Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

I hope this email finds you well.  I apologize most sincerely for my rudeness in not responding earlier; my mothers are quite adamant about restricting my use of the computer.  “Miles, don’t touch that!” they chide, thinking I simply want to press the buttons and make a disaster of their external hard drive.  How can they fail to understand that I need to keep up on my correspondence?  They ramble about “screen time” and how it is bad for my brain development, yet I think we both know that my brain is developing appropriately.  Perhaps if you, a physician, write to them and ask them to relent, they might reconsider their cruel rationing of the iPhone, the Internet, and Sesame Street. 

But on to other matters.  You asked about the new neighbor downstairs.  I have not yet had an opportunity to make her full acquaintance, but I confess to a deepening affection for her bicycle.  She parks her bicycle on the second-floor landing, and each time my mothers and I come and go I examine it with interest, naming its parts aloud. 

(I’m talking now, by the way.   Sometimes I speak in sentences, as tonight when I was holding my stuffed monkey up to see the moon outside my bedroom window.  “Monkey, see moon,” I instructed it.  But I digress.  My attention span has yet to mature.)

When I pass the pink and lavender bicycle — yes, I know my colors now too — I often say, “Handlebars!  Seat!  Pedals!”  In case my mothers should think I believe the bicycle is mine, I also clarify, “Heather’s bike.”  Sometimes, I admit, I get confused and knock on Heather’s door, asking for you and Min.

Although the bicycle is charming, I am more than ready for you to return.  Please move back in downstairs at once.  I understand that this will be detrimental to your career and that your family might object to your moving so far away from them.  Yet, as I am sure you know, 2-year-olds are famously egocentric.  Everything is about me, of course, and I prefer that you come back. 

If you must know my reasons, they are simple: you played with me so very well, you were kind to my mothers, you saved Luna’s life, and you always pretended not to be bothered by the sound of me throwing wooden toys on the floor at 6 a.m.   Additionally, any place without subways cannot be a good place.  As I have matured, my interest in transportation has grown exponentially (see above discussion of bicycle), and I shudder to think that anyone for whom I care would be deprived of decent public transit.

It sounds as though the short mother is almost done running my bath.  I must close this letter quickly before she realizes I am not in fact cooking imaginary omelets in my play kitchen.  I regret deceiving her, yet I could not allow another day to pass without my responding to your kind inquiries.  I look forward to seeing you and Min very soon as you move your things back in to the apartment.  Please hurry — my birthday is next week, and if you ask very politely my mothers will probably let you take me to the zoo.  They always liked you. 



P.S. If I need to communicate with you again, I will do so through the blog.  My mothers have cut off service to my cell phone.

P.S. #2 Attached, please find a recent photo of me.    I hope Min will enjoy it.

On Sept. 17, David wrote:

Dear Miles, 

Probably by now you are wondering where we have gone. Don’t worry, we are still around just a little farther away, in a place far away known as Arizona. It’s a strange place unlike the comforts of our walk-up in Brooklyn. People here have golden blonde hair and bronze colored skin. They also drive in big pick-up trucks, and can you believe that they don’t know what a subway is?! Arizona is great though. There are surprising a lot of restaurants to try here, which keeps us busy during the weekends.
Anyways, we very much miss New York, especially walking around Park Slope. But most of all we miss you and your family, as well as Violet and hers. We have been keeping up on your blog. Min absolutely loves it, especially the candid pictures of you. Anyways, I know you still have your cellphone, so call me anytime you like. Tell Melissa and Robin we said hello and that we miss them too. Hoping that the new tenant below is friendly.  

My, what big teeth I have.


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Sometimes, when Miles is flipping out  — because I won’t let him stop to inspect a pebble covered in dog pee, or because I want to put the stroller away and go upstairs, or because the fridge magnets won’t stick to his kneecaps — I try to imagine what it must feel like to never be in charge and to be at the mercy of rules which seem needlessly arbitrary.

I mean, here he is, realizing he is a separate living being with volition.  And here we are, controlling his every move.  Miles, it’s time to put the train away and eat dinner.  Miles, it’s time to get out of the high chair and onto the potty.  Miles, it’s time to get off the potty and into the bath.  Miles, it’s time to get out of the bath and… you get the idea.  

Do not interrupt. I'm learning here!

He’s trying to learn things, like what fridge magnets will stick to, or how many books he can read on the potty (without peeing, of course!) before his butt falls asleep.  He wants to determine just how long it takes to go down three flights of stairs on one’s bottom, pausing every three of four steps to hum a song or point at a smoke detector.  This is important learning, of course!  And yes, the stairwell experiment must be repeated every time we leave or enter our apartment building.  For statistical accuracy!

"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall..."

And meanwhile we are trying to make life go.  We’re feeding him, washing him, providing time and space for sleep.  I spend all day coercing him — while he obstructs all forward progress.  I coerce, and he obstructs.  I’ve started calling him my little obstructionist.  (I don’t want to know what he calls me.)

So I understand why sometimes, he has to take a stand and do something himself, on his own time.  And sometimes, whenever I can dig deep and find the patience, I let him.  Sometimes that means sitting in the stairwell for twenty minutes until I feel myself seething with a dull, ridiculous rage. 

Other times, it means standing back at a respectful distance and letting him work something out. 

Can he do it?

