File under: first really embarrassing public moment

Nope, it wasn’t nudity, but good guess. That happened several times in early potty learning, and I didn’t care when he stripped in public. Not my parts, don’t care who sees ’em. And lordy, did that boy drop trou inappropriately. Nope, not tonight. Nor was tonight’s “Holy crap, who said that? Couldn’t be my kid. Maybe this kid is a replacement, sent by aliens who are studying how to make their humanoids more thoughtful and polite like my kid” moment wasn’t pointing out some socially unsavory characteristic about a stranger. He doesn’t even know the really damning words (I leave that to relatives, who, this week alone, have added four words we’ve intentionally NEVER uttered in front of him, to his vocabulary. Sure, we’ve spelled them. Because some people really ARE s-t-u-p-i-d. But he didn’t know them until someone used them in conversation with him. And twit. And bad. Whatever. I give up.) No, this mortification falls under the “Kids Say the Most Inappropriate, If True, but Not Really True, Let Me Explain” category for Bill Cosby. Only he wouldn’t touch this one with a ten foot pole.

Peanut and I are riding on BART, facing the wheelchair-accessible seats. So we have lots of graphics to talk about, mostly evacuation procedures. I’m watching people, discussing with him east and west as concepts. And he is silent for almost a minute, looking at the emergency exit stuff.

He then announces, in full Broadway Belt voice, on a rush hour BART train headed from SF into Oakland:

“White people go on white train; black people go on black train!”

Squelching the impulse to shout, “No! Who taught you that?!” I look where he’s looking. He’s right. Holy, crap, BART people, your evacuation procedures pictures have white people leaving a white train and black people leaving a black train. So his segregationist proclamation is correct, but that’s not the intention of the visual image. I hope. Oh, double crap, how to handle this one?! Where was Mr. Rogers when you needed him? Where is Nebraska’s child abandonment program when you need it? (Okay, not funny. But kinda funny. ‘Cuz some of these here states have some really s-t-u-p-i-d legislatures, no?)

Peanut was very proud of himself for noticing a pattern on a drawing and pointing it out. We say “yay” when he finds patterns in books. Find opposites, find similarities, find something out of place–all of those get a yay. Notice a graphic design nightmare on San Francisco’s trains and you get your mommy into some serious social hot water, little person.

He noticed that, on the aerial structures evacuation procedure, the background is black and the train and people were white. It’s a simple graphic. But right next to it, in the subterranean, transbay tube, and subway graphic, the background is black, the tunnel was white, and, to provide graphic difference, the people and train were all black. Geezus, people, can’t we atleast be consistent with the colors? Can’t all the backgrounds be black or white, and all the trains and people be the same? No, not in the Blueberry-Eating-Smurfiest of all Blue States. No, we need to give equal time to black stick figures and white stick figures. Do they always have to board a train of the same freaking color? Thanks a lot, freaking BART people. Freaking graphic designer from the land of high contrast, low sensitivities. Whatever. I can’t control you a–holes, I can only control my reactions to you a–holes. But let the record show you’re making me look bad here, and making my kid very confused. Or, my reaction will make him confused in three, two, one…

So I tried to acknowledge his discovery AND maintain the huge civil rights gains of the past 150 years.

“Well, honey, that’s just the way they drew the picture. In real trains, ALL people go, and they are lots of different colors. And BART trains aren’t black or white. They’re silver. See? The tracks that are up are in the nighttime, so it’s black in the sky. We couldn’t see the people in the drawing unless they were white. So the picture shows the people white even though people come in lots of colors. And, see, the tracks in the tunnel, show that the tunnel is bright, and we wouldn’t see the people unless they were drawn black. So the picture shows the people black even though people come in lots of colors. See? It’s just a drawing. BART is silver, and we’re pink, not white or black.” [Pathetic. Liberal p.c. oversensitive bullshit pathetic bad parenting yuck. And yet, yay for not overreacting or denying the reality of the freaking white people getting on the white train and the black people getting on the black train. Have I cursed you BART graphics a–holes enough yet? No.]

“Mommy, we no pink. We plain. With little red, right there.” He points to a lovely zit on my chin and moves on to ask for pretzels.

He’s done. I’m not. I’m surrounded by a variety of people, none of whom care (and why not? he’s cute and he’s finally intelligible, so you could at least listen and smirk a little at his huge social gaffe) but to whom I’d like to give a moving speech about how we don’t teach him that people are different, that we teach him all people deserve respect, that people come in all colors, that public places are for everybody (the last one just because he demands that other people leave any place he really likes, especially when there are fire-juggling unicyclists, but that’s another BART story for tomorrow).

I just want everyone around me to know that this boy who seemed to pronounce belief in a new era of separate but equal is really just noticing what some total loser jerk graphic designer with no foresight neglected to read the “socially significant” part of her creative brief. And who approved those black and white graphics? Is it so much more expensive to have purple people and green people? They’re web-safe and could serve as the emergency procedures online, too. Please. Throw me a freaking parenting bone here, people! I just want to tell all the people in the seats around us, most of whom are asleep, and none of whom listens to strange toddler/preschoolers anyway, that this was not a commentary on race relations. My son likes Barack Obama whether he’s photographically brownish or cartoon redish and bluish, as in the yard signs still dominating our neighborhood. In fact, he really likes the red and blue Obama. I do, too. But I don’t draw pictures in which he only gets on a blue and red train, while all the grey people get on a grey train, for feck’s sake.

