We have BIG NEWS about Don’t Put Lizards In Your Ears’ sister blog Science of Parenthood. Starting TODAY, Lifescript, the healthy living website for women, will be featuring SOP’s illustrations, created with Jessica Ziegler, EVERY OTHER FRIDAY. Check out today’s post HERE! And please help spread the word and SHARE the laughter! Thanks!
Am I smarter than my seven-year-old? Apparently I am not. This is fairly amazing to me as I went to college. And graduate school. Okay, I studied theater and dance, not astrophysics. But still. You’d think that anyone with a masters degree in anything more intellectually rigorous than, say, papier mache would be able to skillfully refuse a request that they’ve shot down with big, fat Over my dead body’s so many times, it’s practically a rote response.
“Mommy, can I have –”
Of course, it is the kid’s job to ask. And ask. And ask. And ask. I’m pretty sure that’s in The Great Big Book of How To Really Annoy Your Parents … For Fun & Profit. I can’t remember which page, but I know I’ve read it in there somewhere.
And it’s the parent’s job to dig in and hang tough and be firm and say No … No … No … No … No. And I know I read that in the Great Big Book Of How To Keep Your Kid Alive Till They Turn 18 After Which They’re On They’re Own, Though They Will Still Want Your Money.
And given that my son is seven, and thus still covered under the Try Not To Kill Them clause of the parent-child agreement, when he asked me for the millionth time if he could have a soda, my response should have been the instantaneous and automatic NO! that it’s been the last 999,999 times he’s asked if he could have a soda.
All right. All right. So asking for a can of soda is not like asking to borrow the car. Or to have a cocktail. Or to have a cocktail and then borrow the car. Soda is considered by many to be perfectly acceptable beverage for young children. And if that’s you, then have at it. No judgment. (Well, maybe a little. But certainly not to your face.)
But I have my reasons … good reasons … sound reasons for why I’m not particularly interested in having my seven-year-old guzzling soda by the Big Gulp. Not least of which is that I’ve done a fair bit of health writing about the link between soda-drinking and childhood obesity. Given that my kid already spends more than his fair share of time laying slothfully on the couch watching TV and/or playing video games on his … I mean, my iPad, I’d rather not throw more gasoline on that particular fire, thanks very much.
So to recap: Soda = No go in our house. Kid = Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask. Me = No, no, no, no, no.
But my kid is quite well-versed in the If-At-First-You-Don’t-Succeed school of argumentation. And he has pinpoint timing for picking his battles.
On the day in question, my husband, my business partner Jessica and I were doing last minute setup for the launch party for our humor blog, Science of Parenthood. My house was filling up with guests, and as they arrived, all of the kids jumped in the pool — in their clothes no less — turning the blog party into an impromptu pool party. Which immediately necessitated my trying to locate all of the spare bathing suits and pool towels that had been packed away after last summer. Meanwhile, my husband and Jessica were trying to troubleshoot the iPad slideshow we planned to show during the party. And friends were bombarding me with questions like So how’d this all start? Tell me the whole story. Now! and Where’s the booze?
I merely mention this to underscore that there was a lot going on in the particular moment when my seven-year-old hit me with:
“Mommy … you know how you always want me to try new foods?”
I nodded, distractedly, unsure where exactly we were going with this.
“– and you know how you always want me to have a New Food Of The Day?”
Again, I nodded, hoping this was leading perhaps to my putting together a plate of food that the kid might actually eat.
“Well, I’ve never had Sprite before. I’d like to try it. I’d like this Sprite to be my New Food Of The Day.” And he held up a can. “So, Mommy, can I have it?” Then he flashed me his winningest, gap-toothiest smile. “Can I?”
Is that a logical argument or what? I mean, I had to give the kid props for creativity and the ability to completely spin my own tables back on me. I swear. Come back in a few years. This is the guy you’re gonna wanna hire as your defense attorney. Or hostage negotiator.
But I also had my reasons to say No. Sound reasons, remember? But in that crazy, chaotic moment, I choked. I had a Rick Perry brain fart. I couldn’t come up with a single reason why the kid couldn’t have a soda … I mean besides Because I said so. And I only like to trot that one out when I am truly, truly desperate. Why couldn’t he have soda? My brain scrambled for coherence and … and … and … I had nothing.
