La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for August 2010

What a delightful few weeks it’s been. I’ll begin at the end, where I offered condolences to the family of a man not yet deceased.

I know. Pardon the pun, it was positively mortifying. The man in question is an old distant friend. His best friend posted a seeming eulogy to him, under which the man’s sister wrote, “He will be missed by everyone who loves him.” Based on those two entries I conclude that the dude is dead, right? Wrong. I write a few sentences about how I’m so sorry about his passing and what a gem he was. To which his best friend replies that “he is still with us, fighting until the end.” So why did you write his eulogy? Why did his sister say he’ll be missed if he’s still alive? Oh my god. I was appalled at myself. So I quickly deleted my comment and hoped very few people saw it. Very few people except my brother, who said that he was about to write his condolences too when he saw the friend’s response and decided against it, being that the dude was apparently NOT DEAD.

I’m so mortified because there really is a difference between saying, say, Jeff Goldblum is dead when he is clearly alive and well and able to leap to his Twitter account to dispel such rumors, and saying that someone lying on his deathbed fighting for his life is currently dead. It has all the hallmarks of bad luck and of the power of suggestion. I feel terrible about writing it, especially since he did indeed pass just a few hours later. No thanks to me. Gah.

Which reminds me of a couple of weeks ago when we went to our friends’ house for breakfast with all the kids together and we brought the bagels. In my generosity I thought it would be great to also add some bacon cream cheese to the bag. Did I mention that our friends do not eat pork–or any meat–for religious reasons? See, I KNEW that but apparently in my bacon-induced psychosis I forgot it. Or failed to recall it. Or something. All I know is that I used their knives to spread my delicious and amazing bacon cream cheese on my bagel on their plates and never once clued in until I asked (in my majestic magnanimity) if they’d like to keep the cream cheese. My friend’s response was a really sweet and polite, “Oh we don’t eat bacon in the house, so no thanks.” Please let the earth open up and swallow me NOW, thank you. And please let me taste like bacon.

Oh, and let me tell you about my recent pheresis appointment where I apparently mistakenly assumed my nurse was gay. Oh yes, I am THAT good. He’s been my nurse for months now, and he is, I was so sure, gay gay gay. I could run down the list of reasons I thought/think so but they’d sound offensive or stupid or ill-informed or retro in a bad way. Suffice to say that he lives in a big house he’s fixing up, he has two awesome dogs, he says “we” a lot about his life but never quite mentions who the other person is, and..other reasons that, again, sound ridiculous unless you were there. So I’ve been talking to him since day one with the assumption that he is a gay man. Not that it changes anything, but just that I assumed we were totally relating on a particular level. Assumptions are a mistake, clearly, because when I said something ( I don’t even remember what about particularly at this point) that “You guys must be so excited…” he completely shut me down, like, “I like girls!” Oh, okay. My bad. But it was a terrible feeling. Especially because I was totally caught off-guard in my mind, like, you’re WHAT? You’re straight?! That is not possible! Instead I said something like, “Oh, of course. My mistake.” But I was dumbfounded for the rest of the day. A little bit at his heterosexuality but mostly at my dumbassness, which cotinues unabated, powered mostly by bacon.

One of the most endearing and annoying things about Bambina is her near-constant request to Dada and I to “tell me a story!” I am certain this arose from the fact that she was an only child until the age of 5, so our mealtimes were jolly affairs full of listening to her, engaging her, entertaining her and being a little family of three. So we told stories. Dada made up some great ones, some that are still ongoing (I think we are on Chapter 26 of the continuing saga of Bambina’s magical ice cream shop empire and the famous individuals (living and dead) who frequent her worldwide establishments). Having said that, if you steal this idea and get on Oprah, BELIEVE that I will hunt you down. As will a slew of famous personages who happen to love magical ice cream.

More often than not, however, Bambina wants to hear stories from our childhoods, and we willingly oblige. Some of them are just funny, and some I tell on purpose to teach a Grandpa Walton-type lesson about honesty and truth or whatnot.

On the dangers of unintended consequences:
The time I did a giant fart in 2nd grade because my mum had made my corduroy pants with a snapper instead of a button and I wanted to see if I could pop my pants open by pushing my chubba stomach out really hard. Twelve kids sitting on the rug for story time, ten of them listening. One–John McCarrison–picking his nose and studying its treasures was not listening because picking is what John McCarrison did 24/7. Another child–that would be me–was not listening because I was concentrating on my core pilates moves in service of grabbing that no-hands pants-opening brass ring. I pushed and pushed until–PHTBBBBBBBBTTTPPBBB! The largest and loudest fart every produced by a European grade schooler trumpeted from the circle. Bedlam ensued; kids laughing and rolling around, the teacher attempting to restore order, and me feigning outrage and asking, “Who on earth was that?”

On compassion for others:
The time I walked a fellow first grade student to the bathroom because her stomach hurt and—retch!–she vomited all over me in the hallway. And how grandma (my mum) had to walk the mile and a half to my school to bring me clean clothes because we only had one car and my dad had it at work. And how it was so gross that as I saw and smelled the barf running down my skirt and legs that I had an overwhelming urge to vomit as well. But how Hazel and I stayed friends anyway even though I thereafter refused to go anywhere with her alone.