So I’ve mentioned before what a weirdo I’m raising. Not to be dismissive or judgemental or anything. But he’s a weirdo of untoward proportions. This coming from a HUGE weirdo.

I’m taking a shower in the new house, and he comes running in. “Mommy. I need you, I call you.” Um, there’s a few words missing in there, and I need clarification. “If you need me, you’ll call me?”
“Yes.” And he turns, runs out, and slams the bathroom door.

Two minutes later, he comes back, peels back the edge of the shower curtain and says, “Mommy. Peanut just checking to see if you okay. You okay, okay, mommy?” I can’t help but smile, in that, “man, if someone has to love you, it’s sure a fine opportunity to have someone love you for their complete dependence on you” way. “Yes, baby, I’m okay.” He nods and runs out.

Two minutes later, he comes back, pushes the curtain aside, and says, “Mommy almost all done,” and leaves before I can answer.

Two minutes later, he comes back, peers around the curtain and says, “Mommy, Peanut getting angry Mommy in shower. Mommy all done shower. Peanut no want Mommy shower.” I explain that he can control his body, but he can’t control my body. “Peanut body want play outside. Peanut body no outside no Mommy. Peanut WANT control Mommy body.” And runs out.

Hours later, while he was in the tub, he kept insisting on having a cold bath. Cold bath, need a cold bath. Nope, sorry. It’s 65 degrees in the house (don’t worry–we’re not ogres. There is heat, and it’s on. It’s just set to go off at 57 degrees.) So Spouse announces it’s time to get out of bath (yes, of course he annouces five minutes then three minutes then one minute. What do you think we are, rookies?) Peanut drain the tub himself, then refuses to get out. He plays, no joke, for 10 minutes in a dry tub, naked, and covered with little water drops that he refuses to let us wipe off with (gasp) a towel. Window’s open. It’s November. (Granted, it’s November in the East Bay, but it’s still November.) He takes the tub toys and builds a pretend birthday cake. At least one hundred times. Each time he sings, “Yay, mommy birthday cake! Yay!” My birthday is later this week. We haven’t mentioned it in days. But he’s preparing his pretend celebration already.

So as he’s making the pretend cake, he pulls a cold, wet washcloth on his knee, and proclaims, “Ooooh. That cold. That no good idea, put that on Peanut leg. No good idea. Try something different.” And he builds another cake, with a washcloth fondant.

Um, there’s a thin, thin line between special education and gifted education, I’m guessing. And we’re living life on that line every day.

Does this thing take quarters?

On a long drive home today, I put in a CD and heard a lovely, nostalgic sound–a jukebox swallowing a quarter. My CD player, however, is not a jukebox, and just after the quarter dropped the right speaker went out. Then a high pitched squeal. Then the left speaker went out. I turned around to look at the sweet little creature who sat, totally clueless as to the wrath he would soon face, reading a Lowly Worm book.

“Did you put money in mommy’s radio?”

“No radio. CD player.”

“Did you put money in mommy’s CD player?”

“Yes.”

“Did Mommy tell you no money in the CD player?”

“hmmmmm. Yes.”

“When Mommy tells you no put money in CD, Mommy means no money in CD.”

“”Peanut put money in, money come back out.”

“No. Peanut put CD in, CD come back out. Peanut put money in, money break CD player.”

“Money no breaked it. Mommy breaked it.”

deep, deep breath.

“CD player is for CDs. No money in CD player. Do you understand?”

“Yes. No money in CD player. Money in radio.”

The words “boarding school” are taking on a whole new appeal to a now reformed AP mama…

I don’t know if we’ll make it through today.

Here are two tasty little morsels from today, which has been a never-ending stream of the same.

M: Do you want to pull the laundry basket?

P: No. [walks off and up the stairs.]

M: Are you sure you don’t want to help?

P: No! Peanut no want pull laundry!

M: [whatever, fine by me] Okay. [starts pulling basket and gets to bottom of stairs.]

P: [loses it, crying and stomping] Peanut want do it!

M: [not sure what just happened] Okay…

P: No Mommy do it! Peanut want do it!

M: I just said okay. Go ahead. You do it.

P: [Stomps down stairs, grabs basket, wheels it ten feet back toward the laundry room, turns, and wheels it back.]

M: Thank you.

P: Mommy no say thank you. [mounting stairs] Mommy no come up stairs. Laundry no come up stairs.

M: Mommy and laundry need to come upstairs.

P: NO!

……

P: [in stroller, on our morning run] Peanut want that playground.

M: [always fine with stopping the run midway] Okay. [stops the stroller]

P: [screaming] Peanut no want this playground!