I looked to my husband. He shrugged helplessly, having already parried our son’s request with the totally lame “Go ask your mother.” So now we’ve got two college graduates outmaneuvered by a seven-year-old. (Please don’t tell anyone we went to Oberlin; they will probably revoke our alumni status.)
Can a moment be both exhilarating and utterly humiliating at the same time? On the one hand, I was wary of giving my kid an inch .. and having him down an entire 12-pack. On the other, I was so totally impressed with the kid’s verbal machinations, part of me wanted to give him the soda as just desserts for sheer ballsiness.
So that’s exactly what I did.
“Just one!” I said, wondering just how far down the slippery (sugary) slope this one capitulation would lead us. “It’s a special occasion. This is for today only,” I warned.
He barely heard me, as he dashed off to pop open his can of bubbly sweetness.
“Savor it!!!!” I called after him.
“Oh, he got me!” I laughed to my mom friend Brenda later. “He got me GOOD!”
“On the bright side,” Brenda said, fully appreciating the humor of my predicament, “when kids turn your logic against you, they are using their critical thinking skills.”
So sure, I’d been verbally outmaneuvered by a second-grader. But I was still kinda cheering for him as he did.
A version of this essay first appeared on Lifescript’s Healthbistro blog on April 12, 2013.
It’s absolutely true!
Everything I ever needed to know about parenting I learned in middle school science and math class. Only I didn’t realize it then because I was way too busy chasing boys to actually pay attention to whatever the teacher was droning on and on and on about. But I must have absorbed something through osmosis … or is it photosynthesis? Well, it’s definitely one of these -ois’s or -esis’s because once I caught my boy (er, husband), and then, incredibly, gave birth to another one, it all came back to me … like in one of those pricey SAT prep courses.
Turns out, those smarties Newton and Einstein and the rest of their science and math geek pals not only understood how the world works, those guys knew a little something about what it’s like to be a frazzled, over-scheduled, sleep-deprived parent who’s just one PBJ shy of going all Linda Blair in that head-spin scene from The Exorcist.
Which is why I teamed up with Jessica Ziegler — aka the greatest illustrator and web designer ever — to create Science of Parenthood. A new sibling blog/website to Don’t Put Lizards In Your Ears, Science of Parenthood is meant to shed a little light on those awkward, puzzling, all-too-hilarious moments (though, admittedly, it can take a little hindsight to see them as such) that we parents experience on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis as we shepherd our wee ones from crib to college.
If you’ve ever wondered how one kid can possibly lose so many Star Wars thermoses — at $16 a pop, natch — or marveled that the same kid who can play Mario Galaxy for eight hours without a single bathroom break cannot sit still for 10 freakin’ minutes to finish a math worksheet, then Science of Parenthood is for you. Think of it as better parenting through science … and humor that will make you lose whatever bladder control you might have left.
So, please join us on our Facebook page — we’re unveiling our website next week — and tell us all about those parenting moments that make you wince and smile and shoot Diet Coke out of your nose. Then share the love — by which we mean, of course, share, share, share, the posts. The parent’s sanity you save may be your own!
“Mommy! We don’t need your car anymore!” my six-year-old shouted happily as he pounced on his daddy and me Christmas morning. “SANTA LEFT BIKES!”
The bikes’ provenance notwithstanding, my son Fletcher had guessed at least one essential motive for the shiny new road bike with the half-bike hitched to the back (a “tug-a-bug”) parked in our living room. It was the one holiday gift I’d specifically asked my husband Stewart for.
Now, I am not an outdoorsy person. I’m not even a particularly athletic person. My most vivid bicycling memory is of a outing Stewart and I took years ago, pre-baby, on Cape Cod. I’d spent most of that picturesque excursion cursing that even as a pack-a-day smoker, Stewart had still left me in the dust. Which tells you a lot about my fitness level.
And there was the problem. Although my other “job” is writing about health, I’ve got a fairly lackadaisical attitude toward exercise. Which is a fancy way of saying I’ve been spending way too much time on my keister. Now that my son was in second grade, I couldn’t really hide behind the “I chase a toddler all day” excuse for why it was okay that I wasn’t going to the gym. “Find ways to squeeze exercise into your daily routine” is what the fitness experts always say. Heck, I’ve written that advice a dozen or so times myself. But where exactly to squeeze it was the eternal dilemma.
