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Smartmom decides to keep it real

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Last week, Smartmom tried to wean herself from writing about her children — but it was just hopeless.

I mean, how do you stop fixating on the people with whom you share a rather cramped Park Slope apartment?

For one thing, they leave their clothing like a Hansel and Gretel trail from the front door to the bathroom to their bedrooms.

Smartmom is so sick of tripping over the Oh So Feisty One’s Uggs, her silver Pro-Keds, and her black rubber boots in the hallway that she’s thinking of leaving them on the street with a “Free Stuff” sign when she’s away at school.

She knows she should write about the weightier issues on her “To Do” list like the local group, Parents Against Climate Change, or whether kids should wear helmets while sledding.

After all, when The Brooklyn Paper wrote a story about Smartmom’s “To write or not to write” dilemma, almost two dozen people wrote in (mostly telling Smartmom to stop writing about her kids!).

She’d love to “move on,” as RK from Park Slope suggested, but Smartmom gets creatively mugged when she sees what the kitchen looks like after Teen Spirit makes an elaborate sandwich.

Look, she’s happy he didn’t ask her to make him “a little midnight snack,” but couldn’t the kid learn to put away the Applewood Monterey Jack cheese and the Trader Joe’s Not Mayonnaise?

Or how about Sunday night, when OSFO was making a photo album for her Facebook page and she turned the apartment upside down looking for her bright pink wig, kooky sunglasses and a pocketbook so she could do a photo essay posing as Hannah Montana’s fictional cousin?

Sure, that OSFO is one heck of a comedienne — and those pictures are a stitch — but it’s really distracting.

After OSFO went to bed, Smartmom sat down at her computer fully intending to write about something, anything, but her children when Teen Spirit came home from who knows where.

No doubt she was miffed when he had no explanation for his lateness. But it was the clomp, clomp, clomp of the black boots he bought at a thrift shop on the hardwood hallway floor that drove her to distraction.

Ah, inspiration! She began typing an ode to the annoying sounds one’s teenager makes. But then she remembered the gag order and she deleted all the words that had anything to do with Teen Spirit’s black boots. Instead, she stared at a blank page on her trusty computer.

Nothing.

Nothing.

More nothing.

There was a Zen-like purity to the whiteness of the screen.

It made Smartmom feel calm, miles away from the chaos of her Third Street apartment. Staring into that white screen, Smartmom felt like she could reinvent herself. She could reinvent her children. She could even reinvent her husband.

Why, her kids could be fictional characters with names like Phoebe and Jasper. Hepcat could be a millionaire inventor named Zebulon and they could all live in a huge house in Marin County, where Smartmom’s writing room would have views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais.

There would be no clothing in the hallway, no clutter on the dining room table, and no makeshift wall separating Hepcat’s workspace from the living room.

They’d have no money troubles and no arguments with Teen Spirit, aka, Jasper, about homework and college.

OSFO, aka Phoebe, would have as much space as she needed for her imaginative art projects and clothing. And Jasper, would have his own out-of-the-way wing of the house with a recording studio.

In Smartmom’s fictionalized world, Jasper would have rubber soles on his boots.

And Smartmom could have different name, too (and maybe a more attractive illustration next to her byline). She would be 15 pounds thinner and 10 years younger. She’d be a critically acclaimed — and best-selling novelist — with two, maybe three, movie deals in the works.

These characters would have to have all-new back stories, too. No turquoise turmoil, agita about a gap year, blues about leaving PS 321, angst about turning 50, ugly red chairs and trips to Babeland.

Smartmom liked the idea of creating a new life: a new self. New kids. A new husband — and this one wouldn’t need to save every issue of Wired Magazine since its inception in 1993.

But it made her feel sad, too.

Smartmom’s eyes fell on her messy desk, the El Pico coffee can full of sharpened pencils, and the messy web of wires on the floor.

Fiction is one thing. But it’s the trials and tribulations of her life as a parent in Brooklyn that she gets paid the big bucks for.

Sure, she could just make it all up. But what fun would that be?

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 5:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Emma B. from Park Slope says:
Ok. This is borderline disgusting. You're taking out your frustration with your children — your daughter's discarded UGGS and your son's inability to clean up the kitchen — by writing about it in The Brooklyn Paper. That's terrible, terrible parenting. When your kids move out for college and never talk to you again, at least you'll know why.
Jan. 27, 2009, 3:15 am
edie from pk slope says:
Yeeesh! Why & how did this become such a big deal?
Some of the previous "Stop Smartmom!" posts are just loony -- the kind of impassioned epistles that most of us would reserve for campaigns vs. child soldiers, slave labor, or infanticide. They also presume that S. Mom is dumb as a doorpost and has zero grip on, or interest in, what's OK for her kids.

But I bet she has a brain and a pretty good idea of what's good for them (since she appears to have been raising them all these years, not just drinking juleps on the veranda while Mary Poppins kept the kids out of sight). If she sensed that her writing was truly, really, deeply harmful, I betcha she'd quit, not sacrifice her kids to some local column.

