Monthly Archives: July 2008

You know I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do

            Thank you all for your comments on yesterday’s post.  Your support, as always, means a great deal to me.

            I had a troll once.  Only once.  She left one nasty comment and then disappeared, perhaps because I followed that old advice of ignoring a bully.  Although, I must admit I did not ignore it to make her go away but because I was a little perplexed by her point.  I paste the comment below for your edification:

Have you ever had anyone tell you, honestly, that all your fear based decisions are symptoms of being a neurotic?

You MIGHT try being both accountable and responsible for the peptide production of YOUR OWN hypothalamus and, developing some emotional coping skills as cures for your neurosis.  For if I had to live with you in my head, I’d be a sniveling neurotic, too.

 My confusion lay in the peptide/hypothalamus advice, not to mention the missing hyphen and the comma that comes after the word “and.”

            I was not, however, confused about the overall point she was making.  She was calling me neurotic.  I thought for a short time about emailing her back and asking her whether she came up with that diagnosis all by herself after reading a few posts, or whether it was evident from the last name I include on my blog.  Um, you noticed that I’m Jewish, right?  It is my birthright to be neurotic.  It goes with the asthma and the glasses.

            Cultural stereotypes aside, however, I don’t see how anyone could be a mother and not end up neurotic.  There are these two little people out there who exist separately from me, yet who hold within their persons far more of me than I have in my own body.  Their bodies are vulnerable, and it is my job to protect them, even as I am also supposed to give them their independence.

            And, as Tuesday’s earthquake reminded me, I cannot protect them.  I cannot make sure no one ever teases them.  I cannot make sure no one ever abducts them.  I cannot stop earthquakes, hurricanes, or spontaneous combustion.  I cannot shield against cancer and schizophrenia and depression.  Most days, I cannot even protect them from one another.

            I can however try my best to protect their planet.  I can hang out my wash instead of using a dryer.  I can recycle and reuse and buy less and so on.  It only does so much good, I know, but it helps me to fool myself into thinking I am protecting my kids.

            My world has shrunk in the last four years.  I read a lot less news, and I am much less informed.  Everything I do is about my children; everything I care about is them.  When I worry about the homeless, it is because they are someone’s sons and daughters.  When I worry about my husband, it is as a co-parent.  When I think about the war, it is not about people dying but about someone’s children dying.  There is nothing I do or feel that is not connected to my children.

            Has that made me neurotic?  You bet your ass.  I could breastfeed them till they go off to college, but eventually even that protection is going to wear off.  I can buy alarms and lock gates, but we all know a thief who wants to get in is going to get in.  I can buy emergency kits and keep emergency numbers, but I cannot stop the emergencies. 

            Is it any wonder my peptides are out of kilter?

I feel the earth move

            Zachary is getting some educational testing done for various reasons I don’t want to go into.  Since he is so young, the psychologist has suggested I remain in her waiting area for the three hours so that I am there on his breaks.  This is fine with me; I can work as well there as anywhere.  I sit and edit while he gets to play games in her office, which, like many doctor’s offices, is separated from the waiting area by a receptionist’s area behind a locked door.

            That’s where I was yesterday a little before noon when the room began to rumble.  I looked up at the receptionist through her little window, wondering whether she gets a lot of that kind of annoyance from the upstairs neighbors.  She looked up, too, perhaps also wondering who was moving furniture so aggressively.  But, then it didn’t stop.  And I think it dawned on us at the same time, because she got out of her seat and I got out of my seat.

            I ran to the door to get my son, but it was locked.  I banged on it for what felt like 20 seconds, although I am sure it was much shorter than that.  It opened.  “Here he is,” the psychologist told me, handing over my little man.  “I don’t think he noticed.”  He didn’t notice?  We were four stories up.

            We figured we should evacuate, so I grabbed my computer and purse.  It only took 3 or 4 seconds, so don’t think I am a lunatic.  The manuscript is on that computer.  And then we were out the door.

            At the stairs, though, I was stuck.  “Can someone please carry him?” I asked.  We’d never get down if he had to walk on his own, and if I tried to carry him four flights, I’d go into labor.

            Outside, I tried to call my nanny who was home with Benjamin, but the call kept getting dropped.

            “We can call it a day,” the psychologist said.  “We only have about 15 minutes left for today.”

            “Let’s finish,” I decided.  “I don’t even think he knows what happened.”  I turned to my son.  “Do you know why we left, honey?”

