Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Birdy

Is it wrong, on a day when I publish an NYT Motherlode piece about what a badass Birdy is, to point out that she looks like a Monchichi?

"Wow," Ben just said, looking over my shoulder. "That really is kind of uncanny."
There's something a little bit off about the piece, and I can't figure it out. Maybe it's that it doesn't adequately convey the fact that Birdy is actually a really nice kid (due perhaps to the fact that I say she's not). It's a particular type of pleasing that she doesn't do, but I'm not sure I quite capture it. Either way: Love that kid.

p.s. Tis the season for purslane quesadillas! You know, in case you'd forgotten.

120 comments:

  1. I loved your piece; made me love Birdy, too, maybe because I also have a girl (age 2) who was recently told she was pretty by a creepy car salesman. He said, "Boy, you're gorgeous!" and my daughter put her hands on her hips and said, "I not a boy!" I want to keep that fire stoked.

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  2. Going over to read your piece now, but just wanted to say this: Why is it that I can't remember important things, but just reading the word "monchichi" caused my brain to immediately break into the theme song of those commercials, "Monchici, Monchichi, oh so soft and cuddly..." Anyone else have this problem??

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    1. LOL Can't . . . stop . . . humming. Thanks. A bunch.

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  3. Catherine, I loved your piece about Birdy. Love her fierceness and intelligence and compassion, and that she knows who she is and is unflinchingly, unselfconsciously herself.

    It's almost too predictable that some of the NYT Motherlode readers take offense with EVERYTHING. You could have written the opposite story and just as many people would have been up in arms. Because, drama! So, I hope you're not too affected by all that.

    You are a beautiful writer and mother and I appreciate all you share with us (although I like my purslane raw in salads). xo

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    1. Thank you, dear 6512!

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    2. Oh, but the purslane stays raw and crunchy. You put it in after the cheese is melted!

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    3. dale in denver5:01 PM

      What Rachel said. Good lord, some of those commentors. I had to stop reading because clearly they don't know you and your family the way we do. ;-)

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  4. I don't think the tone is off, it really isn't! And I think it conveys who Birdy is quite well (for those of us who have been reading about her for the past 10 years, but haven't actually met her in person).

    Thanks again for sharing your children & your life with us through your writing!!

    Oh, and the similarity & those photos are hilarious!! :)

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  5. Anonymous1:58 PM

    I have never posted on a private blog. But, just wanted to say, reading your piece on Birdie, I starting crying. Really crying. In the ugly way. As a child, I was told very frequently to be nicer, to smile more, to "not be so opinionated." Thing is, I was right 95% of the time. It just made people uncomfortable to be around a kid who was calling them out on the baloney they were slinging. Then in high school, it was "why don't you wear some makeup." Like you, I wish I could have saved myself all of the self-doubt, self-loathing, and then later, all the friggin (and mostly wasted) effort I poured into being "easier to get along with." Thank you for a reminder of the innate value of being directly, powerfully, and unapologetically me - all of the time.

    And my wish for the now and the future: May we create for every girl, woman, boy, and man a true and open-hearted blissful freedom to be their most genuine and authentic selves, and for all of us, the courage to accept each other on those terms.

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    1. So glad you came and wrote.

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    2. You're welcome, old "neighbor" (I used to live there, but moved to Philly where I went to your Barnes & Noble reading).

      I'm sorry you're not only having rough comments there in the NYT (I agree with those who say the one should NEVER read comments on ANY articles published online), but also here. :( Maybe you should turn off the anonymous commenting. I did that after I had a nasty troll in my blog. Sigh...

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  6. Anonymous2:03 PM

    Why do have a public blog that discusses your young children's lives? I clicked here from your bio in the NYT, and I was just like, ugh. Ick. All of your articles featured on the NYT website are about your children, too, in intimate personal detail. Can't you find something to write about without using your children so? Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but this gives me the creeps.

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    1. Anonymous2:18 PM

      Do you have a facebook page? If so, you're a total hypocrite.

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    2. Posting anonymous criticism is icky too! Sorry, but it really is.

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    3. I agree!! How dare someone criticize anonymously. Also if you are "old-fashioned" keep it that way and stop using technology to vent as I'm not sure it's the best use of your time. Don't you have butter to churn, water to fetch or something more productive to do? I think it's an amazing form of self-expression to write about one's own life and I think her children will look back fondly on the time their mom took to devote to writing about their youth. People who want their point to be taken seriously should post it along with their names...otherwise you give everyone else "the creeps."

