Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hooters Rhymes with Computers

If you are going to buy a book about breastfeeding, let it be this one:



Because if you are having trouble nursing -- with the latch, the pain, the supply -- call a lactation consultant.

Do not buy a book about nursing technique. That’s like buying a book about what mango tastes like. Or "going" to a wedding by watching it on a flat-screen TV.

Do not go to a "support" group that will shame you if you decide to stop nursing before the baby turns four.

And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT ask for advice in a Facebook group. I don’t belong to any of these myself, but according to this article, "The Ten Most Sanctimommy Posts Ever," some of those women are nuts. And mean. But mostly CRAY.

Just buy this book. So you know you are not alone.

I am not going to carry on about how hostile we, as a society, are to new mothers. But here is a preview. Nursing in public? Shame on you! Want a maternity leave that is more than six weeks or, God forbid, paid? Don't be absurd.

As a result, we are forced to do things we never dreamed we would. Like nurse on a crowded city bus (check) or pump on the floor of a conference room corner (check). What, you didn't imagine yourself on a bench, covering your naked breast with a dirty burp rag whilst studying long ago for that organic chemistry midterm exam? Silly, silly you.

Nursing can be a lovely, intimate bonding experience. But far from being intuitive, learning to breastfeed is difficult, painful and humbling. And pumping is an activity straight out of Dante's Inferno. You even get to wear this contraption:

Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breast Pump Bra.

"When you want to at least be able to wipe your other child's butt while pumping."*


Best to have a sense of humor about the whole thing.

Lauren Belden did, and I am so glad. In a play on Dr. Seuss's Oh! The Places You'll Go! -- the college graduation gift staple -- The Places You'll Feed! honestly (and hilariously) explores the breastfeeding mother's travails. 

See, feeding your babe,
well, it's not always pretty,
when you whip out a boob
in a cab in the city.

My favorite page, as you can tell from the title of this post, is about the ridiculous places we pump at work (dark closet anyone?):

And many an office
just won't have a spot
that's not crowded 
or freezing
or dreadfully hot
or spooky
or kooky
or full of computers
to hook up your pump
and squeeze milk from your hooters.

HOOTERS RHYMES WITH COMPUTERS!

It all makes sense now.



* Just kidding. That's not their tag line. But I did recently wipe Henry's butt with one hand while holding the baby to my breast with the other. YES. THAT HAPPENED.



Disclosure: I received a review copy. Opinions are my own, as always.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Three-Year-Old Understands Empathy But Could Not Care Less

Finally, another show has punctured the tyranny of Paw Patrol, an overly clever Nickelodeon cartoon about six dogs with cute names who save the day in Adventure Bay on a regular basis. So many crises for one little town. For four months, it was all I heard or saw. Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol, Be there on the double! Judging from the chaotic line to meet Chase and Marshall (the cop dog and fire dog, respectively -- GET IT??) at the New Jersey State Fair recently, I am not alone.

Henry, absolutely enamored of his two favorite pups.
(I cropped my fat postpartum ass right out of this picture.)

But one day in August, Henry asked for Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is a sequel to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood on PBS Kids. Daniel Tiger is the son of the original Daniel Striped Tiger character. (Remember?!) Anyway, I love the show. It is calm, quiet and educational -- everything Paw Patrol isn't.

The other day, Henry was watching it in bed with me. The episode was about empathy. "Empathy is when you think about how another person feels," Daniel Tiger's mother explained.

Later that day, in the bathroom, trying to wrestle my son to the potty, we had the following conversation.

"Mommy, you have to think about how I feel."

"Ok, how do you feel?"

"I feel sad."

"Why do you feel sad?"

"Because you're waking up my baby." [Completely made up reason he uses when he doesn't have anything else to say but wants to talk.]

"Okay. I'll try not to do that. And how do you think I feel?"

"I think you feel mad."

"And why am I mad?"

"Because I'm not listening to you today."

"And what can you do about that?"

"I can listen to you..."

I nodded, preparing to burst with pride and positive reinforcement.

"...but I don't want to."