On courage and doing it afraid:
The time I decided that today was the day I’d use the Big Kid Slide at the playground in my hometown in Scotland. My bro and sis had been using it for positively MONTHS now and it was time for little ol’ Mama to man up at the age of 4. So I climbed to the top of the slide (recallng that this was the early 70’s and that shit was not safe by today’s standards at all, in that it was about 20 feet tall, metal, peeling lead paint and a guaranteed ass-burning on sunny days). So I climbed my little fat self up the ladder to the apex, where there was no candy-ass 90’s or 00’s landing or safety area at the top; just a ladder and a slide attached. As i sat down I began to have second thoughts about my survival chances, about the wisdom of doing something so reckless from so high a height, when my brother and sister appeared behind me on the narrow ladder to tell me to go down already you big scaredy cat. So I started crying, my mother was reassuring me that she was meeting me at the bottom and that she’d catch me and that nothing bad was going to happen but that there were 6 kids now behind me on the ladder and I had no choice but to slide on down. NOW. And so, with the taunts and epithets of my siblings hanging in the air I finally let go and descended. Scream of terror followed by “Wheeeeee!” Then climbed up and did it again.

Oh, there are more. The dog poop on my clothes story. The spider in my ear story. The time I ran up to my babysitter Deborah on the street and gave her a gigantic hug, only to discover that “Deborah” was a dude I did not know. I do at times get so tired of telling a particular story that I’ll just flat-out refuse to do it, but I’ve realized that whenever Bambina requests a particular story she is trying to connect to a truth in it related to something going on in her life at the time, so I tell it anyway. At least that’s what I tell myself so I don’t have to contemplate the fact that my kid just enjoys hearing about my childhood humiliations. Either way, I hope she’s learning something, even if it is simply “Always use your hands to unbutton your pants.”

My kid freakin’ bit me today. I sh*t you not. And if we hadn’t been in the company of dear friends and I was perhaps not such a loving, giving and tremendously devoted mother, 😉 I would have possibly thrown her across the room. I obviously refer to my 21 month-old future Mike Tyson. Please believe that you have not hurt until you have had human teeth take a chunk out of you. My shoulder still hurts, hours later. Big teeth marks, like the kind that would make Caruso on CSI Miami take off/put on his sunglasses about three times and then proclaim the case solved, the identity of the perp revealed.

Why, you ask, would my child bite me? Because, I think, she wanted to see how it felt. I am not kidding. We were with dear friends, like I said, whose daughter was bitten by a 4 year old (I’ll let the outrage of a biting 4 year old sink in for you) during day care. She has since begun trying biting herself to see if it might work. Well, I think she may have bit Baby Sister this weekend, and you can see the Cycle of Violence we have here, kids. Damn juvies! So we were just sitting eating breakfast when Baby Sister stood up on my lap, leaned her head on my shoulder…and BIT ME! I was in such shock I think my exact words were, “OH my god, did you just BITE ME? HELL NO!” So I put her on the ground and marched her into the house where she had to stay away from us for a minute or two, which was of course excruciating for her. Meanwhile I’m looking at a bleeding shoulder and wondering how I will stop myself from losing it if she ever bites me again.

Here’s why. For some reason, I have a visceral dislike for kids who bite. (Not our friends’ kid, because she is a doll and obviously was bitten herself and is just being two). But WTF with the 4 year old who started this whole thing off? There is something so barbaric and so Id about a kid biting my kid that I just get completely wild about it. I was trying to explain to the Dada why pushing and shoving are not great but at least they don’t require a doctor visit and a tetanus shot, right? I mean, it takes a certain amount of aggression to actually want to sink your teeth into another human, that it just freaks me out when I hear about kids getting bitten by other kids. I’m probably overreacting to the entire thing, but I just feel so strongly that I am NOT raising a biter. I mean, I will seriously bring Baby Sister’s world to a crashing, depressing halt if she ever does that again, for no other reason than I find biting to be antisocial in a way that disturbs me as the child’s parent.

It reminded me of Bambina who, when she was 4 and wanted a popsicle at 10am, decided to hit me because she had seen her friend, who we’ll call Veruca Salt, hit her mother and get what she had been demanding. Fast forward to The Moment of Impact in our house and witness Bambina being fireman-carried up to her room, the door slammed shut, many many tears and pleas for mercy, and the subsequent announcement that what works in other kids’ houses don’t work here, and please believe your little life will change for the super-worse if you EVER think you can raise your hand to me again, especially seeing as I never, ever have raised my hand to you. Note that I broke her little spirit and I didn’t care one bit. In the end, Dada reminded me that you can’t blame a kid for trying something, especially if they see it gets results in other environments. Fair enough. But I sure as hell can scare the holy shit out of her if she thinks she’s gonna do it to me.

So Baby Sister is now on notice: You want to bite the mama bull, you’re gonna get the horns.