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    4. So, Anonymous, you're been acquainted with Catherine for what, now, all of several hours? Those of us who have read her for years since her children were small (or not at all! When Birdy was just a twinkle!) know that she is not "using" her children. She writes for the NY Times because she is that good. And that what she has written on her blog about her children, her life, herself for the past 10 or so years is true, real, personal, meaningful, moving, inspirational, and from the heart. What she writes makes us know that we are not alone, that there are no right and wrong ways to parent as long as there is deep love and respect for your children at the core. And if you know anything about Ben & Birdy, you know that they know that.

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    5. Thank you, Mom2Bean! That was the nicest comment. Sigh. You guys have my back.

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    6. Wow, that's some tough talk from someone who hides behind an anonymous account. Clearly, you've never been an overwhelmed, first-time mom with a screaming collicky newborn who felt compeltely in over her head until she discovered a person in Catherine Newman who let her know that sometimes the mommy thing really does suck, but it gets better. And, yes, I do tend to create run-on sentences when I'm incensed.

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    7. Also, I think we've been too polite. Fuck off. And, I never use that word.

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    8. dale in denver5:05 PM

      Babsie girl - you made me LOL.

      We are circling the wagons, Catherine!

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    9. You know, Anonymous, if you're going to be a jerk, you could at least own your jerkness. You know, like an adult.

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    10. Catherine's writing connects people and is generous, quite the opposite of using anybody...parents can post about their children without revealing their children, and most of the time, it is about their experience of being the parent to said children....I am also surprised that if you are so condemning of blogs discussing children, why you chose to read it by choice, if only to post criticism, I find that creepier.

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    11. Anonymous12:21 PM

      To Anonymous 2:03pm: I agree with you - writers who expose the intimate details of their children's lives, especially in the au courant bloggy fashion, are creepy to me also. These parents, mostly mothers, are treading on uncertain ethical ground. I too clicked to Catherine Newman's blog after reading NYT's Motherlode. Truly, my mood takes a dive when I read these kinds of exposes. And yes, Anonymous 2:18pm, you're right, getting the hell off facebook's a great idea! I didn't have the problem of over blabbing myself, but the over blabbing of my 'friends' really grated on me. I'm happier NOT reading Motherlode blogs, happier NOT being on facebook. Never an Anne Lamott & crew fan was I. If it works for some, enjoy. I still think there are serious ethical questions involved in making your children's lives so public - and there may be some ethical questions about reading such writing, too. In closing, I found some of the wagon circling readers' comments here to be surprisingly rude.

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  7. Anonymous2:39 PM

    I have never posted on a blog before, but I too read your piece in the NY Times. It made me think of my daughter who is around 2.5 years old now. In a lot of ways she reminds me of Birdy and your article is a helpful reminder that I shouldn't push her to be "nice" and "smile" all the time to complete strangers, because she doesn't have to and I do want her to be her own person. I really enjoyed reading your piece.

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    1. Thank you for coming here to comment!

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  8. Those photos are hilarious!

    I loved the NYT piece. And I understand what you mean about it being difficult to capture what you're trying to explain about Birdy. I think that's why so many people over there were put out by what you said (that and the usual drama, as mentioned above!).

    My husband and I were just talking with our daughter about whether or not to make eye contact and say hello to people you don't know. We assured her that even if someone she doesn't know says hi to her, she is under no obligation to interact with that person at all. I applaud Birdy's strong sense of self! That's something that will stand her in good stead the rest of her life.

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  9. Oh, goodness! My 9 year old daughter is a lot like Birdy (only much more introverted). She has no interest in being sweet and winning. She doesn't just like to smile. Smiling is NOT her favorite.

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  10. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Ha Ha Ha! I just finished reading your article in the NYT AND the comments. It was so funny to see comments from readers that have obviously never read or followed your blog. I have read your blog since you were pregnant with Birdy and I feel it is safe to say she doesn't have Aspergers. Unfortunately I think many of the readers missed what you were saying, because they are not familiar with you or your family in the same way those of us that follow your blog. I'm glad I feel I "got it" and really enjoyed your article. You have unique and beautiful children (by beautiful I mean I can see their inner happiness and peace through the pictures you have posted.) Have a great day!

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    1. dale in denver5:08 PM

      I lol'd at Aspergers diagnosers! Ridiculous!

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  11. Anonymous4:19 PM

    textbook narcissist

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  12. I absolutely ADORE your piece. I want to raise my own daughter to be her very own self, not the forced commercial girlhood of Target. Perhaps I should stop shopping at Target, then, eh? Every time we are there, we have the 'you don't like Barbies, right Mama?' conversation.