And there you have it. He understood the show's message but flat-out rejected it. Congratulations to me on my continued success in raising a compassionate child. I can't wait for the teen years.




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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

No One Died, So I Consider It a Parenting Victory

Now that we are a family of four (plus dog), I am nearly always outnumbered, which is never a great thing to be. Plus, since his sister's arrival at the end of June, Henry has been, shall we say, less than cooperative.

I was at such a loss for how to deal with his behavior -- simply not listening to the point of defiance, punctuated with a potty training regression that included exclusive pants-pooping -- that I bought a book about parenting, something I have scoffed at in the past. But I am so cerebral and over-educated that when under stress, I fall right back on strategies that have worked in the past.

There must, I thought, be a book out there that can solve this for me.

There is not, of course, but I did find one that was helpful: How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too by Sal Severe, Ph.D. It was the right mix of theoretical and practical, but I must point out the ludicrous "hope" he holds out for parents of children who have, like Henry, what Severe calls a "persistent temperament."

There is a bright side. Even though children who are bright, verbal, and persistent may be difficult to manage as children and adolescents, they typically do well in life. These are the achievers and leaders of the world. Having this to look forward to may help you get through their childhood a little more easily.

Really? Wow, thanks a lot. So basically the best I can hope for is the ability to brag about my son's professional accomplishments in thirty years. Amazing. I feel so much better now.

Anyhow, today I took my persistently temperamental preschooler, eight-week-old infant and neurotic dog upstate to visit a friend and her dog. Just as a refresher, my dog, Hudson, is afraid of nearly everything, including, but not limited to, vacuum cleaners, hoses, small children, other dogs, bodies of water, cleaning products, the cabinet that contains the cleaning products, riding in cars and feral cats. 

What could go wrong?

The day started out nicely. Though it was sweltering, it was great to catch up with my friend. Henry mostly behaved, which is not the same as allowing me to relax for more than 45 consecutive seconds, but at least he did not pee on the living room floor, like Hudson did, twice. 

In the late afternoon we were playground-bound. We took the dogs, which proved to be a mistake.

No One Died, So I Consider It a Parenting Victory ~ Urban Moo Cow

Upon arriving at the park, Henry (we think) accidentally tripped my friend, and they both tumbled down onto the pavement, seemingly in slow motion. Lucy the beagle sprinted away. Henry was screaming. I dropped Hudson's leash and my tote bag, abandoned the baby in her stroller, picked up Henry and ran after Lucy.

Luckily, she was distracted momentarily by another dog, and I was able to grab her leash and drag her back to my friend, who was just getting up off the ground. We moved off the main pathway onto a patch of grass.

I noticed blood on my forearm and saw that Henry was bleeding. And still wailing. 

"Okay, baby, it's okay." I kissed his cheek and set him down. "Let me get some wipes to clean your knee."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO," was his obvious response. And off he ran, much like a six-year-old beagle. 

"Come back," I yelled. "I'll be gentle!" I wrapped Hudson's leash around the stroller handle and started to go after Henry.

Just then, the dog that had minutes earlier been the hero who saved Lucy from escaping to Canada, passed by with his owner. Hudson began barking like a lunatic; he charged. The force of his 30-pound apoplectic body pulled the stroller over, and the baby, who was not strapped in (#momoftheyear), slid out onto the ground. 

I scooped the baby up. She wasn't even crying. I think I would have murdered the dog had I had the right tool. Instead, I took hold of his leash and pushed his head to the ground. NO.

In the background, Henry was still crying about his bloody knee. My friend looked dazed. We decided that she should take the dogs home and meet us later. I convinced Henry to wipe his knee off and we went up to the playground. No harm, no foul.

Henry made a beeline for a "ship" structure on a patch of sand, and I sat with a heavy, tired sigh on a bench to nurse the baby, whose little bottom lip had begun to quiver.

"Mommy?" Henry poked his head out of the ship moments later. "Can I pee on this sand?"

"No! No you may not." I got up while still nursing and the cover-up blanket fell to the ground. "Okay, come on, let's find a bathroom."

