No. No one wants to be the killjoy to say that.

So year after year there are goldfish at the carnival.Every fall you troop off to the PTA carnival and despite your best efforts to distract the children, "Look Michael here's the clothespin drop, you could win a plastic parachute guy," they are lured by the siren call of the goldfish tank. It does not help that your husband is standing a few feet away saying, "Dude, forget the lame parachute guy, if you throw a ball in an empty applesauce cup you win a LIVE FISH! Look it's easy even the first graders are winning!"

Yes, your son is pleased as punch when he carries his new pet home in a baggie that night. But the next day you are forced to go out and buy a goldfish bowl and food. And guess who gets to clean the bowl? Not the bonehead who encouraged your son to win the goldfish. And no, not your son. You. Because despite the fact that you vowed when you brought the stupid fish home that it would be a good experience for your offspring, that it would teach him to be responsible, it turns out that his tolerance for fish scum is much, much higher than your tolerance. And so by default you find yourself emptying the fish bowl and scraping that green gunk off the sides of the bowl.

Nevertheless, you feel sorry for the little guy swimming around all alone and you let Michael talk you into buying the fish a friend. After all, no creature should be alone, and they only cost 10 cents at the pet store. And so it goes, month after month, you scraping the fish scum, you feeding the darn things because although you have no affection for them you certainly don't want to see them starve to death and though Michael never forgets what time "Simpsons" is on, he cannot seem to remember when he should feed his pets.

Sometimes you go on vacation and you hope your neighbor will forget to feed the little devils. No such luck, your neighbor is alarmingly reliable.One day you think you can't take it anymore and even Michael and all his siblings are tired of pretending they want the fish let alone pretending they take care of the fish. You pass a major hurdle; you get all the children in your house to agree that they would not be very sad if the fish went away.

Now you have the nearly insurmountable task of getting rid of three (you've been to another carnival in the meantime) relatively healthy goldfish. The pet store doesn't want them. None of your friends wants them; they have five or six of their own. You know from all the "Nemo" publicity that you can't really humanely flush them. You think if only someone would sneak into your house and take them out back and bury them you would not be sad. But you cannot bring yourself to be the executioner. So you keep feeding them and scraping the scum off the sides of the bowl.

Then one night it's time to go to the carnival again. You have an idea. You get out a Tupperware container and you fill it with water and put Pearly, Nemo, and Squiggley inside. You carry this container boldly into the carnival.Your crime is surprisingly easy. You march right past the big long line of children and their idiot fathers waiting to take their own fish home in a baggie. You walk past the poor unsuspecting teenager who has been roped into running the booth this night. You open the container and dump your three pets into a tub of goldfish. They look much larger than the others, but they look quite content. The teenager looks surprised, "Didn't your kid want his prize?" she asks. She is wondering what the return policy is.You simply say, "No. He didn't want them after all."

A few weeks later you visit a friend. She is lamenting that her daughter won some fish at the carnival this year. She has won fish before but this year it was different. The fish she won were full-grown. You agree with her that that is very strange indeed.

by Judy Zimmerman