Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Henry vs. Everything

I haven’t been writing lately, and that’s not about to change. Demands of work, parenting and life have gotten the better of my writing schedule.

Starting in October, I have a new gig writing a monthly column on the intersection of healthcare and finances for a new site called Betterment.com, an online investment management service. My first post will explain out-of-network health insurance benefits (and why you never see the full 70% your insurance company claims to cover). The second post, in November, will explain hospital bills, specifically why the hospital “charges” you 80 grand to give birth in its bed.

In the meantime, I would be remiss were I not to leave you with a little recap of the past couple of months. The title of the post is an homage to one of my favorite bloggers, Brooklynite Liz Catalano, who writes Zoe vs. The Universe. Liz is smart, funny and a talented writer, so get thee to her corner of the Interwebs.

Henry vs. Jeff Koons

I took Henry to the Whitney Museum to see the Jeff Koons Retrospective. I thought I was so cultured. What a wonderful mother, exposing her child to art at such a young age.

Wrong.

You see, the Play-Doh sculpture is not actually Play-Doh. But a two-year-old can’t tell the difference. All he knew was that I had cruelly teased him by placing him before a gigantic mass of Play-Doh with which he was not allowed to play. Let’s just say it did not go well for me.



Henry vs. The Cartwheel

We went to the beach a few times this summer, which Henry loved. Here he is trying to do a cartwheel with his cousin. They were imitating their older cousin/sister (respectively).


Not quite, but cute all the same.

Henry vs. The Wedding

Rayne’s sister got married in a lovely ceremony at the end of August. Henry was to be one of the ring bearers.

He disagreed.





As a result, Moo Cow carried him down the aisle whimpering and sniffling. He then watched videos on my phone in the front row.

Henry vs. Mold

The house we bought was built in 1899, but since it was “gut renovated,” we thought we might escape any major repairs for a year or two. But apparently “gut renovated,” for contractors based in Staten Island, means “covering up the visible black mold with new sheet rock; no one will ever know the difference.” Don’t ask how we figured it out, but Henry’s room now looks like this.



He’s been sleeping on a mattress in our room for the past two weeks. So far, his favorite ways to wake us up at 6 am are to 1) open my eyelid with his finger and scream in my face or 2) throw a giant ball in Rayne’s face while yelling, “you wanna catch da ball, Daddy?”

Henry vs. Moo Cow

I love my little monkey, but I currently sport an ever-so-slightly deviated septum and black-and-blues galore. I’m also perpetually covered in poop given his penchant for flipping, kicking and screaming whenever I try to change him. But, you know, I love him to death.




I hope to return to writing here regularly in the winter. In the meantime, keep an eye out for my pieces on Betterment.com. Thanks for reading.

Moo Cow signing off (for now) 
xoxo


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Parenting in the Time of Poltergeist, or How Mothers Thrive

The Brilliant Book Club wrote on Monday about Dr. Tovah Klein's book, How Toddlers Thrive. After I published my post, in which I wrote how generally easy Henry is, I discovered he had scribbled in black ink all over the kitchen wall.


Cue the schadenfreude.

Lauren from omnimom thought the book was a bit too child-centered. Sarah from Left Brain Buddha also alluded to this point. I can't say I entirely disagree.

I liked Klein's general philosophy -- accept your toddler for who he is, and try to take his point of view when confronted with tantrums and so-called unreasonable requests -- but throughout the book I questioned how realistic the approach was.

Her advice, though, is solid, and it works if you follow it to the letter. Case in point: This morning, in yet another example of why you should never say you have a good toddler out loud, Henry threw his most Poltergeist-worthy tantrum yet. Screaming, shaking, choking, hitting, throwing.

It seemed out of nowhere and uncharacteristic to say the least. But, I realized, today was his last day of camp, and he loves camp.

After about 20 minutes of complete mayhem (during which time I never left the kitchen, as Klein recommends, though I really, really wanted to), I sat down with him and said quietly, "I know this is your last day of camp. You must be sad. But you'll go back to the same school again in only one month."

It wasn't magic; he didn't stop right away. But he definitely calmed down not too long after. We were 15 minutes late for camp, and I sat with him for a few minutes until he was fully absorbed in one of his many crafts.

Preschool Swag

I thought Dr. Klein would be proud.

Here's the Rub

But here's the thing. The reason I was able to be calm about this morning's tantrum and not worry about being late or staying extra is that I had nowhere else to be. Sure, I had a few hours of work on an editing project. But that is flexible.

In contrast, the day before, I needed to be at work on time, because four of us were getting in the car to drive an hour to another hospital for a meeting. I needed Henry to eat breakfast and get ready for daycare so that I could shower, get dressed, pack his bag, drop him off and drive an hour to my place of employment. (No breakfast for you, Moo Cow.)

In short, there was no time for Poltergeist.

I guarantee that this morning's scene would NOT have been met with the same physically present, calm parent. Out of sheer necessity, I would have left him to tantrum on his own in the kitchen while I got ready, and then returned to force him into his clothing and the carseat one way or another.

The level of child-centered toddler parenting Klein describes only works when the parent has few other obligations. I'm not saying it doesn't work. It definitely does. I'm just wondering how realistic it is in today's frenetic world.

This summer, my nanny had to return to Europe, so we bring Henry to daycare when I work. I can't believe how spoiled I was. Getting a child (never mind more than one!) out the door to daycare in the morning is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Every. Single. Day.

Yet, that is precisely what most parents have to do in these times of perpetual economic insecurity. I wonder what needs to change: societal expectations, parenting techniques or both?

What About Mom?

The book was about how toddlers thrive, so it's hardly fair to critique Klein's lack of commentary on how mothers thrive.

Still, I will a little. Some of the parent examples in the book -- like those who insisted their child not eat snow -- were clearly neurotic and over-controlling. Pick your battles, people.

But sometimes it's 5:30 pm, and we have to leave the playground to go home and have dinner. Henry doesn't want to. He's having fun, why should we leave? Sometimes I have an event I need to be on time for in the real world, as opposed to the live-in-the-moment toddler world. Or sometimes I am simply exhausted out of my mind after a long week.

At that point, after all the reasoning and cajoling and "making it fun" to do what I need him to do (as she advises more than once), I'm going to scoop Henry up and force him into the stroller. He's going to scream and flail, and do the stiff-as-a-board and the limp-as-a-noodle maneuvers, but still, I am going to pick him up and wrestle him into the stroller in front of everyone.

