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Archive for March, 2011

This post is a departure from the usual style of our blog.  Please read it as a work of fiction containing invented characters.  The narrator is not intended to be either one of us, and the woman depicted is not one woman but a composite of many parents you might see out and about in your own neighborhood. 

Hey!  You there!  Texting mom!  I’m sorry, I don’t know your name, although I know your face quite well, particularly your furrowed brow and that pinched, absentminded expression you get when you look up at your surroundings.  You wrinkle your nose like a groundhog searching for its shadow, and you give an annoyed little blink right before you duck your head back down.  You don’t recognize me, I see, but that’s okay.  I see you here quite often — in fact, every time my son and I come here, three days a week, we see you and your daughter L—.  I know your daughter’s name — of course I do.  You say it sometimes when you look up for a split second and notice that L— has her hands on either side of my son’s head and is trying to pull his ears off.  Or when he is poised to go down the slide and little L— is clambering up it.  If you notice at all, I mean.

L– is cute!  She really is!  She’s independent, too.  I notice that you pierced her ears already, so obviously you love her a lot.  I imagine piercing a toddler’s ears is controversial in this neighborhood.  Has anyone ever said anything to you about it?  Or maybe I’m being too nosy.  You hardly know me, after all.

Say, Texting Mom, can I just call you TM for short?  I feel we are practically friends because we spend so much time together.  All winter we’ve both been coming to this indoor play space, seeking shelter from the rain and snow and connection with other parents.  Parenting is lonely work, isn’t it?  I try to catch your eye sometimes, but you’re hard to get to know.  It’s like you have this wall around you. 

TM, I want you to know that I’m not going to judge you for texting at the playground.  You are probably a very busy person; I can see from your pink sweatpants that you don’t even have time for the trivial things in life, like appearances.  And who knows, maybe you are “working remotely.”  One time as you sidled past the slide, I saw you were in a back-and-forth with someone named Rhymze.  Are you in the music industry?   

Or maybe you’re a stay-at-home-mom, like me.  Personally I find the term demeaning.  Stay at home, as if caring for a child full time were a passive activity, as if we were simply refraining from working.  As in, “You go to work today, I’ll just stay home.”  Anyone who has spent five minutes with a toddler knows how exhausting children can be.  That’s probably why you text the whole time you’re here — for a moment of release.  I’m sure the rest of the day you make eye contact with little L—. 

Listen, moms need their “me” time, and so do nannies.  We all have play dates to plan, dinners to cancel, birthday gifts to buy online.  Who can fault us for multi-tasking, or for spending a little time on Facebook?  It’s efficient parenting to be with your child while simultaneously updating your status to let everyone know you’re spending time with your child.  Lots of parents text or Facebook while pushing their children on the swings in the park.  You see it all the time, child staring vacantly ahead, parent peering down at the tiny little screen while one hand methodically push, push, pushes.  But you know what?  It doesn’t make us bad parents.  I know you agree with me.  

Our culture now claims to be “child-focused,” but we take it to extremes.  Children do not need us breathing down their necks every second, clapping with amazement at their every step and sighing empathetically when they trip and fall.  That’s probably exactly why you let L— wander off all the time. And why you let her pull the kiddie basketball hoop over onto other kids’ heads.  And why you don’t try to intervene when she snatches toys from my son and wallops other children on the head with them.  You believe in independence.  Learning by doing!  Hey, TM, I would be texting too if I didn’t feel so self-conscious.  I admire your ability to ignore the furious glares of others.

