Monday, May 14, 2012

Family Values

It's been quite the month for family values, hasn't it?  North Carolina decided it knew best who should get married and who shouldn't.  President Obama stood up for his beliefs about gay marriage (and now has been "outted" in Newsweek).  And then there was Time Magazine displaying a mother and son nursing on it's cover - an act that should be a beautiful and private and instead made to look unnatural and freakish.  The article itself brings the concept of attached parenting front and center.

I consider myself an attached parent for the most part, but I suspect that some of the more hard-core APers out there probably think I'm a wanna-be.  We did/do many of the things that AP espouses.  We co-slept and we never did anything like sleep/feeding scheduling.  (I should say that I didn't schedule the feedings -- The Peanut scheduled herself to nurse every two hours like clock-work for the better part of the first 12 - 13 months of her life).  Speaking of nursing, we did that until she was almost two.  I did end up weaning her around 22 months when she decided that I made the Best Teething Toy Ever.  The Peanut also spent the better part of her first couple of years in a sling on my hip when she wasn't running around getting into stuff.  The Peanut learned to sign along the way so we actually had a great communication system going before she learned to talk.

Do I think our way of child-rearing is the Only Way or the Best Way?  Of course not.  AP was not something we actually planned to do.  Truth be told, I'm not sure we had a real plan in mind when we set out other than to trust our guts and listen to what The Peanut told us she needed.  We fell into AP.  We co-slept because of the nursing schedule.  We put her in the sling because she wanted to be held.  A lot.  We taught her to sign because  it was clear that she wanted to communicate.  So AP worked for us.  Does everything about AP work for us?  Not at all -- like everything else we do with The Peanut, we have a blended approach.  (This will probably get me kicked out of the AP Club for admitting that, but there it is).  I do firmly believe that the AP philosophy has tons of good points and makes a lot of sense, but I also get that for whatever reason, it just isn't for everyone.

Time Magazine's cover just makes me sad.  First, it takes nursing which I think is something beautiful and makes it gross and sexualized.  A friend of mine wondered what the mother and the magazine were thinking when they set that shot up.  What's going to happen to that kid in a few years?  What will he say when he sees that picture several years from now?  What will the class bully say?  Second, it casts AP in a not-so-flattering light.  AP already has its "hippy-dippy" baggage and with good reason given some of the more hardcore APers out there who scream their message every chance they get.  This picture only fuels the flames around extended nursing and by extension other AP ideas.

How we love one another and how we love and raise our children are our own business.  Not the government's.  Not Time Magazine's.  It frustrates me that we as a society haven't figured this out yet and may never.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Singer as an Athlete

Our family joined a gym in late February.  The Peanut needed swim lessons and there are two decent family-oriented gyms in the area with indoor pools.  The one we joined gets consistent rave reviews about their children's programming so while the other gym got better reviews for the adult classes, we went with the one with the better swim instructor.  Of course scheduling is always a challenge around here, so the nanny needs to take The Peanut to her swim lesson on Monday when I'm teaching.  This means we had to go whole-hog and buy the family membership so the nanny could have her name on the account too.  Not one to let stuff go to waste, I've been availing myself of the membership as well.  I work out with a personal trainer when I can afford it.  I take classes.  I do the machines.  I'm even getting brave enough to venture into the weight room all by myself without my personal trainer in tow.  I even have an app that helps me track what I'm doing for weights (in addition to the SparkPeople app which I've used off and on for awhile).  I'm slowly turning into a gym rat.

The results have been positive so far.  I've dropped a pants size.  I fit into my skinny jeans which are really the only pair of jeans I own right now that fit me nicely.  My clothes are getting big on me.  I have muscle lines on my arms.  So what they say is true - you will lose weight if you exercise.  But what I've been most fascinated by in this process is how my chosen profession helps me at the gym.  Sadly, it doesn't help me bench press an extra 10 pounds, but what it does do for me is almost just as good.

I've discovered I'm good at three things:  flexibility (which has nothing to do with singing; I just do a lot of yoga); breathing; and anything abdominal.  When I do work out with my trainer, I think she puts me on the treadmill or elliptical and cranks it up to shut me up.  I've sorely disappointed her several times by still being able to crab at her about whatever form of torture she has on tap for me for the day.   The abdominals are kind of weird.  Going into this, I was having lower back pain because I felt like my core was weak.  I know that my core is not just my abdominals, but they do play a huge part in it.  From the get go, it has taken a lot to challenge me in this department (which is completely not the case for any other muscle group).  Now that I've been at this for a couple of months, I am actively looking for stuff that makes me feel the burn.  I've found a few specific exercises and classes that do challenge me and I make them the priority.  I suspect next time I meet with the trainer, if I mention it, she'll come up with some new form of torture to add to my repertoire.

I do look forward to continuing this journey.  The results happened quicker than I expected them to.  And here's where the athlete helps the singer -- the more fit I am, the better I feel as singer.  My lines are longer.  The breath control is the best it's been in years.  The concert I did this past Sunday didn't wear me out.  For years, I've told my students to go do something active -- even just go for a walk.  Aside from yoga, I didn't consistently take my own advice.  I'm happy to report that this has changed over the last few months - this singer needs a few more track suits because the gym rat is here to stay.