M: [befuddled but also endorphined] Okay. We’ll run to a different playground.

P: Peanut no want different playground! Peanut want this playground!

M: [rethinking career choice] Okay. [goes to unbuckle seat belt]

P: [hitting M’s hand] No! Peanut no get out!

M: How will you play if you won’t get out?

P: Peanut no play! Peanut no get out. Peanut not ANY!

M: Should I keep running?

P: Mommy no run.

M: Your choices are playground or Mommy running.

P: Not any. Peanut want different playground.

Sweet Mary, mother of my cousins, I’m gonna chuck this kid out with the next bathwater we can successfully get him into.

See what I’ve become? that should have read “into which we can successfully get him.” Know what? Mommy no care. Mommy want to send Little Mister Struggle For Independence to live with the Doctors Sears. They won’t notice another kid, and they are less likely to try to safe surrender him to the fire department than I am.

Onebody, twobody, redbody, bluebody

Peanut, at the playground: Not anybody here….
Hey! Onebody here!…………….
Mama! Twobodies riding bicycles!…………………………..
Hey! Allbodies here is ladies!

The linguist in me loves this stuff.

Makes me want to dust off the letters of rec. and start working on a linguistics PhD this fall. Everybody else says have another kid. I say I have things to do and this one doesn’t sleep as it is. In fact, allbodies are up around 3 every, morning trying to convince onebody that human bodies need sleep.

Last night’s bedtime:
P: Peanut wake up at nighttime, say Mommy Mommy Daddy Daddy.
M: Mommy and Daddy need to sleep at nighttime. If you wake up you know you’re warm and safe and cozy, and you can see it’s nighttime, so you cuddle your doll and relax back to sleep.
P: If something hurt you, Peanut cuddle doll.
M: Yes, if something hurts you, your doll will cuddle you. What do you think imght hurt you?
P: Bees.

At 3am:
P: [screaming] Mommy! Mama! [crying] Something hurt you. Please, Mommy, cuddle.
M: Something hurt you?
P: Yes.
M: [suspicious that this is a ploy] What hurt you?
P: A lizard
M: [swallowing simultaneous urges to laugh and storm out] Well, tell the lizard to go home to sleep. Nighttime is for sleeping.
P: Go sleep, lizard.
M: Yeah. The lizard says it’s sorry for hurting you. It didn’t know you were sleeping. Sorry.
…..

P: [lying down and grabbing doll] Peanut sleep at nighttime, lizard.

You tell ’em.

Next time by yourself, though, please. What’s up with this early-childhood, needing-help crap? Don’t they make two year olds who can handle everything by themselves? Where do I get me one of them?

But what I really want to do is direct

Peanut: [handing over toothbrush] Mommy turn.

Mommy: [taking toothbrush] Okay. Open, please.

Peanut: [snatching brush back] Mommy don’t want it.

Mommy: [puzzled] Okay. I don’t want to?

Peanut: [yelling and shoving the toothbrush back into mommy’s hand] Peanut say DO it, Mommy DO IT!

I swear we’ve never said anything that sounds anything like that. But if I knew he was going to use that line, I might have tried it a few times. Wouldn’t have worked. But it would have felt good.

Fire fighters in bite-sized, 100-calorie packs

Have you seen the Chronicle Books imprint’s book Porn for New Moms? Hilarious. Pictures of men tending a baby while vacuuming, cooking dinner while cooing at an infant, and so on. Fully clothed (mostly, except the shot that offers to rub your feet while you talk about baby’s day), and only erotic in that “actually address a woman’s needs instead of your own” kind of way.

http://www.amazon.com/Porn-New-Moms-Pornography-Cooperative/dp/081186216X

Well, I thought of it today after my son completely squelched my mojo.

Peanut and I went to the library, heaven of all heavens for both of us, and walked downtown to lunch. On our way, we stopped to watch five fire trucks pull up, disgorge their tasty wares, and sit empty in the street, flashing their red lights. Peanut watched, with rapt attention, and refused to let me leave. He likes empty fire trucks. I prefer the juicy center.

And it’s lunchtime. I’m hungry. I want to leave. I tolerate. I educate. See the oxygen tanks? The fire fighters put that on because people breathe air, like all mammals breathe air. They always need air. But if there’s a lot of smoke, they can’t breathe air. So they carry their air on their backs and breathe it through masks. [P: No masks.] Not like Halloween, babe. Like scuba. [P: No masks.] Do you mean they’re not wearing masks, or you don’t like masks? [P: No wearing masks and Peanut no like masks.] Way to clarify. If I had said, firefighters don’t make masks? He would have said yes to that, too. All I know from this week are the following inviolable rules: No masks. No helmets. No Mommy do that. No. And my favorite, No share.

So his focus on the trucks pays off in spades. (In uniformed goodness, really, but the expression is “in spades.” I would vote for a change to “that decision paid off in mouthwatering firefighting flesh,” but I don’t know that it’s up for a vote.) Fire fighters exit building, several of them with axes, and I talk to Peanut about about axes. The glory that is a mid-day, wakeful fire fighting team begins disrobing, and I tell Peanut about the special jackets and pants fire fighters wear (the appeal of suspenders is totally lost on him, and I’m considering whether to let the benefit of my wisdom open up to him a whole ‘nother world of para-nudity, a place of easy groinal access in which he would personally love to dwell in perpetuity).