So, look, I don’t want to keep you from doing your thing.  I’m sure Rhymze is wondering why you haven’t replied in the last minute.  And, okay, I see you have been texting the whole time we’ve been talking.  Well, it was nice to catch up, TM.  Maybe you could text me the next time you are going to be here and I could arrange to be here too.  Or we can make a play date to get together and text.  I’ll bring toy phones for the kids.  OK, great.  TTYL.  xoxo

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Happy Place

All day long, Miles tries to convince us to put him on the bed to play.  If I am trying to get something done, I resist.  Playing on the bed means giving him my full attention, focusing minutely on the placement of his body in relation to the edge, being patient and present.  But he loves it up there, bothering the cat, playing in little patches of sun. Watching out the window for “woo woos” (fire trucks, ambulances — anything on wheels, really).  And lolling on the pillows.  And posing for the camera. 

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I  had to post this photo, which cracks me up.  I imagine we will have a framed print of it in our study one day in some future life when we have a house with a study. 

Brooklyn.

 

Meanwhile, over here I am recovering from a bizarre brush with carbon monoxide poisoning.  I will be fine, but I feel, well, like someone who has been poisoned and dangerously deprived of oxygen!  Meanwhile, Robin is at jury duty and Miles is coming down with a cold — foiling my plans to beg other friends with kids to take him off my hands for a couple hours so I can zonk out on the couch.  All will be well, and I have to say that this isn’t even remotely as bad as when we all had the stomach flu.  But if I say or write anything totally loopy in the next day or two, just chalk it up to oxygen deprivation.  Heh heh.

Oh wait, I forgot to share the moral of the story!  Check your CO detectors to make sure they are functioning and have fresh batteries.  And if you don’t have detectors, by all means install them!  Today!  Thousands of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning, often from malfunctioning appliances or from the use of space heaters.  Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, and it binds to the red blood cells 210 times faster than oxygen.  Which means a little bit of it can mess you up real bad, making you too confused to realize you need to get out of the situation and into fresh air.  So while I am on my soap box, consider getting your stove and other fuel-burning appliances checked every other year or so to make sure they are functioning safely. 

xoxo,

Melissa

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Waking Up Is Hard to Do

After his nap Thursday…

Not. Happy. At. All.

 

Don't even think of smiling at me.

 

I'm okay, you're okay?

 

No! Awful! Terrible! Must throw grits!

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Robin and I are full-fledged members of the Mean Mothers Club.  We got our Mean Mother identification cards in the mail the other day, complete with scowling photos in which our lips are permanently pursed in the “No” position.  How did we finally get to join such a prestigious group, populated by notable Mean Mothers throughout history?  What new cruelty have we devised that wins us this mark of distinction?

We harshly refuse to let Miles brush his teeth 27 times a day.

I’m going to let you in on an awkward little secret.  Something is wrong with that kid: he likes to brush his teeth.  He’s

"Teeth?"

 actually obsessed with it!  What kind of kid loves tooth brushing?  Eekgads.  He certainly doesn’t get it from this mother.  I used to elaborately fake having brushed my teeth — wetting the toothbrush, smearing some toothpaste in the sink, and tiptoing out with a self-satisfied smirk.  (Yes, my dentist profited from this subterfuge.  I had many, many cavities.)

About 27 times a day, Miles halts his current activity, acquires a look of concentration, holds his index finger to his mouth in a brushing motion and asks, urgently, “Teeth?” 

At first we tried to play stupid, but his pronunciation is clear and his invented sign language leaves no room for doubt.  Plus, he’ll grab us by the pantleg and drag us to the bathroom to get his point across.  This desperate plea for tooth brushing has finally driven us to close the bathroom door.  Not his passion for the plunger, his new ability to clamber atop the toilet lid, or his antics with the Charmin — just his incessant demands for “teeth.” 

As I quiz my friends, I find that this is… could it be?  Fairly normal?  What’s the matter with kids these days, I ask you?  Can anyone make any sense of it?

Robin and I have taken to referring to tooth brushing as “that thing.”  As in, “Robin, make sure I get a chance to do that thing without him seeing before you leave for work.”  Or, “Honey, I just did that thing.  Do you need to do it?”  Yes, I know very well that certain pop songs refer to sex as “that thing” and that my life in comparison to a pop song is now really, unbelievably unglamorous.  