    Has Birdy read any of Tamora Pierce's books yet? She writes some really kick-ass girls. My favorite is the Protector of the Small quartet, which is about a girl who decides to train to be a knight in a fantasy world where girls are allowed to do so, but no one has ever tried it before. The main character, Kel, is also an animal lover. There's a previous quartet by the same author - The Song of the Lioness, about a girl who switches places with her twin brother to enter said training school, back before girls were allowed. Alan(na), the main character, has a fierce temper. Both characters are nearly as awesome as Birdy.

    (Having made the recommendation, I have to add a footnote: the books were written for teens/young adults. With Protector, you may want to read the last two books with/ahead of Birdy, for violence themes. With Lioness, you may want to read the last three with her, as there are some non-explicit sex scenes.)

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  13. I think it's great that you're encouraging both of your children to embrace their individuality. Where's the fun in being a cookie-cutter kid who spends most of their time emulating their peers in order to fit in? It's those kids we have to blame for ass-revealing baggy pants, Justin Bieber, "Twilight" and its various permutations, and whatever the deal is with leaving the stickers on baseball caps.
    Keep doing what you're doing!
    Cheers,
    Collin

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  14. Anonymous7:12 PM

    Oh, Catherine! The "take me with you"? That is what killed me. It was all powerful, but in that phrase you hit something in me. Some not-quite-satisfied part that has always put a smile on it. Thank you.

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    1. i had the same reaction. Reading along, nodding agreeably, chuckling, and then BAM, "take me with you" and I've got a huge lump in my throat and puddles of tears in my eyes. Now that's a writer!!

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    2. Same here! From the very beginning over at Babycenter, you've had me laughing and nodding and then suddenly tearing up time after time. Thank you for sharing yourself and your beautiful family with us for all these years, Catherine. XO

      P.S. I cannot stand anonymous critics. And also people who do things like diagnose Aspergers after reading one article about one aspect of a child whom they have never met. I am just saying.

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  15. I SO want to design a course around this text: “Mars and Back: Gendered Constraints and Wasted Smiling.” Lovely piece.

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  16. Don't be frightened, that was a beautiful and loving piece :)

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  17. I just can't wait for it to be tomorrow, since I have used up my 10 free articles a month already. Stupid NYT!! Hooray for it being almost the first.

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    1. Anonymous10:43 AM

      Ha! I go through the same thing!

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  18. Catherine, I loved your piece at the NYT. I am so glad that you're raising your Birdy to be HERSELF, and not merely what someone else might want her to be.

    Well done, Mama. Very well done, indeed.

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  19. I'm just adding my voice to the amen choir in your comments this week! I think your article captures Birdy so well . . . and I think we can all learn many things from her approach to the world. I was always a fierce, opinionated girl (I got kicked out of 4th grade PE for accusing my teacher of being a male chauvinist pig, which he absolutely was), but I think much of that was coaxed out of me at some point. I want it back.

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  20. Thank you for the muffled, cloudy but still cheery and endless Monchichi theme song that will now play in my head for days. I will resist youtubing monchichi animations to try to discern if Birdy is even more like them than meets the eye. Resist..

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  21. I can't bear the irony of such mean spirited comments extolling the virtue of being nice!

    Proving that Birdy is right in being cautious with her affections with those she doesn't know who may smile to your face and cut you down behind your back.

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  22. Catherine, my god. Loved the Birdy piece, love everything about you. I don't know how you can deal with all these critical, weird dicks. Sorry -- I can't come up with any other way to describe these people. I am positive you and your children are some of the kindest people on earth. I totally get you and hope you're not hurt by all this meanspiritedness.

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  23. tracyp9:12 AM

    I often feel the same way when I talk about my daughter, who is a lot like Birdy...like I've told an almost funny thing about her ferocity and independence, but it has a mean tinge and then I worry that people will think she's horrid, when she is the sweetest, cuddliest and most confident kid. My Wren just pulled her "no time for you, no smiles, no hugs, nothing" with my dad while we were on vacation. She doesn't see him often, and I had to stop myself from trying to force the relationship on her. I had to keep saying in my head, she can manage this (she's 5), she will decide when he's okay for her. By the last day of her visit, he was pretend playing in her "salon" getting his hair done and pretend tattoos. Kick ass!

    I could feel what you felt maybe didn't capture her quite right, but I'm not sure there's a better way to do it. You always write so poignantly and I think this piece is no different. Birdy (and Ben, too) are awesome, awesome, awesome, and a true testament to parenting that puts the child first - and I don't mean to the exclusion of the parents' needs. I mean, with each situation trying our best to be what they need at that time.

    Good for you!