What is it with firefighting?–is there a sex appeal requirement? Just to apply or in the final cut? Male and female alike, these professionals rank high on HQ (hotness quotient). What is it about the T-shirt and uniform pants that makes me totally abandon my feminist principle that humans are not just bodies—they have thoughts and feelings and are worth more than the sum of their parts—and today’s nameless, faceless specimens are no exception, I’m sure. I believe they have lots of impressive humanity under those muscles. And insignia. And suspenders. ‘Scuse me for a minute.

Okay, I’m back. So they’re all in various stages of undress (not really, if you’ve read our fire fighting book even once [we’re at two thousand times, ordered to do read and reread by a rather controlling repetition freak] you know that fire fighters put their heavy jacket and pants over their uniforms so they can shed the gear easily. Mmmm. Shedding gear easily.)

In various stages of undress, the gentlemen swoop in and out of their trucks (can’t you at least clamber, so I can see you as awkward and not too horizontally promising?), and the HOTTEST of all the county (youngest, too…yummy) sees us talking and beckons me over. (Not us. Me. Forget, for a moment, the sling and the toddler strapped to me. Believe me, this guy asked for me personally. How do I know? Please. What firefighter is a sucker for kids? Just because they drive around waving to every kid in sight, and do charity work with kids, and have all manner of openhousedness at all times for any child in sight doesn’t mean this guy was offering to show my son the truck. He was b-e-c-k-o-n-i-n-g- me. ME. You don’t have to believe me. Whatever.)

So we saunter over, my son and I, one of us carefully sucking in the sling belly that, without fail, pooches out below the sling’s bottom rail. On normal days, my borderline posture means I stick my hip and belly out to keep a two-dozen-pounder from knocking me over. But this is no normal day. Five trucks. At least four fire-extinguishing engineers per truck. You do the math for me—I’m still a bit flustered. So I suck it in. How repulsively self-eroding. And yet effective.

As we approach Officer Perfect, Peanut buries his face in my shoulder. The well-compensated and tremendously fit public servant backs off a bit. “If he’s shy, I don’t want to get too close.”

I’m sorry, sir, but did you just offer, without asking, to interact with a fire-truck loving toddler AND notice his hesitancy AND respect his age-appropriate fears? How quickly can you get that gear off? Never mind. I’ll do it. I’ve been practicing my buttons and snaps.

So Peanut begs me, more shy than I’ve ever seen him (which is saying something), to leave. [He’s hit a major shyness phase that goes beyond his standoffish wait-and-see-before-going-full-bore-goofy personality. It’s puzzling but fine with me. Afraid of strangers? Cultivate that.]

But really, are you kidding me? I want to eat, you want to stay. Then I want to stay—in the name of all that is holy, I want to stay—and you want to go.

I mentioned earlier my pre-child fears of having to sublimate my needs for my child’s welfare. And I’ve mentioned a firm decision to sacrifice sleep, career, sanity, and personal needs at many levels for his well being. But would it be wrong to let my toddler run, crying and hungry, to the store himself while I indulge in a moment of purely self-serving flirting? What if I promise it’ll boost my self esteem? What if I PROMISE it’ll make me nicer to Spouse? What if I say three Hail Marys and one Our Father? Bahaha ha ha ha. Let’s be serious. Okay, just the first two promises?

So as we walked, him thrilled to have escaped gentlemen of his favorite profession of the week, and me, dejected, feeling a bit wilted and chilly under the collar, I thought of the Porn for New Moms.

No fire fighters in that book.

Sigh.

New Sheriff in town

Okay, buddy. For the next few minutes, I’m going to channel the parent you’re bringing out in me. All my attachment, gentle, loving parenting is getting me nowhere fast, so here’s the mom I’d just LOVE to be this week, since you hit a major warp-speed, two-and-a-half jerk-fest. Here goes:

No more compromises. No more respecting your wishes or trying to find a way for you to control things. I’m sick and tired of this bullshit.  From here on, you will brush your teeth the first time I ask you. This is not a new concept, we’ve been doing it twice a day since you were four months old. Brush ’em! Now. Life is not full of sunshine, butterflies, and blueberries. We have some chores, too. Do it. You will put on your freaking clothes and get out the door without negotiations and meltdowns and threats and nonsense. They’re just clothes, dude, and everybody else wears them without much fuss. Choose you own, I don’t care. They don’t have to match or be seasonally appropriate. Just fucking put something on and let’s go. This simply can’t take an hour anymore. We’re two under-groomed people in temperate climes, my friend, and it should take more like 15 minutes to get you out the door.

You will wash your hands at whatever water source is closest after you pee or when you declare it’s time to eat. We will no longer try every sink in the house and then decide the cats’ water dish is the best place to clean our hands. It’s handwashing. It doesn’t have to be satisfying or fun or interesting. I’m not singing any more handwashing songs, I’m not thinking up clever questions about soap. Wash your goddamned hands and leave me alone.

