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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

In 4th grade I had a crush on a boy named Jason. We lived a few streets apart and had been playmates since we were small. Our parents would joke about how someday we’d get married and after awhile I found this speculation rather comforting. I felt very proprietary toward him although I don’t think he ever really returned my feelings.

One afternoon in science class, our teacher thought of a demonstration to show how 2 pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. She asked Jason to sit in a chair at the front of the classroom and then asked someone to volunteer to sit on his lap. I wanted to be chosen so badly but I knew I couldn’t raise my hand.

Too sensitive to put up with the teasing that would follow and too proud to give Jason the satisfaction of knowing I liked him, I sat in my seat, hands demurely in my lap and stared. I mustered all the attention and focus at my 10 year old command and in a Matildaesque moment of glory, my teacher and I made eye contact. She picked me! I rose from my seat primly and as though I could barely be bothered to, walked to the front of the room and found my place in my beloved’s lap.

Today is the first day of 4th grade for Mitten. I’ve had an astonished “I can’t believe you’re in ___ grade” moment every year since preschool though this year feels different because I remember my own 4th grade year so very vividly. I was on the cusp of adolescence and all the social trials that go with that time occupied my full attention. Mitten is no different. I’m hoping I can guide her through this with a bit more grace than I had. It would help if she inherits my psychic powers.

(p.s. Jason married his high school sweetheart. They have 5 kids. They named their first daughter Katherine.)

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My mother in law and I were destined for one another. She may not have seen it at first but I think she’s coming around. From the proprietor of our favorite sushi/bibimbap joint telling her that she and I have a similar bearing to our mutual love of shopping – all signs point to “daughter you never had”.

If only I could speak Korean…

Today we had lunch at Steve’s Deli (Husband, Mom, the kids & I) then we went shopping at a boutique stuffed to the rafters with really cute and correspondingly expensive European children’s clothing. Thanks to Halmoni’s munificence, no one went home empty handed. I appreciate her generosity – but even more so, her happiness with constantly holding the grandson who is now approximately 1/5th of her total body weight.

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paul frank skullie

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exceptional

I’m a young mom. Mitten was born when I was 19 and a half, but I always round up and tell strangers or new acquaintances that I was 20. I think I’m understandably defensive. Most people equate parenthood before 25 (or hell, 30) with poverty, low educational attainment, questionable morals and Britney Spears. Sure, I have good credit, a B.A in Philosophy and am a great fan of underwear but not everyone takes the time to figure it out.

I can feel, if I pay close attention, the point during the “your age v. your kid’s age” conversation when my metaphysical label changes in the mind of the mid-thirties female suburbanite I’m getting to know, from “Mitten’s mom” to “reformed (?) harlot”.

Last year, I volunteered to help at a few of Mitten’s Brownie meetings. During one such, the girls I was working on a craft with asked how old I was. “28”, I said, inwardly cringing. A chorus of surprise rang out. I think 2 girls simultaneously said, “My mom is soooo much older than you!”

“Great”, I thought. “Way to endear yourself to other parents”. I could all too easily picture these girls going home and relating this information over dinner. I like to believe the best of people but I can’t help thinking that there might be a few, who upon hearing this, would be pricked by the comparison and easily soothed with a little condescension. If I’m lucky, I’m often regarded as a little sister. If not, well, play-dates are not forthcoming. To be fair, most of the people in our neighborhood fall into the former category.

A Girl Scout meeting isn’t the only time when being a youngish parent makes life “interesting”. After hours of worst-pain-of-my-life back labor with Toot, I burst into tears after being told I hadn’t dilated further. The nurse who was attending me laughed and said, “Honey, it isn’t a race!” As if the reason I was upset was unrelated to the horrible pain I was experiencing. Rather than ask, she assumed I had unrealistic expectations of the pace of childbirth because I was young looking. When Mr. Baby was born I finally got the satisfaction of answering a patronizingly cooed, “Is this your first?” with “No. My third.”

When I’m not feeling all brave and fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke about it, I look forward to the time when Toot and The Boy will be in school and my age will be completely unexceptional. A time when women can dislike or mistrust me for reasons I’m comfortable with, like being better looking and more interesting.

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I can’t say why it’s taken me so long to write the second part of this post except that I think I’ve been aiming for something really useful since I have friends who either recently had their first child or are due in the next few months. Also, I’ve been thinking about this crap for awhile and have only now developed an audience for it (a hazard when you have your last kid a good year before most of your friends have had their first) and as such, I’ve got a lot of material running around my brain.

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Your crazy love for your baby will never go away — but as intense as your feelings for your newborn are you’ll eventually have to leave the house for supplies, return to work and/or visit friends and family. Resuming your normal activities helps blunt your desire to spend each waking moment contemplating the perfection that is your child. It sounds like I’m being sarcastic but I’m not. You *really* will want to spend every moment contemplating your infant.

This is all normal and good. At this point, if friends tell you you’re talking about your baby too much, I might seriously consider a friend purge.

