Monthly Archives: November 2008

What would T. Berry say?

            Lately, Zachary has resumed his habit of drinking a lot of water before bed. I go to bed right after I get the baby down, so it’s too early to lift him to the toilet before I head off to sleep, but by the time I wake up in the night to feed her, Zach has wet through his pull-up.  Hence, I have started insisting he visit the commode immediately prior to climbing into bed.  Sounds like a reasonable solution, no?

            It turns out that four-year olds are not all that into reasonable.

            Zachary is appalled that I should suggest he use the toilet before bed.  This is because he does not need to urinate.  He stands in front of the toilet and whinescreams at me.  Eventually, of course, he lets out a long stream of pee, because his bladder is full to bursting.

            The other night, he felt the whinescreaming was insufficient to express his dissatisfaction.  He decided, instead, to use another weapon in his arsenal.

            You know where I am going with this, right?  If you don’t know, you must have never in your life met a four-year-old boy.

            So, what, exactly, if the appropriate response when one’s child waves his p-nis about midstream and pisses on the bathroom floor?  I mean, what would Dr. Sears do?  Whatever it is, I am pretty damned sure what I did was not what the experts would advise.

            I went ballistic.  I pulled his hand away so that the rest of the contribution went into the toilet, then yanked up his pjs and handed him a wipe, yelling, “You clean that up!”  I don’t mean I told him to clean it up.  I hollered it.  With fury on top.

            We were both shaken.  I got him into bed and kissed the boys goodnight, still fuming.  He was whimpering for me to come back with another kiss, which I did because I don’t deny them kisses, but I did not give it with particularly good grace.  A few minutes later, I checked in one more time, this time softening my response by gently telling him that I love him, even though I am angry.

            We all lose it with our kids, and I do try to forgive myself.  The next morning, after an apology, we got on with our day because I cannot spend forever dwelling on it every time I lose my temper.  I brought them to school and stopped back into Zach’s room after bringing his brother to the younger classroom.  Zachary was working on his letters at a little table with two of his classmates.  Suddenly, my son was screaming at his friend, “You’re bad!  You’re bad!  You’re being mean!”  Tears were flowing down his face and his tone reminded me of something…  Something I had heard very recently.

            It turns out the other child had hit Zach, and my son responded by yelling in a possessed tone of voice.  With fury on top.  His reaction was probably over the top, although I told him I was pleased he had used his words instead of hitting back.  I guess it’s good he is defending himself and I suppose I would yell if someone hit me.

            Nonetheless, I wonder where he learned to holler like that.

Public Schooling

            Three kids.  Over two combined years (thus far) of breastfeeding.  On airplanes, while walking, on the Tube, by the side of the road, in the Enchanted Tiki Room.  And the  other day was the very first time.

            I got called out for public breastfeeding.  Oh, yes I did.

            I was talking to the preschool director about some issues and she haltingly brought it up.  “I am getting some comments about the breastfeeding,” she told me.

            “Why?” I asked, already defensive.  Sometimes, I feed Lilah on the benches outside the school or on the couches in the waiting area because she is shrieking and hungry after drop-off or before pick-up of her brothers.

            “I don’t know,” the director told me.  “I used to breastfeed everywhere.  But I guess some of the kids are asking questions at home.”

            “Well, if they want to complain, send them to me,” I replied.

            “I think I took care of it,” she went on.  “It seems to me it is a very natural way for them to see a breast.”  Not, of course, that anyone sees much.  My baby’s head is sort of blocking the view.

            I suspect she was hoping I would offer to cover up to save her the headache of dealing with the complainers.  She probably does not think I should have to but would appreciate if the issue resolved itself.  Of course, we all know that most babies prefer not to be covered while eating, and I have yet to see a single baby sitting out front who is covered while drinking a bottle or a toddler with a blanket over her head while eating Cheerios.

            I am not going to cover up.  But, the question remains whether I should simply find someplace to hide while doing it.  If it were just adults, I would say, “If you don’t want to see, don’t look.”  But, these are kids who are always looking at everything, and the parents do have a right to raise their kids within their belief system.

            As do I.  So, I think I will stop feeding my baby in front of them as soon as they stop parading things in front of my kids that I don’t believe in.  That means, no nail polish on their children, as I don’t approve of my kids wearing nail polish (a subject for another post).  And they will have to pack lunches without any disposable items, because I do not use baggies or Saran Wrap.  I expect to see the boys wearing pink on a regular basis, of course, since that is what I am raising my kids to feel comfortable doing, and we are now all adjusting our parenting to make everyone’s kids feel comfortable with my values.