As for yea/nay battles: If I were polled about the whole Bklyn Paper, I'd give several other features a big thumbs-down or MA (major annoyance) rating ... but no one does a line-item poll. At the same time, I know that the features I hate surely, or probably, have their fans, and I'm not forced to read things that bug me.

I WAS amused by the one poster who played the financial-manipulation card -- said that he? she? found Smartmom so annoying that he? she? didn't read the ads on that page. Someone who'd skip presumably useful ads for such a goofy reason really IS dumb as a doorpost. And if you try to avoid pushing anyone's buttons, the paper will be all rah-rah neighborhood p.r., and about as interesting as a cork coaster.
Jan. 27, 2009, 3:19 am
spring from Park Slope says:
I like these columns a lot and think that the children will someday look back at this and feel happy their childhoods were memorialized in such a unique way. Some people are way too negative. Stay positive and stop taking things so seriously. Well written, as always!
Jan. 27, 2009, 9:38 am
Marty from The slope says:
These kids will need years of therapy.
Jan. 27, 2009, 2:01 pm
Dara from Park Slope says:
Emma B said, "You're taking out your frustration with your children ... by writing about it," and "When your kids move out for college and never talk to you again, at least you'll know why."

Lighten up! You're really projecting here - morphing your personal dislike of the column into a guilt trip and therapy issue. I wouldn't make that kind of judgment unless I lived with these people 24/7.
Jan. 27, 2009, 8:59 pm
Emma B. from Park Slope says:
Dara: "You're really projecting here - morphing your personal dislike of the column into a guilt trip and therapy issue."

Since you know me, I'm glad you feel comfortable enough telling me I have a personal dislike of the column.

Actually, I've always enjoyed Louise's work, but if her kids are revolting as much as she says they are, she should really reexamine her need to broadcast their lives to the public. I know a thing or two about psychology, and this seemingly utter disrespect for her family's desires can have some major consequences down the road.

In the end, it doesn't really impact my life too much though, but you don't need to live with these people 24/7 to understand the potential ramifications of this conflict.
Jan. 28, 2009, 2:20 am
Dara from Park Slope says:
Emma B. said, "I know a thing or two about psychology, and this seemingly utter disrespect for her family's desires can have some major consequences down the road."

From my reading, and as others have said: She sounds like a sane grownup, has known her kids for a long time (and definitely _was_ a kid once), and if she sensed that the consequences might be catastrophic, I'm sure that she'd stop writing about the kids.

It's not as if she's a clueless 16-year-old, and I seriously doubt that this column is paying her mortgage.

But she should think ahead, because the Smartmom thing won't work when (hypothetically) one kid's in high school and the other's in college. It'd be peculiar to center a column on near-adults who are mostly on their own and are barely/rarely home.
Jan. 28, 2009, 10:33 am
OSFO says:
writing about how ur not writing about us is still writing about us!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND I DIDNT TURN THE HOUSE UPSIDE DOWN LOOKING FOR MY PINK WIG!!!!!!!!!!! IT WAS ON MY BOOK SHELF AND I DIDNT ASK U FOR ANY HELP SO SHUT UP!!!
AND HENRY DID GIVE U AN EXPLANATION OF WHERE HE WAS BC U DIDNT ASK!!!!!!!!! BY THE WAY...CAN I LIVE WITH CAREY IAM SICK OF U!!!!!!!!!!:P
Jan. 31, 2009, 6:26 pm
triebensee from park slope says:
It looks like the veracity of smartmom's columns has been questioned by one of her subjects. Is there money in the Brooklyn Paper budget to hire a fact checker? Or a good libel lawyer, eventually.
Feb. 2, 2009, 6:02 pm
Not Laughing from Brooklyn says:
Poor kid! If this weren't so pathetic it might be funny, in a funny sitcom sort of way. But it's not a sitcom and these are real, quite readily identifiable people in the community (I mean, Smartmom's outed all of 'em, pix included) -- and yeah, yeah, sure, let her work this out with her kids...but if this is any indication, that's not exactly happening. It'd be great if both she and the editor would show some common sense (forget about any warmer, fuzzier feelings or insights at this point) and just stop with this altogether annoying, cloying column.
Feb. 2, 2009, 6:21 pm
Flonflon from Slope says:
Not Laughing said ... "It'd be great if both she and the editor would show some common sense (forget about any warmer, fuzzier feelings or insights at this point) and just stop with this altogether annoying, cloying column."

I think they're having a HOOT of a time playing up the shocked! shocked!! responses, which have nearly eclipsed the original issue.
From what I see ... the real issue is that people don't want themselves, or their "circle," in her column. But instead, most are spinning it as "Her poor children! She's turning them into mom-hating Mansons!"

