Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This is 40 (And Pregnant) (With a Toddler)

A week or so ago, I finally fulfilled my 96-year-old grandmother’s oft-repeated prophecy: I fell. All winter she had been telling me that I was going to fall, that I wasn’t being careful enough, that I should stay inside at all times. Because the world is a scary, scary place, and bad things happen to good people. Also, terrorists.

Spring was finally blooming in New York, and I went for a walk with Henry and Hudson down to see the trains pass at our local station. And I don’t know what happened, but the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I had the dog's leash in one hand and the toddler in the other, so I couldn’t exactly break my fall. Down I crashed with my right knee onto the gravely pavement. Then my left knee. Henry caught the tail end of the fall as my hands automatically planted themselves on the ground to save my darling face. He had a scrape, but I had an honest-to-goodness raggedy skinned knee that had begun to bleed down my legs, staining my beige, elastic-waisted wonder-pants.

I’m fine, I’m fine, I assured Henry and Hudson (who did not seem all that concerned). We continued along our way, my knee stinging and bleeding. Because: Trains. There was no turning back.

Then I detected a peculiar wetness in my thigh region. Hmmm. Did I…? Wait, no. Actually, yes. Yes, I did. I peed my pants when I hit the ground. And why not? These days I pee unwittingly when I sneeze, cough or even laugh particularly hard. (May I remind you, there is a bowling ball perched on my bladder.)

Henry was not having it. TRAINS! he wailed as I attempted to reverse course. So we watched a few trains pass by before the cool breeze against my wet crotch sent me over the edge, and I insisted we walk home.

CAVALUCCIO! he demanded. (Piggyback ride.) But Moo Cow isn’t that much of a martyr. He walked home, dammit, and he liked it.

Urban Moo Cow

But let me back up a bit. See, when I got pregnant again, I was a little cocky (vag-y?). That’s because I had pushed Henry out in the operating room after having been prepped for the C-section my doctors thought I was having. I was resigned, but then! Then they changed their minds because I had fully dilated in the interim. I wanted a vaginal birth, didn’t I? Well, then: PUSH.

But I was completely numb and high on anesthesia. I thought I was in an episode of Battlestar Galactica and said as much to the OR staff. I couldn’t feel my legs let alone bear down. So I did the only thing I could do. I summoned my ten years of yoga practice—all that work on the pelvic floor—and commanded my body to obey. DO WHAT I SAY, PELVIC FLOOR! I bellowed (in my mind). Lo and behold, it worked, and out came my teeny tiny boy, first purple and gray and then all at once pink and screaming.

I assumed, erroneously as it turned out, that I held the same sway over my body this time around. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That’s funny. In the last three years, yoga had played fifth fiddle to parenting, working, wife-ing and sleeping. Plus, to my great surprise, I had AGED three years as well.

Even the frantic catch-up Kegels weren’t going to save me from wetting myself like, well, a toddler.

I recounted my tale of woe in a prenatal yoga class, because I’m all about sharing. My teacher responded in kind with a story about vaginal weightlifting. Yes, you read that correctly.

I admit that I did not do a lot of research into the *best* vaginal weights, but a cursory Google search turned up a couple of options, including these bad girls:

Aquaflex Pelvic Floor Exercise System
"Aquaflex Pelvic Floor Exercise System": Trying not to sound like a sex toy.

The theory is that they help strengthen your pelvic floor by activating the involuntary muscles that line your lady canal. This is, apparently, helpful both for premature pants-wetting and orgasms. Two for the price of one!

Ladies: You’re welcome.

Gents: Sorry. I can’t believe you are still reading this.

Unfortunately, you can’t use these weights until you are recovered from childbirth. The only thing left to do until then is buy stock in Depends.*


Before we conclude, I want to make sure I recommend a great book I just read. I’m planning on writing a post about it, but between the peeing and the toddler, I’m not quite sure when I will get to it. The book is by Galit Breen, who turned a truly negative fat-shaming experience on the Huffington Post into a practical guide for parents to teach their children about kind and safe interacting on the web. I have a lot more to say on this topic, but in the interim, I hope you will check out Kindness Wins.