Sometimes in life, things don't go your way. As much as I indulge his benign requests ("two" pieces of toast, always one in each hand; "three blankies!"), sometimes, I can't. I understand Klein's point that life is difficult and confusing for them, and it is our job as parents to create a safe environment where they can develop. But, well, life can be difficult for me, too, and occasionally I need him to go to bed so I can meet a deadline.

That's not his fault; but it's reality.

Monday, July 28, 2014

With Toddlers, the Name of the Game is Empathy

Welcome back to The Brilliant Book Club, a collaboration of five parent bloggers. To learn more about BBC, read this post or follow us on FacebookG+ or Twitter with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub. And don’t forget to read what my co-founders Lauren, Jessica, Sarah and Stephanie have to say about this month’s book, How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D. Links to their posts are below.



I had just begun reading Dr. Tovah Klein's book, How Toddlers Thrive, when I joined my toddler on the floor of our kitchen one afternoon. He was playing with an enduring favorite, a black diesel engine from the Grand Central Terminal store, trying to make it go by pushing it forward instead of pulling it back and releasing.

"Here, let Mommy help you," I said, taking the toy from his hand.

"No! I do!" Henry yelled.

"Let me just show you." I pulled the train back to rev it and released it across the kitchen floor. "See?"

I thought he would be thrilled to see the train shoot across the floor so quickly. But my normally even-tempered boy ran over to the toy, picked it up and threw it across the room with a shout.

Had I not read the book, I might have reacted by scolding: No throwing or No yelling. But I realized what had happened, and in that moment I became a Tovah Klein convert.


The Secret Life of Toddlers

Toddlers (defined as children aged two to five) live in a tumultuous world of their own rapidly developing brains and bodies. Any perceived disruption to their sense of command over this unpredictable world can result in a tantrum or seemingly unreasonable requests. According to Klein, Henry's need for control over his environment perfectly explains this maddening incident, among others:


He simply wanted to feel secure that water was there for him if he so chose to drink it. Fair enough.

Let It Go, Mostly

To quote Elsa, one of Klein's main messages to parents of toddlers is: "Let it go." Stop trying to control your little one's every move. The last thing he needs is a parent indicating the "right way" all the time. She writes:
Correcting a child is the same as controlling him, and both correcting and controlling rob your child of the chance to prove that he is growing.... Toddlers are all about learning through their mistakes, through trial and error, regardless of the outcome. And when you support his explorations and share in his delights, he feels valued and safe. 
In other words, I should have let Henry figure out on his own how the train worked, as he has done with countless brands of child locks, much to my dismay. Stepping in to "'fix' the situation...inadvertently sent [him] the message that [he] couldn't do it." By interfering, I "took away the opportunity for [him] to wrestle through the situation, make a mistake, and want to try again." And that made him upset.

Even at that moment, he looked at me questioningly, knowing he had done something out of character and out of bounds. I simply said, "That's okay, buddy, I know you wanted to play with it. Come sit with Mommy." The tension was diffused; he came over and sat on my lap, and we did a puzzle. Tantrum averted.


"Young children," Klein says, "learn by making mistakes and trying again. If they see an attempt as a mistake..." that is, if their parents are always showing them the "right" way, even sweetly, even with the best of intentions, "they give up."

As toddlers navigate the tumultuous transition from baby to little kid, our role is not to make them happy or smarter nor to provide them with Mandarin lessons that will get them into the top private school. It is, instead, to provide them the tools they need for self-regulation, i.e., to coping with life's undulations, to bounce back from disappointment, to handle intense thoughts and emotions, to solve problems on their own.

In order to develop these skills, they need "support, comfort and freedom" to explore without being controlled at every turn. But they also need routine, guidelines and limits. Overly permissive parents who throw up their hands are not doing their children any more favors than over-controlling, over-disciplining ones.

"Toddlers," Klein explains, "need limits and they look to us to be the authority and let them know when to stop." It seems like a paradox, but it isn't. When a child is doing something dangerous -- reaching for a hot oven over and over, for example (not that I would know anything about that) -- it is up to the parent to be firm and unequivocal in her "no." No hesitation, no reasoning. Just, no. "No" makes toddlers upset, but it also, Klein says, "builds children's trust. They know they can count on us."

Our job is to provide a safe environment where a child can explore. No touching the hot oven, but rev the toy engine backwards to your heart's content, little boy. No harm, no foul.

What About the Easy Child?

I really liked the practical (and sometimes liberating!) tips Klein offers for navigating the day:
  • On food: "Sit at a table for all meals" but don't force them to eat. Toddlers shouldn't be expected to sit at the table and wait for others to finish.
  • On sleep: "Keep routines short and simple"; "Monitor baths: for some children bathtime winds them up...."
  • On getting dressed: "Help them, but let them do what they can."
  • On toilet training: "Don't overdo the prizes... prizes or bribes make it about you, not them."
  • On play: "Sharing comes later." Two-year-olds don't understand the concepts of sharing or altruism, so don't force it.

But the truth is, I have (against all odds, one might say) a good-natured, even-tempered kid. He's always played for long stretches on his own, eaten well and slept easily. He's displayed no real separation anxiety with nannies or "camp." There is, of course, the occasional Home Depot Tantrum, so I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the "terrible two" to rear its ugly head. Maybe it still will, but at the moment, he is generally easy.

The exception to Henry's general easy-going personality.

That's why I bristled a little at the section entitled "Shaming the Compliant Child."
Is an easy, compliant child such a good thing? ... Our so-called nice kids tend to bury or squash these negative emotions because we as adults expect them to.... They become so attuned to their parents' perception of them as "easy," "good," or "nice," they shy away from expressing real, true feelings.... When we as adults signal to these easygoing children either our surprise or impatience when they do express frustration or upset, we only reinforce that they should not have such feelings.
I see what she is saying -- make sure Henry isn't just trying to please us all. Perhaps probe to see if something has upset him; make sure he knows it's okay to be sad or angry sometimes. Fine. But this section smacked a little of 'you're going to mess him up somehow, it's only a matter of time' and diminished the book for me. Though, as my wise and witty friend Jane from Nothing by the Book once quipped to me, "The best we can gun for is that they will need therapy for DIFFERENT issues than the one we need therapy for."

