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…

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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.

Can’t we just live at The CheeseBoard?

The center of my sense of home and community is The CheeseBoard Collective on Shattuck. Living near there formed some of the most important pieces of who I am, and visiting now brings back a flood of revelations, realizations, and nine-plus-senses pleasures that make me happy to my core.

So I took Peanut there.

He’s been before, but this time we went to the store/bakery and to the pizza joint. The latter is not at all the CheeseBoard where I lunched countless afternoons in the ’90s and ’00s. It’s bigger, since they took over the shop next door and expanded with more tables (shock), a bathroom (gasp), and a full area for the musicians.

The pizza of the day was roasted cauliflower, caramelized onion, mozzarella, cheddar, chive, and garlic olive oil on the trademark sourdough crust. It was gorgeous and drippy and wonderfully flavorful. But I’ve rarely had a bad slice there.

The band was the California Honeydrops. They sunk their teeth into a soulful performance and totally captivated my son.

So we ate, me a slice of heaven and him a cheese roll from the Collective. We listened to the blues. We watched the locals and newbies, alike. We basked in the glow of the new paint, the cheerful tile, and the clean bathrooms.

And he said to me, of my favorite place in the world, (except my aunt and uncle’s house at Thanksgiving), “this place make Peanut happy!”

I cried. “Me, too, bug. This place make mommy happy, too.”

I love you, CheeseBoard family.

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.

Peanut wants to go home.

The move went off reasonably well, and we’re hanging out in temporary digs until we either find a house we love, find a financial crisis that scares us out of the real estate market, or get tired of the utter bullsh*te of the Berkeley housing market, whichever comes first.

And we’ve been preparing Peanut for months: Daddy’s going to live with grandma in San Francisco while we find someone to pay for our house. Then we’ll live with Daddy, all the family together, in a temporary house, just for a while, until we find a new house. Then we’ll move to the new house all together and live there, all together. Yay, new house. Usual response: “Peanut SITED ’bout new house.”  I’m excited, too, buddy.

He’s been fine all along. He knows the script, he recites it along with me. He waved goodbye to the old house and made sure all his friends (stuffed animals) and his sister (doll who used to be his baby, and whom he nursed for a long time, and who he has now decided needs a brother, heaven help me because he loves babies and says he wants one–a real one) and his toys and his books were all in the truck so we could take them to the temporary house and the new house.

He knows all this intellectually. But he’s two and a half. He likes concrete nouns, not intangibles. He likes today and tomorrow, not two months from now. He likes things the way he likes them (“no mommy hold Sweetpea, Peanut hold Sweetpea; no mommy walk first, Peanut walk first; no Mommy eat hummus, Peanut no share hummus; no Peanut go escalator, go elevator first, then escalator”) and he doesn’t like that everything is different.

Today he said, “Peanut want go home.” Sure, I told him. We just need to get cat food and we can go home. “No want temporary house. Want go home.” Oh, thank goodnes you’re a quick-to-rebound kind of guy, Peanut. ‘Cuz this is gonna be rough.

“Um, well, you remember when we packed your toys and we said goodbye to the old house?”

“Yem.”

“Well, someone who paid for the house lives in that house now, and we live with Daddy. And we’re going to find a new house and move to a new house. Maybe that house near the playground that has a yard.”

“Hmmmm. No. Peanut no want new house. Peanut want go home.”

Guilt. Sadness. Buck thyself up, adult. You are the adult, you are in charge, you get to decide. This is a good move for good reasons and you want the whole family happy here, else you’ll wind up in Portland to finally give Spouse a shot at being happy. “Well, bug, for a little while, the temporary house is our home because a home is where the people you love are. And after we find a new house, that house will be home. Because home is wherever Mommy and Daddy and Peanut and the cats are.”

“Hmmmm. Peanut no like cats. Peanut no share toys with cats.”

“Ah, I don’t know what to say to that.”

“If baby comes to Peanut house, Peanut no share toys baby.”

“Um, okay.”

“Name Peanut going?”

“Temporary house.”

“Peanut want go home.”

“I know. But we aren’t going to that home. We’re going to the temporary house.”

I’m sorry, buddy, that we took you away from the only home you’ve ever known. We, the alleged grownups, always knew it was a temporary place, but I guess we never told you. I know the yard and the hiking and the creek for rock-throwing and the awesome community of yoga ladies and the nearby parks and the R family and the D family were all home to you. But I swear, now that Mommy is home, things are gonna get even better. Mommy wasn’t happy there, bug. Mommy likes San Francisco. And Daddy needs Mommy happy, because Mommy is simply beastly when she’s unhappy. Remember our thrush? Mommy was out of her head bestly. Remember the teething nights when you woke Mommy 12 and 15 times a night? Mommy was call-an-exorcist beastly. Remember how much fun Mommy can be? Well, I know this is hard because it’s all new to you, but I swear, we’re going to have fun here.

I haven’t said anything for a while, so he chimes in. “Peanut no like Berkeley. Peanut angry Mommy want new house in Berkeley. Peanut like Aaaameeeeda. Peanut like Sasso-siso.”

You and me both, buddy.

It’s good to be home. I just wish you knew it as home.

Gentle David Foster Wallace for college grads

Because so many of my posts about parenting resonnate with exactly this theme, here’s a bit of David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon commencement address.

“…there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and display. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”  –DFW 2005 Kenyon commencement

(Go read the rest of the speech. It’s really quite compelling as a way of thinking and living as aware and sentient beings rather autopilot automatons).

