Current DJ: Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy
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Hi. I’m Nicole and this is my new column, “Midwestern Housewife”. Ostensibly, it will be about parenting and my experiences being an indie parent in a J. Crew world. But I also want it to be a place where fellow moms and dads can discuss relevant issues pertaining to their kids, or simply to commiserate. So please make use of the comments section. I look forward to hearing about what interests you and I’m always excited to meet and hang out with people who, like me, enjoy being a good parent but who also understand that you can do so without completely losing your own identity in the process. Yes, Virginia. You CAN resist the pressure to become a Soccer Mom. (Or a Hockey Mom, for that matter—especially if you’re not particularly fond of either pitbulls or lipstick).
First, a little bit about me:
I’m currently an at-home mom with boy/girl twins who will turn 3 in February. Yes, it looks like a Toys ‘R’ Us exploded in my living room. Yes, multicolored finger-paint masterpieces are currently tacked up on the fridge. Yes, the dog occasionally sports tempera paint racing stripes and the cat has been known to cough up a Lego or two, but all of it is much more rewarding than slaving away as an office drone. Oh, and before you ask, yes, I do occasionally wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.
I’m also heartily committed to indie/DIY culture, which often brands me as an outsider in the usual parents’ circles. Maybe “outsider” is too strong a word. Perhaps “unusual” or “unorthodox” would be more precise. For instance, I’m used to getting the stink eye from older parents when my daughter, Squeak*, wears the “Mama said knock you out!” t-shirt (complete with little boxing gloves applique) that I made for her. I’ve already had a discussion with one of the preschool teachers about my son, Winchie*, and how he protests when they play the occasional Raffi CD during class because, in his words, it’s “just terrible.” (On that same token, one of my proudest parenting moments came when the kids were packed in the car recently, ready to go to preschool, and Winchie asked if we could listen to The Clash. I put in London Calling and he rocked out in his car seat with his best pal, Thomas the Tank Engine. God! I can’t wait to see what he’ll be like when he gets older.)
While other parents might cringe at this, I love that my kids are unapologetically themselves. I realize that some of this comes from their age and that they haven’t yet learned inhibition. But this also means that they are still open to suggestion on all fronts. I love showing them that there are many different ways of looking at the world and choosing an unusual perspective is often times the best route to take. What can I say? I’m an indie mom raising a couple of indie kids, of whom I am extremely proud.
I wouldn’t know what to do with a kid who liked exclusively pretty little princess wear and/or Raffi. I guess I’d suck it up because you have to let your kids be who they are, but I’m certainly glad mine aren’t afraid to stand out a little. Is it because I played them New Order and the Sex Pistols in utero instead of Baby Einstein Mozart concertos? Doubtful. Besides, if their fetal movements were any indication, they much preferred Bad Religion and Ladytron.
But, by and large, my kids get along really well with the other kids in their class and, I’m happy to report, they love going to school and doing all of the usual preschool activities: painting, singing, reading, drawing, circle time, etc. They’re normal, well-adjusted tykes, like I knew they would be. It’s dealing with the adults where things can get dicey.
The teachers are great. I’m talking about the mom crew at the preschool. Oh, dear God. It’s like high school all over again. Some of them are excellent people indeed and I’m incredibly lucky to know them. Others, well, let’s just say that I don’t wear the right clothes and my car isn’t expensive enough for them to treat me with anything close to respect. Some of them assumed I was the nanny and were surprised to hear me speak unaccented English when they first met me. And they had no problem admitting this to my face! (Picture a group of tall, slender, typically WASP-ish women in their late 30s cackling with glee about how I look so much like their Central American-born nannies, they just assumed I spoke Spanish. Never mind that my daughter is a virtual mini me and my son has my exact laugh.) Yikes. So while there are a handful of preschool moms I dig, it’s not really a club I want to belong to. It’s just not a good fit.
Where I do fit and where I’m most comfortable are all the geeky craft places around town. (And please note that I said CRAFT and not art, despite my degree. There are differences, and craft rocks! It has all of art’s creativity and none of the pretension. But I digress…) So while I love to get my geek on and craft my ever-lovin’ heart out, oftentimes it’s just not feasible with twin toddlers in tow.
So what’s a girl to do? Volunteer for CHIRP and write a column about bridging the indie/DIY-Soccer Mom gap, that’s what! Neither the preschool moms club nor the childfree craft alliance will grant me a full docket of membership benefits, so instead I’ll do what I’ve always done and find my own place. Here it is. Thanks for being a part of it.
* These are my kids’ nicknames. I know they’re perfectly plausible first names for the spawn of Hollywood-types, but, fortunately, I’m no Nicole Richie.
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