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  24. Anonymous10:41 AM

    I thought it was a beautiful and clarifying reminder to love our children as they are and not what society, at times, expects/demands they be. I have been guilty of feeling those expectations (when the adult decides he/she wants to interact and be playful) and feeling embarrassed ("We won't be liked!") when my daughter is more focused on what she's doing than what is "expected" by the adult. So! Wrong!

    Thank you once again for helping me to be a more compassionate, supportive mother than I would, likely, otherwise be! Your essay is a keeper.

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  25. Anonymous12:17 PM

    "I picture her slapping a patriarch-damning sticker on her jacket." This line bothered me because this is the opposite of loving and accepting your child for who they are. This line seems to indicate that what you really want is for your daughter to grow up to be just like you. What if she reaches puberty and turns into a girly girl? Somehow, I get the feeling that this would probably displease you. I hope that Birdy is truly as fierce as you say she is and doesn't feel compelled to be a certain way just to please her mother.

    Also, I wonder if her aloofness around strangers is simply shyness and/or social awkwardness. You can lean social graces without being perceived as a doormat. Smiling at everyone is not necessary but learning how to interact with people you don't know is a good skill to learn.

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    1. I'm not sure you read the article through. I feel like the author wishes she were more like her daughter, not the other way around. And if you read this blog at all, I can't imagine anyone thinking she would be displeased by any life choices her children would make if they continue to be the good and genuine individuals they seem to be.

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  26. StephinMA12:57 PM

    Loved this piece. I've had a very similar conversation going in my head this week regarding my own 10-year-old daughter. After overhearing the father of a girl on her basketball team call my daughter a not-very-nice name because she didn't smile at him when he gave her advice, I realized I don't want her to smile at people (and particularly men, as you point out) just to be nice. Thank you for writing this!

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  27. Anonymous1:15 PM

    much, much love for your piece today and to your children. you're an inspiration even though i don't have kids of my own. they are and will be strong, good people.

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  28. I just read your column--which was lovely, as always--and some of the comments which were crazy. Who knew the world was big enough to hold that many assholes? And, also, I'm going to goodwill tomorrow to get the supplies for a tie-shirt. Can't wait to make it!

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  29. I read your piece yesterday because I happened to be reading the NYT online and saw a title that captured my interest. I was pleased, as I always am, to see your name attached to the piece. I didn't read any comments over there, because I usually don't, and when I saw the ones here alluding to negative feedback, I honestly couldn't guess what would have offended anyone...or that anyone would think you needed their advice or diagnosis??!!! I thought maybe people felt the need to defend their personal parenting style, or their own penchant to smile, which is their decision to make, I didn't find your piece predicting a life of shame and misery for them...anyway, I finally came to the conclusion that there are a lot of people who read or listen to reply, and not to understand. Those are those people. I don't usually comment, and actually tried three times before successfully posting here, so who knows what has been lost in my message...my point being, if the piece wasn't clear to them, why didn't they venture on over here and understand you further? then they would see all the fun and love, and vitality and curiosity, and SMILES that you and your family share. You have a cool household, and you know it, and if anything, an instruction manual as your next publication would be awesome!

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  30. I loved the piece, and I love Birdy from afar. You are far braver than I, to open yourself up to criticism from the general public. I'm so glad you, Birdy, Ben, and Michael know yourselves well enough to take it all with grace.

    Much love from Indiana!

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  31. I loved the article.

    I guess there are a lot of people who are just not ready for girls who are not pleasers. But that's fine, they don't have to be ready. Because it isn't really about them. Birdy is (I feel like I actually know her, even though I only know her through reading your blogs for so long) just who she is, and other people's conceptions of what a girl "should be" will hopefully never hold her back. Fighting gender stereotypes (as your wonderful children do every day) is hard work, but such important work, and I'm so glad you are right there with them on the front lines. That's what makes change.

    -Loren

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  32. Anonymous8:02 PM

    I am so tired of Mommybloggers using their children as fodder. I hope Ms. Newman pays her child for her life rights.
    Treating other people with respect doesn't equal being a doormat. Invading your child's privacy for blog hits doesn't equal treating her with respect.

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    1. Allyson1:34 AM

      Leaving insulting, anonymous comments doesn't show respect for Catherine or the community of her readers. Also, if you are so tired of "Mommybloggers", as you call them, why read their blogs?

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    2. Tiffany5:46 PM

      I totally agree Allyson. As a mother should I not tell stories to my friends about my children? Should I pay them a "per story" allowance every time I mention them? Get a fucking clue, then get the hell off this blog. This isn't about exploiting her children for "hits" this is about sharing the realness of being a mother with other mothers. I don't always agree with Catherine, but I know she is writing what she knows and what she loves. She shares her feelings and what moves her not just to share but to vent. Not just to inspire but to be inspired in return. Parenthood is tough and its good to know there is a global community who has the same (or different but relevant) problems as you. That's the point of this blog and if you don't get that then don't bother reading or commenting again.