In days of yore, before everybody got polite & syndicated, local - even NYC! - journalism was FULL of personal-ish, even arch-to-gossipy stuff about thinly-disguised locals and their doings ... and people survived.
By comparison, this woman's column is mega-benign. I can see why her kids might be annoyed (esp at an age when kids are annoyed by almost everything), and I agree that it's up to THEM to work out).
But I don't see why a bunch of adults are seething. Though her stuff is real-life-based, it's also obviously tilted for broadly humorous/exaggerated effect. I haven't seen anything in those columns that I'd regard as awful! vile!, if it were about me - unless my skin were so thin that it barely held my insides in.
Feb. 2, 2009, 11:38 pm
Flonflon from Slope says:
triebensee said ... "Is there money in the Brooklyn Paper budget to hire a fact checker? Or a good libel lawyer, eventually."

Looking at replies to recent-past columns - this person has been accused of damaging the Slope's reputation (ha!), supposedly making one guy (?) skip the ads - and now this. It's a bit much.

I'm not a huge fan of parenting columns, but these overheated snarky reactions look plain weird.

Also - before anyone thinks of suing a local rag, he-she-it should possibly save a buck by reading up on NY defamation law.
Feb. 3, 2009, 12:15 am
DAWN ZAMANIS from BROOKLYN NY says:
Dear Smartmom,

As a writer, a columnist, and a single mother of five boys ages 16 and under uncluding identical twins and two boys with congenital heart disease- just to name a few- it is almost an occupational hazard when mentioning your kids in your columns.

As writers crafting out art, we've always been told by the best of the best-- "write what you know."
There you have it. As long as the names have been changed to protect the innocent, you're not breaking any "parenting laws."
Talk to me about the single mother who just birthed 8 more babies(wihtout a father, mind you) and I'll give her and the rest of the world some advice on breaking parenting laws.
I am on the Advisory Board of the National Organization of Single Mothers, and a contributing writer. (singlemothers.org.) (917) 886-8091. Keep up the good work, smartmom!
Dawn Zamanis
Feb. 4, 2009, 8:26 pm
DAWN ZAMANIS from BROOKLYN NY says:
Dear Smartmom,

As a writer, a columnist, and a single mother of five boys ages 16 and under including identical twins and two boys with congenital heart disease- just to name a few- it is almost an occupational hazard when mentioning your kids in your columns.

As writers crafting out art, we've always been told by the best of the best-- "write what you know."
There you have it. As long as the names have been changed to protect the innocent, you're not breaking any "parenting laws."
Talk to me about the single mother who just birthed 8 more babies(wihtout a father, mind you) and I'll give her and the rest of the world some advice on breaking parenting laws.
I am on the Advisory Board of the National Organization of Single Mothers, and a contributing writer. (singlemothers.org.) (917) 886-8091. Keep up the good work, smartmom!
Dawn Zamanis
Feb. 4, 2009, 8:27 pm
Jayne from Park Slope says:
Louise's columns are funny and well-written. If you don't like 'em, don't read 'em. Simple as that. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

You lunatics in Park Slope really, REALLY NEED TO GET A LIFE!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 8, 2009, 10:58 am
anonymous from PS says:
I am sorry for your multiple losses, but I must ask you, how do you NOT write about this --the most personal of experiences-- in your column where you write about the most personal family happenings.

At a time when you you are defending your right to write about your kids AGAINST their wishes, it seems hypocritical for you not to write about your family's other experience -- being Madoffed. As a quasi-journalist how could you not write about this? You admit its the elephant in the room -- not to mention tied to what EVERYONE is worrying about -- THE ECONOMY STUPID -- and yet you choose not to write about it. But you DO write about your family over the protestations of your kid, not to mention your critics.

You are a loud and proud chronicler of Brooklyn and New York, yet you choose not to write about events that are current and effecting a broader scope of people when you are defending your right to write about your family. Hpocrites have no business writing a column, or being representative of my neighborhood
Feb. 8, 2009, 11:38 pm
enos from park slope says:
I think most kids (and adults) should be able to view their home life as a private refuge. I certainly wouldnt want to take that away from my kids. Shouldnt they be able to make mistakes (and growup) in private, and live with their family with the expectation that their parent would not broadcast their problems (or life) to their community?
I can imagine how stifling that could be at home.
Do they avoid being their? Do they avoid letting you know whats going on for fear it will become public? Do their friends avoid being around your home because they are afraid they may be included in a posting?
You obviously felt that your madoff mess was a private event (and that is an international story). That must have crossed some line for you (but not your sister).
Can you be sure where that line is for a tween or teenager? Are you sure that they have the same need for attention that you do and in the same way?
btw..I do like your blog overall
Feb. 9, 2009, 1:55 pm
OSFO says:
dear Marty from The slope,

U WILL NEED YEARS OF THERAPY!!!!!! :P
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:37 pm
OSFO says:
...ONCE IAM DONE WITH U!!!!!!!!
Feb. 9, 2009, 2:40 pm

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