Henry, of course, was not having it. I tried dragging him with one hand toward the bathroom, my exposed boob and flabby post-partum belly flapping in the wind. But there was no one around, and I thought that if he peed there he would not be the first. I had a change of shorts in my bag. Pick your battles, Moo Cow. I sat back down and continued breastfeeding.

Another two minutes passed and he came charging toward me. "Mommy! Quick, I need a diaper! I have to poooooooop!"

Yes, that's right. Over the last several weeks, in my desperation not to have to clean feces from yet another pair of tiny Thomas the Train underwear, I had offered Henry the option of going in the potty or asking for a diaper. He used to go in the potty; he would again, I reasoned, and I wanted to end the pointless power struggle. You can't physically make someone poop in the potty. You just can't.

Fine. I fished around in the diaper bag and procured a diaper.

"Hurry, Mommy! It's coming out!"

I hurried. With the baby in my right arm, I used my left to take off his shorts and underwear and diaper him up. At one point, I tried to let the baby rest on my knees while still keeping a nipple in her mouth by hunching over. You can imagine how well that went over. When I finally withdrew my hand, it had poop all over it. 

GAH

I used wipes and Purell while Henry went off to poop inside the ship. 

At this point, I texted my friend and told her we were coming back. It took a while for me to strap the baby securely into the stroller and get Henry to agree to "abandon ship," but eventually we were on our way. 

"I want to push the stroller myself!" demanded Mr. Persistent Temperament. (How bright and verbal you are! I'm going to be so proud in 30 years.)

"Fine," I said, relenting. So exhausted. So very, very exhausted. "You can push it on this straight, flat part, and then Mommy is going to push it."

"Okay," he agreed at exactly the same moment in which he veered sharply off to the left onto a patch of gravel. The stroller's plastic wheels locked. And the stroller fell over again. This time my newborn daughter was saved by the straps, or else she would have fallen straight out onto her face (#momoftheyear). 

I righted the stroller and grabbed Henry's hand. "We're LEAVING."

On the way home, Henry began to whimper. "My butt hurts." Well, of course it did. He was walking home with a huge diaper full of adult-style shit. I dragged him back to my friend's house and attempted a clean-up on the bathroom floor. 

I will spare you the gory details of this operation. Suffice it to say, I came out of the struggle with feces smeared on both forearms and my voice hoarse from screaming.

At that point, I threw in the towel.

"Are you sure you don't want me to make you some quick pasta before you get on the road?" my friend asked. "I'm worried about you driving."

But I just really wanted to go home.

As I packed up the car, Henry ran around barefoot wearing only a shirt and underwear. "I'm hungry! I want to go to the dino [diner]!" The baby was also crying out in hunger. 

I folded up the stroller and tried to get it back into the trunk of the car. There was an empty propane tank in there that Rayne had strapped securely with bungee cords this past weekend, in the vain hope of exchanging it at Home Depot. I couldn't get the stroller back in. I was getting agitated. I tried every which way until I decided the best way would be to yank the bungee cord aside and shove the stroller in as hard as I could. 

But instead of stretching the cord, I ripped the hook with a loud pop straight out of the wall of the trunk, fuzz flying everywhere.

I lost it.

I let out a shriek that echoed off the street's old walls. 

"Mommy, what did you yell?" (Henry)

"Waaaaaaaaaaaah!" (the baby)

"Are you okay?" (my friend)

I went inside and slumped down onto her couch. I nursed the baby and let Henry eat some leftover chicken salad from lunch.

Finally, the car was packed, and we were ready to go. 

Except for Hudson, who was sitting fifty feet away from me, in front of the house.

Oh, Hudson.

I opened the back door of the car. "Come!" Nothing. "Come on, Hudson!" Nope. "Hudson, COME!" Nada. He looked off to the left and pretended not to hear.