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  33. Mendel10:49 PM

    Your article was good, and Birdy is an amazing person. Good for her for being strong and not being afraid to say what's on her mind. Good for you for encouraging that in her. :)

    Keep up the fantastic work!

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  34. I don't know why people who have a problem with the article feel they need to come to your blog and be so nasty. One of the blogs I read likens her blog to her living room. Why do they need to come and pee in your living room (And anonymously, at that. Anonymous peeing.) Why can't they post their response right below the article like everyone else? I don't like it. I don't like it at all.

    Loren

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    1. Allyson1:37 AM

      Agreed! It's like they're afraid that Catherine will miss out on their all-important disapproval unless they come here to express it.

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    2. Anonymous11:10 AM

      This is not Catherine's living room. This is a blog on the internet that is accessible by anyone. In fact, there is a link to this blog at the bottom of the NYT article. It was Catherine's decision to have this article published in the NYT and read by millions. I do agree that "nasty" comments have no place here or anywhere but the article was thought provoking and people are reacting to it. I think that Catherine is strong enough to accept both the glowing and not-so-glowing responses.

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  35. LOVED your NYTimes piece! I have a son (14), but appreciate your perspective on your daughter. Wish I had been her and not such a people pleaser.
    The beautifully written article led me here to your blog. Wish following was easier.... Do you have a FB page too?

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  36. Do yourself a favor. Take a screenshot of your blog page views BEFORE the NYTimes piece gets widely read (like NOW), then do a screenshot after. It will make you smile.

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  37. I smiled while reading the entire article from start to finish. She sounds like she has a fierce character and we will need more women like her when she grows up.

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  38. Anonymous11:05 AM

    Good for Birdy!!!! What strong character! In general, I love your children´s individuality and creativity!!

    I have a 3 year old daughter and I do not want her to be a people-pleaser. It is such a burden and it does not make one any happier, quite the contrary.

    I grew up as a people-pleaser. BUT: When I was 21, I had a job as a manufacturing plant productivity consultant. I worked 15 hour days, and was away from home about 80% of the time. I hated the job. I was sooo tired (and, again, hated the job!).

    One day, when I was in the taxi with my much older boss going to work from the hotel, he asked me where was my Smile? I looked at him, with my tired, inexpressive face.

    "Why aren´t you smiling?", he insisted. (He didn´t ask any of my male co-workers to smile, just me).

    It came to me to say to him, "I do not feel like smiling. I am tired. And, I don´t have to smile if I don´t want to." A quite came over the taxi and that was the end of the conversation.

    I am sure I blushed after blurting that out as it was so out of character for me, but, hey, my boss never asked me to smile again!

    THAT was my first step towards pleasing myself first. It was all very strange but I realized I was in fact right in what I had said to my boss and I also realized that men are most often not expected to smile (but usually females are ...).

    PS. For the record, my boss was a nice person.

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  39. Anonymous11:55 AM

    I just needed to drop by to say that I LOVED your NY Times article today. The negative commenters seemed to have missed your point, in my opinion.

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  40. Laurell12:23 PM

    Yes, I understand what you say about Birdy in the article and about how you feel it was not quite accurate in describing her as a whole. However, I understood your point, and appreciated the view of authenticity vs polite. My own daughter is also not quick to warm and has a well known scowl. she is also very much a lover and care giver of babies the world over. I found it to be a good reminder and encouragement to let our daughters be fierce and fair, without making them into societal mimics... Good on You Birdy, and Catherine for seeing who she really is-

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  41. Loved the NYT article. Birdy reminds me of my daughter who is the same age. More power to strong girls.

    The church I attended as a child taught girls to say yes to anyone who asked them to dance and I never accepted that and would always say no to the creepy older guys who wanted to dance with me. Thank goodness my parents supported me in those seemingly minor but extremely empowering decisions.

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  42. Love, love, loved the piece in the NYT. So much so that now I'm years into your archives wishing I had been reading for ages! Thanks for such a lovely, open, honest blog. I look forward to reading more :)

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  43. I LOVED this article. I have spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours in therapy addressing my total lack of boundaries, that in part, come from the insistence that I "be nice" and fit the female gender role of people-pleasing above my own wants & needs and I have to say, god bless you for writing that NYT piece because people need to hear it. And go Birdy!

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  44. Allyson6:56 PM

    Catherine, slightly off-topic, but I just read this, and immediately thought of you. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-vyktoriah/what-happened-when-my-son-wore-a-pink-headband-to-walmart_b_3696113.html I wish you and Ben had been there to defend this woman and her son.