Yes, we are going to share. Stop telling me we’re not going to share. I don’t care about age-appropriate, I don’t care about socialization. Give that kid your fucking shovel and shut up about it. You have two more right there. Yes, you will share your toys. Yes, you will share your food. Yes, you will share your house. No, you don’t have to share your mommy, though at this point you’re lucky to still have a mommy, so shut up about that, too.

You WILL get in the stroller, and you WILL enjoy it. I know you’re a sling baby. I know you didn’t get in a stroller more than a dozen times your first year. But I need to go for a run before my brain explodes, so get in the damned thing. You may have a snack, because you always get one, and, today, like every other freaking day, we will run to a playground so there’s something in it for you. Stop freaking telling me what to do and what not to do. I AM the boss of you and you WILL listen. I bend over backwards for you three hundred times a day. It’s your turn. Get in the goddamned stroller. Now.

I’m tired of wanting to yell at you after I repeat something gently and kindly eight times. So screw the first seven. I will say something, and if you don’t listen I’ll scream at you until you do. Got it? And I’m now going to be one of those parents who yells at you to stop crying. Because, seriously, this whole “not in control of my emotions,” “easily overwhelmed,” “new at the whole give and take of social obligations,” “trying to find my place and sense of personhood in the big world” thing is getting really old. You’re two, for heaven’s sake. Can’t you grow up?

Finally, there is no more “one more.” I’ll tell you how many stories, how many minutes, how many turns, and after that you’re done. Not one more. Not one more then one more, or as it’s been lately, one more, now one more, now one more, finally one more. Fuck this nonsense. What is wrong with you? I said ten minutes, I said five minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one minute. I got down on your level, I used nice words, and I made sure you heard me. All m-o-t-h-e-r-f-u-c-k-i-n-g done. Got it?

This is some bullshit, little boy. And at your graduation, wedding, and investiture into the Supreme Court, THIS is the speech I’m giving. Not some cute story about how loving you can be, or how wonderfully you often listen, or what lovely stories you invent when we’re just hanging out talking with each other. I’m telling everyone, including your prom date, your first love, your boss, your bass player, your dissertation professors, and your kids what a complete a-hole you were this week.

Better yet, I’m telling Nana. That’ll get you.

Oy, you’re gonna be a great teenager

So Peanut bangs his head on the toilet paper holder and begins to cry. I make a sad face, kiss the red spot,  and cuddle him. He flips his face up to look at me and says, giggling, “Peanut laughing at Mommy sadness.”

You still call a truck a “doot” but you can say that you’re laughing at Mommy’s sadness?

So glad I taught you about emotions, so you could learn to express your feelings and empathize with others. Lot of good that did.

Geez we’re gonna have a good time when you’re 14.

Toddlers or Anarchists: the Multiples Addendum

Oh, what a little “ess” to make a noun plural will do to the whole theory.

Here’s my good faith effort at a multiple-children addendum, for those who posed the question on “Toddler versus Anarchist“.

I’m guessing that, as with children, anarchists in groups can be either more or less work, depending on what “projects” they set their minds to. If the anarchists come together to fight for a similar vision of anarchy, they are considerably less trouble than when they rebel against each other in your living room. I have neither the good fortune nor the bad fortune to be parenting more than one anarchist-in-training, so I’m going to assume that if they band together for good, several children are less trouble than several anarchists. If they join forces for ill, several children are much, much more destructive and annoying than several anarchists. But there are several if:then parameters in my theory. To wit:

calculated disparities in p.i.a.q (pain in the ass quotient), when T=toddler and A=anarchist:
1T>1A
1T>2A if As are focused on same goal
1T<2A if As are focused on different goals)
2T>1A (obviously, since 1T>1A)
2T>2A if As are focused on same goal, even if Ts are harmonious)
2T>2A if As are focused on different goal, if Ts are at disharmonious)

Therefore more than one child is definitely more work than more than one anarchist, with a few caveats. I’ve only calculated for up to two children and two anarchists. I have not created an algorithm for twins. I have yet to answer to the following:

What happens when  As are focused on different goals and Ts are disharmonious. 2T<?>2A?  For example, if the anarchists are arguing about whether to rage against the machine or the status quo, and the kids are screaming and beating each other with blunt objects, how much Calgon do you requite to take you away?

Note on my calculations: I’m going off the adage that one child=one. Two=twenty. And three=another load of laundry. So confusing the calculations are whether your anarchists are also anti-hygiene. I’d rather have smelly anarchists in my living room than share a bathroom with teenagers or have to wash more dirty diapers. Or both.

Second note on my calculations: are you kidding me with this pseudo-science? Why not just call it toddler-anarchism and have it taught in Kansas schools with a big ol’ warning label that mathematics is just a theory? Because then they’d rewrite my genius theorem with antichrist instead of anarchist, that’s why.

btw: did you see the Kansas State Superintendent of Schools win a million on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? last night? Kudos to her, especially for her gutsiness and random-factiness, but can’t we please say, “it’s a good thing there weren’t any science questions!”?