I was similarly confused at the part where she insists that parents stop praising their child. "Praise defeats. Let them have and enjoy their own success." Perhaps she is talking to the trophy-just-for-breathing crowd when she says, "Cheering them on knocks them down. It is another way of controlling your child, who is well tuned in to what you expect of them." Gratuitous praise, I agree, is toxic. But when he completes a puzzle and shows me, am I not supposed to say, "That's great, buddy!"?

Unlike the rest of the book, which offered advice that was practical and straightforward (if sometimes counter-intuitive and difficult), these two sections left me feeling helpless. I don't know how to make sure my "easy" child isn't repressing anger without somehow planting a seed that there is something to be angry about. Likewise, I don't know how to be impassive, hiding my pride when he makes me proud or my disappointment when he disappoints me, both of which are inevitable.

The Name of the Game Is Empathy

Despite this criticism, I loved the book and have already discussed it with my husband. Her overriding message to "Accept your children for who they are. Even the parts you don't like" (emphasis hers), resonated deeply with me.

Some of her advice is counter-intuitive: you should let your toddler finish her tantrum -- even one that would make the Poltergeist run for the hills -- without leaving the room, lest she feel abandoned and get even angrier. Other advice is common sense -- yelling back always makes the situation worse -- but often easier said than done, especially when you are in the situation, up to your eyeballs in obligations and down to your last drop of patience.

But throughout the book, she implores parents to look at the world -- even for a few moments -- through their toddler's eyes. It is a simple piece of advice that can have a profound effect on your child's -- and your -- well-being.

[Update: I wrote another post on this book because I couldn't get it out of my head: Parenting in the Time of Poltergeist.]


Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weeds Are Asshole Plants, and Other Things I've Learned Since Moving to the Country

You may recall that in March, the Moo Cow Family moved from Brooklyn to Riverdale, a swanky-by-Bronx-standards section of the Bronx. So, you know, not exactly "the country." It barely qualifies as a suburb.

But it is such a world away from my Brooklyn existence. Like, there are trees and birds and such. Also, no highway out the window!

Anyway, for this woman, who doesn't know a cattail from a cat's tail, the country is the country no matter how small.



#1 Weeds Are Asshole Plants

Our little house came equipped with a slightly neglected (by its dead owner, so I am not judging or anything) landscaped garden out back. Rayne and I looked at each other and immediately put our fingers to our noses. NOT IT.

"The outside of the house is your department," I argued.

"No. I don't like gardening. I never said I would garden," he responded. "We will hire a gardener."

The previous owner's gardener came and surveyed the property. He couldn't resist pulling random weeds out of the ground, muttering Eso no es planta. Y eso no es planta. Eso es malo. This is not a plant, this is bad.

I emitted a high-pitched non-laugh. Ha-ha! "Gracias. Lo que pasa es que no sabemos nada, pero nada." Thank you. We don't know anything at all.

"Yo sé." I know.

Ha-ha!

Alright, then. Far from being in my husband's department of responsibilities, gardening has fallen squarely into my realm, mostly because our gardener speaks 5% English and my husband speaks -10% Spanish. He throws in all these random Italian words he's picked up from listening to me and Henry and some Japanese he learned when he did a semester abroad in Tokyo, just for good measure.

The gardener returned on Saturday morning, bright and early, to rid the garden of our ignorance and apparent neglect. He tried to show me which was a plant and which was a weed. Esa es plantita. Esa no es plantita. But they all looked exactly the same to me. I could not tell a weed from a plant, it turns out, if my life depended on it.

Later that night I asked Rayne to explain the difference. What I gather is that weeds are native plants that take over the area and choke the other, mostly non-native plants out. So I wasn't crazy not to know the difference. They can look the same. Weeds are plants that are assholes, and sometimes it takes a while to realize someone is an asshole. They seem fine at first, but then you realize they don't know how to share with the other plants.

I also found out that English Ivy is a weed, an "invasive villain," no less, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where Rayne is from, but also on the eastern seaboard. English Ivy is a selfish little asshole that wraps its viney tentacles around unsuspecting trees and feeds off them. This discovery brings new meaning to the term Ivy League, don't you think?

What I still don't understand is why we don't simply tidy up the existing weeds and let them flourish in their native habitat.


#2 Bugs Are Everywhere

Killing bugs in our abode is also in Rayne's department. But since he is often at work or even away on business, it falls to me. I'm 49% a Buddhist who thinks all life is sacred, even that of bugs, and 51% scared shitless of bugs, so I usually just pretend I didn't see them and run in the other room.

I am not sure what else to say except to include these two posts from my Facebook feed earlier in the month:





Which leads us to...


#3 Natural Bug Spray Only Works in the City

I research everything and buy the least toxic version that works in the category, especially where Henry is concerned. I abide by the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen; I use castile hand soap. So of course, I bought "all natural" California Baby Bug Repellent Spray.

But it didn't work. At. All. That's because natural bug spray only works in the city, where there are seven total bugs, who are lazy because they don't have to fight hard for food.

I got slaughtered every time I went into my backyard any time of the day. (Note: Burt's Bees Outdoor Bug Bite Relief does soothe the itch. Score one for au naturel!)

I read the EWG's guide to insect repellent, and even they are skeptical about so-called natural repellents. Apparently one should not expose children under three to Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, the most natural-sounding option, so I settled for a few products with Picaridin (less likely to cause irritation) for the skin and low concentrations of DEET (7-10%) for the clothing.


#4 Haikus Happen Spontaneously

I posted this gem earlier in the month:




And someone commented: #haiku.

Because it's an effing haiku, and I didn't even realize it! GUYS: IN THE COUNTRY, HAIKUS HAPPEN SPONTANEOUSLY. I had only ever written one haiku on this blog ("Requiem for a Shower") and before that not since seventh grade.

I can't just leave my special haiku in that boring, one-line format. I have to write it here again, proper-like:

Dead supine sparrow
Directly outside the door
To my patio.


#5 Feral Cat Colonies (and Cat Ladies) Are Real

Which brings me to my last realization. How do you think a dead sparrow surfaced face up on my patio? If you said Hudson, my neurotic corgi, you probably haven't been paying attention up until this point, because my dog is afraid of water and nozzles. He sure as hell hasn't been running around killing birds, Dexter-style.

So who was the mystery murderer?

When we first moved in, we noticed a black and white cat hanging around our garden. Hudson would bark himself apoplectic, and the cat would move along.

I wonder whose cat that is, we naively said to each another.

Then we noticed the cat had a big gash across its eye.

Hmmm, I wonder if that cat got in a fight with a squirrel or something. Still totally naive.

