You know what really pisses me off?
People who don’t have kids, who have no idea what it’s like to have kids but think they do. People who think it’s not that complicated or that different from life without kids, who think it’s not hard, or who expect you to live your life in the exact same way as before you were a parent. I know I just covered lot of different – though related – areas, but really, they’re all out there and they’re all super, super irritating.
Here’s a good one” “what do you mean you can’t go on a weekend trip 400 miles away? Just pack a few things, get everyone to the airport and we’ll fly. You can get a babysitter at the hotel.”
Or, “you should bring your kids skiing. You just buy their ski stuff and sign them up for ski school. Then the adults can sit in the lodge with hot toddies all day.”
They think that by mentioning your kids or giving you permission to bring them along, that somehow makes it a) easier for you to manage the immense logistical nightmare of taking kids anywhere, let alone on an actual trip or, frankly, any outing longer than two hours b) somehow not utterly exhausting, c) something you can afford, or d) something you want to do at all.
Well it doesn’t and it’s not. OK?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people who choose not to become parents; I was nearly one of them. It’s just that – for the love of God – don’t presume to know about, have an opinion, or feel any right to pass judgment on something you know nothing about.
I admit that before I had kids I was probably one of those people who just didn’t get it, and I probably caused annoyance, consternation or heartache to others. And for that I’m sorry. But please, people, get a clue: parenting a little kid or kids is pretty much all-consuming, all day and in many cases all night. You either have to pay someone else, or do that shit yourself. And most of us these days can’t afford to pay. Of course, we don’t want to either because, unlike previous generations, we see our kids as worthwhile human beings and we want to guide, teach and have fun with them. Parents’ lives and priorities are totally altered in the early years and that’s OK. It’s hard, but it’s our job, and it’s worth it.
For the record, here are another few gems I could do without:
“I never get to speak to you alone anymore and you always let your kids interrupt.”
“You’re a stay-home mom—that must mean you’re rich.”
“Staying at home with kids is easy—I mean, you’re not working, right?”
“Let’s meet at 10pm in a city an hour away, catch a movie, go to a bar and then you can be home by 2am. That’s not that late, right?”
All that said, there are a few precious, childless souls totally well-schooled in how to be a friend to people with kids. The aunties, I will call them. They are considerate, helpful and make your life easier. They don’t make demands on you as a friend in those years when they know your life is at its utterly most intense. They don’t invite you do to things that they know damn well you can’t do. They talk to and play with your kids and see your kids, as you do, as people. God bless the aunties.
Everybody else: please learn from the aunties or just shut the hell up.
I asked my son who he wanted to put him to sleep tonight, me or Daddy? “Mama,” he replied. “OK,” I said.
Then he added, “because you’re cuter when you sleep and you don’t snore.”
The last part is definitely true…
If you trawl the internet in search of such things as, “number of words spoken by nine-month-old” you will find plenty of discussion on the subject even though the official sources say that most children don’t utter their first clear words until a year or later. You will also find that a sizable number of parents believe their children to be geniuses—which, need I add?, can’t possibly be true.
That doesn’t preclude my kids from being geniuses, but I really can’t say one way or the other at this point. They’re three-and-a-half and just-turned-ten months. There’s a lot in there yet to be discovered.
So far my son has not shown much spatial genius—as evidenced by our conversations that go something like this:
Me: (Pointing)“Can you pick up that toy/towel/dish/shoe/diaper over there?”
Him: (Walking in the opposite direction) “Where?”
Me: “There! To the right! Look where I’m pointing!”
Him: (Turning around in a complete circle, totally missing the object) “Here?”
Me: “No!” (Getting frustrated)
Him: “Mama, I can’t find it… oh, this?”
Me: “Yes!” (Sigh of relief, thinking I should have just done it myself)
Maybe that sense will develop over time.
What I do know is that both my kids are verbally precocious. My son said his first word at 12 months—not necessarily early, but not bad for a boy. His first word, “hot,” was followed by a second, “uh-oh,” and a third, “ba” (ball). Then the kid was off and running. Within a few months he had a sizable vocabulary and was stringing words together. He spoke in full sentences by 16 months and has been talking pretty much nonstop since that first “hot.”
In the past few weeks my daughter has started saying words that, at first, I thought couldn’t possibly be what they seemed. Until she started saying them over and over in the right contexts … “Mama,” “Dada,” “nur-nur” (nurse), and “hi.” The other day my husband said she uttered a loud and clear, “No!” – a word she’s been hearing more and more as she becomes both more curious (about electrical cords, for instance) and mobile (she’s everywhere these days).
I’d forgotten the joys of teaching language to a baby. They’re sponges with little brains on overdrive as they develop and learn at an amazing rate; also, I’m naturally pedantic so it’s a good combination.