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  45. It upsets me, those haters all over the NYT article. I love everything you write. I loved this article. Your daughter rocks, as does her mother. Keep on keepin' on! (And take me with you.)

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  46. Anonymous7:18 PM

    Why does your daughter have short boyish hair and your son long girly hair? What point are you trying to prove? I'm just curious.

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    1. Laurell10:03 PM

      :-(

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    2. Allyson12:21 AM

      So many things wrong with this question and the way it's presented. I can't even.

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    3. Anonymous1:48 AM

      Oh I forgot everything's a societal construct, I hate when that happens. Why doesn't Catherine cut her own hair that short? Probably because she knows it's unattractive.

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    4. Anonymous,

      My response exactly. I don't know exactly what Miss Newman is playing at, but I'm sure it has something to do with undermining the evil patriarchy, or some other buzzword like that.

      Hopefully when these kids get a little older and start realizing that looks matter, and that traditional gender norms exist for a reason, they'll undergo a bit of teenage rebellion and tell their mother to stop clowning around.

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    5. She's not proving a point. These are the hairstyles her children choose. I agree with craft sister. OY.

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    6. Anonymous6:25 PM

      I second Kathy A.

      Delete
  47. oh, i loved the piece, and i got what you meant. i really did, and i finished it knowing that birdy is a nice girl. i feel like the haters just didn't really read it (or don't have daughters of their own, or aren't women themselves). who knows. who cares. i bet birdy wouldn't. ( :

    and seriously, anonymous? i doubt catherine is trying to PROVE anything. she's letting her children make choices about their appearances that suit them.

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  48. You've officially made it, Catherine! You have trolls!

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  49. Another long time....REAL LONG TIME...book owning devoted reader saying, screw the trolls. Seriously, these people have more ideas than sense.

    Birdy is awesome and so are you.

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  50. I love Birdy. And I'm thrilled you had a piece in NYT, but I think that huge circulations like that might draw a certain crowd--people who feel obligated to take offense with at least something or cast judgment on at least one thing you said in the article. Poop on them. Professional trolls.
    Anyone who has followed you for years and "known" Birdy (of course in that friendly non-stalker way we all mean) since before she was born totally gets it and knows what you meant. I also loved Monchichi and literally squealed when I saw them back in the "Retro" toys at Target!

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  51. Catherine, I am sending you a virtual beer right now. Drink it. Because I know if you have a hundred fans here and a few prickish trolls, the nice voices are quietly simmering and the haters are on full volume. You may not be ready to laugh at them, yet. Or ignore them, yet. So instead just grab a leaf from your Buddhist mother's book and breathe. In this moment. You are surrounded by love, and no matter what you choose to write about or what position you take on ANY issue, people will always disagree. So let 'em. We love you, girl. We love Birdy too. Surround yourself with that. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

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  52. Anonymous6:17 AM

    The title is a bit misleading

    A more accurate title would go something along the line of

    I do not want my daughter to 'feel socially pressured to please others simply because she is a girl'. or ' be a people pleaser'

    Then again, that wouldn't have grabbed the attention as much as 'nice', but you are making a very different comparison between the two, and your daughter seems to be a 'nice' girl as you say.

    I think readers, myself included, might have been confused by the title and that there was not more emphasis on those two distinction, despite the fact that you did mention it.

    I agree though with the jist of what you wrote, and I believe you are striking the right balance in how you raise your children.

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  53. My wife and I just read your piece and absolutely loved it. (Not just for the Birdy part but your confessional, too) Our daughter Matrika, now 27, is almost just the same. As we all do from time to time, I wish I could go back and appreciate her toughness and instead of worrying about its "appropriateness"

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  54. PS. Don't you just love it when somebody misses the whole point of your article, starts criticizing and then signs it "Anonymous"?

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  55. Birdy reminds me of me. Thank you for giving her the strength to continue being herself. She's not weird, she's not broken, she's Birdy. Beautiful Birdy, short hair, long hair, smiling, not smiling, doesn't matter. Love that she loves babies and animals. Me too!

    You, Catherine, are not capitalizing on your children. They are your inspiration to write blogs and articles and books which have connected with the hearts of so many. Your family inspires me to be a better person, and to feel better about the person I still am today. F the haters.

    Ben and Michael, you're awesome too. And the cat.

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  56. I remember being a brand new mother and feeling so alone... Then, I stumbled across your words one day and I didn't feel so alone anymore. I had found a voice that spoke the thoughts that I was thinking. I laughed with you and I cried with you and I "watched" your kids grow up into the amazing people that they are today.