And then … lightbulb! It hit me. We could ride bikes to school. Other families did it. Why not us? We lived just two-and-a-half miles away — close enough that a child could do it without whining (much anyway); far enough that it would still be a workout for me. With two roundtrips, I could be riding 10 miles a day.
But multi-tasker that I am, I had another agenda as well. Daily rides would also satisfy a vexing parental need: teaching Fletcher to ride a two-wheeler. At 6, the boy still couldn’t manage without training wheels. And while it didn’t seem to bother Fletcher any, it was starting to bug me. Teaching your kid to ride a bike is one of those things all parents have to do. I think it says so on page 328 of the Parenting Club Handbook they stick in the swag bag you get as you’re leaving the maternity ward. (“Thanks for delivering! Here are some lovely take-home prizes!) Seeing other kids, younger kids, racing around our neighborhood on their bikes was a constant reminder that I’d been slacking off with this particular parental responsibility.
To this day, I can still remember my dad teaching me to ride my first two-wheeler, a teal beauty with a sparkly banana seat and a basket with flowers on the front. But this gig’s really a young parent’s game. My dad was 32 when he doggedly jogged behind me, steadying my seat until I finally found my balance and took off. I am 46. And while I don’t feel “old” per se, my back felt otherwise after going about a block. So I’d let the whole bike riding thing slide. The kid would learn eventually, I figured. Though I had no real idea how exactly that would happen. The tug-a-bug seemed to offer the perfect solution. Using that, I could steady the bikes for both of us — without risking permanent back injury — till Fletcher learned to balance himself.
So, over Winter Break, we mapped out a route, noting where we’d have to cross the three busy intersections between us and school and still have sidewalk under our tires. We ride as often I as can get Fletcher off the couch and away from the TV, which, as far as I’m concerned, should really count as weight-lifting. We ride to nearby parks, to friends‘ houses, to school and back several times. I want us to get used to the chill, the distance, the busy-ness of the streets, the strange dips and jogs the sidewalk makes along the way, the places drivers are likely to roll into right turns without stopping — or looking. I want Fletcher to get comfortable with all of that so that on Bike Day, our first ride to school after Winter Break, the trip will seem easy, even routine.
The Monday we head back to school, the skies are overcast. The Weather Channel app predicts a 30 percent chance of rain. I optimistically decide to see that as a 70 percent chance there won’t a downpour, and I hitch together the bikes.
My next-door neighbor, who’s either named Craig or Greg or Doug, I can never remember, waves at me. “Little cold for a bike ride,” Craig-Greg-Doug calls over before getting into his Mustang, which is warming up at the curb.
At 7:30 am, it is 57F. Not as chilly as Dubuque perhaps, but cold enough. And I know it’ll feel colder as we ride. Am I insane? I grab my leather gloves and pull Stewart’s golf windbreaker over my turtleneck and sweatshirt. I look wistfully at my Volvo in the driveway. The heater in that car is fantastic.
“Mommy, are we really going to ride?” Fletcher asks, stretching the question into a slight whine when I come back inside to check his progress with breakfast. “It’s gonna be cold.”
“It’ll be fine,” I say. Though I grab a thermal shirt for him to slip under his school polo and hoodie just in case. “Wear your mittens. You’ll be fine.”
“It’s cold,” he complains again when I open the garage to leave.
“It’s cold,” he says again as I tuck away my keys and phone and sling his Superman backpack over my shoulders.
“It will be fine,” I repeat with what I hope sounds like conviction rather than frayed patience. “Are you ready?”
The moment we leave the driveway, I realize we’ll be pedaling into the wind the entire way. It’s hardly an auspicious start.
“This was a bad idea, Mommy. A very bad idea,” Fletcher whines about one minute into our ride. “I’m cold. My legs are cold.”
Truthfully so am I. Quite cold. But if I turn back and succumb to the alluring comforts of my Volvo now, I know it’ll be spring before I get my boy back on the bike again.
“Keep pedaling,” I answer. I mean to sound encouraging; with my teeth chattering, it comes out like more of a bark.
But gradually, as we pedal, we warm up, and the whines turn into humming and then … remarkably singing.
“Copy what I say, Mommy,” Fletcher calls to me, sounding more enthusiastic. “Bee bee boo boo bop.”
“Bee bee boo boo bop,” I parrot, willing even to sound like an idiot if that will distract him from the morning chill.
“Zing zing zang,” he says.
“Zing zing zang,” I echo.