            “No.”

            Looking back at the psychologist, I said, “let’s just finish up.”

            “Why did we leave the building, Mommy?”

            “Well, honey, in an emergency you are supposed to leave the building and use the stairs instead of the elevator.  We were practicing for an emergency.  Does that make sense?”

            As he nodded, I heard our psychologist say to her office staff, “Good answer.”  I guess you know you’re doing something right when a child psychologist likes your answers.

            Back inside, I still could not reach my nanny.  I tried the office landline.  I tried calling my home.  Lines were busy or calls were dropped.  I got an incoming email from my husband on my iphone, but my outgoing emails just sat in my outbox, unable to find a free line.

            It was the feeling of September 11 all over again.  I didn’t really know what had happened; I knew I was OK but had no idea if others were; and I could not get a phone call through to find out.

            The difference is, seven years ago I was a newlywed with no children.  I was worried about friends, but that was it.  Yesterday, I had no idea if my house had fallen down on my two-year-old’s head.

            Fifteen minutes later, I reached my nanny.  “He didn’t even notice,” she told me.  What the hell is wrong with my kids?  They notice a dog four blocks away, they can sniff out a cupcake from across a football field, and they comment every time I get new flip flops, but they don’t notice a 5.4 earthquake?  The fucking ground was moving, boys.  Were you really completely unaware?

            Finished with his testing, Zachary came out, pleased with his treasure from her treasure box, but hungry and wanting lunch.  “Those games took too long,” he told me.  “And she didn’t let me take the pictures I drew.”  Maybe THAT’S what he was so focused on.

            When we got home, I realized it was time to get my ass in gear and order an emergency kit for the house and another for the car.  I also sat back and wondered: how much does it typically affect a four-year-old’s IQ score to get evacuated for an earthquake somewhere near the end of the test?

Earthquake

Thank you to all who emailed, called, or left comments.  We are all fine, and the kids did not even notice, which leads me to wonder what exactly they WOULD notice.

What do good windows make?

            Our neighbor likes to sleep with her windows open.  And she is a light sleeper who sleeps late.

            Our children are out of bed by 7:00.  They like to go and play outside.  I like to let them go out before it gets hot and sunny.

            Herein lies the problem.

            The first time she yelled out the window, “Can you please be quiet?  We’re still sleeping,” the boys were fighting.  Chagrined, I immediately brought them inside.  Sadly, I think that may have encouraged her.

            Now, every time they so much as open their mouths, she shouts out the window for them to keep it down, then slams her window shut.

            Keep in mind that we never let them play outside before 7:30 on a weekday and later on the weekends.  They know if there is any fighting or screaming, they will come inside immediately, and we always follow through on this.  All they are doing is playing, but this is an urban neighborhood and the houses are very close together.

            Keep in mind also that our household naps in the afternoon.  Since the aforementioned neighbor has a yappy dog, a son who likes to bellow opera, and a piano studio in the backyard, we shut the windows during nap time.  I am, after all, a light sleeper.  It is not reasonable for me to ask her to keep it down for an hour each afternoon.

            It may, however, be reasonable for her to sleep till past 8:30 AM.  And, it is surely better for the planet that she sleeps with her windows open instead of air conditioning.  She has a point.

            And so do I.  I will not tell my kids they cannot play outside in the morning.  She probably will not start shutting her windows at night.  We are at a standstill, like Van Itch and Grandpa in The Butter Battle Book. 

            Perhaps the time will come when we talk about this face to face.  Perhaps we will both be grown up enough about it to come to an understanding.  But I doubt it.  One thing I have learned about adults is that we are rarely grown ups.  We prefer the cowardly approach; we prefer to sit on our haunches assured of our rectitude.  We prefer to send little boys into battle rather than compromise or accept that there is more than one way to be right.  For all our talk of tolerance, we prefer to fight than to humble ourselves before someone else’s belief system.

            And so, she will probably continue to yell out her bedroom window and I will probably continue to ignore her and we will give each other polite smiles when we are both in our driveways at the same time. 

            And my little boys will grow up in a world of self-righteousness and anger, rather than one in which compromise is possible.

Second birthday

            It was just the birthday party I have always wanted to give my kids. 

