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August 12, 2002


Book Worm Meter for Marina
Shut In 71%
29% Out Of The House
Intellectual 77%
23% Moron
High Attention Span 95%
5% Low Attention Span
Bookitude 96%
4% Book Burner
Book Worm 84.75%
15.25% Bug Stomper
Take your bookworm readings.

August 09, 2002

Quotes du jour

Today's message is quite short; it comes from the Christian bible:

"Finally, brethren,
whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence
and anything worthy of praise,
let your mind dwell on these things."
Philippians 4:8

And here is another short message: "Bravely face whatever the gods offer." --Morihei Ueshiba.

August 08, 2002

Quote du jour

"Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change.
And when we are right, make us easy to live with."

The Nanny Diaries

I just finished reading The Nanny Diaries, which I think should be required reading for everyone, whether they are parents or not. Whether, even, they ever intend to be parents or not. But I will warn you, this book is not the lighthearted, fluffy read that the reviewers say it is. I don't know where those reviewers have been or what alternative dimension they've been reading the book in, but this book is far from lighthearted. Instead, it is a dark condemnation of the kind of person who is empty inside and doesn't even know it, and the kind of damage they can do, not just to their children, but to everyone they come into contact with, as a consequence of that emptiness.

Briefly, the story is a fictionalized account based on the experiences of the authors, who between the two of them had been employed as nannies by thirty wealthy New York families. The central character, Nanny, tells of her sojourn with a single such family, Mr. and Mrs. X and their son, Grayer X.

Mrs. X, the narcissistic mother, never allows her son to hug her, and avoids any touch with him as much as possible. Her material possessions and her own comfort are far more important to her than the emotional or physical welfare of her son, or, for that matter, anyone else's welfare either. It is, in short, all about her. The father is absent most of the time, and dismissive and neglectful of his wife and son when he is around.

The son, Grayer, shows promise, but is slowly drowning in the relentless neglect he is experiencing. Sure, he has the finest possessions money can buy, but he is not being given what he truly needs in order to live: Love, respect, positive regard and attention from his parents...the simple things that any loving parent manages to muster even when exhausted, at least most of the time, and which his parents never manage even once. He asks for a guinea pig and the parents buy a puppy, which he doesn't want, because it is a status symbol and a guinea pig is not. Just a few short days after buying the dog, Mrs. X coldly foists it off on Nanny.

The only hugs, attention, and love Grayer gets are from Nanny, who, despite outrageous treatment by Mrs. X, stays on long beyond when she would have like to have left. She stays for the sake of the child, knowing she is his only safe port in some very emotionally troubled seas. For Grayer's sake, she puts up with a lot of abuse herself, knowing that she will likely be fired if she dares to speak up.

And, in fact, at the end of the book, Nanny is sacked because she did not allow herself to be a total slave to the Xes. Mrs. X wanted Nanny to forgo her own graduation ceremony and celebrations because it wasn't convenient for Mrs. X. When Nanny uncharacteristically stands up for herself for once, Mrs. X immediately starts to search for a replacement (very typical narcissistic behavior on Mrs. X's part), and fires Nanny after using her one more time as a virtual slave, then pays her a fraction of what is owed for the work.

At the end of the book, one is left worried and not knowing what will become of the boy with such parents, yet hoping that his brief time with Nanny will help him stay reasonably sane.

The fact that the reviewers of this book ignore the child's welfare is most disturbing. As mentioned above, the reviewers describe this book as "hilarious" and "a light romp"; "good summer fare" and "excellent beach material." How can the story of a child's brutal emotional neglect (no amount of Gucci and Prada wrapping can sweeten it) ever be described as "hilarious"? Let alone "a light romp"? One might speculate that perhaps the reviewers are each, in their own way, Mr. and Mrs. Xes, and that is why they totally did not "get" the dark nature of this story.

For the sake of all the real "Grayers" in the world, it is reassuring to know that studies have shown that even the most neglected child can come out of an abusive childhood sane and whole (though scarred) if they manage to spend even a single half hour with someone who sees them as human beings and treats them accordingly, with love and respect.

It would likewise be reassuring to remind oneself that this is fiction, reassuring, that is, if one didn't know that, unfortunately, rich or poor or in-between, there are a lot of "parents" out there perpetrating the same kind of emotional abuse and emotional neglect described in this book.

What is wrong with such people is that at their core, they are lost souls, with no spiritual foundation upon which to base their interpretations of or interactions with the world. From my own experience when looking for childcare for my infant daughter (many years ago), I know that there are many people for whom it would be the kindest interpretation to say that they truly have no clue how to raise a child, or what a child's needs are, despite the wealth of literature and classes that is available, not to mention other people to consult. A grimmer interpretation would be to say, as the Welsh so succinctly put it, "They don't know, and they don't want to know."

Very late in the book, the father's mother is introduced, showing herself to be an interesting blend of the worst of the two parents, thus providing a glimpse, perhaps, of how the two parents became so lost--they themselves were raised (by different but similar parents, of course) the same way they are now raising their son, and so they in their childhood did not get their fundamental needs met.

This is perhaps one of the most insightful aspects of the book, whether the authors realize it or not. If a child does not get his or her fundamental needs met, depending on what the child's temperament is and which needs are not met, the child ends up with pyschological and emotional problems--sometimes quite severe ones, as illustrated by the parents in this book.

And that leads us smack into the point of this essay. Get the book and read it. If you are patient, put yourself on the waiting list at your local public library. (As I did, though I had to wait seven months for it to become available to me, despite the fact that the book is a seven-day loan rather than the more usual three weeks.) If you are impatient, borrow or buy it.

Then, after reading it, ponder the stories in this book multipled by thousands of children, multiplied by decades, and you can start to gain a bit of an idea of the scope of the problem. I believe that most people are basically decent, hard-working, and good-willed, but even the most decent person, given the kind of childhood that the fictional Grayer and his many non-fictional brothers and sisters have been given, can go a little nuts. This can explain much of what is wrong with the world, not just in America, but everywhere, for child abuse and neglect is not an American invention, nor it is a strictly American phenomenon.

Then, get a grip and tell yourself that it doesn't have to be this way. Take action. Write to your elected representatives about all issues that have to do with child care and education. Support school vouchers, so that caring parents can send their children to better schools. (And no, throwing more money at the government school system--known by some as the public school system--is not going to fix what is wrong with our educational system.)

If you are a parent or have any contact with parents and children, educate yourself about what a child's needs are at every stage of his or her development, and do your level best to fulfill those needs appropriately in whatever capacity you can. If you have your own children, be the best damn parent you can be, allowing for the fact that we are all human and we all get weary. If you are an aunt or an uncle or even a cousin to children, read to them. Play with them. Give them books instead of cheap, trashy, plastic toys. Encourage them to not watch television. Encourage their parents to watch over their education like hawks.

In short, interact with them as though they matter--because they do, deeply, urgently. They truly are the future of humanity, and I weep for our species if we cannot love our own children.

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