“Boop boo ba loop boo ba loop boo ba loop,” he continues the game.
It’s sheer silliness, but at least he’s no longer complaining he’s cold.
The traffic gods are with us as we cruise along — incredibly, we make every green light. The riding prep we did over winter break paid off: Fletcher’s happily nattering on and singing behind me, waving to the people in cars at Stop signs who graciously let us cross in front of them. The entire ride, I don’t hear a single Are we there yet?
As we approach school, I drop my feet from the pedals and coast. The wind’s lashing my face, burning my ears. But in that moment, I can feel my boy behind me, pedaling steadily for both of us. Perfectly balanced.
So, how did you teach your child to ride? Leave me a comment and tell me all about it! And if you liked this essay, please LIKE and SHARE with your friends! Thanks!
A shorter version of this essay was posted on Lifescript’s HealthBistro blog on January 11, 2013.
I rarely participate in chain letters anymore. No matter how many chain letters I sent out as a
gullible hopeful youngster, I never got anything back, even though I was promised millions if I just I added my name to the bottom of the list and sent one dollar to the person at the top. Any day now, I’m sure.
The last chain letter I did — reluctantly — involved stickers for my kid. And I only agreed to participate in that one over the summer because another mom friend
arm-twisted cajoled me into it, promising, “It’ll be fun for the kids to get stickers in the mail!” How do you say No to stickers for kids? So I dutifully mailed a packet of sports-themed stickers to the first kid on my mom friend’s list; moved her kid’s name to the first slot; added my own kid’s name to the next slot; sent out six letters to other friends’ kids in the hopes that they’d join the “fun”; then sat back to wait for the deluge of stickers to come our way. We got exactly one package back. At least it was better than I did as a kid.
So, jaded as I am with regard to anything chain related (well, other than those of the 14K or platinum variety), you’d think I’d have dodged something like a Blog Hop, like a hard-thrown ball in phys-ed class. A Blog Hop is exactly like a chain letter. Except … when Susan Bearman of the Two Kinds of People blog (http://2kop.blogspot.com) posted on Facebook yesterday that she was looking to include bloggers in a Blog Hop post about her Next Big Thing, answering a few questions about my Next Big Thing writing project sounded like a whole lot more fun and satisfying than waiting for crumpled dollar bills to arrive in the mail. For starters, I love talking about my work. What writer doesn’t, right? But, bonus!! I got to find out more about Susan’s latest project, Animal Store Alphabet Book. And the memoir that Nancy Hinchliff, the blogger who originally tagged Susan, is working on. And this Blog Hop thing has also given me the opportunity to reach out to other bloggers whose work I love, so I can
arm-twist cajole them into talking about what they’re working on these days too. In the next several days, I’ll be posting their links here, so please check back … and check out what Susan Bearman and Nancy Hinchcliff posted about their writing projects too at the links above.
So, without further ado, here are the questions I was asked to answer.
1. What is the working title of your book or project?
It’s a collection of humorous essays, based on this blog, about stumbling through parenthood, called Don’t Put Lizards In Your Ears … And Other Totally Bizarre Things I Never Thought I’d Do, Say Or Think, But Absolutely Did After I Became A Mom.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?
My son was 18 months old when I caught him jamming something rather determinedly into his right ear. Q-tip? Pencil? String bean? Exact-o knife? Who knew what he had. But after I vaulted over several pieces of living room furniture to reach him and unfolded his tightly clenched fist, I saw he’d picked up a dead, desscicated lizard, something one of our cats had carried in from the patio. “Don’t put lizards in your ears!” I scolded. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I burst out laughing. That’s a totally crazy thing to say. And I immediately thought, That’s the perfect title for a collection of essays about the crazy things that happen to you once you become a parent.
3. What genre does it fall under, if any?
Humor and memoir. Everything in it is true, but I’m known to play it broadly for laughs.
4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
If I ran the zoo (or production company), I’d tap Winona Ryder to play me. Eons ago, maybe back when she did Heathers, a friend grabbed an issue of Esquire with her on the cover — she could have been my twin. Greg Kinnear would play my husband Stewart. I’m not up on the current crop of child stars, but I’m sure we could find someone adorable and precocious to play my lizard-loving son.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?
A “snap-shot” style memoir in essays about the ridiculous things that happen to you once you become a parent.