Please?

We made a weird kid.

All kids are weird, I know. And I don’t mean all the pejorative baggage that comes with the word especially vis-a-vis a certain person involved in my upbringing. But our kid is just weird. He’s in a licking phase, where he laps your face or arm if you get too close, but I remember my brother doing that at age 3ish. He’s in a plopping phase (peanut, not brother, though you can never be sure) where he thinks plopping on people is hilarious. Peanut’s also in a run-top-speed or creep-slower-than-a-snail phase, but that’s normal, too. His answer is always “no.” Normal. He doesn’t want to share. Normal.

But he announced this morning, appropos of nothing, that if a “baby with drippy nose come to Peanut house,” he won’t share tissues or the bulb syringe.

Um, okay.  ?

Weirdo.

He’s in the living room, wearing gardening gloves and a bright green shirt. (He dresses himself each day, and always chooses the loudest color combinations. Usually orange and green or blue and red. The latter makes me realize that, though I love the ideas this country stands for, I am not at all opposed to revisiting our colors. We just plain ol’ chose poorly in borrowing from the Motherland. Anyway, regardless of clothes choices, by afternoon the pants are ALWAYS gone, and there is often an extraneous accessory added. Yesterday it was T-shirt and witch’s hat, with lizard undies. Most days, as is true today, the undies are apparently optional. And, in 84 degree heat, he needs gloves. Que sera, sera; you know?) He is sitting next to the vacuum, which he insisted, shrieking and crying, I not put away after we used it this morning. Whatever, dude. I’m picking my battles since you were born, and putting away the vacuum has always been optional. He is now pointing the Hoover’s hose at anything that moves and pretend squirting, insisting alternately that the cats like wet, cold; and that someone should call a police officer because Peanut is hurt.

Weirdo.

If I try to go into the room, he pretend squirts me. I get pretend wet, pretend offended, and actually leave. It’s nice to be chased away from a toddler at play. Trust me.

Earlier, I had the audacity to go to the bathroom and pause to brush my hair. (Yes, I actually brush my hair now. Upside to being so lazy that you don’t cut is that you don’t have to do monthly cuts. Downside is that your mother, with a regularity straight out of the hair chapter of Deborah Tannen’s You’re Wearing THAT?: Understanding Conversation between Mothers and Daughters, has mentioned several times that, not only does she like it shorter, but it’s just terrible not brushed. And though I agree, I generally don’t care. But I was in the bathroom, nobody was bleeding, screeching, or sobbing, so I paused for some grooming.)

In the two minutes I was gone, Peanut dragged his bench to the kitchen sink, took all the dishes off the counter and placed them in the sink, filled them to the top, and was dropping walnut halves in each dish, one by one.

When I asked what he was doing, he cheerfully and condescendingly noted that he was “washin’ dishes….And floatin’ wahnits-. See?” As though we do that all the time.

Oh. Yes, I see.

Again, I say, our kid is weird.

Middle aged mamas

So, 20fingersand20toes asked me, aren’t you glad you didn’t have kids at 20?

[Put aside my fascination with her blog lately, spurred by the fact that two people I love dearly are expecting twins. Yay twins!]

Anyway, my internal banter was piqued by the “have kids young or have kids later” debate. When is the best time to throw your life into upheaval to raise little citizens of the planet? Ah, the $64,000 question. (Intentional cultural reference to something women who are 20 won’t get. In fact, some people who are 40 won’t get it, either, for the 64-thousand-dollar question was an E-ticket that Gen Xers may not remember, either. I watched a lot of reruns.)

20t20t had twins ’round about 40, and I had one sweet, quiet, out of control, VERY attached, borderline high needs, amazing Peanut in my mid-thirties. And I often wonder aloud if it’s better later or better sooner.

Because when you’re young you, in general, don’t have much life experience to offer, and might well feel frustrated at the captivity inherent in a decision as permanent and all-encompassing as having kids. (My favorite quote, which my friends are sick of hearing, from a Parents magazine article, is:

“From the parenting expert:
Q. What’s the one thing you wouldn’t say in one of your books?
A. Becoming a parent is like contracting a debilitating disease. Imagine a disease where you couldn’t sleep, you couldn’t have sex, you couldn’t travel, you had aches and pains all the time. Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids. In fact, the more you love them, the harder it is. Nobody tells you what the pull of loving your kids will do to the rest of your life–including your relationship with your spouse. “)

[No, I don’t have a citation for that. It was some time this year in a feature article. There. Happy? Of course not–that was a crappy citation. As an academic researcher I would never quote another author without full documentation. But I’m a barely functioning full time parent who might actually lose her mind within the hour, and I could give a flying fig newton if Parents magazine sues me for improper use of the writing they publish in order to sell ads. Go ahead, Parents magazine, pursue your silly little lawsuit. Then go take a flying leap. You publishers and writers and photographers and lawyers have money and respect and adult interaction, and if you want to make my day you’ll push me into a fight over intellectual property. Go ahead. I need a project. I know all about satirical uses and misuse of copyrighted material for personal gain. Here’s a shocker–I’m not making money from this blog. Read the trackback from blogherald.com. I’m refreshingly not-for-profit. Stick that in your editor’s pipe and smoke it.]