I stormed toward him. And in that moment, somehow, in some way that must defy the laws of physics, I ran into a bug so hard with the bridge of my nose that I thought I had been bitten. But, no. I had simply charged a large fly with my nose, Taurus-the-Bull style, and connected. I now sported a small, fairly painful bruise on the bridge of my gigantic Italian schnoz.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

On the ride home, Henry chattered at me the entire 90 minutes. ("Can we follow the 1 train home?" "The 1 train is only in the city." "But can we follow it home?" "No." "Why not?" "I don't know." "Can you guess?" Rinse, repeat.) The baby only cried for the last 15 miles. Hudson, wisely, did not make a peep.

But you know what? No one died. And that's what I call a parenting victory.



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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Baltimore and Rage

I didn’t feel right saying nothing. So here are my brief thoughts on Baltimore.

Racism Is Real

Make no mistake: racism is real.

Institutional racism, like this wonderful story about Chicago cops torturing black men in police custody or the police brutality in Baltimore that has led to our present-day situation. Or the de facto segregation in New York City public schools. Or the shocking, inexcusable racial and ethnic health disparities in the U.S. Take your pick, really.

Idiosyncratic racism, like this gem from a conversation string on a friend's Facebook page:



Animals? Really? Additionally, Missy, you might want to check your definition of civil disobedience. (Also, your spelling.)

Unconscious bias, like my own brush with racial disharmony on the playground almost two years ago. Think you are immune? Check out Harvard’s Project Implicit to understand your implicit associations about race, gender and sexual orientation. I did, and it freaked me out. No one is immune. No one.


As for the Rioting, I Get It

Have you ever gotten so mad you’ve thrown something? Or broken something? Or slammed the door so hard the house shook? I know I have, more than I care to admit.

So why is rioting so incomprehensible?

We know all the intellectual arguments for why rioting is often counterproductive. Rioters end up destroying property in their own communities, communities that are often already crying out for rejuvenation. Violent responses turn the mainstream against you. Violence begets violence. Et cetera.

But remember that time you threw something down in anger, and it broke? Did you have an intellectual, rational argument with yourself before you threw it down? Did you stop and consider: Gee, if I break this, I won’t have it anymore. Or if your rage was directed at a person, did you first muse: I bet if I say this, it will make the fight worse. Or did you react emotionally in the moment, even if you regretted it later?

I suppose if you have never broken anything or yelled at anyone in anger, then you can go on being your sanctimonious self. For the rest of us, let’s just take a step back. Why did you overreact? Maybe someone cut you off on the highway. Perhaps you were tired of cleaning up toddler poop, and whatever happened next was the last straw. But let’s be clear. All of that pales in comparison to centuries of systemic racism and oppression. Or being harassed by cops just because of the color of your skin. It’s not even close.

You don’t have to condone violence to have a shred of empathy for the reasons behind the rioting. Say it out loud, people: I get why you are so angry. I GET IT.


I Don’t Know What To Do

I have read a few interesting articles and opinion pieces, but nothing makes me feel more helpless than arguments I have heard before—after Ferguson, after Eric Garner, after Abner Louima, after Rodney King. So little has changed. I suspect that were I a bit older, I’d be even more cynical. This has been going on for centuries.

I only know that I must do something. My issue for the time being is the epidemic of gun violence, where there is no doubt a racial element. I only know that I must teach my son to recognize racism in himself and in society, and to react with horror, reflexively, at the violence in our world.

I only know that I must speak out, and add my voice to the chorus of those once again crying Black Lives Matter.


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.

Result:
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!”

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.

“Anthony!”

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?

Anyone?



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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Seriously, When Will People Learn to Mind Their Own Business

I was having lunch with an old friend at Le Pain Quotidien ("Our handmade bread serves as the canvas for a myriad of organic and seasonal ingredients") last week. Henry did well -- he ate his sandwich after mushing it around a bit -- but, he's three, i.e., a bit unpredictable. When he found a train near the bottom of my bottomless diaper bag and started to play on the floor at our feet, I was thankful he was amused enough for me to catch up with my friend.

Ten minutes later, a woman approached our table.

"Excuse me, your child is on the floor."

I glanced down at Henry. He wasn't in the way, which is what I assumed she meant, and he seemed perfectly fine.

"Okay, thanks." I smiled.

"No," she continued, as if I wasn't following. "Like, his cheek is on the floor."