6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m hoping an agent will pick it up, but one way or another this baby’s getting published.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ll let you know when I get there. I’m more than a third of the way through now.
8. What other book or stories s would you compare this story to within the genre?
It’s in the style of Justin Halpren’s Sh*t My Dad Says.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?
I specialize in “fish out of water”-style essays about the often-strange situations I’ve found myself in — living off-grid in a solar-powered house, setting a world record during a masturbate-a-thon. My son just provides me with bizarre situations on a daily basis.
10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?
Anyone who’s been flummoxed by parenthood will relate to these stories. And isn’t that just about every parent, at some point? Stay tuned!
These writers will be writing about their Next Big Things on their blogs. Please visit and comment.
December 6: Cindy A. Brown Everyday Underwear: Do You Read Me? I Could be the Next Big Thing.
Cindy talks about Forty Days Without A Face, how a 40-day “fast” from hair and makeup “shed harsh light on her fears and insecurities, ripping away the mask she wore to hide her disturbing past.”
December 7: Liane Kupferberg Carter http://lianekupferbergcarter.blogspot.com
In my memoir Love Is Like This: A Family Grows Up with Autism, I explore the uncharted terrain of raising the older child with autism into adulthood. Many autism narratives focus on recovery. But the truth is that most children with autism are not “cured.” And while much has been written about what it’s like raising a young child on the spectrum, few books tell you what really happens in the two decades after that diagnosis. How do you make the trade-offs you must to create an ordinary life for a family, while dealing with the extraordinary needs of a disabled family member? How do you keep your family intact? How do you survive – and even thrive?
Photo credit: Deliormanli
We’ve been playing Milton Bradley’s Game of Life quite a bit at our house lately. Fletcher, my 6-year-old, spent a rainy afternoon playing the game with his older cousin Dylan, and, predictably, within minutes of my picking him up from my sister’s house, clamored for a game of his own. I think I’d played this board game exactly once some 30 years ago, and the only things I remembered about it were the tiny plastic cars you moved around the board, and the tinier gender-rigid pink and blue pegs you filled the car with — plastic avatars of the spouse and children picked up, like hitchhikers, on your journey from college or first job to retirement. Still, I was game to play anything that wasn’t as mind-numbing as Candy Land and had an endpoint you could reliably reach within an hour or so. Unlike, say, Chutes-N-Ladders, which dumps you with maddening consistency right back at the beginning just as you think (hope) you’re nearing the end.
But as our family dutifully “drove” our plastic vehicles around the Life game board, landing on spaces that directed us to choose a career, get married, buy a house, lose a job, collect a salary, buy a bigger house, pony up for emergencies (“Car accident, pay $5,000”) and earn Life tokens (“Volunteer at soup kitchen,” “Visit Great Wall of China”), it struck me that while this looked like the classic American experience, it wasn’t exactly “life” as I knew it as a working mom. And not just because the odds that anyone will “Find buried treasure” are rather slim while my son lands on that square without fail every single time we play. (Though, I gotta say, the half-mil Milton Bradley offers would certainly fluff up my kid’s 529 college savings account.)
Where, I wondered, were those indelible, precious, all-too-human moments that come with family life that my mom friends and I experienced: baby’s first smile, first steps, first big-time diaper blowout; the midnight runs to the urgent care center (because what child actually gets sick during daylight hours?), the out-of-the-mouths-of-babes bon mots (and cringe-worthy moments), the blind rage and sheer joy, the always-shifting balance between work and family (and the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you inevitably shortchange both).
Sure, I know the game’s got to be generic enough to appeal to a mass (and at least half male) audience. But I’m thinking there’s room for a special edition here, a la Star Wars Trouble or the Green Day version of Angry Birds. So in the spirit of making Life a bit more like, um … real life, I’m offering The New Mom’s Game of Life.
Unlike original Life where the goal is to bank enough cash to retire in Millionaire Estates, in this game, everyone starts off pregnant, with elastic pants and a box of saltines. Whoever makes it from Childbirth Class to Kindergarten Graduation with their sanity, sense of humor, ego and ab muscles intact, wins. Multiple winners are possible. Are you listening, Milton Bradley? Let the parenting games begin!
Start childbirth classes. Get LIFE token.
Morning sickness! Spend next turn vomiting in bathroom.
Load e-reader with baby/parenting books. Pay $50.
Baby shower! Collect $5,000 in cash and baby products.