Then we noticed a crazy cat lady feeding a pack of 20 cats in the woods near our house.

Oh, no.

Being me, I confronted the cat lady one evening while out with my dog. It turns out feral cat colonies exist across the city as part of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. Yes! They neuter/spay them so they don't reproduce, vaccinate them and give them annual physicals. They have a little shack for bad weather.

Yes! This is a thing!

I am less concerned now, since I know the cats are vaccinated. They are too wild to be pets, so the only other option would be to euthanize them, which I am squarely against. Plus, these cats are so well fed, they border on chubby. A cat will see a squirrel or other potential meal walk past and do the cat equivalent of a shrug and "whatevs". Meow.

As for the sparrow, it was just a little "Welcome to the Nabe" gift. So thoughtful.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Make Your Life Super Difficult

Writing, Storytelling, HumorI've been thinking a lot lately about how I always take the long way around. And not in the cool, off-the-beaten-path Dixie Chicks kind of way. No, no, no. In the effing infuriating, why-can't-I-just-get-a-grip kind of way. The pluck-your-eyeballs-out-of-your-head-from-exhaustion kind of way. It's my specialty.

I've also been thinking about something a writer-acquaintance said about "mommy blogging." That we are all trying to find some kind of UNIVERSAL message. Something that can go viral and get picked up by the Huffington Post. No one is just telling her story anymore, for the intrinsic value in the story and in the telling.

But that's not why we started writing, is it? For page views and high fives?

I wrote the post below in August 2012, mere weeks after I began blogging. It's a simple story about my family and how brilliant I am at making things difficult. Enjoy.

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This is my corgi, Hudson: 

Urban Moo Cow
I updated the photo to a more recent one. He's so cute, right?
He has become insanely neurotic. Things he is afraid of include, in no particular order: swimming in water, driving in cars, going through doorways, the Swiffer, the vacuum, my Medela breast pump and anything that squirts out of a nozzle.

Of these, the only one that makes sense is swimming. When Hudson was eight months old, Rayne decided it would be brilliant to teach him to swim by tossing him into my parents' pool where I was waiting. As I lunged for him, Little Hudsy rose to the surface in a frantic fit of desperate doggy paddling and has never recovered.

I've tried many, many times to get him back in the water, even submerging my body in a small, warm, undoubtedly pee-filled dog therapy pool in downtown Manhattan. Hudson spent the entire time clawing at my body until he was up on my shoulder, clinging to my scalp for dear life. The place refunded my money. The whole experience was awesome and not at all embarrassing or revolting.

Let's just say that Rayne won't be taking the same approach with Henry. {Ed. note: Oh, no, he has not. He has NOT.}

But I digress.

This weekend we had plans to go to Boston for our friends’ son’s second birthday party. In the past, I might have left Hudson alone in our apartment for the one night and arranged for a dog walker. But I have a good deal of dog-mommy guilt about how unhappy Hudson has been since Henry arrived and we turned his world upside down by moving.

So in a bid to make my life extremely difficult, I found a friend to watch him. A friend who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at least two hundred thousand miles from my apartment in Brooklyn, metaphorically speaking.

“Okay where are we dropping Hudson off?” Rayne asked as we were piling the stroller, two pieces of luggage, the diaper bag, the Pack-and-Play, Henry, Henry’s binky, Hudsy, Hudsy’s bag o’ tricks and our already-exhausted selves into the car. He was not mega-psyched about my response.

“Let’s take the Brooklyn Bridge and go south on the FDR, around the horn. We’ll zip right up the West Side Highway,” I offered unhelpfully (as it turned out).

After over two hours in the car, we were not yet to the dog's weekend destination. Hudson was apoplectic from having been in the car so long; Henry was waking from a nap. Boston was another five hours away according to our GPS and another six according to Google Maps. We were going to miss the birthday party. And our friends, who had just brought home a new baby, were unlikely to want to split a few bottles of wine with us into the wee hours.

Rayne parked the car in a tow zone on Broadway in the 70s, where we sat while eating take-out mediocrity from a Euro-pan café. He was furious, which he seldom is. “Our life is complicated enough. Why can’t we make decisions that make it simpler?!”

I didn’t have an answer. Taking the long way has always been my specialty. I walk the fine line between “doing (what I think is) the right thing, even if it’s harder” and “being compulsively stubborn.”

We drove an hour home, for a final tally of nearly four hours in the car. And a net total of zero miles traveled.

#Fail

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Generation Grit: Better Toys for Boys

The best toys are ones that allow for trial and error, encourage exploration through touch and are based on pretending and imaginary play. So says Kim John Payne, M.Ed., author of one of the very few "parenting advice" books that resonated with me: Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I think most of us can agree that our children have too many toys with unnecessary -- not to mention annoying -- bells and whistles, made from plastic in a factory in China that probably has terrible working conditions and not particularly high safety standards. So I am completely on board with Payne's approach to simplification: less plastic, more imagination.

But besides my dismay at spending money on plastic trinkets, something else about toys bothers me: their overtly gendered aspect. I wrote recently at Mamalode about my refusal to accept my son's supposed "biologically predetermined" love trains and trucks.

Not content with my own anecdotal hunch, however, I bought another book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It, by Lise Eliot, to see what science said about the issue. Was a love of trucks (and all other objects we identify as "boy things") really genetically programmed? Was there something about a boy's brain that made him love trucks?

Eliot says, in a nutshell that there is "surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children's brains." The same, however, certainly cannot be said for adult men and women. That's because one of the most important characteristics/attributes of the brain is its "plasticity," or the fact that "the brain actually changes in response to its own experience." She writes:
Learning and practice rewire the human brain, and considering the very different ways boys and girls spend their time while growing up, as well as the special potency of early experience in molding neuronal connections, it would be shocking if the two sexes' brains didn't work different by the time they were adults.

Enter Generation Grit. Founder and entrepreneur Laura Hale is the mother four children – three girls and a boy. As mother of three girls, she applauded the backlash against traditional girls’ toys -- princess fatigue, anyone? -- in the form of some great new products like Goldie Blox, which seeks to "get girls building," and, hopefully, excited about engineering and science, and role models like the female scientist Lego minifigure.

But what about her little boy? A part from construction toys and vehicles, the only role models were superheroes. "I love superheroes," says Hale, "but I also long for my son to have heroes who are regular boys. And wouldn't it be great if the heroes were featured in page-turning adventure books, not on screens?”