Ah, yes. Older moms versus younger moms.

Seems to me now, that 18 year olds who have no life yet (nasty email replies acknowledged in advance, but it’s basically true) and little education have it easier–they don’t know what they’re missing, they don’t realize the inequity inherent in the process because they haven’t been independent long enough to know what balance is. By 40 you’ve built your successes, learned from your non-successes, decided what is important in your life, been around the block, earned some money and some respect. You know who you are (and you know what you expect parenting and co-parenting to be like). And babies turn all of that on its ear. You have to understand that their every response to you is respect and gratitude, because you’re not going to get performance reviews or critical reviews, performance bonuses, or even cost of living advances. If you choose to stay home you have what I now feel is the hardest job on the planet (job, not life. There are millions of lives harder than mine. But it’s a hard job. I’ve had dozens of jobs in several industries and no jobs harder, when done right, than staying at home to gently and thoughtfully raise a valuable human being.)

Plus, most young parents don’t know enough to know all the “shoulds” of good parenting. It’s easy, when you’re 20, to stick a baby in front of a TV with a plastic toy made in China, and feed it McD*nalds while you check email and talk on the phone. Once you a learn a few things, especially about yourself, having children is soul-wrenching, body-wrenching, and discombobulating.

But at mid-life you appreciate flashes of joy more. (Is it appropriate to call 35 to 45 midlife? Now that we seem to be calling 70 the new 40, what the heck is midlife? Is my midlife crisis overdue or decades away?) Older moms slow down and watch their babies learn, and marvel at the latter’s brilliance. Older moms are more confident in who they are and are willing to stand up for their parenting choices, whatever they are. At mid-life I have more confidence that what I’ve built in my life will be waiting for me, in some form, when babies need less of me. I’m still terrified that I’ve disappeared, eroded by several years of complete intellectual isolation, but I have enough experience to know that, realistically, my resume just needs some creative retuning.

But older mamas are tired. And impatient. And more likely to own things that they rue having to put away for 8 years until we get past the oral, breaking, and ball throwing in the house phases.

Yes, I’m glad I waited. Yes, I’m glad I jumped off that bridge. Most of the time. Yes, I had enough cake to make it through the moments when I sacrifice the last piece to the crazy little person who relishes every crumb. Before he wipes them on the wall and the cat.

I say often to Spouse that I hope Peanut goes to college tomorrow because I can’t take another day of this job. I can’t take it. But I can. And unlike most moms who view each milestone with sadness because their babies are going away, I just beam each time he moves a bit further from the direct, visceral link that bound us to each other for at least two years. No, I don’t want him in college, railing to his friends about how lame his parents are quite yet. But with each achievement, he’s closer to that moment. He puts on his own underpants and shoes, he puts on his own pants and hat. He feeds himself, waters himself, and takes himself to the toilet. And I’m closer to being myself, a new self enriched by what I’ve learned both before him and with him*.

*Flailing, sure. Frustrated, sure. Empty shell of the person I used to be, granted. But grateful and richer. Metaphorically. Not because I was older when I had him, but because I’m paying attention.**

**Note that I said I’m paying attention. If one more person tells me to enjoy this time while I have it, I might body slam them. I enjoy what I can, I loathe what I want, and I blog the rest. So back the f– off and keep your regrets to yourself.

No, no, no, no.

I have found a new toddler technique that works very well in getting toddler to behave in ways I find desirable. I borrowed from RM, who tricked Peanut into going to the bathroom by insisting his stuffed cow couldn’t go pee because it didn’t have a penis. Well, he showed her.

Now, instead of having the insane morning battle wherein he refuses to pee and I refuse to do anything with or for him before he pees, I simply instruct him not to pee. I’m polite about it, but I’m quite clear (I don’t use my stern voice, I use my mock serious voice. He seems to know the difference, because this little bit of reverse psychology hasn’t made discipline any more difficult–when I mean it, he knows.)

Me: Please don’t pee when you get out of bed.

P (smiling): Yes.

Me: No, no. Please no pee.

P (laughing): Yes! (starts pulling off his jammies.)

Me: Oh, no. Please don’t.

P (laughing and scrambling atop the toilet): Yes! Yes pee!

Me: Aw, man. I said don’t pee.

P: Peanut peeing! Mommy angry! Mommy frustrated! (Laughs) Pee!

What has my life become when me only control lies in begging someone not to pee?

He’s turned it into a game, too. He says, “Mommy, say nononono no no.” I usually ask, “What am I saying no to?” He replies, “No get book. No read!” I love absolutely nothing better than having this sweet boy sit with me while we read. So I smile at the game. “Oh, Peanut. No reading. I don’t want to read.” I smile so he knows I’m playing, too. He laughs and runs to get a book. He finds one and heaves it at me. “Mommy say no no no.”