Stunned (and queasy) watching real-life births on One Born Every Minute. Contemplate C-section. Get LIFE token.
“The epidural needle is how big? Wait!! That needle goes into my spine??!!” Get LIFE token.
Maternity leave. Miss next two turns.
Breastfeeding success! Get LIFE token.
Nod off from sleep-deprivation. Snooze through next turn.
Order audiobook of Samuel L. Jackson reading Go The F**k To Sleep. Pay $4.99.
Postpartum depression. Skip two turns till antidepressants kick in.
Baby (finally) sleeps through night. Get LIFE token.
Car seat recall! Pay $80 for replacement.
Diaper blow out!! Get the wipes! Need More Wipes!! Miss next turn cleaning up.
YOU! RAN! OUT! OF! DIAPERS! Pay $50 for a month’s supply.
Get back into your skinny jeans. Get LIFE token.
Baby gets croup! Spend next turn at the after-hours urgent care center.
Stay at home? Return to work? Miss next turn agonizing over decision.
Daycare separation anxiety. Spend next turn bawling your eyes out.
Baby’s first word! Unfortunately, it’s “&@#%*!” Screamed. In church. Get LIFE token.
Potty “trainee” has accident … sitting on your lap. Spend next turn blow-drying pants in ladies room.
“Mommy! Can you snuggle me!” Get LIFE token.
Lifting toddler, stroller, car seat, diaper bag X 2 years = totally taut arms. Get compliments. And LIFE token.
Pink eye! See pediatrician. $5 co-pay.
“Why, Mommy? But why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” Get LIFE token.
Face down mean moms on the playground. Get LIFE token.
Private school. Pay $15,000.
School uniforms. Pay $500.
School supplies. Pay $200.
New suit smeared with peanut butter and chocolate. Spend next turn dropping clothes at dry cleaner.
Lice! Spend next turn picking nits out of kid’s hair.
“Mommy, what’s s-e-x?” Get LIFE token.
Snow day! Reflect on how much less fun these are now that you’re the parent. Get LIFE token.
High-five! You scored boxes of Pokemon cards on eBay. Get LIFE token.
“I like Skylanders now, Mom. (Insert eye roll) Duh!” Resell Pokemon cards on eBay. Get LIFE token.
Forget to pick up Junior at school. Again. Get LIFE token.
Birthday party with 20 rambunctious classmates. Get LIFE token. And a cocktail. Or two.
Family vacation! Pay $3,000.
Hmmm … family vacations are really more stressful than blissful. Make pact with hubby to leave kids at home next time. Get LIFE token.
Totally, completely, utterly, lose your cool with your kid! Nominate self for Best “Re-creation of Linda Blair’s Scream Scene in The Exorcist.” Get LIFE token.
Stretch legs — finally! — after a week of nonstop driving to soccer, ballet, tennis, little league, Kumon. Get LIFE token.
PANIC!! You’ve lost your child in the supermarket. Hyperventilate … till you locate him in the bakery section … nose pressed against the cake display case. Get LIFE token.
Remember cookies for PTO bake sale. Store-bought. But still. Get LIFE token.
Kindergarten graduation! Get LIFE token.
Wonder where the time went. Get LIFE token.
A shorter version of this post was published today on Lifescript’s HealthBistro blog.
Last night, I was a guest on Allison B. Levine and Julia Dudek’s BlogTalkRadio show Petting Unicorns, where we chatted about humor writing, parenting, magazines and how my blog got its crazy name. These two wonderful hosts were so gracious, they even asked me to read my favorite essay, Cougar Love, about my then 5-year-old son’s first big time crush on an “older woman” of 11 … and the inevitable heartbreak that followed. (Cue up to 35:00 to hear me read.)
Reading the essay again, reminded me how heartbroken I was for my baby when he realized he wasn’t gonna get the girl. That moment, cradling my son as he cried, will stay with me forever … just as the moments of his first steps, first words, first day of nursery school, first splash in the ocean will.
Care to share the parenting moments that stand out for you? I’d love to hear.
I almost never enter writing contests.
But a few weeks ago, on a whim, I entered my essay Circumcision Decision – about convincing my somewhat skeptical husband to go along with circumcising our then-newborn son — in the third annual Two Kinds Of People essay contest that I found through She Writes, an incredibly supportive online community for women writers of all stripes.