Yes. Yes! Because boys' exposure to superheroes' overly developed musculature can be just as damaging as girls' exposure to Barbie's gravity-defying dimensions. And teaching boys that they must be stoic saviors is just as problematic as teaching girls their role is to be saved. If, as Lise Eliot writes, our brains are the product of our experiences, don't we want our boys exposed to role models other than superheroes who swoop in to save the universe and larger-than-life video game soldiers who shoot to kill?

Instead, Generation Grit is seeking funding to bring to life a collection of characters for boys. Each character has an action figure, books and accessories to spark hours of reading and imaginative play. The first character is fourteen-year-old Mac Mason, whose story takes place in 1943 on the home front during World War II. Although Mac is an avid baseball player, he feels overshadowed when his athletic British cousin William comes to California to escape the London bombings. Things change when the two uncover clues to a fraudulent rations ring. They have to figure out how to work together to save a friend from being falsely accused. Mac's adventures include smugglers, ciphers, mystery and an epic camping trip.

While the book revolves around Mac’s adventures and the ration mystery, it also walks through important issues of friendship, ego and courage. The book is intended for middle grade readers, ages 8-12.

Mac Mason's accessories. Photo courtesy of Generation Grit's Kickstarter campaign.

Support Generation Grit's Kickstarter campaign before July 3, and be among the first to receive the new toys and books. For those who back Generation Grit, the company is offering the opportunity to get the 10-inch Mac Mason adventure figure, the softcover edition of his chapter book and his collection of accessories. Not to mention the chance to support better toys for boys.


Disclosure: I was compensated for this post by Generation Grit, but all opinions are my own. I rarely do product reviews or sponsored posts and only accept assignments that are personally compelling to me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Which Memories Will You Choose to Keep? A Review of This Is Childhood

I have a confession: I fear the moment my sweet little boy becomes a bigger boy who no longer lives and breathes untainted, unconditional adoration for his imperfect mamma. I, who have always been self-sufficient to a fault, feel drunk on the love in his eyes, his wet toddler kisses. I am greedy; I don’t want to lose my fix. And I don’t want to know when I will lose it.

And so it was with trepidation that I picked up my review copy of Brain, Child Magazine’s This Is Childhood, a lovely and extraordinarily well-written anthology of essays about the first ten years of childhood. But the book proved to be relatable, even cathartic, and I highly recommend it.

Despite the outpouring on my blog, I lack the courage to write to my son as opposed to about him. And so I wept with abandon at the essay on One by Aidan Donnelly Rowley, a letter to her daughter on the cusp of turning two. Both she and the author of Two, Kristen Levithan, express the hope that their children will understand how much they were loved simply by reading their mothers’ missives. I, too, claim record-keeping as a large motivation for my writing: I want future-Henry to know just how funny and sweet and innocent he was, just how much we adored him.

But the idea that we keep memories for our children until they can keep them for themselves is a fallacy. The truth is we craft recollections through the lens of our own experience. Blogging, jotting down notes in his baby book – they are more than just a way to preserve a record of his milestones; they are the way I capture how I myself felt in the moment he first smiled or sang me a song or said I love you, Mommy. As Nina Badzin writes in Three, “they’re the [memories] I choose to keep.” My scribblings and ramblings are but a continuation of the small, yellow spiral-bound notebook labeled PRIVATE that I kept in my nightstand drawer at age seven. My memories, my truth.

Speaking of seven, the vivid recollection of first keeping my own memories at that age is no mere coincidence. Seven appears, in this anthology, to be a fulcrum around which the age of innocence is divided from its more aware cousin. Like the bucking of car when a novice changes gears, there was a palpable shift between Bethany Meyer’s essay on Six -- “No matter how many leaps forward you take, six, you’re still so preciously innocent” – and Tracy Morrison’s essay on Seven.

Seven is precarious. Morrison describes the two “sevens” she has experienced. For her eldest daughter, Morrison writes, seven “meant starting to care about what other people think, insisting on wearing the ‘right’ clothes…” while for her younger daughter, seven means “not caring about those things, living with her head in the clouds of happy oblivion while wearing twirly skirts, tights, Mary Janes, big bows….” The lever balances atop its fulcrum.

And then Eight. “You back yourself into your closet and dress alone;” writes Amanda Magee, “then, each morning as you leave your room, you close the door securely behind you.” And: “I rarely let my lips touch your [sleeping] face as I lean in to kiss you because you often wake, not always gently. I am an intrusion.” Thwap. The lever falls to the other side.

I am not ready. I am the swollen-eyed, sniffling, opposite of ready.

I pull myself together and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing I have almost five years of the intoxicating little man love drug before seven rears its trembling, unsteady head. The question is whether I will be brave enough to continue writing when he is Seven, Eight, Fifteen, Eighteen. Will the memory of his loss of innocence be one I choose to keep?

Denise Ullem’s note following her essay on Nine catches my breath. “One of my greatest joys – watching my children grow – lives beside a subtle sorrow that my time with them is finite.” There is comfort, at least, in knowing you are not alone.


Disclosure: I received a review copy of This Is Childhood from Brain, Child Magazine, for whom I have contributed essays.

Monday, May 5, 2014

So Much Better

It is difficult to parse.

Is it the house versus apartment? The outdoor space versus none? The sound of birds chirping versus trucks barreling down the BQE? The ability to belong to the gym? The fact that my commute is one-thousand-times better? The fact that the dog's hair is no longer falling out? Or the sheer joy with which my son watches the commuter rail from his window. TRAINS!

Whatever it is, all I can say is: OMG THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER.

I don't miss the city at all. Perhaps I am still in a honeymoon phase. Or perhaps I had already mourned the conveniences of the "city" during the two years I spent in a ghastly fringe area of Brooklyn. Maybe it's because I can still walk to a playground, pharmacy, bank and bodega. People are out and about, something I never found to be true in the suburbs, at least not to that extent. Yet there are trees and a river and a backyard.

I miss some friends. I miss my nanny. But honestly, that's about it.


Waiting for trains with Hudsy.

New-house selfie.

Playing drums at the street fair.

Waiting for Daddy to come home from the train.

Train-spotting selfie.


Playing with Hudsy on the patio.




Thursday, April 24, 2014

Little Boys and Trucks: Inevitable?

It is no exaggeration to say that my two-year-old son is obsessed with trucks. And cars. And buses. And trains -- especially trains. These days my misguided little Socrates answers most of my questions with a question of his own: "We go see trains?"

