A Moment of Jen
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Saturday, November 29, 2003
posted by Jen at 11/29/2003 10:42:00 PM

Happy Thanksgiving, and greetings from Connecticut, where my mother's new mouse is shaped like the Viagra-sponsored Nascar car. No, I could not tell you why.

One of the nine hundred things that nobody tells you about becoming a parent is the way it changes the way you read.

I picked up WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, Lionel Shriver's latest, for some vacation entertainment for the weekend. I read pretty much the whole thing last night in one horrified gulp.

The book is written from the point of view of a smart, urbane mother whose almost-sixteen-year-old takes Columbine-style revenge on his classmates. It tells the story of the narrator's marriage, her ambivalence over her pregnancy, her failure to bond with baby Kevin, who seems like a bad seed from the get-go. He burns out two nannies in the space of his first year, is unbelievably sadistic to his classmates and his sister, is wearing diapers until he's six (which I found one of the most disturbing parts of all)....and it only goes downhill as he gets older.

The book was brilliantly observed, wonderfully written, with lots of trenchant points about life in America, the culture of blame, what the world expects of mothers and how quickly it lays blame at their feet when their children do horrible things (and never, one of Shriver's characters points out, at the feet of their fathers).

But I couldn't read it with any degree of detachment. It was one of the worst things I could imagine any mother going through, and Shriver imagined it far too vividly.

My husband and I have had lots of talks about how we'd handle a nerdy, socially inept kid (having both been NSIKs ourselves, we can deliver multiple, fairly convincing versions of the "Your life will not suck like this forever" speech).

We joke sometimes about how we'd be totally bewildered by a popular, outgoing kid, but I imagine we could muddle our way through that, too.

But a child like Kevin in Shriver's book? No clue.

Anyhow. We saw MASTER AND COMMANDER today, which was great, and I bought a few new books to get me through, and La Lu debuted her new snowsuit (complete with fold-over, and thus impossible to lose mittens and foot-covering-things!)

Finally, a shoe update. Upon the recommendation of many readers, we ordered Lucy two pairs of Robeez.

Which means that now, instead of picking discarded baby socks off the floors and sidewalks, I'm picking up discarded socks and Robeez. I don't know how she's doing it, but she's kicking them off, too.

I give up.
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