Ah, I saw where this was going.

"Okay, thanks," I said again, with another smile.

But she wasn't done!

"Um, it's dirty,"

"Okay," I said once again, "thanks."

She walked away in a huff, and I'm sure she told everyone the story about the irresponsible mom who let her child rest his cheek on the floor of an upscale cafe chain on the Upper East Side.



I'm not going to go into a tirade about Americans' collective (marketing-driven, I might opine) obsession with cleanliness and parents' helicoptering to the point of suffocation. As I've said before, I'd rather my son break his arm falling out of a tree than never climb a tree at all.

Instead, I'm going to share an anecdote from when Henry was a mere 13 months old. First, there are a lot of new people around here, and I wouldn't want you to miss out on this gem of an insight into my personality. For everyone else, I just want some damn props for keeping my cool. Give me props, people!

The excerpt below is from a longer essay published in the 2013 anthology, The Mother of All Meltdowns. You can find the original post here.

***

By winter, I had learned braving the subway was a whole hell of a lot easier if I strapped my son to my chest in the baby carrier and stashed him inside a special Papoose coat big enough to close around us both. Once bundled in, my son’s round, hairless, disembodied head stuck out of the middle of the enormous poofy coat, like a little Voldemort. Remember in the first Harry Potter movie where Professor Quirrell carried Voldemort in his turban? Yeah, like that.

The book doesn't have this snazzy picture, though.

Everyone raves about baby-wearing, but toddler-wearing is something else entirely. I have neither the shoulders nor the upper body strength to glide effortlessly along with twenty pounds strapped to my chest. I spent the entire winter swearing and perspiring from one place to another.

On my way to the subway in Manhattan one mild January afternoon, I called a friend who had been trying to conceive for months to see if she was free for lunch. She wasn't, but we chatted briefly about her recent doctor’s appointment. Just then, I saw a fifty-something-year-old man walking toward me, gesticulating wildly with an appalled look on his face.

I narrowed my eyes in the silent but universally understood sign of: What? Is there a Tyrannosaurus behind me about to chomp my head off? Why else would you be interrupting my phone call, complete stranger?

"Hat," he said, gesturing again, a bit more frantically as he passed. "Put a hat on the baby! It's cold out."

I. Almost. Lost. My. Mind.

It was the hat that broke the camel’s back. I cracked under the invisible weight of comments and insults that had been heaped upon me, my body and my mothering over the past two years.

"Really?" I said, turning to follow him down the street like a lunatic.

The man continued on his way, pretending to ignore me, which was ironic, considering I should have been the one to pretend to ignore him. But I did not. Oh, no, I did not.

"Really??” I continued, yelling. People stopped to stare at the woman carrying Voldemort who was verbally accosting an apparent stranger. Even by New York standards, I was acting a little crazy. “Is it cold out? I couldn't tell!” I called to him as I followed. “Do you think I should put a hat on him? I wasn't sure!”

Was I imagining things or was he picking up his pace a little so he could cross before the sign changed from the inviting white walker to the forbidding red hand?

“Thanks for letting me know!" I screamed as he crossed the street.

I realized at that point that I had been holding the phone in my hand the whole time. My friend was still there, laughing. My heart was pounding; I was furious and not a little embarrassed. What I should have said, I told her, was:

Excuse me, complete stranger, but did you carry this child in your uterus for nine months? No? Is that because he's not yours? Or because you don't even have a uterus of your own? Did you carry his 20 pounds strapped to your chest inside a parka made for the Arctic Circle from the ass-end of Brooklyn to the Flatiron District, sweating, late and trying not to trip down the subway stairs and kill the both of you?

Did you?

DID? YOU?

Are you me?

ARE? YOU?

No?

Then, for the love of all that is holy, MIND YOUR OWN @$#%^* BUSINESS.

***

That goes for you, too, Le Pain Quotidien lady.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Inappropriate Reasons I Am Psyched to Be Pregnant

That’s right, Moo Cow is growing another rascal. I want to write something melodramatic and starry-eyed about it. Maybe another time.