On another note, it looks like nature is in the midst of a switcharoo on me—all this time I’ve been complaining about my wonderful, smart, sweet, affectionate, sometimes truly impossible, high-intensity three-year-old. He’s been so much more challenging to me in his three years than his baby sister. Yet, here she is, growing and becoming a little person with strong desires and opinions (not verbally expressed yet, but soon enough). She’s much more physical than he was at this age, and constantly on the move. Rolling; climbing on top of and over me; (nearly) crawling over the edge of the bed; pulling up on anything and everything and nearly or actually banging her head on tables and chairs in the process; heading right for the things I least want her to play with (shoes, the furnace); grabbing toys; pulling hair and jewelry; lunging out of my arms from standing height when there’s something interesting on the ground. The list goes on.
I’m on my toes with her these days. Don’t even get me started on the wrestling match that is changing diapers.
Yet he, my son, has been a dream: cooperative but independent when I need him to be, fun and playful. His imaginative play is getting more interesting, more involved. Yesterday we had a great time combining liquids to make “potions” and tasting the combinations of mango juice, soymilk, salt and sugar, for example. It was, surprisingly, pretty good. Overall – despite some weaker moments – he’s a generous and responsible older brother.
I guess Spirit or nature, or whatever is at work here, has some wisdom in all this. My son and daughter need to trade off being the “easy one” so we, the parents, don’t go totally insane and so that they each get the experience of ease and harmony with us. Family dynamics are complicated, God knows. I’m making mistakes daily, but doing my best to raise children who are compassionate with themselves and others, who know how to be in relationship and practice independence. Above all, I want my children to know they are loved and that I believe in them. May it be so.
My son and husband visited the seasonal store, Spirit Halloween, and bought a few trinkets and decorations on Labor Day. It was blazing hot outside, still summer by all accounts. But there they were.
We started checking out kids’ Halloween books from the library I’d say about … oh, a month ago. We’re warming up, flexing our Halloween muscles. We bought the whole family’s costumes already—my husband and I finally decided to put our money where our mouth is and buy ourselves some real costumes. Normally we’re too cheap (and not crafty at all) so we throw together something from our closets—something clever, no doubt, but that people don’t seem to get or appreciate because they’re not actually costumes. But this year (and for all foreseeable Halloweens to come) he will be the vintage Batman from the 1960s TV show and I will be a beautiful harvest witch. Our son is Spiderman, but probably only for this year, and the baby is an adorable little pumpkin.
We’re planning our outside décor. We’ve listened to the Monster Mash. We talk a good deal about the holiday; it’s literally the high point of our year.
So yes, in case you still had any doubt, we are crazy for Halloween in my house. I hope we don’t get burned out on it before it’s even here. Next up: Halloween walks, pumpkin patches, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, autumn foods. Good stuff.
My son was eating a chocolate cupcake brought over by our next-door neighbor. It was his girlfriend’s birthday yesterday and I guess he thought it was a good consolation for us having to put up with semi-drunk twenty-somethings singing an extra loud and extra long “Happy Birthday.” I guess he was right.
Anyway, my son asked for milk with his cupcake, though he usually asks for soymilk. He had a dairy allergy, now outgrown, but still hasn’t gotten used to the taste of most dairy. He won’t eat cheese or drink milk. Only very recently has he begun to accept butter as a substitute when I run out of butter substitute. Strangely enough, ice cream and frosting were pretty easy tastes to acquire.
I thought he might be asking me for cow’s milk so he could give it a try. Though I don’t drink milk, he sees Daddy drinking it frequently. In fact, I buy a gallon of milk every week just for my husband. And that’s whole milk—I don’t believe in lowfat or nonfat dairy.
“Do you want to try regular milk?” I asked him. “No way!” he said. “Soymilk please.”
“OK,” I replied. “But you know who loves milk?” (This sometimes works because he adores and idolizes my husband.)
“Who?” he asked.
“Daddy,” I replied, adding, “he drinks lots and lots of it!”
“Oh,” he said. “Because he wants to be fat?”
You know that someone has mastered swearing when he or she goes beyond the usual array of words or their usual order and starts ad-libbing, creating unique, or even signature swearing mashups. I’m not going to give examples here. This is a family(-ish) kind of blog. But you know what I mean.
We do a decent job at home of keeping the lid on swearing. Compared to his mouth before we had kids, my husband is squeaky clean now. That’s not to say that an occasional thing doesn’t slip from either or both of us, because we all know that it does. But beware what you say around a three-year-old because it is bound, bound I say, to come back and bite you in the ass.
The other day my son witnessed something – I can’t even remember what anymore – for which he felt surprise (even a hint of shock), glee and deep appreciation. “Holy Crap Moly!” he exclaimed.
And while I can’t recall ever saying that, I’ve uttered the root combinations more than once. My laughter probably didn’t do much to discourage him from saying it again. Damn … oops, I mean awww shucks.
I suppose it could have been a lot worse.
Over the weekend my husband and son took the train an hour and a half north of here to spend the night at the grandparents’ house in Orange County. The baby and I joined them the next day. My husband put my son in charge of packing his own things for the trip. He has a little Batman backpack that’s roomy enough for a change of clothes, a diaper for overnight, his toothbrush and toothpaste and a thermos of water.
He went into his room to seriously set about the task of packing and when I came in a few minutes later to check his progress I found him stuffing another shirt into an overfull bag. “What did you put in there?” I asked, somewhat amused.