    I'm sorry to read many of those comments over at Motherlode. I wish that folks would have taken more care to focus on these words: "She is deeply kind, profoundly compassionate and, probably, the most ethical person I know..." I feel like that was somehow missed, and I'm deeply sorry for that, because this world truly needs more kindness and compassion. xo

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  57. Superb article at NYT on your daughter. I won't repeat here, but please read my comment (if you do so).

    I just started a blog six weeks ago as a freelance writer/advocate for early childhood development & education, intended primarily for first time parents.

    I was hoping you could give it a look over and let me know your thoughts. You seem like a similar type of personality, as I am, but your writing style is superior.

    Thanks, John Green

    www.papagreenbean.blogspot.com

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  58. P.S. I'd add a little fresh cracked pepper to your Tiziki (sp?) ...

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  59. Anonymous4:23 AM

    Hi Catherine, I'm sorry I have to comment as Anonymous because my iPad won't let me comment as anything else! There is something with the format of this site that makes it impossible to enter the secret non-word...? Anyway I have been reading your blogs since Birdy and my kids were babies, I couldn't imagine anyone thinking you are anything other than a wonderful mother, the kind I wish I were myself (don't know if I always manage the philosophical viewpoint, though!)... so I haven't read all the NYT comments because they will likely upset me, and are pointless and unfounded. Long term readers know how you have agonized over Ben and Birdy's privacy, and that there are things you choose not to write about - and I find it hurtful that people can be so small-minded as to imply (or say) that you blog at your childrens' expense. We know that they read over your shoulder often - and that they don't look upset!!! - Angela

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  60. I LOVE this piece! It is perfect!

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  61. Anonymous10:12 AM

    Hi! I don't plan on commenting often enough to set up an account or anything, but a few thoughts:

    (1) I don't know if it was you or the Times that headlined the piece by saying Birdy isn't nice, but I think it does her a disservice. She's a serious girl, but anyone who is kind to babies, animals, and outcasts is nice. I'm a smiler by nature, but I don't think that's the only way to be nice.

    (2) I don't read your blog all the time, but reading the comments here and at the Times, I think some of the disconnect is that the folks here "know" Birdy - they hear stories about all the things she does, not just that she's a girl who won't smile or talk to people. That makes a difference, I think.

    (3) I think it's somewhat ironic that people are being rude when either (a) telling you your daughter shouldn't be rude or (b) telling those people not to be rude.

    (4) All that being said, I do think there's a little projection on your part and excessive pride on how "unconventional" your children are. It works out well that Birdy and Ben are the way they are, but if Birdy was the one looking to dye her hair pink, I doubt you'd be writing for the New York Times about her pink hair, and if you were, it would be "I tried to keep her away from pink, but I wasn't as strong as the culture and her friends". And I think that attitude is what is annoying some of the annoyed. Some girls like pink, like dresses, like smiling, and some don't, and I don't think it's the end of the world either way, as long as their parents are the way you are and don't try to force them to be what they're not.

    Anyway, have as good a day as possible and try not to let anyone else's opinions get you down, if you are all happy and relatively sane, it's all good!

    Ally Muldoon
    (happy to print my real name with my opinion)

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous6:42 AM

      I agree with Ally all the way down. Just wanted to second her thoughtful comments.

      Tabatha

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  62. Anonymous7:01 PM

    I have two daughters and I try to teach them the difference between "nice" and "kind." You can respect other people and still not engage with them when you don't want to, you can say no even when other people don't like it, you don't have to smile. It's not an easy lesson to teach or to learn when there is so much societal pressure for girls and women to be nice at all costs, even when it's damaging to themselves.


    I haven't commented on your blog in years, but have been reading since the Waiting for Birdy days. Your writing has inspired me many times. I'm glad you're still writing and sharing your thoughts on parenting.
    -Jenn

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  63. Anythingforbenbirdy10:31 PM

    Yay! I haven't checked in lately but was so excited to see a link to your block on my geeks'... er, husband's regular site BoingBoing - excellent stuff.

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  64. Thought you'd appreciate this, created by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, an artist in Brooklyn.

    http://colorlines.com/archival_images/posters2_031813.jpg

    http://colorlines.com/archival_images/stop-telling-women-to-smile-exhibit1.png

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  65. I love your blog, and just read your NYT piece. Thank you for putting into words the experience of so many mothers of daughters. Parenting is political, make no mistake. Reflecting on parenting - or really on any relationship - could likewise be considered a political act, or at least an ethical one. In my books, you are a goddess!