I did not consciously encourage -- or discourage – the uninhibited joy he finds in motor vehicles. One day he was toddling around with his favorite Llama-Llama-Red-Pajama doll and the next we were awash in toy cars.

But how inevitable is this obsession? Is there really something biological about boys that makes them love cars and trucks?

Today at Mamalode, I discuss this very question in an essay called "Of Trucks and Men." Click here to read the whole piece.


Are little boys destined to love trucks and trains?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Achievement and Morality Require Different Strategies

Now that we live in a house -- a real, honest-to-goodness house -- we have started getting the Sunday New York Times delivered again. I know it seems antiquated, and I still get most of my information online. But there is something delicious about eating breakfast in bed and reading the Sunday Times.

This was our first weekend with the paper, and the first article I read was so significant to me, I wanted to share it here. The opinion piece was entitled "Raising a Moral Child" by Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Encouraging Achievement: Praise Effort

Grant begins with the infamous 1998 Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller study about fifth graders and achievement. (I wrote about intelligence versus resilience when the Brilliant Book Club discussed Christine Gross-Loh's Parenting Without Borders.) In short, Dweck and Mueller write, "six studies demonstrated that praise for intelligence had more negative consequences for students' achievement motivation than praise for effort."

In other words, to encourage achievement (and favor resilience) it is better to say something along the lines of "I'm proud of how hard you worked on that project," as opposed to, "You got an A because you are so smart." Children understand inherently that they can always work harder as opposed to be smarter, which seems more fixed.


Encouraging Moral Behavior: Praise Character

While such a strategy works for achievement, what about morality: kindness, compassion, generosity, a sense of right and wrong? According to Grant, "[g]enetic twin studies suggest that anywhere from a quarter to more than half of our propensity to be giving and caring is inherited." That leaves 50 to 75 percent to nurture.

When it comes to morality, Grant explains,
Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child — that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.”
But a 1980 study of seven- and eight-year-olds showed that praising helpful behavior ("that was a good thing to do") was not as effective in encouraging generosity as praising their helpfulness ("you are a helpful person"). Grant says, 
Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person.
And further,
When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.

Discouraging Immoral Behavior: Express Disappointment

Grant explains that when children cause harm, they typically feel one of two moral emotions: shame or guilt.
Shame makes children feel small and worthless.... In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior.
Given these definitions, we clearly want to steer away from using shame as a tactic. (Brene Brown agrees vehemently in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me.)

So how do we avoid using shame in our parenting? Grant explains that,
[S]hame emerges when parents express anger, withdraw their love, or try to assert their power through threats of punishment: Children may begin to believe that they are bad people.... Fearing this effect, some parents fail to exercise discipline at all, which can hinder the development of strong moral standards.
I appreciated that last line, because I am definitely of the camp that children need guidance to develop good character. But sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how far to go when disciplining our children, especially in a society in which many people believe the word "no" is somehow toxic to a child's development. Here's what Grant says:
The most effective response to bad behavior is to express disappointment.... [P]arents raise caring children by expressing disappointment and explaining why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation....[i.e.,] “You’re a good person, even if you did a bad thing, and I know you can do better.” [emphasis is mine]

Modeling Moral Behavior: Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Finally, Grant discussed the ever-present challenge of modeling moral behavior versus explaining the difference between right and wrong. He references a "classic" 1975 study on the generosity patterns of 7- to 11-year-olds, in which the children keep all the tokens they won in a game or donate some to a poor child. In different scenarios, they watched the adult in the study play the game generously or selfishly and then discuss the importance of giving, taking or neither.

The study found that the children were more likely to be generous themselves when they watched the adult playing the game generously, even if the adult had, in the same scenario, preached taking (selfishness).  

And in a follow-up longitudinal study, "the most generous children were those who watched the teacher give but not say anything." [emphasis is mine]

In other words, action speaks louder than words. Much, much louder.


Read the whole opinion piece here, and let me know your thoughts below, on Facebook or on Google+



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Where I'm From

Special thanks to Galit Breen who inspired this post with her own Where I'm From essay at Mamalode. As she said there, "Mining the details of our beginnings and seeing what moved us from there to here is one way to sort through our stories."



I am from wooden cooking spoons, from Ronzoni and a plastic-covered couch.

I am from the brown-shingled high ranch at the end of the cul-de-sac: pink dogwood out front, cement stoop perfect for conspiring, long driveway devoted to my Big Wheel and a 1979 maroon Monte Carlo.

I am from the backyard’s yellow azalea-lined border; the summer garden of cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and green zucchini.

I am from loud Christmas Eve dinners and the notable nose, from Rosa and Vincenzo and Maria.

I am from the working class immigrant’s fear of being swindled and his courage to strive.

From Don’t cheat the man in the glass and Every strength overextended is a weakness.

I am from Roman Catholicism, brittle and unforgiving, rejected outright at age eight following my cousin’s death. No one could explain why we would never finish the jigsaw puzzle he promised we would next time.

I'm from the suburbs, beige and provincial. I am from gritty 1970s Brooklyn. I am from southern Italy in all directions, as far as the finger can trace. I am from Sunday macaroni and lentil soup with sausage eaten on a flowery tablecloth.

From a grandfather whose arthritic spine prevented him from seeing the world, a grandmother who danced at Roseland, a World War II vet, a talented artist whose craft seems to have eluded me.

I am from eight-millimeter film transcribed to DVD and closets of well-labeled albums filled with fading photos amidst yellowing, crumbling glue. I am from peasants’ histories locked away in musty Sicilian civil service basements. I am from places I have only seen in stories. I close my eyes to know them better. This is where I’m from.

Where are you from?


The template for this exercise can be found here.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Reasons to Keep Your Toddler Around

Welcome back to The Brilliant Book Club, a collaboration of five parent bloggers. To learn more about BBC, read this post or follow us on Facebook, G+ or Twitter with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub.

And don’t forget to read what my co-founders Lauren, Jessica, Sarah and Stephanie have to say about this month’s book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. Links to their posts are below.



I did not want to read All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. I have, in truth, grown a bit weary of the upper middle class navel-gazing and over-analysis paralysis in the parenting department. I didn't liked Maxed Out at all, and while I found the essays in The Good Mother Myth well written and thought-provoking, I confessed to not being susceptible to that particular myth.

I related, instead, to the author of the recent humor piece in the New Yorker whose lede was: "A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit."

Amen.

