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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Really...they get older and I'm responsible for them?

One of my most memorable new mommy group moments was when one of the new mommy's expressed her amazement that yes, her baby will keep getting older and yes, she will be taking care of him for a long, long time. Her comment floored me because, guess what? That thought never crossed my mind either. Having a baby at 36 was more of an experiment...I wanted to know what it was like to give birth, and to love a child. Well, a baby. At least that was as far as I got into thinking about it. There was so much to worry about with just taking care of a baby for the first time; how to feed, bathe, clothe, and properly hold one, for instance. Honestly, I never thought past the first six months.
But as life would have it, thankfully, my children have continued to grow and thrive. Well, sort of thrive. Today I had the pleasure of taking them to their joint three year and 18 month check up. Seems my children are a little on the small side. My three year old in particular. The way the pediatrician--a man my kids call "Dr. Penguin" because his last name sounds like penguin and not because he looks like one--put it was "About 98 percent of kids his age are bigger than him."
"Hmm," I said. "Well, he doesn't look that small."
"He's all muscle," Dr. Penguin said, "No fat."
For a 35 year old woman that's a good thing, I suppose. But for a 3 year old boy? What if it continues? Would he be picked easy target?Was it my fault because I'm not much of a chef? Because i don't make us all sit down at the same time and eat dinner together? Because I sometimes go for days and forget to offer him something new? Or because I was the one who got him to try peanut butter, a milestone we were both very happy about, until he broke out in hives and had to be taken in an amublance (just a precaution) to the ER?
In the pediatrician's office, we went over what E eats, his basic menu consisting of: yogurt, blueberries, bananas, mac and cheese, cheese, the occassional cottage cheese, crackers, cookies, chocolate, and "apple doo doo."
E was the one who slipped that one out.
"What's apple doo doo?" Dr. Penguin asked.
"It's apple sweet potato," I explained. "Baby food."
"Wow, he's 3 and he's still eating baby food...huh."
Ok, now I felt stupid.
"Well, at least it's fruit and vegetable," I said. "And the doo doo just came about because he couldn't pronounce sweet potato."
Dr. Penguin smiled.
"Does he eat any meat?"
"Nope. Won't try any." I shrugged.
At that moment, Ethan asked for a snack. "I'm huuuuuuungry mommy," he said, trying to break into my backpack.
I pulled out a large sandwich bag with two rice cakes inside. Both of my boys started panting like dogs waiting for a table scrap.
"Who wants a rice cake??" I asked, only then realizing what this must look like to Dr. Penguin who immediatley commented:
"A nice, no calorie treat, huh? Rice cakes?
"Oh, yeah...well, these are actually mine," I said. "They just like them so I share."
There was a short, uncomfotable pause and then Dr. Penguin asked, "How about you? Have you lost weight? You look thinner...your face."
Well that's a weird thing for your kid's pediatrician to ask you, I thought.
"Sure, I've lost weight since I had my kids," I joked.
What was he getting at? was he trying to guage if I have an eating disorder and as a result, not feeding my children well either?
"I'm on a gluten sensitive diet," I said, as though that explained everything.
Fortunately, we moved on after that.
Tonight at dinner time, however, I came on strong trying to get E to try something new. In exchange for one bite of something new (my suggestions included such traditional kids favorite as grilled cheese or pizza), I would give him M&Ms as well as a surprise present, a toy (I had a stash of small toys in my car in preparation for potty training bribing). A lot of parenting, I'm slowly learning, revolves around bribery.
But E wouldn't have any of it. "Not even one little bite to see if you like it?" I begged. He shook his head defiantly.
I threw my hands up in frustration, as though the weight of the world, his world, was on my shoulders. How will I get him to use the potty? To give up his pacy? To eat something new? It was all too much. Too much reponsibilty for one day.
I made him his favorite Annie's Mac and Cheese with a little apple doo doo and called it a day. Maybe tomorrow I'll try again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

While we're on the subject of monkeys...

Did you hear about the study regarding male monkeys and toy preference by researchers in Emory University's Department of Psychology? If not, here's a bit about it:

We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization. We offer the hypothesis that toy preferences reflect hormonally influenced behavioral and cognitive biases which are sculpted by social processes into the sex differences seen in monkeys and humans.