Galit Breen

* A few months ago I received a pitch from a PR company asking me to write about Depends for something like $50. My husband laughed for ten straight minutes before opining that my dignity was worth more than that. I turned down the "offer." Apparently, however, I am willing to embarrass myself for free.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Five Awesome Lessons I Have Taught My Toddler

After all my hand-wringing related to the last post, you would think that my darling son's worst exposure comes from the playground, soft or otherwise. You would be wrong. I have increasingly come to accept that all my child's bad habits come from me. Behold some choice lessons I have taught him over the last three years.

5 Awesome Lessons I Have Taught My Toddler

Lesson #1 - Cry to Get What You Want

[This conversation was relayed to me second-hand by his preschool teacher. Henry has been having issues...ahem...listening in class.]

Henry: When I don't cooperate with Mommy, she cries.
Teacher: Well you should listen to Mommy then, so you don't make her feel bad, right?
Henry: No.
Teacher: Why not?
Henry: Well, when someone doesn't cooperate with me, then I'll cry.

Lesson #2 - Curse Words Are Valid Forms of Expression

Henry last fall: Daddy, Mommy yelled fox when she couldn't park the car.

Henry every day since when aggravated: FOX! FOXES! FOX!*

Lesson #3 - How to Hide an Eating Disorder

A common conversation with my lactose-intolerant son:
Henry: I want that cheese.
Me: You can't have cheese, it will make you sick.
Henry: I want those cookies.
Me: You can't have those, they have milk, and that will make you sick.
Henry: But I want them.
Me: They will make you sick. Let's get something else.

Me: Eat your dinner.
Henry: No, it has milk in it.
Me: No it doesn't. Finish your sweet potatoes. You love sweet potatoes.
Henry: No, it has milk in it.
Me: There's no milk.
Henry: Yes, it will make me sick.

Lesson #4 - Mommy Looks Disheveled; Anything Else Is Unacceptable

Henry: Mommy, what's on your eyes?
Me: Makeup.
Henry: Mommy, why are your eyes blue and black?
Me: Because I put on makeup so I could be fancy for dinner with Daddy. Do you like it?
Henry: No. Take it off.
Me: Okay, I will tonight. Give me a kiss goodbye.
Henry: No. You have black eyes.

Lesson #5 - Use the Horn, Always and Liberally

Me in the car, stuck behind a bus, muttering under my breath: What's going on here, bus?
Henry: What did you say, Mommy?
Me: [silence]
Henry, persisting: What happened with the bus?
Me: The bus is stopped here, and I can't figure out how to get around.
Henry: Beep the horn!

* He also occasionally mutters "balls," and I know that's not from me. Ahem, hubby.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

What Is the Appropriate Response to Bullying?

The Playground of Life

Today I took Henry to one of those Gymboree-type places in my neighborhood so he could run around for an hour in their indoor gym. The combination of the freezing temperatures and my pregnancy has reduced him to a caged animal this winter. There is never enough indoor space to satisfy an energetic three-year-old. I can’t tell you how many picture frames have been broken in the past two months.

The gym is padded like those images of insane asylums in old films. Every surface is covered in foam. There are foam blocks and uneven bars over foam mats, basketball hoops with soft balls and a bouncy lane with a soft, red landing pad at its end. Henry made a beeline for the bouncy lane (look! a giant couch Mommy won’t tell me to stop jumping on!), and I tried to find a seat away from the mob of over-excited, under-exercised children.

What Is the Appropriate Response to Bullying? ~ Urban Moo Cow

All the usual suspects of the playground milieu were there. The bored babysitter barely bothering with her two afternoon charges. The older girl with a small cadre of young ducklings following her around.

The mother who couldn’t seem to keep her kindergartner from hitting, kicking and pushing indiscriminately. “Anthony!”—name changed to protect the innocent—“Anthony! Stop [kicking, hitting, running, pushing, cutting in line, stealing the ball]!” And so on.