So about 27 times a day, I hear my mean, unglamorous self saying, “Yes, Miles, that’s where the toothbrush is, but we don’t do that right now.  We do that after our bath.”    His lip trembles and his whole body sags with the weight of his disappointment.  Then he perks up and looks at me hopefully again.  Perhaps I have not understood how much he wants it?  “Teeth?!” he asks.  And, flashing my best Mean Mother scowl, I say, “No, Miles.  Later.”

As I put him into the bath, he checks with me over and over to make sure tooth brushing is still on the agenda.  “Teeth?  Teeth?”  I reassure him and hand him his toy fish.  He plays with his once- beloved bath toys, but it’s almost as if he can’t relax until that brush is in his hands.  Finally, bath over, that magical time arrives.  The whole time we’re drying him off, he’s asking.

Don't forget, Momma!

Robin or I brush his teeth first, then hand him the brush to give it a go.  Grinning into the bristles, he chuckles a little.  And stops in the middle to look at us and be sure we know.  He pulls the toothbrush out, signs and mumbles it one last time — “Teeth!” — and continues brushing. 

At last!

 

He likes this? I really don't get it.

 

Bliss.

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Fixer Upper

Have a broken appliance?  I know a little boy who would love to help you fix it.  Recently, a part on our blender needed replacing, so Momma and Miles got right to work.  They saved the day — and dinner, too.

What seems to be the problem here?

 

Teamwork.

 

We did it!

 

High five!

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I remember a time when I thought stay-at-home moms must have the cleanest houses.  Because, you know, they have so much free time.  Their children play contentedly with puzzles in a designated area while they scrub, buff, polish and shine. 

Ahem. 

Cleaning with an awake and curious toddler shadowing you is like trying to brush your teeth while you’re still eating.  You’re undoing just as fast as you’re doing, if you know what I mean.  You put the blocks away; they put the blocks in the cat dish.  You sweep the Cheerios, cat litter, human hairs and mystery bits into a pile; they stand experimentally in the pile and wiggle their toes.  Then eat the Cheerios.  Then track the cat litter, human hairs, and unidentifiable bits onto the bedroom rug.  Where they proceed to lie down in the bits and roll around.

Recently, Miles has taken to wresting the broom firmly but patiently from my hand while I am sweeping and just taking over the job.  The broom is three times as tall as him, but he doesn’t let that stop him. 

Let me handle this.

He shakes his head sadly, like he cannot believe what an awful job I am doing, and bends his body to the task of dispersing detritus all over the room. 

Standing there over and over with no broom in my hand gave me an idea.  Why not get Miles his own broom?  Why not have him “help” me with all the housecleaning?  At the very worst, we would at least have dueling brooms.  And at best, he would eventually, perhaps accidentally, help.

So I got him a broom of his own.

Mr. Clean?

He likes his new little broom, but he frequently steals the big broom back for those tough jobs.  He’s quite thorough.

Sweeping under stuff is important, duh.

After that, I enlisted him to dust by handing him a rag.  He proved to have an eye for detail, scrubbing spots I might have overlooked. 

Reach!

He even polished the doorknobs.

You missed a spot.

Emboldened, I set him loose with one of my least favorite tasks: scrubbing the bath tub.  We had to use a gentle, nontoxic cleaner, which might defeat the whole purpose, but we sure had a good time.

Scrub-a-dub-tub.

Cleaning with Miles is messy, counterproductive, and silly.  I just try to remember that we’re in no hurry.  This book I read on positive discipline emphasized that toddlers love to help and that we can gain so much by inviting them to cooperate.  We’re learning, the two of us — him that taking care of your home doesn’t have to be a chore, and me how to be more patient. 

Of course, free labor comes with serious drawbacks.  My little worker often loses interest in mid-task, wandering off to pull all of the paper recycling out of the bin or chase the cat.  And, quite often, he drinks on the job.

Hitting the bottle.

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