This was amazing to me. I remember someone at my baby shower (for my first baby) giving me books about trucks. I knew I was having a boy, but still, my first thought was: Yuck. I mean, who wants to read a book that simply shows a picture of a truck on every page...Dump Truck, Digger, Cement Mixer? The woman who gave it to me was already the mom of two young boys and she wrote in her card, "My boys love these!" I thought: 'Well mine won't.'

I always assumed that the differences between boys and girls was more nature than nurture. That society and advertising and our parents shaped our preferences and behavior. Well, lo and behold, then I had my first boy. I was floored when, at quite a young age, he started pointing to trucks and buses on the street. I certainly wasn't getting excited about them, so he wasn't learning that behavior from me. Nope, it was 100% innate. His first word was actually truck (pronounced with a c, however,since he had not yet mastered 'tr'). Interestingly, his second word was ball, so we had a few moments where we'd be walking down the street and he'd suddenly shout out "Cock!" followed by "Ball!" But that's another story.

All and all it has opened my eyes - the way that E, without any outside influence whatsoever, has gravitated toward standard boy toys. Although he still likes trucks, tools have taken over as his toy of choice. And his little brother is following in his footsteps. I have no problem with this whatsoever, nor would I have any problem if they wanted to play with Barbie dolls. Whatever makes them happy. In fact, the thing that makes them happy right now happens to be a Minnie Mouse doll that came with a box of Rice Krispies. They fought over it so much that we had to keep buying Kellogg's cereal until we got another Minnie Mouse. Now they take their little Minnies anywhere they go, a blow to male stereotypes everywhere! Just yesterday at the doctor's office a father had to confirm with me that it was Minnie, and not Mickey, they were carrying. I smiled and said "Yep, Minnie," while thinking "You got a problem with that??"

One last thing: to the friend who bought me those truck books for my shower: Nice job, and we thank you from the bottom of our gender-neutral hearts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monkey business

Here is a headline I read the other day: CT Woman had Unusual Relationship With Chimp.
Can any human have a "usual" relationship with a chimp? And hadn't we heard all about the weirdness of their relationship for a couple of days? We already knew how police had to shoot the animal after he attacked the woman's friend. We already knew that she loved her chimp like a son; That she slept with him at night, and let him brush her hair. I'm sorry, but did I somehow miss the unusual part of the relationship before this new headline/story came out?

Now don't get my wrong. I like chimps and monkeys. For several years, as a working adult at an advertising agency, I had a monkey puppet in my office. Yes, our relationship could also be labeled unusual. For me, it was love at first sight at a toy store in the mall. I had to have him. I named him Monkey, and although I hugged and talked to him, I never, ever, slept with him, or let him brush my hair. Once I came into my office to find the outline of a monkey body in masking tape on the rug; a ransom note on my desk. I was in despair until I found him a few days later, shoved into the company microwave. Fortunately he was unharmed.

As far as real monkeys, however, I'm not too excited about nuzzling up to them. I met some on a beach in Costa Rica and they were a little noisy and aggressive. They liked to steal food from tourists and they pooped everywhere. Not my idea of a good house pet, but hey, to each their own, right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Worst Idea Ever?

I can't help but think that taking my kids to Trader Joe's after a long day at daycare falls into the Worst Idea Ever category. Really. I had reservations going into it, a strong feeling in my gut. A smarter woman may have just brought her exhausted children straight home and called it a day. But no. I just had to have fresh blueberries and another box of gluten free Gorilla Munch cereal.

If you've ever been to a Trader Joe's, you know that some of their stores cater to kids. The one we go to in Burlington, Mass. features little kids shopping carts and a play area with a bus that my 18 month old goes crazy for. The first time we discovered both of these items we were all very excited. Shopping could now be more than just a chore, I thought, but a playful experience for all of us! Ah, the good times we would have together, with E pushing around his little cart and J being a perfect angel just sitting and smiling in the front seat of my shopping cart, enjoying the ride. I think this actually happened. Once.

Of course, this was not at all what happened last night. Last night we had a coup d'etat . Instead of sitting peacefully in mommy's cart, j insisted on driving his own cart. Not good. At 19 months old, most kids do not have great cart control and his kept crashing into things (fortunately no people) including a large box of clementines, which then went scattering in various directions across the floor. Perhaps it's important to note here that I am not one who likes being the center of attention. I'm perfectly happy to be all but invisible at the grocery store, or anywhere, for that matter. But now, with one child screaming and clementines rolling like pool balls just after a break, all eyes were on me.