What tempted me to dust off this essay, one of my early ones for this blog (and a personal favorite, I have to say) was the side note to would-be entrants from contest founder, Susan Bearman: “It’s the dead of winter around here,” she wrote from Chicago, “so a little humor couldn’t hurt, if you know what I mean.” Having spent four years in the corn fields at Oberlin College in Ohio, I have vivid memories of just how gray and frigid those Midwest winters can be. And I thought, I bet I can make her laugh. So I hit Send and hoped for the best.
And, unbelievably, the best happened. My irreverent little essay won. You can read it here, along with some of the other wonderful essays submitted to the contest.
Susan was kind enough to gift me with some 2KOP swag that I’m looking forward to flaunting around our Central Florida town. But even better was the excuse to bring Circumcision Decision out of the archives and share it with new readers who may have missed its first appearance on the blog.
If it makes you laugh or smile, please share or tweet it to others. Thank you!
[Ed Note: I am aware that this essay has prompted many comments on the Two Kinds Of People blog from people who feel circumcision is wrong and strongly disagree with my tongue-in-cheek way of writing about it … and winning a contest for it. Even if your comments weren’t posted on 2KoP, you can be sure that I’ve seen them all. Humor is subjective and not everyone likes mine. You may hate mine. And in the last few days I’ve heard from many who do. That’s the beauty of a free press. So, I welcome dissenting views and will post comments that are thoughtful, civil and offer a new perspective on the discussion. That said, anonymous comments, vitriolic rants, profanity-laced insults and repeats of what’s already been posted on 2KoP, Reddit or Facebook will not be re-posted here.]
Photo credit: kaisersosa67
I looked up, annoyed. I’d been engrossed in a New York magazine article while my 5-year-old was in with the dentist. For me, doctors’ offices are like airplanes at 36,000 feet — one of the last few places I can read without guilt because you’re not supposed to use your cell phone — at least according to the signs posted around the office, threatening, in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS, to immediately bounce you from the building if you so much as peek at email. People still do, of course, but I’ll toe that particular line just to grab a few minutes to read something — outside the bathroom no less — not related to any article I’m writing, Magic Treehouse, Harry Potter or The Clone Wars. With fluoride and X-rays, I figured the 20 minutes Fletcher would spend in the chair might just give me enough time to finish the article I was reading. I was nearly done when …
“Fletcher’s Mom.” The dental assistant looked at me, pointedly, impatience creeping into her voice.
I resignedly dog-eared the page. Maybe I’d come back to it later, though I doubted it. More likely, the magazine would join the piles of half-read magazines cluttering my office, the kitchen counter, the downstairs bathrooms, that I keep for a while in the hopes of picking them back up … but that eventually just get tossed in the recycle bin and left at the curb.
Still, that’s wasn’t the source of my annoyance. It was the dental assistant’s choice of words that aggravated me: Fletcher’s Mom. With a single phrase, she’d managed to reduce my entire nuanced, multi-layered identity, fashioned over four and a half decades, to a state of biological guardianship.
I don’t know if this is some national trend, or a more regional phenomenon, but lately I’ve been getting this a lot in doctors offices. Sometimes the staff calls me Fletcher’s Mom. Other times it’s just Mom or — gag — Mommy. Seriously folks, if you didn’t enter this world through my birth canal, calling me Mom is weird and creepy. But beyond that, unless you’re under, say, age 7, calling me Fletcher’s Mom is vaguely insulting. Excuse me, but I was walking the planet for going on 40 years before Fletcher arrived on the scene. How did the genetic connection to my child become my single most-defining attribute?
Call me sensitive. Call me petty. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for doctors’ assistants to actually call me by the name I use to — hello?!? — sign their bills.
Make no mistake. I love being Fletcher’s mom. The kid wows me daily with his certitude (he’s always right, just ask him) and finely honed negotiating skills (“Mommy, here’s the deal …”). But “Fletcher’s Mom” makes it sound like I spend my days wiping bums and runny noses. Sure, with a kid diverting any attention that I don’t focus on writing, I’ll cop to being more familiar with the Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling than anyone who’s made the New York Times Best Seller list recently. There are weeks when I spend more time looking at Lego Magazine than New York Magazine. I haven’t seen The Artist or Shame, but I do have the dialogue from just about every Pixar film released on DVD committed to memory. And I probably know more about Bionicles and Bakugans than any adult needs to. Ever. But I also know know where my Personal Life fits, neatly, but separately, into my Mom Life. I’m comfortable that, even as I lag a bit on pop culture and political news, I haven’t completely sacrificed my personal self on the altar of motherhood.