            Did I mention they’ll need to start buying organic produce?  

Breast is best

Two weeks ago I published this post asking everyone to leave a comment with a link to his/her blog.  If you missed that post, please do click over and leave a brief comment.

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            Benjamin’s blankie has a little giraffe head in one corner.  The rest is giraffe-print.  I can only assume that the idea of these animal blankies it to help children bond by encouraging them to think of the blankie as a living creature.  This seems to have been quite effective with my two year old.  A few weeks ago, he got his little hands on one of the spare Giraffies that we keep hidden and rotate in so we can launder the one he has been sucking on all day.  We usually keep them hidden away so that he only has one Giraffie at a time, but now and then he manages to sneak one out of the laundry.  When this happens, he behaves as though he has won the Lotto – two Giraffies means twice the emotional gratification.

            On this particular day, Benjamin sat in the middle of the kitchen, one Giraffie in each hand, and introduced them to one another.  They promptly fell in love, and by the time I found him, they were engaged in kissing one another.  I broke up the love fest when I took the spare blankie to hide away, much to Ben’s confusion.  He could not imagine why I would discourage Giraffie heavy petting.

            I guess giraffe blankies must have a short gestation period, because it appears we now have a baby Giraffie.  I know this because the other day I found Benjamin in the living room with Giraffie’s head stuck down the front of his shirt.

           “Giraffie eatin’ my breast,” he enthused.  I wonder if La Leche League has a division for animal blankies…

Another blessing to count

            We stepped off the escalator a couple of blocks from City Hall.  None of us had used L.A.’s Metro before, but it was pretty clear which direction we should go.  We followed the people with the protest signs.

            I don’t have much use for large crowds, and I usually set to work breaking them down into individuals, a task best accomplished by chatting with total strangers. As much as anonymous crowds overwhelm me, the chance to get to know new people sets me at ease.  In this case, I was with a group of people I did not know well, having tagged along with Wanda and her friends. 

            Wanda and I were friends in college, and although we lost touch for over a decade, we fell right back into the rhythm when my family moved to L.A. last spring.  She comes to dinner at our house regularly, both boys made a point to invite her to their birthday parties, and she was the person I called when I went into labor.  She qualifies as a damned good friend.  Her group of friends, however, were somewhere between acquaintances and strangers.

            Normally, I do well with this size group: five or so people to learn about, stories to elicit.  J hates small gatherings because he feels obliged to talk to people.  That’s what I like best.  A group of five to ten is neatly contained.

            Unless, of course, that group is moving towards a slightly larger group.  Say 10,000 people gathered to demonstrate for same-sex marriage.

            The crowd wasn’t too bad when we arrived.  Most of the participants were on Gay Standard Time and hadn’t arrived yet.  Our group, being straight, was early, so the crush of bodies had not begun. 

            We stopped under a large tree, figuring shade would be good on a 90 degree day, especially for the eight-week old I was wearing.  I was relieved; we were in the back and in the shade without me having to make an issue of it. 

            But, then someone else arrived who wanted to be closer to the front, and we played follow the leader.  There was shade here, too, but it was hotter and getting much more crowded.  From my point of view, a much less pleasant place to stand for several hours.

            I could feel it as it happened.  The switch flicked.  The High Maintenance switch.  The I-want-to-be-with-other-people-but-I-want-them-to-do-everything-my-way switch.  The very switch that gets thrown inside my eldest child, causing him to destroy the play dates he has begged me for.  We are both People Persons who get easily annoyed by Other People.

            In this case, I could probably have forced them to go back, given the rather delicate accessory I was wearing.  But it wasn’t their choice to travel with a baby.  I was tagging along with them.  And I did not want to put Wanda in an awkward situation.

            Somewhere deep inside me, a force rumbled.  It slowly reached out a finger on tapped that switch back into place.  I told Wanda that I was headed back to where we had been before, that she should stay with the group, and that we’d meet up later at the same tree if she wanted to.  Then I fought through the rapidly growing crowd of couples in bridal gowns and protestors waving signs to the shady area in the back.  Where, incidentally, all the other families with young kids or dogs were hanging out.

            I called Wanda, told her how pleasant it was there, not so that she would join me but so that if the group was uncomfortable, they would know their options. 

