Monthly Archives: February 2009

Magic 8 Ball

            Zachary will turn five in September.  Perhaps that does not seem like much of an issue to you, in which case you probably don’t live in California or do not have children.  If however, you do happen to be raising children in the Golden State, then you know exactly what is going on in our house.  Each night, after we lasso the children into the bath, negotiate pajama colors, read several annoying books about Disney Princesses, and give the baby one last feeding, my husband and I snuggle up for a little adult time, which we use just as you would imagine we do.

            We discuss kindergarten. 

            Because California’s cutoff is one of the latest in the country, Zach makes it by several months and is eligible to start in September.  Cognitively the child is ready.  And I mean ready.  He is a sharp little cookie.  With emphasis on “little.”  Is it OK to send a kid to kindergarten while he is still wearing size 3T?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just affix that “kick me” sign to his back ourselves, instead of waiting for the class bully to do it?

            “I’d like to see a list of their kindergarten birthdays,” J tells me.  But it will just tell us what we already know: Zach is destined either to be among the oldest or among the youngest children in his class.  No matter how much we discuss it, he is never going to be in the middle.

            He is the type of child who will dumb himself down to fit in, so he should be with older children.  He gets anxious in a group, so he should be with younger children.  He mimics the other kids’ behavior, so he behaves better if he is the youngest.  He is sensitive about teasing, so he is safer if he is the oldest.

            What if, in a few years, we move to a state with an earlier cutoff, making him the youngest by far?  What if he hits puberty early and he is already the oldest in the class?

            We sit here, waiting for the right answer to come crashing through the roof and hit us on the heads.  This hasn’t happened yet, and I am starting to have this sinking feeling that perhaps there is no right answer.  Maybe, like everything else in parenting, this is a lesson in how limited is our control over their lives. 

            Or maybe I could ask you all to give your opinions so we have more fodder for tonight’s episode of The Great Kindergarten Debate.

But we keep trying

            “He wanted to wear his princess shoes to school, but they aren’t safe,” I told Lena as we waited to collect our two-year-olds at our synagogue preschool.  “He’s only allowed to wear them around the house.”

            “Is your husband worried?” she asked.

            “Why would he be worried?” I asked, although I knew full well.  When your sons both love pink and the younger goes to the grocery dressed as Tinkerbell, you get asked pretty frequently whether your husband is worried.

            Lena began to tell me about some televangelist who screeched about homosexuality only to be caught with a male prostitute.  “And he was molested as a little boy.  I think that’s what pushed him that way.”  It was sort of sweet, I guess.  She was trying to reassure me that molestation, not princess shoes, is the key ingredient for an adult life of sodomy and deviance.

            “Well, it may be what made him a hypocrite,” I responded, but I’m pretty sure it’s not what made him gay.”

            In answer to her question, no, my husband is not worried.  Given his time with Mask & Wig in college, he’s pretty comfortable with drag.  He doesn’t care one way or the other about sexual orientation.  I, on the other hand, do care.  “I’d like at least one of my kids to be gay,” I told her.  “Preferably Lilah, because if she’s into guys, Benjamin will scare off all her prospective boyfriends.  I think girls won’t be afraid of him, but I just can’t imagine any boy daring to date Ben’s little sister.”

            “Why would you want your kid to be gay?” she asked.  “They’ll miss out on one of the most fundamental human experiences.”  There was a pause as I tried to figure out what she meant.  I decided she must mean pen#s/v@ginal sex, because I couldn’t come up with anything else that gay people miss out on.  But, while I’m a big fan of that kind of sex, I wouldn’t call it a fundamental human experience.

            “What do you mean?” I had to inquire.

            “Having a family,” she replied.

            For the moment, put aside all the arguments over whether the childless can be called a family and whether having children is an essential component of a fulfilling life.  We don’t even need to go there because her basic assumption that homosexuals can’t have children ignores quite a number of families, including the guy who chairs our preschool’s parent association.  “A and M have four kids,” I helpfully pointed out, starting to wonder how it was I had been transported to Pleasantville.

            Apparently, she didn’t know them, and she was definitely unconvinced.  “I would have a really hard time if one of my kids was gay,” she repeated, abusing the subjunctive case.  We could hear the teachers leading our children in the Goodbye Song, which is really more accurately described as “dragging” since only one little girl actually joins in the singing.  “Being gay would make their lives a lot harder.”

            I started to open the door to the classroom, but I turned back to look at her.  “So will being Jewish.”

            I never cease to be bewildered by these kinds of conversations, although I have stopped attributing them to hatred.  Moving from place to place, I am coming to realize that so much of what we believe is cultural.  This mother is part of a cultural group that reveres gender stereotypes and rejects homosexuality.  There are quite a few families in our preschool who are from this same community, and many have grown up insulated from different ideas.

            The next day, as we listened to the dulcet sounds of our children not singing, she turned to me, a mild wonder on her face.  “I haven’t stopped thinking about the things you said.”

