Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Kids, Madame Bovary and Rodney Yee

When I first met my kids, neither one knew a thing. Eat, poop, burp; eat, burp, poop. That was it. Now I am the point in my life where I need to own only five books because by the time I finish the fifth, I have forgotten what the first one was about. Too much time away from one title and they all blur. Was it Madame Bovary who jumped in front of that train in Russia because she was depressed about not catching that white whale?

Is there some social equation that shows at which point kids' knowledge matches, then surpasses their parents? My kids will probably never know as much as I do in some areas, but in far too many other aspects they leave me in the mental dust. It’s not the effects of cancer treatment, because it started way before my cancer.

Josh used to ask me questions about current events and history. Now it is the other way around. And geography, well he’s the king, regularly traveling to places most of us can’t even pronounce. Ellen used to come to me for health advice. Now I go to her as well. She was the first to warn me that milk has hormones that can throw cancer out of kilter. And she introduced me to hummus, which gives my mid-afternoon broccoli extra panache.

I remember the first time she went into territory once reserved for her wise mother. She told me not to put my finger in my mouth after I cut it—"You could infect it," she warned. She learned this at camp in middle school. But is her advice any better than my mother's, which was to rub it with Ivory soap? Sixty years of sticking my finger in my mouth and then rubbing it with soap created a habit that is difficult to break. Plus, I have never had an infected finger, so that proves…well, it probably proves nothing.

She also had advice for burns, but I never can remember what it was. Am I supposed to rub a burn with margarine? Or does that make it worse? The charm of my mother's advice is that we used Ivory soap for just about everything external and baking soda for everything internal.

I miss that sort of simplicity in a world jammed with information, some of it actually worthwhile but much of it not. I mean, for Pete's sake, everybody and their mother has a blog! My kids can navigate this world with ease while I often find it a royal pain in the brain. One Thanksgiving, Josh emailed asking for advice on how to cook a turkey in the tiny oven he had in his apartment in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. I told him to keep the top covered with foil, watch it regularly, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. He checked the Better Homes and Gardens web site and used the editors' advice instead. How am I supposed to compete with that?

I suppose this is one of those cycles of life we are supposed to celebrate, and I am proud of these kids of mine. When cancer nuzzled its way into our lives, their knowledge came in especially handy. Both are fans of yoga, and they encouraged me to get started. Ellen and her husband, Steve, even bought me my first Rodney Yee DVD and I am now addicted to the buff little guy. Every morning, I get up, go down to the kitchen, have a glass of green drink, then tell my husband, “I’m going up to do Rodney.” He nods and goes back to reading the paper.

Yoga and meditation have helped me immeasurably to keep my attitude positive, my head balanced. I suppose I would have discovered it on my own eventually, but the kids gave me a jumpstart. And the mat to go with it.

To keep up the exercise I know will help me stay well, I walk at least four hours a week. Recently, while Josh was home for Christmas, I got a bump on my foot. Of course, in my mind, it was bone cancer. In his, it was some sort of stress injury. He told me to stay off it for a couple of days and it would be fine. He had to tell me this several times because it was difficult for me to stop my daily walks. I mean, here I was with cancer in my foot and he was telling me to stop doing what research demonstrates helps reduce recurrence. I finally started thinking straight, took his advice and rested. Sure enough, the bump went away.

I obviously have gotten accustomed to technology—Josh recently called me an "early adaptor," bless his dear heart. Of course, this blog would not have existed had he not helped me figure out things like hyperlinks and showed me how to add the Sitemeter, which helps me obsessively check how many readers I have and where they come from. Hello, Berlin!

I still beat them both occasionally at Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, but these human beings to whom I gave birth ended up pretty smart. And those smarts now help keep me healthy.

That and Rodney.


Anu said...

Hi! I came here from your facebook link. Loved both posts! I remember Ellen, and I think I met Josh once, and he was globetrotting even then. Nice to read your reading, which we never got to do as your students! Well, I did, with the book, but not personal stuff like this.

Patricia Prijatel said...

Anu: Welcome to my blog. It's so good to hear from you, as always, and I am delighted you enjoy reading the old prof's writing. The book, by the way, will soon be in its third edition. Yikes! And I am writing another one on breast cancer. I would love to have you and Nicholas help with that. :) Pat