But I am so glad I didn't skip this one. Because I love it.


Jennifer Senior's new book is beautifully constructed: interviews with everyday people, compelling social science research and resonant references to literature, both fiction and non-fiction. Her pages are filled with lines from the likes of Milan Kundera, Michael Ondaatje and C.S. Lewis. Senior's own prose is simple and evocative with lines as beautiful as, "The rain comes down harder, turns to hail; it's the kind of windy-wet downpour that twists umbrellas into buttercups." It is a pleasure to read.

The book is divided into three sections: babies and toddlers, early elementary school children and adolescents. I regret that with my move last weekend to the not-quite-suburbs I was only able to get through the chapters on babies and toddlers. But since that is the extent of my hands-on experience to this point, I might have confined my opinions regardless. (Self-justification: check.)

I enjoyed the first two chapters on autonomy (loss thereof) and marriage (changes to) following the birth of a new baby. There is no book on earth that can prepare you for Hurricane Newborn. Not only for the unbounded love you feel for your creation but also for the shifts in life's mundane details: leaving the house in the morning with your sanity intact can seem a Herculean (and humbling) task.

Senior offers a lot of social science research that resonated with my experiences, notably the study that found the level of sleep deprivation "enjoyed" by new parents can compromise performance as much as being drunk. I also appreciated the insightful section on the oft-discussed division of labor between partners. (I will reserve those points for another post discussing what I learned from our recent move.)

But the chapter that really piqued my interest was the third one, entitled "Simple Gifts," which attempts to answer the question no social science research study has ever fully done: Why, if raising children is so difficult, if it leads to sleep deprivation and diminished sex lives and maddening, inane conversations about putting on shoes... why, then, is it also such a source of joy?

Just another day in paradise with a toddler. On the floor of Home Depot. Crying. Naturally.

This question is less a matter of social science and more of philosophy. Here are three reasons she postulates:

Spirit

Parenting a toddler gives you license to uncork your inner spirit -- the one tamped down by years of functioning in "civilized" society -- and dance like a silly freak, run through sprinklers and play with percussion instruments until your ear drums fall out of your head. No one looks at you sidelong when you slide down a homemade snow hill with your tot. For a couple of years, you have permission to act like a child again. And isn't it glorious?

Love

The unconditional adoration of a toddler is as intoxicating as it gets. It's not that your spouse or siblings don't love you unconditionally; they may in fact do so, just not in the completely unencumbered, unpolluted way that only a child, who hasn't yet lived long enough to judge or be judged, can and does.

To wit, the other night, I went to the door of my two-year-old son's room and listened as he sang a song whose melody and lyrics were all his own. The only words to the song were "Mommy."

Mommy, mommy, mommy ma ma. Mamma mommy mamma mamma maaa.

He wasn't calling me. He was serenading me. For every moment of irrational floor-crying at Home Depot (see photo above), there's also the Mommy song.

Philosophy

Parenting, Senior argues, allows you to take another stab at life's big philosophical questions when your little questioner inquires, "How can we be sure that everything is not a dream?" or "Is there only this place, the place with the sky?" Or ponder questions we once asked but to which we have forgotten the answer in the hurried practicality of quotidian life: "Why is the sky blue?" "What is water?" As Senior puts it, new parents have "a chance, at least for a few years, to contemplate -- and perhaps reconsider -- why the world around them is what it is."


Spirit, love and philosophy. Three great reasons to keep your toddler around. If she has taught me that much in a hundred pages, I look forward to reading what else Senior has in store.


_______

Please be sure to read this week's posts by my Brilliant Book Club co-founders:

Jessica @ School of SmockIf We Left Kids Alone, Would We All Be More Joyful and Happy?

Sarah @ Left Brain BuddhaAncient Wisdom for Modern Parents: 5 Ways to Make Parenting More Joyful

Stephanie @ Mommy, For RealThe Parenthood Paradox: A Snapshot of Two Mothers


Thursday, March 20, 2014

How I Discovered Ernie Was My Doorman

We are leaving Brooklyn for good on Saturday, so I thought it was only appropriate to end on an "are-you-kidding" note.

My aunt gave Henry an "Ernie Rocks" doll early last year. At that point he had not seen Sesame Street, but he loved music class, so she thought it would be cute. If you pulled down the arm strumming the guitar, Ernie played a guitar riff, sang Old MacDonald and said lines like:

Let's rock together!

and

That was great!

Let's Rock Together!

Henry liked it. "Arnie rock!" he would say when he wanted me to pull it out for him.

Soon after, we were in a toy store when he spied a tinier Ernie and begged for it. It was the first time I had ever given in to child-induced impulse purchasing, but I am quite sure it will not be the last.

*** 

By late summer, Henry had started to say a few things beyond mama and dada, but his language hadn't really taken off yet. One day as we returned to the building, Henry's favorite doorman was on duty.

"Say hello to Rupert, Henry," I encouraged him.

"Arnie!" he replied.

The doorman looked at me. "What is he saying?"

"I don't know..." I trailed off because I couldn't be sure, but then I heard it again:

"Arnie!"

Oh my God.

I hustled to the elevator.

"I think Henry called our doorman Ernie today," I said to my husband that night. "Like, Sesame Street Ernie." We both laughed and brushed it off in a he-sure-does-love-that-Ernie-doll kind of way.

A few days later, we came home to Rupert once again, and Henry cried in excitement:

"Arnie!! Arnie!! You rock, Arnie!!"

Thankfully Rupert seemed none the wiser, as Henry's babbling was still incomprehensible. To me, however, it was crystal clear. He thought our doorman looked like Ernie, with whom he was by now quite familiar from his several viewings of Sesame Street on YouTube.

And come to think of it, our doorman did kind of resemble Ernie. He had a shock of black hair on top of his head and a wide, oblong face. And in the most telling clue of all, he sat behind a desk, displaying only his top half... just like Ernie.

***

With Henry's language becoming clearer every day, I was never more grateful to be dealing with a non-native English speaker. I would let Henry chat him up until I could no longer stand it. Then I would run out of the building and call my parents, bursting with laughter because my son thought our doorman looked like a Muppet and was not afraid to say it.

But last week, I realized Henry did not think our doorman resembled Ernie. He truly thought our doorman was Ernie.

We came home one evening as always. I stopped to pick up a package while Henry told Ernie about his day: "Ernie... blah blah blah... park... blah blah... Hudsy... ha ha ha!"

I inhaled and exhaled slowly so as not to laugh. And then he said it.