            For the past few years, we have been in cramped quarters and had to hold the parties someplace other than our home.  But this year, we are in a house.  It is a small house, but there is a deck and a yard and Southern California sunshine.  And, so, instead of renting halls and hiring entertainers, I went to the store that begins with T and bought a blow-up pool.  We spread toys outside.  We picked lemons off our tree in the back and J made lemonade.  We ordered a few platters from the grocery store and I made macaroni and cheese.  Since the birthday boy does not much like cake, we ordered a car cake from Baskin Robbins (he likes ice cream).

            And, we wrote “no gifts” on the evite, because frankly, the kids have enough crap.  One or two people brought gifts anyway, but we tried to do our bit for the planet (and our closet space).

            The birthday boy spent the entire party in the blow-up pool, coming out only to eat yet more watermelon.  He poured water over his head and the head of anyone else who came along, as long as they were willing.  Whenever we went near the pool, he shied away.  “No get out!” he insisted, fearful that adults might want to spoil his amphibian ambitions.

            We are pretty sure he had no idea it was all for him, but it still had all the things he loves best: the pool, other children, and fruit.

            The kids, most of whom did not know each other, played effortlessly.  His older brother was not jealous but instead enjoyed the festivities.  And still, Benjamin was in the pool, now and then paging his little friend, A, to the water.  The adults were all pleasant and interesting.

            When everyone had gone and we caught our little fish, we toweled him off and put him down for his afternoon nap.  He fell into a deep sleep from which we finally roused him at 4:30.  As he peed on the potty, he turned his sleep-clogged face to me.  “Put on swim diaper. Go in pool.  Friends there.”

 

Gotcha

            I had felt it there for weeks.  It seemed to be growing longer, but since it was under my chin, it was hard for me to see.  I figured it was one of those blond hairs that I can feel but no one else can see.  Otherwise, wouldn’t someone have mentioned it to me?

            Like, perhaps the woman who waxed my lip last week.  Or, the woman who gave me a facial over the spa weekend I took with a friend.  Or, maybe my friend, herself.  Friends don’t let friends grow unsightly facial hair.  My husband, at least should have said something, although he has the excuse of being a man and so accustomed to considering facial hair par for the course.

            And, then, searching in the mirror for another hair that had sprung up overnight on the more visible front of my chin, I had a sighting.  And that phantom hair was over an inch long, black, and curly.  Even my husband should have had an idea that this was not acceptable.

            On the bright side, it was finally long enough for me to pinpoint its location visually, making it subject to the mercy of my tweezers.

            Either I am getting old or my pregnancy hormones have a miserable sense of humor.

Doing my part for the therapists

            I have grown accustomed to feeling I am letting Zachary down.  He needs so much, and I have only so much to give.  I lose my patience with him, hurry him, and just generally am imperfect.

            But, I have never before felt like I am letting Benjamin down.  He seems to need me so much less than his brother does.  He is easier (OK, not physically), marginally less intense, and pretty happy as long as he is given a constant stream of calories.

            And then there was Tuesday.  I had been away for the weekend, and both boys missed me, which was a bit of a surprise since neither seems to care when I drop them off at school, sometimes not even turning around when they say goodbye.  And our nanny started full-time last week.  I had hoped to ease into her caring for the boys, but I came back to appointments, parties to plan, and more suggested revisions from my agent.  My due date is not getting any further away, and I need to keep things moving along.  I needed sustained work time.  Uninterrupted work time.

            Instead, I had a nanny who didn’t know what she was doing yet, children who had missed me, and workmen continually tromping through my house.  Zachary took it in relatively good graces, as he has always taken my need to work.  He seems to get a commitment to anything involving focused thinking, and when he is jealous, it is of another child – namely, the child who sleeps on the bottom bunk.

            Benjamin, however, was less than pleased that Mommy returned on Sunday only to hand him over to a nanny all day Monday.  While I was on the phone with my agent, he got so upset I had to tell her I’d call her back.  And on Tuesday, he needed me.  All day long.  In the afternoon, whenever I tried to work, he busted into the room crying for me.  But, I need to get the f-cking book done, and it ain’t going to happen while I am sitting at the playground.

            When I checked in on the boys later that night, I kissed his sleeping face.  “I’m sorry I let you down today, baby.”  It was the first time, but it will not be the last.  I am sad and I am sorry, but I also accept it as part of raising children.  We cannot be all they want and all we have to be all of the time.  It just is not possible.

            Besides, if mothers never let down their children, think how boring psychoanalysis would be.