Instead, let’s just get something straight. I do not like being pregnant. I wasn’t writing the first time around, so you missed the vitriol, but truly, if you are a person who just loved having a bowling ball inside your torso, smashing all the other organs into useless little pancakes, then you should either keep it to yourself or unfriend me preemptively. Because in theory, I love the idea of the little person in there. In practice, I’m pissed off and uncomfortable most of the time.

There are, however, a few reasons -- seven, to be specific -- that I am psyched to be pregnant again.

#1 - Hospital Socks

I’m always cold. Even in the dead of the summer, I sleep with a comforter. In the olden days, I hypothesized it was because I was skinny, but that theory has been disproved by recent evidence. I shiver day and night; I wear a gray wool hat indoors. So those hospital socks with the little grippies underneath are the best. I wear them to bed every night, which Rayne loves, because it’s a surefire signal that there will be no sex. I still have the brown ones from when I gave birth to Henry, but they are getting a little ratty. I’m totally due for a new pair or three.

#2 - Second-Trimester Sexy Time

In between the stage when you vomit just from hearing the word “vomit” and the stage when you are a gigantic whale, there is a sliver of time when you feel well and cute. And horny. Though I am in the second trimester now, I’m still waiting for the nausea and exhaustion to abate and the cute to kick in. I fear it might not. Possibly it’s because I have a toddler, also known as my personal energy-sucking machine. But I hold out hope. Rayne is more on board with this one than with the socks, as you might imagine.

#3 - Menses-Free Living

I know I will pay for this after giving birth, when I will bleed all nine months in the span of two weeks, but for now, I thumb my nose at tampons and those overnight pads with “wings.” I don’t want wings when I sleep. I just want pajamas. And hospital socks.

#4 - I Give Even Less of a Rat’s Ass

Someone recently was shocked at how big my belly was already. My response? “Fuck you.” Yep. Because I didn’t give a rat’s ass about social niceties in the first place; now that I’m perpetually, unreasonably tired and growing exponentially larger in two opposing directions (belly and butt), well, let's just say it's best to stay out of my way.

#5 - Boobs

Once upon a time I was concave in the chestal area. Then I gained weight and I was simply flat, with an inkling of flabbiness poking out of certain outfits. For this pregnancy, I am inexplicably HUGE, i.e., a full B cup. It’s cool, because they fill out shirts a bit and balance out the belly-butt axis of evil. BUT DON’T TOUCH THEM. Don’t even think about it. There is a price for this bounty, and it’s called soreness.

#6 - Maternity Pants

Maternity pants, with their wide, elastic, forgiving waistlines, are amazing. It’s like wearing pajamas every day. I wore my maternity pants until five months after I gave birth to Henry, just because I could. That is a LIE. I have maternity shorts and pants that I still wear because they fit like normal bottoms these days. Three cheers for maternity pants!

#7 - Cheese

To finish on a related note: Oh, cheese. I love you so, so much. Especially on a Triscuit. Thanks for being you.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Deconstructing Toddler Literature

I didn't want my first post back to be a bitchfest, but we are potty training. Potty Training. I just love reading all of Henry's favorites while sitting on the edge of a cold, hard, ceramic tub.

"Again!" he orders.

You already know how I feel about that damn one-eyed Pigeon who loves things that Go. Below is my synopsis of some other toddler lit that you hopefully will never have to read.


Curious George. A selfish poacher steals an innocent monkey from the jungle and puts him in an American zoo. The monkey has other ideas.



The Poky Little Puppy. Five cute and curious puppies learn about sloth, revenge and deception. Then they teach these wonderful lessons to my toddler.

.

Horton Hears A Who. Monkeys and kangaroos beat and detain an elephant for his beliefs.

 

10 Little Rubber Ducks. Low-wage workers in the developing world make cheap plastic shit my kid will play with for two minutes before discarding. Too bad a white captain loses the box in a storm on the sea.



Harold and the Purple Crayon. Drawing on the walls is okay as long as you go to bed afterwards without a fuss.



The Three Little Pigs. Three Depression-era pigs scare my toddler into being a hard worker.