Friday, August 27, 2010

On letting go, a little

Many of you remember that Kai screamed like a mandrake for his first 10 weeks. I carried him close to my chest in whatever contraption suited me that morning and walked for miles trying to soothe him. When not walking, I stood, bouncing him, attempting to evoke the womb he seemed to miss so intensely, wondering why on earth people congratulated new parents. I was exhausted, with sore nipples, and massive bags beneath my eyes. Eddie and I could not have a conversation, let alone comfort each other with hugs. And my entire family was 400 miles south of San Francisco, offering a keen eye and the advice to get over our hippie bubble of a city and move home.

On one of those epic walks, I entered Glen Canyon, a eucalyptus and redwood shaded canyon that sliced through the southern part of San Francisco. This canyon is a favorite for local Glen Park families to walk dogs and kids, and actually experience nature in a city. Here in the canyon there are coyotes (7 at last count), snakes, poison oak and mud, as well as owls, hawks, native trees, and a meadow with a homemade swing.

With Kai in his Ergo (I believe those were the days when I had just learned I could nurse and walk), I sauntered down a bumpy trail, arriving at a concrete slab of a building surrounded by toys, rocks and trees to climb and logs set out in a circle around a campfire. In the structure, children giggled, wailed, and sang while Kai slept, finally. A woman emerged, tall and sturdy as the Sierra Mountains and inquired about Kai's age. She approached with the confidence of a seasoned mother, admitting she missed her college-aged sons, who were both in SoCal (an interesting link as I missed my parents down there as well). I cannot remember what advice she offered, but I remember feeling like this was a special woman, and I had just happened upon a special place. That was when I first met Mame, the director of Glenridge Nursery School, a 40 year old co-op preschool.

For nearly three years, Eddie and I have attempted to woo Mame into allowing Kai to join her magical school. Everywhere we turned friends were talking about this preschool, admitting to Mame's wisdom and love as well as how much work it takes to be in a co-op. And when Kai finally turned two, we embarked on a half-hearted preschool search, knowing full well where Kai should be going.

On a particularly glum afternoon, when Eddie and I were moaning about the distance between ourselves and our family, we received an email saying we had been accepted to Glenridge. My heart plummeted to my belly. We did it!

Today I will walk Kai through the canyon for his first day at Glenridge. I will pack a lunch. And watch him take his first step towards independence--though he has asked me to stay with him, and I will, today. Mame's entire mission is to prepare children for the independence of kindergarten, and anyone who knows Kai (and me) knows that we need some lessons on that front. So, as he travels through his next adventure, into school and new friends and negotiating with big kids and falling without me there to pick him up and eating lunch elsewhere and singing songs and reading books and learning that he is not the center of everyone's universe (just mine, and Eddie's) and being the little guy and not having friends and being included and planting a garden and hiking and climbing trees and dressing up like a rock star and building a train track and wiping his own bootie, I will have to trust that he will share with me what I need to know about his day and be able to begin retaining his own memories about his life. And I will have to trust that letting go, albeit a little, is healthy for us both.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Googling Community: How can we give our kids a shot at rich lives?

Dear Google,

As I watch the first tsunami waves batter the Hawaiian coast, I ponder the planet my son Kai will grown up on. Despite the devastating (and frankly overwhelming) reality of our globe saying F*** you to her inhabitants (um, have we always had this many earthquakes, tsunamis, and natural disasters?), Kai will be faced with a technologically rich universe that hurts my brain to ponder.

Sure, I am just as internet addicted as the next person--I blog and tweet and update my Facebook status, and make iPhone apps and, and, and. And yes, our computer (or "Puter puter" as Kai calls it) is the literal centerpiece of our flat. But I am starting to notice an alarming pattern that unnerves me: the lack of human interaction.

It began when I was researching my Kauai book and I'd meet with innkeepers and when asking them a question they would refer me back to their website. Now, it is one thing to be busy/lazy/uninterested, but it is another thing entirely when a human being is standing in front of you and you can't be bothered to answer her question.

It seems in the almost three years of Kai's life things have gotten even worse. I had to learn of my niece's birth on Facebook. My mommy friends blog to tell me their kids are walking, talking, spitting up, and some even show the intense photos (and videos) of their deliveries on their blogs for all to see. We now communicate through cyberspace in alarming rates. Moms spend more time texting on the playground than hanging out with their kids. Why not, if we don't consistently scavenge Facebook, blogs, the newspaper, Twitter, etc then we are missing out on, well, everything. But what message is that sending our children? Each other? Hint: If you are sitting on my couch and texting someone else constantly, I start to think what I have to say doesn't matter.

Now I understand (and would love to hear from you) why and how technology helps us--I mean your fricken phone can tell you the last time you nursed on the left or turn off your oven for you. But I don't get how we have suddenly forgone human interaction for internet connections. Don't we all feel more lonely, isolated, and just downright dirty when we spend the day searching and searching for something, anything? And in the end, are we better, more satisfied, humans because of it?

If this is where we are today, I can't begin to imagine how devoid of community and connection Kai's life will be. And I for one, now that he is awake, plan to turn off the computer and show him I enjoy him. How about you? I dare you.

Concerned Internet Addict

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Family Friendly San Francisco iPhone App Launches

My iPhone app -- Family Friendly San Francisco -- was just released this past week and is published by Sutro Media. It's available through iTunes (by searching "San Francisco travel Michele Bigley") or by clicking here (or copying and pasting this link into your browser):

If you are an iPhone/iPod Touch devotee, please feel free to download it and review it (and give me feedback). It's well worth the price of admission. (Hey, you probably spent more than this on a cup of Starbuck's this morning, and this app will last much longer..... You get free updates for life!!!!)

If you don't have either an iPhone or iTunes, but you have friends in SF or traveling to to the Bay Area, please feel free to forward this email to them. I'd be eternally grateful. (So will they -- it's quite good.)

What the heck is this app all about?? It has 100 "essential" entries and hundreds of photos -- entries about places to see, things to do, reliable eats, toy stores, bathrooms with changing tables, playgrounds, parks, beaches, touristy, hidden gems, and SF originals. I've included places that both parents and kids will appreciate. They're all sortable with filters for cost, distance (GPS), and neighborhood. Fun and utilitarian. Plus, I highlight places that mom and dad will dig too--cafes, breweries, you get the picture. Early analytics suggest it's being used as much by visitors as locals. Another 100 entries are on the way.

Keep your eyes open for my next iPhone app: Family Friendly Napa/Sonoma, which, of course includes wineries the kids will love as much as mom and dad.