"Where's Bert?"

Oh my God! I could not hold it in any longer. A loud snort and laugh rose up from my belly and exploded forth from my face. A snaugh, if you will.

"What did he say?" Ernie asked.

"I don't know," I murmured shaking my head, tears of laughter running down my face.

"Bert? Where's Bert?" Henry persisted.

Just then, our super -- a tall, thin man with black hair -- arrived.

"Aaaah!" Henry exclaimed. "Bert!"

And that's when I knew: Henry believes we live on Sesame Street.

Who knows where he will think we are in the Bronx??




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

To Ban or Not to Ban Bossy: That Is the Question

Last week, LeanIn.Org, the organization founded by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Lean In fame, teamed up with the Girl Scouts to launch a national public service campaign to “ban bossy.”

The BanBossy website provides this tidbit: “Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem ‘bossy.’” And: “By middle school, girls are 25% less likely than boys to say they like taking the lead.” Indeed, early on, girls understand that speaking their mind makes them unlikeable. And who wants to be unlikeable? No one, least of all tweens just discovering how very fragile their egos are.

A campaign whose stated intention is to “encourage girls to lead” would seem fairly innocuous. Yet there has been a great flood of negativity from the Twittersphere and beyond. Today at Brain, Child Magazine's blogLauren Apfel and I discuss why the campaign fell flat for her while it resonated with me. 

Click here to head over and join the conversation. We would love to hear what you have to say.





Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is It Still Art If I Laughed?

Henry brought home his first piece of art last week. Actually, his Italian preschool teacher hand-delivered it when I picked him up.

"It's fragile," she said solemnly, while Henry was busy ignoring my exhortations to put on his sneakers.

When I saw his work of San Valentino art, I am not proud to say I laughed, completely out loud and with no irony.

His teacher looked at me with a mixture of offense and puzzlement. And why shouldn't she? My toddler is preternaturally talented. Clearly:


I know I am going to hell in a hand basket; this fact has already been established. Also the fact that I do not have an artsy bone in my body.

But, like, really. What do I do with it?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Five Things I Will NOT Miss About Brooklyn (A Rant)

Have you heard? Famiglia Moo Cow is leaving Brooklyn.

Perhaps it was inevitable. There are a few serious issues we had with living here, not the least of which were being priced out of any reasonable real estate; the nauseating school situation*; the lack of outdoor options for my poor, misunderstood pup; and the distance from my immediate family, who live a thousand** hours away by car on the other side of the universe in the northwest suburbs of the city.

But our current living situation -- in a peculiar, post-industrial, seemingly ransacked edge of Brooklyn, where sidewalks are strewn with broken glass, garbage and dog shit -- chipped away at my fortitude and sanity, hastening our departure.

Earlier I outlined five things I will miss about Brooklyn. But what I really want to scream out loud is five things I will not. Fucking. Miss. At. All.


#1 - Hipsters 

My disdain for the smug, entitled hipsters that crawl all over "north Brooklyn," looking a mess on purpose is summed up here: Dear Sanctimonious Brooklyn. Take your artisanal mayonnaise and shove it up your microbrewery, hipsters. And may I add: Straight guys with skinny pants. Just… stop it.

#2 - The Total Fucking Asshole in 6V

Look, Total Fucking Asshole -- can I call you Asshole for short? -- I pity your pathetic life, which, as far as I can tell consists of working from 8 am to 6 pm and smoking pot for the balance. I get that it's not entirely your fault I have lived in various apartments filled with the stench of cigarette and/or marijuana smoke exhaled from my neighbors' black lungs for ten long years.

But here’s the thing, Asshole: I have a child now. I know that your five remaining brain cells can’t comprehend my ire at the effect your pastime has on his life. You live alone and probably do not have so much as a goldfish let alone responsibility for another human being. I’m sure it was super fucking inconvenient for you when the building handyman came to “seal” your apartment to prevent the smoke from billowing out of your mouth and into my son’s blood stream. (Especially because the sealing did not work at all.)

I feel like I have really gotten to know you the past two years, Asshole dahling. I know from the smoke signals your comings and goings, what time you awake, when you return home from work. I know when you are on vacation and when you call in stoned sick. I know you didn’t go to work for two days during February’s Snowpocalypse. Well played.

Yet I never, ever murdered you. Not even once.

Unfortunately, our relationship has been a one-way street. You didn’t care when you learned there was a small child living above you. You didn’t hear my sobs of fury and helplessness whilst inhaling the gauzy air. You didn’t pay the electric bills for the “purifiers” that did nothing but shuffle the toxins around. 

Asshole, I only have one thing left to say: Fuck. You. You never even offered me a brownie.

#3 - The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway 

Oh BQE, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, 
when feeling out of sight.
I hate thee in the morning when I go to work. 
I hate thee in the evening when I return,
snaking through Queens, land of Dunkin’ Donuts, to avoid you.
I hate thee on the weekends and holidays 
when I am trying to visit family in the suburbs.
I hate thee for the black soot deposited on every surface of my home 
and upon my very soul.
I hate thee for the noise and the endless dance 
of tractor-trailers pirouetting on thy rancid concrete.
I hate thee.
I hate thee.
I hate thee.

(With sincere apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)

#4 - The Meth Lab

Perhaps I had seen too much Breaking Bad, but I became convinced early on that the Chinese wholesale grocer across the street was a front for a meth lab. It made it easier to despise them for the resulting outrageous noise pollution that rendered it impossible to open a window. Otherwise I would just be hating on random immigrants for trying to make a living. And what ass-wipe does that?

#5 - Quarters

Remember that time I carried a stroller filled with fifty dollars in quarters up and down subway stairs all day? Those were for the “laundry room” in my building. Really? Quarters? Listen up, illiterate owners of the ramshackle contents of so-called laundry room: 1994 called. It wants its machines back.

There are never any quarters in there anyway. Why bother?

* I admit to feeling a giddy tinge of schadenfreude at the prospect of my husband camping out overnight to register Henry for the morning session of a preschool to which I had already ensured his acceptance with my prompt application filing and Henry’s own finely honed toddler interviewing skills.

** Usually no more than two, but it's only 35 miles away!

This post is Part 3 in the Leaving Brooklyn series.
Part 1: Five Things I Will Miss About Brooklyn 
Part 2: Suburban Moo Cow? Not Exactly 

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post: "What I really want to scream out loud is..."

Finish the Sentence Friday

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