In the grand scheme of things, it probably shouldn’t matter what some assistant I see at most twice a year calls me. After all, a rose by any other name, right? Still, this Fletcher’s Mom biz bugs the crap outta of me.
“Mom defines my relationship with my child, not my identity,” I want to snap when these doctors’ assistants, some times even the doctors themselves, take the lazy way out, not troubling themselves to learn their patients’ parents’ names — a pity since we’re the ones who choose the doctors.
But mostly I don’t. Mostly I just stew silently and smile through clenched teeth. But this morning, something about the dental assistant’s attitude was really working on my last nerve. Maybe it was her impatience that I didn’t immediately hop to attention when she called the first time. Maybe I just had too little sleep. Or too much caffeine. Maybe it was just one of those mornings when everything irked me. But as I dog-eared the magazine page, my Inner Bitch sucker-punched my Inner Diplomat. And for one unguarded moment, my temper flared, and I was Howard Beal from Network – mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
“Is there a remote possibility that you actually know my name?” I demanded, loudly enough for the other parents in the waiting room to hear.
The dental assistant, surprised into silence, nodded, dumbly.
“Then use it.”
And with that I strode past her into the exam room to see the dentist.
All right, so this wasn’t exactly a giant leap for mom-kind. And hardly the strongest language I’ve ever used in a confrontation. But I was fairly certain that when it came time for Fletcher’s next dental checkup, here was one doctor’s assistant who’d finally get my name right.
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When I picked him up from tennis camp last week, did I hear about the forehands and backhands I’d spent a boodle for him to learn? Nope. However, I did get an earful about Anna Clare. Fletcher talked about Anna Clare as he buckled himself into his car seat. He talked about Anna Clare on the drive home. He was still talking about Anna Clare as we shared a post-camp snack. In fact, the Anna Clare Monologue was the most I’d heard about anything camp-related since summer started. The week before, Fletcher had been at Lego Camp – a thrill-o-minute experience if ever there was one. But no matter how many ways I phrased the seemingly straight-forward question What did you do today? he refused to say. It was like trying to pry information from an enemy combatant. I considered water-boarding just to find out who he had lunch with. But on the topic of Anna Clare? He was like a 24-hour news channel – All Anna Clare. All The Time.
“So, is Anna Clare your new friend?” I squeezed the question in when he took a breath.
“Mommy,” he said, impatient that I wasn’t keeping up with the conversation. (Clearly, I am the densest person my child has ever encountered in all of his five world-weary years.) “Anna Clare is my girlfriend.”
A girlfriend. Right. Apparently we’ve skipped over the Girls Have Cooties portion of childhood and landed smack in a Barry White Period. Any moment now, I expected him to start crooning, Darling, I … Can’t get enough of your love, Babe…
Not that it was a huge surprise that the kid likes the ladies. He’s had some wicked crushes lately. There was Anjali, Grace, Aris, Mariel, Johti, Raina, Autumn — I think that’s everyone. He doesn’t seem to have a type – the girls are a mix of blondes, brunettes and redheads — unless “older” counts as a type. To their credit, they’d all good-naturedly indulged his puppyish affections. But Anna Clare … she was the first to be accorded Girlfriend status. And I wasn’t quite ready to deal with that. I’d planned on at least another decade of Legos, pirate ships and Disney movies, before having to contemplate girlfriends and all that entailed.
So I did what any respectable mom does in a situation she doesn’t want to face: I wrapped myself in some sturdy denial, put on some blinders, jammed my fingers in my ears, buried my head in the sand … and any other cliché you can think of for avoiding reality. In this instance, I figured, apathy was my best policy. In a few days tennis camp would be over, and Fletcher would be off to yet another day camp. Out of sight, out of mind. All I had to do was do nothing. Eventually this Anna Clare thing would fizzle.
Or would it? To read more, please click here and follow me over to Lifescript’s Health Bistro Blog where I’m guest blogging today and the second Friday of every month on my late-in-life parenting adventures. Meanwhile, have you got a story about your kid’s first girl or boyfriend? Please share it at the end of the post or below.
Photo credit: Pepifoto
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