Archive for July, 2009

Do good parents smoke?

July 5, 2009

That’s a blunt way of posing the question, but it’s definitely one of those issues (there are many), in which I evaluate how I choose someone to date versus how I choose someone to maybe coparent someday. My ex smoked, and he described it once as the lesser of many evils. I didn’t love it but tolerated it, because I knew that to get him to quit would be next to impossible.

And yes, my dad smoked, still does. My mom smokes every once in a while, but hardly enough to count. She used to, and quiet I think when I was maybe 8 or so.

But the person I’m dating now smokes, and it’s funny because it bothers me less because of how it affects me in terms of smelling it, and more because I see it as a moral failing. Harsh, perhaps, but it’s true. And it makes me question whether he would be a good parent to my kids. I know smoke is not something I would want around my children. News reports abound about the danger of smoke to children.

“Parents warned not to smoke at home,” The Observer:

In an interview with The Observer, Sir Liam Donaldson, Britain’s most senior doctor, pledged that there would be a further sustained crackdown on smoking after the ban comes into force in England next Sunday.

He promised renewed public health advertising campaigns to try to educate parents who smoke. ‘We will strengthen and make regular the message to parents about the risks to their children of smoking. This is something we will need to constantly remind them about.

‘The dangers of parents smoking in front of their children are increased risk of respiratory diseases, bronchitis, middle ear infections, asthma attacks in children that are prone to asthma and increased risk to babies if there is a pregnant person in the household.

‘While the number of parents who smoke is falling, children’s exposure to parental smoke remains “a problem area”, he said.

“Health Department Airs New Campaign Targeting Parents Who Smoke,” NYC Department of Health and Human Hygiene:

“When parents smoke, they put their child’s future in danger,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Health Commissioner for New York City. “Every parent fears dying young and leaving children behind, but parents who smoke are more likely to have this nightmare come true. Smoking can kill you and it can harm your child as well. We urge all New Yorkers to quit smoking – if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your family.”

The Department is simultaneously airing “Cigarettes Are Eating You and Your Kids Alive,” a campaign that portrays the effects of second-hand smoke on children, originally aired in 2008. The graphic images in this commercial remind viewers that secondhand smoke makes children more susceptible to pneumonia or ear infections, and it contributes to lifelong health conditions such as asthma.

I would never tell someone I was dating I didn’t want them to smoke, because that would seem judgmental, rude. Perhaps it is, but I think we subject ourselves to things that we wouldn’t want to subject our children to. I lived with that and I think it’s such a pervasive thing; there’s smoke everywhere, it’s a hazard to the person’s health, and, well, I just don’t like it. I find it more odious than alcohol because it seems dirtier to me, more noxious, perhaps because I never really got the appeal of smoking, personally.

I think it’s a touchy subject, too, because am I judging my own father’s smoking? Not on its face, but then again, I didn’t have a choice of who my parents were. I do have a choice as to who my children’s parents will be, and I can surely say I’d never pick a smoker from a sperm bank, so would I in real life? I don’t know, and this is just one of many “it’s fine for dating, not for my kids” issues that sometimes make me think I’d be better off as a single mom, rather than try to navigate some best case scenario for my children.

I also think kids emulate their parents, they want to be like them in every way, at least when they’re young. They observe closely. When I visit my little cousin, if I touch something that belongs to his mom or his dad, he tells me. Once I slept over unexpectedly and wore his mom’s t-shirt, and he practically tore it off me. “That’s Mommy’s shirt,” he kept saying, not really getting the concept of borrowing. I don’t want my kids to be all, “Those are Daddy’s cigarettes.” I just don’t. It’s not, singularly, a dealbreaker, but I feel that clock ticking so loudly and firmly. There is plenty of work I have to do on myself. I wouldn’t be a fit mother now, certainly, not with all my bags, my debt, my mess, my damage. Maybe I’ll never be one, but I am trying, or trying to try (if there is such a thing), to become a better person, to not be so flaky, to gain more earning power, to become healthy, so I can pass those best values on to my children. So I can love myself rather than hate myself. And maybe I hold too high standards, maybe I am more high maintenance than I like to think of myself, but if that’s the case, so be it. I don’t want my kids to have a smoker for a parent.

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On ogling a family on the subway

July 1, 2009

The other day, I was riding the subway with a family. Mom, dad (I’m assuming) and two adorable little kids. It’s been a few days so I don’t remember every detail. Maybe the girl was 4 or 5, with pigtails. The other one was a baby. The dad was possibly checking me out, which is fine, cause I check parents out all the time. Not in a pervy way, I don’t think, but just to see how they interact. At one point, the parents switched off kids, and it was so seamless, like, “Okay, you take her, now you take her.”

I loved that. I watched with envy, wondering how I might ever be able to do that. I love New York, but don’t necessarily see myself riding the subway with my kid. But maybe I will, I don’t know. I think the part I really had trouble seeing myself in was the coordination. It was like they both just knew what to do. I think one person trying to hold two kids in that same way would’ve been impossible. Not impossible to take two kids to school/wherever, but to hold them like they were.

As for me, I couldn’t stop staring. I so often can’t. The kids were just entrancing. Every time I’m in that situation, me with bags and books and stuff, others with little people, I feel like my life is lacking. Because, well, it is. Or rather, it’s full of stuff I don’t want, don’t need. I am trying to pare down, but then, well, I buy books, or request them. “I spend all my days with books trying to disappear” is a line by Elizabeth Elmore of The Reputation, from the song “This Town.” I always think about that song when I feel lost, out of place.

Lately, that’s how New York has felt to me. On one level, it’s comfortable, familiar, but on another, I feel like I will be doing the same things, living the same life, in ten, twenty years, unless I make efforts to change that. I turn 35 on November 10, 2010, and it may sound far away, but it feels so near. It feels like my chances to become a mom are slipping through my hands. I wonder whether I should push to go it alone, or push to try to make that happen with someone, and I’m not sure who. It’s hard to talk about baby making with someone you’re dating, because it brings up so many other issues about life, and lifestyle. The fact is, the way the person I’m dating now and I live wouldn’t work if we had a kid. And the other fact is, I don’t want it to. I don’t want the constant going out, the stress, the deadlines I don’t meet, the panic. I don’t want the sitting at parties wishing I drank so I could have fun like everyone else.

I love socializing, but lately it’s just too much. I’d love to be home with my kid(s). I know I say that and possibly would actually find it drove me crazy, but I do know that this life isn’t working. My place is a disaster, and people think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I have offers of help, but I can’t, not yet. I need to do it myself, that much I know. I just need the time, and I need to write. I’ve been putting that off and off and off, and I can’t any longer. All of these things, my disorganization, my debt, my mess, my relationship confusion, make me wonder whether my baby feverishness is just a desire for a whole new life, one that I am not a part of, one where I could slip into someone else’s body/brain/life. I hope not, because I think even though it’s scary, I’d be good at being a mom. Whether I can find someone who’d also be good at being a parent, I don’t know, so I’m just working on myself at the moment.