A Laptop Naptime Mama

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Esalen Tales by Joanne Rendell

These days, many parents shell out a whole lot of money to take their little ‘uns along with them to far flung destinations and on idyllic vacations. But sometimes you have stop to wonder whether we should just save our money and take our kids to the park instead.

Take my brother, for example. Last month, he and his wife came to visit us in New York and brought along their three year old son, Andy. It was no cheap trip. On top of three full airfares from Spain to New York, they also did commando-style sightseeing of New York which meant shelling out for three tickets at the Empire State Building, the Bronx Zoo, the Natural History Museum, as well as a whole host of lesser known attractions. Then there were the meals out, including kids meals which often went uneaten because Andy, like any three year old, was wary of cuisines which weren’t familiar.

Who knows how much my brother and his family actually spent? One thing is for certain though, Andy wont remember one moment of the trip. Okay, he might remember a few snippets and he might even form a few memories based on the photos he’ll be shown in years to come. But he certainly wont recall every minute of his action-packed and pretty darn expensive two weeks in New York.

Take us, too. We’re currently spending two weeks at Esalen, a hippy dippy teaching institute/hot spring retreat on California's highway one, just south of Big Sur. Even though Brad (my husband) wouldn't know his ying from his yang, or his karma from a chicken korma, he managed to snag himself a teaching gig here for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I insisted on coming along and helping him out and that meant bringing Benny too.

Brad’s teaching has paid for us to be here and we’re being fed tip-top organic food for free. Nonetheless, it has been an expensive trip – with the flights, the rental car, and the urgent twenty minute drives to Big Sur every few nights to eat overpriced pizza whenever Benny has refused to eat the afore-mentioned tip-top organic food.

Of course, spending the money has been worth it – just as I’m sure it was for my brother. We’re having a wonderful time and Benny seems to be enjoying himself too. He loves Esalen’s hot tubs and the excuse they provide to romp about naked. He loves the big long tables in the lodge where we eat which provide a perfect racetrack for his small collection of cars. He loves the log fires at night and the people playing drums in “Explore Our Essential Rhythms” workshops.

Most of all, though, he has loved two things. First, a member of Brad’s workshop was chucking out some old toys and handed onto Benny a cute Thomas the Tank Engine case containing no less than nine of Benny’s favorite engines. The case hasn’t been out of Benny’s hand in three days. He even slept with Thomas pressed against his cheek last night.

Second, at the weekend, we had to make a run to a grocery store in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Benny was in heaven because the Safeway we found – which has to be the most swishy Safeway in the country – had shopping carts with little toy cars for kids built onto their fronts. Benny jumped in the first one he saw and then happily beeped and vroomed his way around the store.

I’m sure these will be the only two things he’ll remember about our trip. He wont remember the breathtaking coastlines, the unimpeded view of the Pacific ocean from our window. He probably wont even remember the idyllic hot tubs perched on the cliff edge with the waves crashing just twenty feet below.

Benny will remember nine plastic trains and a souped-up shopping cart.

Ah well, it isn’t about the money or the memories, is it? As all the yogis and Buddhists at Esalen would agree, it is about appreciating the moment and enjoying life’s beauty and impermanence.

Ohmm and Namas Dae!

For more Esalen tales, come over to my writing blog at www.joannerendell.blogspot.com. To return to Role Mommy, Click Here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Best Kid in the World...Maybe?

When I was seven or eight, I remember sitting on the gravelly floor of the school playground having a ferocious argument with my best friend. She had just dared to suggest that her mum was “the best mum in the world.” To say I was appalled would be a gross understatement. I was mortified. How, I wondered, could she think her mum was the best mum in the world when in fact my mum was?

I was particularly dismayed that she, my best friend, who'd known my mum for half her life, would think this way. After all, my best friend had tasted my mum’s French fries; she’d seen the cool Barbie house my mum had made; she’d helped me braid my mum’s lovely long blonde hair; and when I’d invited her for a sleepover, my best friend stayed up late and watched “Starsky and Hutch” because my mum let us. So, why on earth didn’t she think MY mum was the best in the world? Especially considering HER mum wore bad shoes, made us eat yucky brown bread, and never let us watch TV.
“She is.”“She is not.”“She is”“She is not.”

The argument went on like this for quite some time – until the school bell rang, in fact. We never resolved the issue. She never came around to my way of thinking. I never came around to hers.
I used to look back at that argument and laugh. How funny those two eight-year old girls were! How naïve and sweet and silly they had been to think they could say, categorically, that their mum was best in the world. Those eight year olds just didn’t understand subjectivity, diverse world views, differences of opinion. They simply thought best was best and that was that.

However, now being a mum myself, I’m finding out that the screwy notion of “mine is surely the best” still exists everywhere….including, sometimes, in me.

Like when I see Benny being especially cute, e.g. when he sits like an angel at a bar and sweetly asks the bartender for “a water and a straw,” I find myself thinking, “He’s the best, most adorable kid in the world.” Or when I hear him saying, when Brad comes home from the office, “How was work, Baba?” I can’t help melting inside and thanking my lucky stars for having the politest, sweetest kid that ever lived.

Sometimes, so full of love, I find it hard to fathom that people aren’t stopping me on the street to tell me that my child is indeed the best in the world. I also sometimes have a hard time watching other parents looking at their own children with the same look of wonder and adoration that I can’t help feeling only Benny deserves. After all, their kids are shrieking, out-of-control, and whining monsters – not a bit like Benny.

Of course, after these moments of melting love for my dearest Benny, when I think there could never be a better kid, I always get the reality check I deserve. No sooner have I looked down my nose at someone else’s children, Benny always reminds me that he can whine, flail, and shriek as good as the rest of them. And just when I think no kid could be as sweet and kind as Benny, I’m confronted with another three year old at the park who not only shares all his toys with Benny but also offers Benny a car to bring home with him. Something my rather possessive Benny would never, ever, do.

All kids are the best in the world – at least, according to their parents. I just have to face up to that fact and instead of trying to label Benny, just enjoy him!

To hear more from Joanne, check out her latest blog by Clicking Here. To return to Role Mommy, Click Here.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Caption It!

I'M NO DUMMY (Note: In England a Pacifier is called a dummy)



My laptop has been playing up recently and so I decided it was high time I backed up all my files. The thought of loosing all my writing as well as all my family photographs had me waking up at night, sweating and quivering in panic.

So, the other day, I trawled through all my computer’s files and documents, diligently saving them all to CD, and as I did so I got the chance to revisit old baby pics of Benny – many of which I haven’t looked at in quite a while.

I stumbled across this particularly funny shot which, at the time, I had named “What did I say?” *
The picture, accompanied with caption, had me spluttering with laughter all over again. It also reminded me that baby pictures, in order not to be monotonous and overly cutesy, should always come with captions. Baby photos can become very boring to everyone except the child’s parent. But add a caption and suddenly the pictures become a work of humor…even art.

Take a look above at what I’ve thought up for the Benny-photo archive.
To hear more from Joanne, check out her latest blog by Clicking Here. To return to Role Mommy, Click Here.