"Let's do this quickly, guys," I whispered to my children. I began literally racing around the store, grabbing milk, yogurt, raisins, coffee (I highly recommend Trader Joe's coffee, by the way, if you're looking for a new brand). Then we hit the aisle with the school bus. To understand what is so wonderful about this bus, you must understand that it is open on one end so children can sit inside and play driver. On the other side, where the hood would be, is a train table. Even I have to admit, that's pretty cool. And if the bus wasn't enough, the folks at Trader Joe's had gone and added a play kitchen complete with fake stove and sink to the area. Witnessing my boys stumble upon this combination of bus and now new play kitchen was akin to seeing two weary travelers spot the ocean after walking miles through the desert. Pure joy.

"Five minutes," I said, and let them loose.

But five minutes turned into ten and it was now 7pm. "Two more minutes," I announced, hovering over the bus.
"But I don't want to go home," E whined.

"Yes, but we have to…daddy is waiting for us. It's getting late."

When their two minutes were up, no one was coming home without a fight. J tried to steal a fake telephone, and when I made him put it down, E picked it up.

"You can't take that," I said. "Please put it back."

"Why?" He asked.

"Because it's not yours."

"But I waaaaaant it."

"Sorry, but it's got to go back."

This is when he took off, running around the store with the phone in his hand. I put J in the cart with my shopping bags and told E we were going to leave without him. Now, I don't know if you're "allowed" to do that or not, but it's a threat that almost always seems to work. Of course I would never really leave without him, but as long as he thinks I would, that's all that matters.

As I got closer to the store exit, E inched toward me, but still refused to leave or put down the telephone he was trying to steal. I knew he was challenging me. I swooped him up and held him like a football under my arm (someone recommended this to me) but he squirmed and screamed so much that I had to put him down. Now everyone on the checkout line was staring at us, but fortunately most were women and I read sympathy in their collective gaze.

"We're leaving now," I said again, this time going so far as to walk out the front door. He followed, but was still screaming, nearly hyperventilating, for most of the ride home.

I cannot tell you how many times, as a mother, I've thought 'now this is a really bad idea'…yet done it anyway. Some days parenting feels like nothing more than an endless stream of really bad ideas, going back to the very idea to even become a parent. Or perhaps I'm just blowing a few bad occasions out of proportion. I think of a class I went to recently on parenting. The instructor talked quite a bit about temperaments, and how life with kids will run a whole lot smoother if you bend your own temperament to accommodate theirs (since their moods and temperaments, as all mothers know, are a lot less flexible). I interpret this to mean despite what you, the parent, wants to do, try to tune into your child's mood, and what they want or even more importantly need to do, including go home and go to sleep. I didn't think much of it at time she pointed it out, but perhaps it's not such a bad idea.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tina Torture

Ok, so another person told me I look like Tina Fey today. This should be a compliment, right? I mean, alot of men think Tina's hot...and here i am at 40, a working mother with a three year old and a 19 month old. I could be compared to much, much worse.
But none of this is really about Tina's looks. It's more that, well, I was supposed be Tina.
You see, I was supposed to write for Saturday Night Live. I was supposed to be hanging out with the likes of Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Not her! I was the one who sent in a truly revolutionary idea for a skit to SNL when I was ten years old. In my letter I wrote, "You have a family with big heads (the coneheads), why not a family with big noses??" I then proceeded to draw this big-nosed family, all of whom I'm now convinced appear to have penises in the middle of their faces. This was purely unintentional of course. Then, in return for my hard work and creativity, the folks at SNL mailed me a stinking generic rejection letter! One would think that they could have at least scribbled an inspiring note on the letter...I mean I was only 10. Something along the lines of We're not really interested in big penis-nosed people, but we'd love to see more of your work in the future.
But nope. No hopeful words for me. Perhaps that's the difference between me and Tina. Then again, maybe there is no difference between me and Tina at all (insert twilight zone theme music here). Maybe she is just me in an alternate universe. It's possible, right? I mean if people can have penises for noses, anything is possible really.