Video killed the radio star

            When I first started blogging, almost two years ago, there was a vibrant community of bloggers waiting to welcome me with open arms.  They were intelligent women (mostly) and men (or at least a man) who wrote wittily and thought deeply about parenting, politics, and something else that begins with a P.

            Lately, however, I am starting to feel like Bette Midler in the phone booth at the end of The Rose.

            Some people have bid dramatic adieus, some have stopped posting with any regularity, and some stopped reading and then stopped writing.  Part of this is due to life’s craziness.  Hell, if you have a blog, you’ve probably noticed that I no longer use capital letters when I comment, if I comment at all.  That’s because I am breastfeeding with the other hand.  My comments are few and far between, but I promise, I am there reading.

            Where have all the bloggers gone? Pete Seeger famously asked.  As far as I can tell, most of them are on Twitter.  So, I went ahead and joined Twitter, and my reaction was much like my response to Tom Cruise: I just don’t get the appeal.  Facebook I like.  It allows me to get in touch with people from my past lives (how very Shirley MacLaine of me).  I also like the updates, which are often witty and usually not too plentiful.

            Twitter?  Call me old-fashioned, but I like full sentences sometimes.  Maybe it is just too casual for someone who likes the formality of the written word.  Maybe I am a curmudgeon who cannot accept that the times, they are a’changing.  Who knows?

            Back in my senior year of high school, when I was filling out financial aid forms, I got totally stressed out because my life was way too complicated for those little spaces on the form.  I couldn’t make my situation fit into those tiny boxes.  Life is not fill-in-the-blank.

            So, by all means, follow me on Twitter.  I’ll post every now and again.  But, if you want to really know what is going on in my life, you’re going to have to check in here, because my life is too complicated for 140 characters.  I have found wonderful new blogs to read, but I miss some of the folks who have moved on.  Maybe I am like the ghost on Grey’s Anatomy: I just won’t accept you are breaking up with me. 

Saturday

            Having recently popped my cherry, I seem to be on a blogger-meeting roll.  Because I am lazy, cheap, and nursing a baby, you are unlikely to ever see me at a blogging conference.  I am all about the nearby bloggers, and Marste gets extra points for meeting me around the corner from my house.  So, you can imagine how much I wanted to meet her when I tell you I drove over an hour with two kids in the backseat.  Through a rainstorm.

            She’s moving out of the country, and she’s staying with relatives until then.  I just had to lay eyes on her once before she left.  So, J took Benjamin to Disneyland and I took Zachary on his very first blind date.

            We didn’t get to talk as much as I would have liked, what with the four-year-olds squabbling and the baby spitting up on the suede couch (did the stain come out?).  Then there was the moment I found myself explaining the specific details of the mechanics of breastfeeding to a very inquisitive little girl.

            It was over much too soon, because momma don’t mess with naptime, but I am grateful for the few hours we got to see each other.  Since I am surely not hauling my ass down to Belize, it is going to be an awfully long time before we get together again.

            But, we’ll need to do it again.  And maybe by then the kids will be old enough to refrain from pulling the table back and forth from each other at lunch time. 

The end of the challenge

I give up.  You win.  If you have lost so much as an ounce and a half, you freakin’ win.

This baby is four and a half months old and I weigh what I did a couple weeks after coming home from the hospital.  How about I just say I’ll let you know if I ever lose the baby weight, OK?

Now that you mention it

            Zachary has been daytime potty trained for two years.  Two years.  Two fucking years.  But it is hard to nighttime train a child who likes to fall asleep sucking on a straw cup filled with water.  Hell, we were lifting him to the toilet just to keep him from wetting through his Pull-Up.

            A few months ago, I managed to convince him that he should only have the cup once he gets into bed, cutting out the four or five ounces he was drinking during book time.  This cut down on the urine output considerably, giving me hope that we might be down to only two children in diapers before the child goes to middle school.

            He is so grown up lately, insisting he can do everything by himself but also terrified by what that might mean.  I think those nighttime Pull-Ups became a habit that it never occurred to him to break.  And his parents?  Well, nighttime training means a lot more laundry, not to mention the hassle of re-making the top berth of a bunk bed on a regular basis.  We figured it would happen eventually.

            And then, one night in December, he started to put his pjs on sans Pull-Up.  “Do you want to wear underwear, instead?” I asked.  He stopped and processed that concept.

            “Um, yes,” he decided.  And that was it.  Now he is nighttime trained, although we still have to lift him and there is an accident once or twice a week. 

             If only convincing his brother to poop on the potty were this easy.  Maybe if we sit around and wait for Ben to be ready, he’ll be potty trained before the Junior Prom.

Having my head examined

            When your childhood is a series of insults punctuated by violence and decorated with festive bits of crazy, you have two choices: you can become familiar with either the inside of a bottle or the inside of your head. 

            We adult survivors of child abuse are the Analysis Lifers.  We cycle in and out of therapy for decades, not to become healthy but instead to become comfortable with our dysfunction.  If we’ve survived in one piece for this long, we are self-aware enough to know that we’re never going to leave our childhoods behind.