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  66. Catherine, love you, love your blog, your piece was provoking and well-written and solid. The outpouring here should remind you that you have so many fans. But, um, is it selfish to sort of want you to post about your camping trip to Cape Cod now? I worked in Chatham for a summer, and wish that the Cape was a vacation option for my family. I'm pretty sure your loyal followers are ready for a few camping pictures and maybe a recipe :)

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  67. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Catherine, I love your blog! You are a wonderful mom and a great writer! Thank you for sharing your beautiful words with us! Bethannie

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  68. I was shocked when some of my FB "friends" didn't read the piece t he way I did. I didn't read at all that Birdy isn't nice, and some people did. Actually, when I read it, I related a lot to Birdy. I'm not nice sometimes (like when I get rude and way-too-personal comments from strangers due to the fact that I'm married to a certain radio personality. I wish it were more acceptable for people (me!) to not be nice, because I often come away from those situations feeling crummy and guilty, even if I didn't feel like I did something wrong.

    So thank you for putting this out there. Our society in general needs to get better at accepting that there are times when being nice is not the proper response, especially for girls.

    I grew up as a quiet, smart, Christian, introverted, NICE girl, and I feel like I'm in a major process of trying to figure out which part of that are GOOD for me and society and which parts aren't.

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  69. I get upset when concern trolls critique what 'unhealthy' foods I feed my children. This kind of response would have my crying in the corner. You are fearless and you rock.

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  70. Anonymous8:51 PM

    Love.

    Sarah in NS

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  71. As someone who is often told that I intimidate people or that I come off as not very approachable, I appreciated the piece. Like Birdy, I don't do superficial well and resent people who criticize me for not being more pleasing. I am polite, I can be friendly but I by no means am everyone's friend nor do I wish to try. Thanks for the article.

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  72. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Great piece, Catherine. I think it's so important to let kids pick out the boundaries they feel comfortable with.

    I try to avoid Comments sections as much as possible because it depresses me that so many people are such idiots (excluding many of the present company). As Babsiegirl said, the appropriate response to those hateful comments IS fuck off.

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  73. Anonymous5:09 PM

    People can be such assholes. I love Ben and Birdy. And I love that you and Michael are raising two creative, free-spirited, loving, and kind children. As my grandmother always used to say, "Consider the source!" Don't worry about what some anonymous uptight assholes think. I think what makes me so mad about the jerks is that you and Michael have raised your kids to be so loving, accepting, and caring, and their response is to spew venom at you -- and worst of all at your little kids! It really makes me sad that there are people like that in the world. And it really makes me glad that there are people like you and your wonderful family in the world. Hugs to you! Kelly O.

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  74. Hi Catherine, I love your writing but the recent piece in the NY times made me slightly uncomfortable. I think it's wrong to suggest that a smile is a female crutch. It is a human crutch and i am so grateful that we are all capable of smiling. Perhaps some have more facility than others, but I believe we must help our children build the capacity for kindness and generosity, inspire a will to want to please others and to be accommodating. And I do want my daughters and sons to wear their good nature like a gemstone. In fact, I would much prefer that over any other material gems they may choose to adorn themselves with in the future.

    Happy to chat on this topic any time.

    Niki (girlwithoutawatch)

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  75. OMG we also have little animated/toy creature dopplegangers for all of our kids, too. And, I LOVED your NYT piece. Good for you. Though it was hard, and though there were mean spirited people who responded unkindly (or not so nicely, as it were) I loved and related to it. I felt so proud recently when my daughter stood up to an adult in our family (a bully) who is hard for even me to stand up to (though I do, and have.) I don't ever want her to learn to lose that strength!

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  76. Tiffany6:16 PM

    I had to post this. Even though I have already responded to a comment that really, really pissed me off and even though I hear the thump of a dead horse being beat. I feel like Catherine's own words from an old posting she mentioned in her newest post really summed all this up.

    "And Birdy herself has the age-old impulse, the same thing I'm doing here, to make sense of her experience by turning it into a story."

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  77. I've always loved your blog. I love your family. You're such an inspiration to me. I'm a people-pleaser, and I can't count the times my heart and confidence have been broken because of my desire to feel liked and accepted. I love that my daughters, especially my 6yo, are so determined, so sure of themselves and strong.
    And Monchichi? I love that little thing!!!! My husband has a little one from his childhood days. I never owned one, but one day, I'll get me a huggable one. Besos!!!!

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  78. Hey nice site, simply looking round some sites, appears a a very nice theme you are using. I’m presently using Drupal for a few of my sites but seeking to switch one of them over to a platform very much like yours as a test site.

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  79. This is a really good post. Must admit that you are amongst the best bloggers I have read. Thanks for posting this informative article

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