“Thousands of stuff!” he declared. “Shirts, pants, shorts, pajamas, long-sleeved shirts and thousands and thousands of diapers! Now I’m going to pack toys.”
So I think it’s safe to say that my son’s an over-packer. It’s funny, because my husband is a severe minimalist when it comes to this stuff. For an overnight trip he’ll take a toothbrush, maybe, along with his phone, keys and wallet. He figures he’ll just wear the same clothes and shoes again the next day and he doesn’t have a beauty regimen, so to speak.
I guess some habits run in families and others don’t. It’s a relief to know they have at least one difference because in most other ways – ways that really count – they’re almost identical. Before having kids, I couldn’t really fathom how my children — or son, in this case — would share so many of his traits, both endearing and maddening. I love my husband fiercely—don’t get me wrong. But to have two of him? Now that’s really something…
My son was sitting at his breakfast table eating a waffle when he looked at me with squinty eyes and a nose wrinkled with effort and concentration. He half-blinked over and over. It was much cuter than it sounds.
‘What are you doing?” I asked.
“Winking at you!” he said. “Do you know another way to wink?”
“Like this,” he announced and covered one eye with his hand—sort of like a human eye-patch.
That kid is thinking outside the box.
I’m teaching a little yoga again at a lovely local studio. It’s tranquil and bright, the students are interested in real yoga. We chant OM and do pranayama—it’s been a breeze teaching these students because they’ve already learned a lot from other teachers. I’m happy I found this place and that I have the opportunity to teach there.
One thing has me laughing, though: the teacher manual says that this is a “modest studio” and that management wants everyone who walks through the door to be comfortable there. They want for students to know that yoga is not, ultimately, about fitness or having a nice body, and certainly that a yoga studio is not a meat market. I’m totally on board with that. But when I read that, I wondered what it meant in practical terms—would I be expected to wear unflattering, baggy sweatpants while teaching? Yoga tops often show a hint of cleavage—would that be frowned upon?
As it turns out, here is their definition of modesty: female teachers should always wear a shirt or tank-top over their sports bra, and male teachers should not teach bare-chested. (??!!)
I will have no problem following this rule. In all my time teaching yoga I never once considered taking off my shirt and teaching in a bra. So I’m covered, so to speak.
Gotta love California.
Whoever said that rocking a baby to sleep is like wrestling a twenty-pound bag of snakes was on to something.
I don’t rock my baby to sleep these days but I still nurse several times a day and night; my baby and I have developed a technique I call wrestle-nursing. It goes something like this:
I lie down dutifully on my side and pull my baby in close. She latches on for 30 seconds tops, then rolls to her tummy, pushes up and crawls away. I stick out my leg or arm to prevent her from crawling off the bed.
If I were to guess what is going on in that baby brain of hers, this is what it would sound like:
“Nursing with Mama, yum!”
“Oh, what’s that sound? Better go check it out … oooh, it looks like big brother is doing something cool.”
“But I want to make sure Mama is still there, so let me turn around and grin at her… there she is! Hi Mama! Wait… what’s that round, soft thing? A boobie! I haven’t nursed in a while; here, let me lunge at it.”
30 seconds later: “Nursing with Mama, yum!”
“Wait, what’s that thing on the other side of Mama? Better climb over her and check it out…”
Of course, I have no idea what’s really going on in that baby brain of hers and no doubt she’s not thinking in sentences the way I (sometimes) do. But this is exactly how it goes each time we nurse during the day (at night she’s mellower and nurses in a totally different way). I’m sure she’s getting some milk and nourishment, and certainly a sense of connection from this time spent crawling, squirming, lunging, grabbing, climbing on or over me and occasionally scratching me in the face or pulling my hair.
I spend the time lying bare-breasted on my back and kind of just let her have at me. Of course I’m vigilant that she can breathe when she plunges herself face down onto my chest, and I always have an arm, a leg and an eye out to catch her before she crawls right off the bed—there have been some narrow misses. But no doubt about it, it’s work. In short, it’s not the quiet half hour with a tranquil baby and a book on the nursing pillow of days past.
This baby gets more and more active every minute. Things – choking hazards, outlets and tippy chairs – that were out of her reach just days before are suddenly fair game and it’s up to me to stay ahead of her. All this time I’ve been complaining to people about how hard it is to go places with the two kids because they both need me so much, just in different ways. The baby needs constant holding and a lot of nursing, the boy wants me to climb and slide at the playground, to chat and play imaginative games. She needs a diaper change; he needs help in the bathroom. She needs me to feed her and/or watch like a hawk when she feeds herself; he needs me to open water bottles or packages of crackers, to help him change his clothes when he inevitably gets too hot at the park in the long-sleeves and pants that he chose.
But now, well… now I’m afraid it will be even worse. With two on the move in totally different directions and one that still doesn’t know the difference between something and anything … Oy! I’m in for it now!
Gotta love these kiddos, though. I can’t decided whether they are keeping me young or draining the life out of me. Probably both.