If you say so, dude. Sacrifice might be the reality and the gift of our nasty, brutish, and short, but the pretense and facade of pretending such things aren’t the reality of our lives makes those sorts of attentive, aware, and disciplined sacrifices feel like chores. Would that I had time to erode the pretense and facade, because being self-aware and present in my day would really rock. But focusing on caring for others in those myriad unsexy ways takes all the time I used to use on self analysis and awareness.

Un-Buddhist of me, i acknowledge. Sorry you’re not here to argue with.

War wounds

Concentrating hard on the plastic spoon she had been given, a ten-month old flailed wildly and poked KD right in the eye tonight after dinner. And I empathized aloud that one of my top ten least favorite bits of motherhood are the daily, painful injuries. Spoon to the eye, elbow to the nose, top of head to soft part under the chin, knee to the innards–these add injury to the insult of not owning any minute of your day. You can’t get mad when an infant wallops you as she flails about, but it still hurts. You can’t get mad when a toddler accidentally slams your solar plexus trying to get to a book. But it still hurts. You can’t get mad when a preschooler bashes your nose trying to climb into your lap. But it really hurts.

And I can’t help but point out to the small people whose elbows seem to have the north pole magnet to my breast’s south pole: I never got hit in any of my other jobs. (Nobody even pushed me, except out of a meeting. Metaphorically.)

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.

Blackberry heaven

There was a lengthy period in my life when I wanted to remain child-free, and that phase was dominated by the knowledge that, as a parent, I would never get the last piece of cake. I knew that you had to share with children, and I knew I’d believe, if I ever had kids, that they should get that which we both wanted, as long as I didn’t need it. Kids win a tie in the “I want some” realm, so I wasn’t going to have kids. Yes, just because I wanted more cake. Simple, selfish, self-aware. Fine.

Well, I had a baby. And not only do I not get the last piece of cake, I don’t get any cake. Even when I serve myself a piece of cake, I often get one mouthful before someone is demanding my time, my attention, my physical presence. If I get near a cake, someone falls or cries or needs a hug or can’t work the vacuum or gets locked in the bathroom or needs water or wants a snack or wants to go outside or hears something that needs identifying. I never get a freaking moment alone with cake anymore, because I don’t get a moment alone. I don’t even want the last piece, I just want a zen moment with one bite, experiencing it with all my senses. Unfortunately, I’m only allowed to operate one of my senses at a time anymore, because eight or so of them (there are at least nine senses, you know. look it up.) are focused on the safety and well being of a person smaller and slightly less competent than myself.

So imagine my mixed emotions at being in the glorious Bay Area last weekend with a few minutes and a sparse but willing blackberry bramble before me. I love a good ripe blackberry. And so does my son. He pretty much lives for fresh fruit, especially berries, especially berries he picks himself. Seriously, he goes apeshit for berries. We spend every week of summer at some farm or the other, picking berries and stuffing him full. He eats at least 6 pounds of berries a week, when they’re available. And the farms in SoCal are dried up, parched like the vapid wasteland of desert that it is. So we were thrilled to see berries near grandma’s.

Well, my thrill was short-lived because it became clear that my task was to pick (and be pricked) and Peanut’s job was to taste. It was fun, and all, but I only ate two berries in 15 minutes before the bramble grew too dense for picking.

And then it happened. The next day Spouse came home. He went berry looking with us. And, get this, Spouse and Peanut got distracted playing ball, so I got to eat the berries I picked. Me. I got some.

I can’t spell what I mean, but here’s my attempt:   aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh. Mm.

With Spouse around (and I had forgotten this since we’ve been without him for most of the past two months) I can actually exist again. I have full thoughts in the moments that they play or talk or interact together. I shower uninterrupted (not true, but there’s less pressure to get out and save the small one when he’s there). I run unencumbered by a BOB. And I can eat myself purple, carefully choosing the best berries, unhurried and unassailed, and nine-sensing every one.

Ah. Ten minutes to myself in a bramble is now my idea of heaven. Thanks, Spousey. Maybe next time I’ll pick a few for you.

Time to exfoliate

Warning: embarrassingly shallow moment approaching. should be blogging about world hunger, genocide, or animal welfare. But no. Here’s what you get:

You know personal time is at a premium when you finish the one shower a week when you can actually shave, you dry, you dress, you begin your day, and hours later you notice a full forest of hair that has grown beneath the surface of your shin, left untouched by the razor. Not infected ingrowns. Long, half-inch hairs thriving between layers of keratinized epithelial cells.

Now, I wish I could reject society’s ideas of beauty and let me legs go. I wish I could deny the ridiculous pressures put on women to fit a twisted, pedophilic ideal of hairless shins. But I really, really like the way naked legs feel. And I like shaving, more now, because it represents a self-involved indulgence I rarely get. Shallow, I know. I’ll work on becoming more liberated next year.

With a small creature running around my house I don’t get to shave often, and when I do it’s quick, half-assed, and usually grossly incomplete. But this week I took my time. I used a foaming product (albeit organic and vegan) instead of soap. I felt for stragglers.

But I missed at least three dozen hairs that have grown half-an-inch long beneath the surface of my skin. And what really impresses me is that I didn’t notice before the shower, I didn’t notice after I shaved, I didn’t notice in the four-second lotion dash, and I didn’t notice for most of the morning. Only when building a block tower did I realize I looked like I hadn’t shaved at all. And that got me thinking two things–why the hell bother? and, how is it possible to have so much dead skin built up that hairs can’t even break through? How long had it been since I dragged a washcloth over those shins? Seriously, people, what has my personal grooming regimen become?

Don’t answer that. Thank goodness I don’t blog on YouTube. Or Smell-o-vision.

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.