            It had not been easy, finding my maturity like that.  What I wanted was for everyone to cater to my needs, but the fact was that my needs differed from theirs.  I could have stayed up front, miserable, so as not to be left out; or I could have insisted everyone come with me, much as Zachary insisted his little friend needed to play Hide-and-Seek in our backyard on Friday.  Neither one of those options would have been very grown-up of me.  So, I settled in at the back alone and began to breastfeed.  Incidentally, a gay marriage rally is very breastfeeding-friendly.

            A half an hour later, Wanda showed up, somewhat out of breath.  “How did you get through that crowd?” she panted.

            I did not ask her why she came back to the Dogs, Old Married Couples, and Children section because I had a pretty good understanding of exactly what her reason had been.  She hadn’t wanted to leave me all alone, so she had left the group she came with and come to keep me company as I changed diapers.

            At the end of the rally, as we found the rest of the group and made our way to the subway, I decided maybe Zachary would be OK.  It may take him thirty years, but I think someday he is going to learn how to control that little switch that makes him insist to his playmates, “You’re not doing it the right way!”  And I hope he has a friend who cares enough to make sure he’s never left all alone.

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Photos of a rally

I am a straight Californian, and this is how I define a family:

(I even threw in a picture of me with Lilah…)

Our uncivil union

            I don’t believe in God, which I know probably makes a good number of you worry for my eternal soul.  Yet, for reasons never quite clear to me, a significant portion of my friends, online and off, are practicing Christians.  We disagree about something pretty enormous, but we somehow manage to like one another.  I suspect this is because we have two things in common: we acknowledge we don’t know everything and we are respectful of other people’s voices.

            That explains why we were able to have a productive discussion around here on Monday.  A discussion in which people, you know, listened to others with differing points of view.

            Religion is about truth.  A person who is committed to a particular sect must believe that her faith is the vessel of truth.  American civic life, however, is composed of truths in the plural.  It must encompass every belief set, giving space for a multitude of viewpoints.  This is why church and state work better kept far away from one another, because the state needs to leave room for many churches, not to mention us heathens.

            There is one glaring area in which church and state are hopelessly intertwined.  One area where my rabbi can execute a binding legal contract.  One area where it is impossible to separate the legal and the religious definition of the word.  The M-word.

            So, maybe it is time for the state to get out of the marriage business.  Instead of legally marrying people, maybe the government just needs to only offer civil unions to all couples.  If people want a religiously-defined marriage in addition, go for it.  But leave it to the religions to define their truths about marriage, while the legal contract is kept completely separate.

            That would lead to a much more civil union.

The birds sing words and the flowers croon

This one’s for Joel.

            The Disney skyline is dominated by the big attractions: the three Mountains – Space, Thunder, and Splash, the monorail, and that obnoxiously perfect yet functionless wonder, Cinderella’s Castle.  But, for those who are not fooled by the glitter and not taken in by the hype, for those who are not hoodwinked by the newest and most glamorous, for those who can appreciate truly winsome imagination, there is a refuge tucked away from the maddening crowds.

            Rumor has it that the Enchanted Tiki Room was Walt’s favorite attraction, and it is easy to understand why.  It is a place where weary park-goers can rest their ever-widening bottoms, breathe in the air conditioning, and be charmed for something like eleven straight minutes.  There never seem to be lines, not that Walt had to stand in them if there were.  It has excellent line economy, a term I use to denote my highly scientific calculation of the ratio of wait time to ride length.  Only It’s a Small World can compete, which is closed for renovations to accommodate Americans’ ever-increasing hiney size.

            I have long been smitten with the quaint animatronics and corny humor of the Tiki Birds.  So, when we got season passes to Disneyland, there was no doubt in my mind that we would need to introduce our children to Pierre, Fritz, and their gang.  I worried the thunder might frighten the boys.  Not so much.

            One morning in early summer, as we drove down for perhaps our fourth visit to the Land of Princesses and Flying Elephants, Benjamin said something from the backseat.  While his enunciation is usually pretty good, he was not yet quite two, and sometimes we weren’t always clear on what he was trying to tell us.  So, it took a few minutes for us to deduce that he was making a request.

            “Tiki birds.”  Sweeter words were never spoken.

            The Enchanted Tiki Room is now a fixture of our Disney mornings.  When we have had it with the hyperstimulation of Toontown, we head on over to Adventureland for a little quiet time with the Glee Club. 

            When Lilah was 3 weeks old, we took her along with her brothers for her very first Disney adventure, most of which she experienced with her head buried in my bosom.  I fed her on the train around the park and in line for the Jungle Cruise.  But, by far the best place to breastfeed in Disneyland?

            Surely you don’t need me to tell you.