            I tend to wander back into therapy when I am seemingly doing well.  I find it more constructive to plumb the depths when the surface is not a mess of red tides and nascent hurricanes. 

            What brought me into a psychologist’s office five weeks ago was sadness.  I was sad.  For me, that’s unusual, a big step.  I do angry or happy, but not sad.  So, when this genuine feeling of mourning popped up, I thought I was probably ready to work on something.

            Plus, times are hard, and I’m doing my part to jump start the economy, one co-pay at a time.

There must be more money

            In D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner,” a little boy hears a recurring whisper in his house: “There must be more money.  There must be more money.”  It’s a great story that you ought to read yourself, but I will be giving nothing away if I tell you that – no matter how much money actually comes into his house – there still is just not enough.

            When I was younger, I read it as a story about materialism, probably because it is.  But, it is also a story about trying to shore up against an insecure world.  The mother, who buys and buys and always needs more, needs lots of Stuff.  And, why does she need all that Stuff?  Because the world is an uncertain place, with hurricanes and recessions and rapists and climate change and two huge fucking flotillas of plastic in the oceans.  Maybe if we have enough Things, we can build a dike to keep the forces of chaos out.

            There are about 98 flaws with this logic, but that doesn’t stop people from trying it nonetheless.  Your husband cheats?  Buy something.  Long day at work?  Try a little retail therapy.  Lose your job?  Max out the credit cards, a particularly foolish thing to do if you don’t have a paycheck.

            Our economy is built on this compulsive need to Get More Crap.  And, when people stop buying crap, there is panic.  What do we do if people stop buying things they don’t need?  We slip into a recession, maybe even a depression.

            But, it doesn’t need to be this way.  We don’t need to judge the economy on new housing starts.  Why is it a good thing to build more houses that we’ll tear down in twenty years?  Why can’t we judge the economy on how much money is spent renovating old houses?  Or on how sturdy the houses are?

            I love the idea of stimulating the economy by fixing our infrastructure because it is about spending on something we actually need.  I do not think a healthy economy and a healthy planet need to be mutually exclusive.  If spending money is good for the economy, why not retool the system so we spend on organic produce, fair wages, and alternative forms of energy?

            There must be more money, there must be more money.  But how will we spend it?

Fight the power

            The Little Einsteins are a quartet of super cute cartoon characters who fly around in their rhythm-powered rocket ship, helping socially awkward butterflies and growing harpsichords out of seeds.  In an episode that has now become famous in our household, they contended with an instrument-stealing Grumpy Wizard.  This particular bad-tempered magician made a big impression on Benjamin over the summer.  After watching the show, he summarized the plot for us.

            “Grumpy Lizard taking trumpet away,” he worried.

            “It’s not a Grumpy Lizard, it’s a Grumpy Wizard,” his brother told him.

            Benjamin nodded.  “Grumpy Lizard taking trumpet away.”  He repeated this mantra innumerable times a night for what felt like weeks, somehow getting the word wrong time and again.  “Grumpy Lizard taking trumpet away.”  Zachary groaned with frustration each time he heard it.

            Eventually, the Grumpy Wizard really became a lizard in the kids’ minds.  For a time, their little plastic alligator was known around these parts as the Grumpy Lizard.  Then Benjamin moved on to obsess over other fictional characters, most notably Tinkerbell.  The Grumpy Lizard was still live and well and living in Tahoe, but Ben sometimes mentioned pirates and princesses, as well.

            So, when we instituted a sticker chart to try to reward all behavior that did not consist of biting his peers, I wanted to get him a used Tinkerbell costume as a reward.  When I went to buy it from a mother in the area, she had a pile of other stuff she was selling, too.  I stocked up on rewards, including Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and three pairs of plastic dress-up shoes with feathers and sparkles on them.  Each time Ben earns a certain number of stickers on his chart, I pull out a reward.  I have yet to give him Tinkerbell, as that will make all other prizes seem pathetic by comparison, but he has earned a doll, chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, and special time alone with Daddy.  Last week, he earned his first pair of dress-up shoes.

            He was beside himself when I presented the plastic blue slides with the feathers and the giant hearts on them.  “Princess shoes!”  He sat down immediately to pull off his socks and slipped them on.  He stood up and promptly fell on his ass.  He sat there crying as he stared at the shoes that had fallen off of his feet.  Walking in heels is hard.

            I helped him put the shoes back on and stand up.  With a little effort, he was able to balance and even slide forward.  In a few moments, he gained confidence and started working his way across the floor.  And then he spoke.

            “I just gonna poke some giants and the Grumpy Lizard,” he growled.

            Apparently, these were warrior princess shoes, and he finally had the power he needed to vanquish that felonious little lizard.

Challenge week nine: No gnews is good gnews

I weigh exactly what I did nine weeks ago, which is pretty much what I weighed before having the baby, minus the, you know, baby.  But, my husband has lost ten pounds.  How about the rest of you?

In other news, I am going to have to mark everything in my Reader as “read” because I have been so busy with the Hat Book.  Please let me know if you have posted something important and have a post I should read.

Back tomorrow with a real post!