I go one better. I whine, in my best two-year-old voice, “I don’t want to read this book. Ugh! Do I have to?” He laughs as though the cats are rolling around disemboweling each other. “Yes, Mommy. Read!”

“Ugh,” I sigh. “I don’t want to read this book.” It’s enormously cathartic, refusing to do what your two-and-a-half-year old wants. He is so demanding and, though I never say this to anyone around him, bossy, that it feels good to refuse. Even if it’s pretend. Because the few times I really do refuse, for something that’s not safe or when we really have to leave, it feels crummy. I wish the world could revolve around him for a while longer, because he’s in for a rude, rude awakening soon. And eventually, the rudest, when everything he’s made out of his life has to balance, still and breathless, on a pinpoint while his infants and toddlers need more than he can give.

Two and a half

Me: Do you want macaroni or hummus for lunch?

P: Hmmmmmm…… Peanut idea! Mommy eat macaroni. Peanut eat grapes.

Me: We can have grapes, too, but do you want macaroni or hummus to go with the grapes?

P: No Mommy grapes. Mommy eat macaroni. Peanut eat grapes.

Me: Yes, you can have grapes, too. Macaroni or hummus?

P: No two grapes. Lot.

Wee hours

Yesterday was a really tough day for Peanut, and though he’s been sleeping much better…wait, I need to address that:

Attention sleepless moms: don’t let the books and the advice fool you. Some kids just don’t sleep until they’re two or three. No matter what you do. They’re just too mentally or physically active to stay asleep. And abandoning them at night just sends mixed messages but doesn’t “fix” them. [Please don’t email me to tell me how to get my kid to sleep. And please don’t email to tell me cry-it-out isn’t cruel. It is. And I do know how tired you are and I do know why you felt you had to try. I’m not judging your desperation, I’m just not going to use your method. I’ve read every book and talked to everyone who has an opinion, story, or child. Most books don’t address our situation. And my child goes to bed easily, happily, lovingly. He falls asleep by himself because he always has and prefers it that way, but he can’t stay asleep more than 3 hours at a time. Not his fault. Not habit (and don’t you think that if habit was a successful way to wake up that alarms would be obsolete? Not sleeping is not your child’s fault. I know you don’t want to hear that you may not sleep for a while. But you might now. At one point I asked my pediatrician to swear on his life that he didn’t have any eight-year-old patients who didn’t sleep through the night. He promised. I was desperate, desperate, painfully desperate for 18 months, then hysterical for 6 months, then resigned for six months. And at 2 1/2, there it was. A full night. And another. And another.

In other cultures, parents don’t expect kids to sleep until two or three. What’s hard here is that they’re “supposed to” and, therefore, either they or we are failures if nights are regularly, if not frequently, interrupted. I mean, I know Americans have some good reasons to think they’re awesome, but do you really think you’re so awesome you give birth to superhumans who sleep better than the rest of the planet? Come on.

My resignation to my fate doesn’t mean I haven’t almost lost my mind to sleep deprivation. But I know lots of really good parents with really good kids who didn’t all sleep through the night until three years had passed. And I’m surrounded by parents who made it through and parents who are struggling to get there, and we’re in it together. Except at 3 a.m. Because nothing is lonelier than caring for a wailing child at 3 a.m. Don’t care who you are, it’s tough to feel that alone.)

Back to the story.

Though he’s been sleeping better lately, yesterday was really hard for him, so nighttime was hard. The day was filled with sharing (his current nightmare of choice) and playdates and hitting (he’s getting it back now and doesn’t like it) and infrequent snacks (the child is more calorie-dependent than even his mother, and that’s saying a lot) and a timeout; so he was just guaranteed a difficult night. He tossed and turned, he yelled in his sleep (mostly, “No share! No share no hit!”), he woke every few hours. He needed help a few times, including one justifiable need for the potty. It was dark, I was half asleep but carried him silently to the bathroom, helped him, and redressed him. He went right back to sleep. Three hours later he called me through the monitor:

“Mommy! Underpants! Mommy, underpants! Mommy. Underpaaaaaants.”

I’m irritated, thinking we’re having a “I need to choose another pair” moment as we do in daytime. In the light of day that nonsense is fine with me. Control what goes in your own pants. Fine. At night? No way.

So I go to him and he says “P*nis stuck.”(“I’m sure it is,” I think, “since you never leave it alone. Probably caught it in the waistband, didn’t you?”) I lift the waistband and let gravity work its magic.

“There you go, Mommy fixed it.”

“Mommy no fix it. P*nis stuck.”

“Okay, stand up. I’ll try again.” I reach to help him up and get a handful of cheek. Nude.

I had put both his legs into one leg hole during his late night peebreak. He’d slept three hours hanging out the side of his unders.

Nice work, ma.

I fixed my error and asked, “Is that better?”

“Yeah.” Lies down, sleeps.

When do they learn to walk down the hall to take care of that themselves? Probably before he regularly sleeps through the night, right?