The father who hovered over his nearly-three-year-old daughter in case she fell twelve inches onto a padded mat and told Henry to find his own toy when he wandered over to play. I mean, he might have germs, right? It was a little flashback to Brooklyn, and its singularity among the adults in the room reminded me why I was so happy to have left.


Anthony’s older brother was shooting hoops. He looked to be about seven and was quite a natural. I smiled at him when he did a particularly good layup. After that he looked at me for approval every time he made a shot. Or asked his mom to look. Or tried to get the attention of anyone else. The fruits, perhaps, of our over-praising culture on display.


And there was Henry: bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, running, jumping, tumbling, falling and bouncing some more. I watched him play contentedly on his own—such a first-child trait—completely oblivious to “Anthony!” even when Anthony and one of the babysitter’s charges started punching each other and had to be broken up by Anthony’s mom.

I watched him turn around on a set of padded stairs and go back the way he came when another child climbed up the opposite direction.

My sweet, non-confrontational boy. The one who never hit or bit, who preferred puzzles to balls. Mommy’s little cerebral child-lock dismantler, born good-natured, just like Daddy.

He’s going to get eaten alive on The Playground. The thought floated unbidden through my mind. Not this playground in particular. But some playground in the future. The Playground of life.

The Future Is Now

But let’s not be melodramatic, right? I would not even have written this post if a glimpse of that future had not unfurled before my eyes.

Anthony had teamed up with his former punching-bag, Punching-Bag’s brother and another boy. They were all around the same age and had begun running wildly around the gym until they made it to the bouncy lane where Henry was playing.

Then: “Hey black-shirt,” one of them called to Henry, “get away from here!” Henry didn’t understand. He thought they wanted to play with him, so he bounced over laughing. The boys ran away and then came back and yelled at him again. I could see he was getting a little confused.

I sat back and watched. I did. I swear. I watched these older boys pick on a younger boy. My younger boy. Practice what you preach, and all that.

Until finally they all jumped onto the soft landing pad in a bunch, and Anthony smacked Henry across the face.

From there, for me, there was one thought and one thought alone: get my child away from them. All reaction; all mama bear.

I jumped up, looked at Anthony’s mom across the gym and pointed her in the direction of her son, who was blocked from her line of sight by a column (well played, Anthony).

“No hitting,” I said sternly and loudly to Anthony.

Just then, Punching-Bag kicked Henry.

“NO. HITTING,” I said to him in a scary, scary voice I scarcely recognized as my own.

I’m pretty sure disciplining someone else’s child goes in the category of “never, ever, ever.”

At the same time, I’m pretty sure that if either of those kids had continued to hit my son, I would have pulled their little bodies off him and tossed them to the padded ground.

I felt in that moment like I do in a crisis. A real crisis. I might be hysterical and helpless in the face of a sink over-filled with dirty dishes, but in emergencies I become a machine. My mouth goes dry, but I am completely composed. When Rayne was in a car accident in the back of a cab, I was so calm on the phone, telling him which hospital to instruct the ambulance to take him to, putting on my hospital badge, walking through the door of the ER and asking for my husband like I was ordering a sandwich. I suppose that is what my particular "fight" instinct looks like.

The kids dispersed and Anthony’s mom dragged him away. Punching-Bag’s babysitter did nothing.

Instead of making a big deal, I went back to my place and watched Henry’s look of betrayal melt away as he got back up and continued to bounce, bounce, bounce.


“He was an easy target,” Rayne said later. “He was alone, he was smaller.”

Tears streamed down my cheeks. “They were four five-year-olds picking on a two-and-a-half-year-old, for all they knew.” He is so small for his age.

“They’re bullies,” he said. “It’s going to happen, though. He’s going to get hurt playing a sport; when he’s 14 a girl will break his heart; and he will get teased on the playground.”

“I can’t do this.”

“I know you. You want the world to be perfect.”

“I want the world to be fair.”

“But it’s not.”

“I hate that.”

“I know.”

How Do You Handle Bullies?

I don’t know what I should have done. Nothing? Something more? He’s probably too small for any such conversation right now, but in a few years do I tell him to walk away? Hit back? 

What is the appropriate response to bullying?


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