The eyes say, "Stay back!"

He did it!

Piece of cake.

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I would like to state for the record that some things about being (almost) 2 are not so terrible.

Around 2 years old, children develop symbolic play.  That’s fancy child-development speak for, like, pretending and stuff.  They personify their stuffed animals and use toys to act out little scenes.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, this is closely tied to the development of language.   Which means that Miles is able to tell us a little of what he’s imagining, and we get a peek into his inner life.

There’s lots of hugging and kissing in Miles’ inner life.  His toy animals hug and kiss each other ardently, with little regard for preserving the purity of species.  You’ve heard of the lion lying down with the lamb?  Well, in our house the chameleon lies down with the monkey, and the giraffe lies down with the bear.  The animals are quite promiscuous, actually.  The animals also have conversations.  The stuffed dogs will not shut up. (“Ruf!” “Ruff Ruff!” “Ruff… ruff.”) 

There’s lots of cooking and eating in Miles’ inner life.  In his play kitchen, he unloads groceries, washes his hands, munches on grapes, and drinks pretend coffee. 

Other rituals confuse me a little.  Cows take naps inside houses made out of cut-up milk cartons and then wake up to endlessly climb invisible stairs.  (“Upstairs!  Downstairs!”) Huh???

And yesterday, this happened.

"Doggy read. Miles read. Book."

He put his little stuffed dog in his lap, nestling it in, the way he nestles into my lap when we read before naptime.  Then, patiently, struggling with the pages and smushing the dog somewhat dreadfully, he “read” the dog  several books, pointing out significant objects on each page.

"Truck. Fire truck."

Did I die from the cuteness?  Yes.  Yes I did.

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On Sunday afternoon, RJ and Robin and Miles and I stood outside our apartment building. 

“You look so rested,” RJ was telling me.  “Doesn’t she look like she just came back from a vacation? Your face looks different.”

“It does,” Robin admitted.

Which was kind of weird.  I hadn’t come back from a vacation; in fact, I’d just returned from a three-day trip in which I flew to California (with a layover in Minneapolis), attended a memorial service, slept very little, got up in the early morning dark, and flew back to New York (with a layover in Minneapolis).  On the various planes, I’d been squished in between snoring businessmen, stuck without food for hours at a time,  and, worst of all, had the window seat next to a couple returning from a fractious visit to their in-laws.  (“He was mocking me the whole time.” “That wasn’t mockery — why would you say that?” “He was mocking me.  You never notice it.”)  All of this followed by a harrowing cab ride complete with a skidding, screeching  near-death on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

I’d had, by most people’s reckoning, a brutal few days.  Yet I felt magnificent.  Why?  They were three days without Miles.

I’m not a horrible mother.  Really.  I just needed a long break, a break so long that I would be forced to stop planning, coordinating, anticipating, meeting needs.  A break in which I would be Not In Charge of Anything.  A break in which I would not wipe anyone else’s bottom, prepare anyone else’s food, wipe up anyone else’s spills, bathe anyone else’s body, convince anyone else (ever so cheerfully) to please, please, please climb the stairs or get out of the tub or let me put on your shoes or sit on the potty instead of running around naked and shrieking.  Yet as much as I needed such a break, I could not imagine taking one, and I could not imagine being without Miles for several days.  The longest I’ve been away from him is ten hours.  Leading up to my departure, I was anxious and fearful.

Then I got on the plane.  Almost immediately, I started having thoughts.  I thought about Robin dancing, my years working at a newspaper, the neighbors we had when we first moved to Brooklyn.  I thought about college and friendships, about my childhood cat, about family, about the man whose life I was traveling to celebrate.  And then I thought, “Hey, I’m back!  I’m Melissa!”  Meaning, not Miles’ mom.  Meaning, the person I have been my whole life, since I was a kid, that consciousness that has accompanied me through decades and changes of scenery.  That consciousness I’d somehow lost track of.  For the last two years my brain has been tuned to a different channel — the channel of snacks and naps and meal plans and housekeeping.  The noise of daily parenting had become so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. 

Three simple days.  I read three books.  I listened to people.  I went where I was supposed to be.  I carried only the things I needed.  (No toy trains!  No sippy cups!)  I felt calm.  And I made a list of what I need to do to feel this way again.  It included things like nights out, yoga, back-up day care, meditation, reading books, writing in a journal.

 After the list, I turned to a fresh page and wrote one sentence.

It was: I don’t want to lose this.

This is dedicated to all those parents who are so busy doing they don’t have time to think.  Let’s figure it out together.  Let’s change the channel sometimes, if only for a few minutes.  Let’s listen to ourselves.  And then let’s gather up our partners and our children and hold them in our arms, as I did with Robin and Miles on Sunday, and let that peace emanate from us to them.

You missed me. Admit it.

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Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Sometimes kids have the best ideas.

Cattle, car.

Musical, genius.

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Yeah, so I haven’t been on the blog too much. Here are some recent photos, in no particular order, with no particular theme. My apologies — more entries soon!



The reading room.

Train to D.C.


So fresh and so clean.

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Miles got his first potty seats today — one to go on the big toilet and one that sits on the floor.

He was thrilled, and we spent some time rehearsing what goes where. Barry Bear, a stuffed companion who has been with me since the first week of my life, was extremely patient.


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