Quick post since the nap is about to not happen, judging from the shrieks and pissed off cries coming from Baby Sister’s room. It’s actually rather funny how you can differentiate between the “I need help” or “I’m sad or hurt” cries and the “F you for putting me in here, Mama!” cries. These are of the latter variety, mixed in with “I’m so tired I can barely stand MYSELF.”

Anyhoo, this post is more about Bambina than Baby Sister, although good times for the B always mean better times for the BS. We’ve just had so many consecutive days of seeing Bambina become older that it’s notable. You know how sometimes you wake up and look at your kid and think, “Is she taller this morning?” That’s kind of what’s been going on developmentally with Bambina in the past 10 days.

She loves Irish Step dancing, took a class, mastered the steps, then refused to participate in the final show (15 minutes before the show) because she forgot some steps at the practice immediately before and got spooked that she’d deliver a bad performance. No amount of “no one cares if you miss a step” and “this is supposed to be fun, my love” could convince her to get on the dance floor for the recital. I struggled mightily the entire time to veer neither toward stage mother anger (I’m so disappointed in you) nor apathy (whatever you want is fine, dear). I settled instead for making her stay and watch the show to support her classmates and telling her to enjoy it, because I would not be paying for additional classes in which she let down her team at the very last minute. You know, trying to make the whole “you made a commitment” point without making it be about the dancing itself. I asked her later if she was sorry that she didn’t perform and she rather honestly said, “Not at all, Mama.” Okaaaay. I guess that little life lesson will have to wait for another day, right? Not to mention trying to work my kid out of her Perfection Paralysis. It’s great to refuse to put on anything but a perfect show when you’re, say, Barry Manilow or Miss Celine Dion in Vegas; but when you’re 6 years old, it’s a little bit much to expect of yourself.

Fast forward to this past week at her summer arts and science camp. Of her own accord, Bambina planned and executed an entire performance of her Irish Step dancing for the entire camp at their daily noontime performance show. She simply told the Dada and I that she needed her CD of jig music in her backpack because she was going to perform tomorrow. I secretly assumed (somewhat shamefully) she’d bail at the last minute. Joke was on me. When I picked her up that day the director walked toward me to tell me how fabulous Bambina had been and how she got a standing ovation. Please excuse me while I damn near burst into tears in front of a relative stranger. Her dance teacher came up to say that she brought the entire house down. More dust in my eye. Then three different kids walk up to her as we’re getting in the car to say, “You were great” and “I liked your dancing.” I looked in my rear view mirror and said quietly (as my dad used to say when I was proven wrong) “Oh ye of little faith.”

Two days later, Bambina and I make a date to go to the movies. Yes, the movies. That place that has always been a house of horrors for my eldest child. Too loud, too dark, too vibratey. Any attempt at seeing a movie has always ended in drama and tears. Until Beezus and Ramona. We started reading the books on the advice of a friend with two kids who similarly bicker, and they have been wondrous. Bambina totally relates to Beezus. So when we saw that the movie was out she independently said she wanted to see it. Me: Really? Her: Of course! Yeah, of course, because it’s not like we haven’t spent major bucks on movies before only to walk out in the first 5 minutes, right? But appropriately chastened by my little faith during the week I leapt into the idea with enthusiasm. So on Saturday AM, off Bambina and I went to the movies. We stopped by Target first to get a pair of big old 1970’s earphones for her to manage the Dolby situation, which truth be told is rather loud for me too. Then off we went. We stood outside the theater while the previews played because they scared her. But we went in for the movie and….stayed. Another scene of Mama crying into her $10 Diet Coke and $32 popcorn. Another scene of Bambina feeling ten feet tall.

Then yesterday my hydrophobic child finally swam in the outdoor pool at camp, after “pinkie promising” her gym teacher Alex that she’d swim with him before the summer ended. After a brief discussion about her not needing to “promise” anything to an adult not her parent (slippery slope that, as it moves toward keeping secrets and whatnot), I suggested she just tell Alex that she didn’t want to break her promise but that she was scared and having second thoughts, and what could they do about that? When I picked her up that day I asked how it went (looking at her still-wet hair and smiling to myself). I asked her what she said to Alex. She said “Oh whatever, we worked it out and I liked swimming with him.” Good enough for me.

Later that night I turned into my own parents, wherein I did that annoying, “Just to recap the recap and to make my parental point in a way that is annoying and embarrassing for you” thing. I told her how proud I was of her, how grateful and happy I was that she told Dada and I her feelings and worries, because not all kids do that or can do that, and that if we know about something we can help whereas if we don’t we can’t. And how amazing it was to see her growing and learning and being brave and… [interrupting sigh]…”Mama, can we play American Girl now? [big Al Gore-worthy sigh].” Me: Oh, okay! And off we went, two people growing and learning together. Bambina learning how to be confident in herself in this big wide world, and me learning to let her be herself even if she’s not on my timetable. So what if most of her friends LOOOOOVE movies? She didn’t. Until she did. So what if she was scared to perform her dancing? She was scared. Until she wasn’t. So what if she is afraid of swimming? She was. Until she wasn’t. All of which proves what we probably know all along: that children do things when–and only when–they are ready. And when they’re ready, watch out world! Until then, leave them be and love them in all their current movie-hating, water-fearing, “silly” fears glory.