The danger comes later. People who stay at home to raise their children are obviously at greater risk for identity loss than their partners and I would contend, have more at stake when they do. No one aims to be Patsy Ramsey (poor soul) but if you’re living through your kids, don’t be surprised if somehow your 2 year old ends up wearing a hoop skirt and mascara while you’re screaming “We’re Number One!” at another parent.

Accept that the person you were before you had children is gone. In her place stands the more compassionate, stronger version of you. Think of all the things you were capable of before kids and think of what you can accomplish now that you have real motivation.

Guard your self. Stay well groomed*. You need to read every day, stay up on current events and call your friends and gossip. Even if this means that the kids watch Teletubbies or Spongebob for an hour, APA, be damned. (This is also what nap time can be for if you have kids that, unlike mine, actually nap on their own.) Surprise your partner with some dirty talk that has nothing to do with diapers. As you cruise through town in your mini-van, blast a little “You Suck” for old times sake.

*How to take a shower: Bring your bouncey seat into the bathroom and put your infant in it. Shower quickly and if things start getting loud, peek-a-boo with the shower curtain is always fun. Common sense tells us that this maneuver should not be attempted when baby is tired.

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My maternal grandparents moved from Detroit to Charlevoix when I was little. First they lived in a smallish but beautiful house feet from Lake Michigan and then when the area got really popular they sold and built a new home on a hill overlooking acres of forest with Lake Michigan visible in the distance. Our family visited every summer and my brother and I spent many happy afternoons wandering the woods nearby and searching ponds for frogs or small fish.

One afternoon during such a vacation, my dad, Mike and I were heading back to the house from a longish ramble through the woods. We were a couple hundred yards away when a dog broke through the tree line and ran like hell straight toward us, without barking and tail down – intentions manifestly unclear.

My father calmly pushed Michael and I behind him and crouched down a bit. It was a tense few seconds but when he got within touching distance, the dog slowed and began gamboling about while sniffing and licking happily (because my dad is the original Dog Whisperer) and everything relaxed and we finished the walk back to the house accompanied by our furry friend.

I was impressed immediately by what my father had done – especially since at 10, I wasn’t sure whether the animal we faced was domestic or wild (as if there were a distinction between facing down a wolf or a mere mad dog). Years went by and as I reflected on the experience with the eyes of an adult and a parent, the memory came to stand for the best of my (very good) relationship with my dad.

We were all on vacation in Charlevoix again, probably 10 years later when my mother added the crowning detail. I had just finished recounting the story over dinner, it being one of my favorite family legends.

“What you kids didn’t realize”, she said, “was that as your father crouched down, he took out and opened his pocket knife in case he had to kill the dog”.

Yup, my daddy is one baaad motherf –

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girl, nurtured.

Mitten has never been a big eater. When she was a baby, I’d do any number of ridiculous and desperate things in an effort to increase her calorie-intake but none worked as well as what follows.

During mealtimes, I started telling her a story while trying to maneuver the spoon into her mouth. I got tired of the standard “Choo-choo! Here comes the train” bit very quickly.

So I came up with this: Here’s the train! It’s filled with little children and teachers and parents on a field trip. Look, it’s chugging up the mountain and the children are having such a fun time! But wait, Oh my gosh – no – suddenly from a cave in the center of the mountain an ancient and nameless evil rears it’s head. It’s hungry and innocence is savory – it’s coming for the children in the bus! The children and the parents and the teachers see doom approaching and scream! Ahhhhh! Nooo!

At that point, Mitten (playing the part of the ancient and nameless evil) would happily and ferociously chomp down on the spoonful of children. We’d go through endless permutations. Train, bus or boat – going up a mountain, through the desert, across an ocean. Her enthusiasm never waned.

Chicken and carrots, unappetizing. Unwilling human flesh? Hilarious and tasty.

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I enjoy breaking rules created only for my own safety and the safety of others. Yesterday, I did not put my almost potty-trained 2 year old in a diaper when I took her to the pool. My son was in a diaper but it was not a swim diaper. It was a regular one that got super bloaty and added about 5 pounds to his weight. I cannot figure out the added benefit of a swim diaper. If it doesn’t hold water like a regular diaper, surely pee escapes it as well?

Today, I flouted the rules at a McDonald’s playland and let my children go on the equipment without socks. Another mother told me that she was yelled at by the manager (because Foot and Mouth disease spreads on play structures) and was told she could purchase socks from Micky D’s for 2$ a pair. Funny, that McDonald’s is concerned about Foot and Mouth but unfazed when it comes to heart disease. Can I purchase some 2$ Lipitor with my Happy Meal?

Also, what? Did he mean Hand, Foot and Mouth disease? And even then, what? Shit covered kids are allowed on the play structure? Oh wait – hand washing is free.

I learned this disregard for authority at my mother’s knee. At McDonald’s today, she kept laughingly telling the kids “to get in the damn tunnels already” so we could avoid detection by the sock nazis.

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