On interpersonal communications

I woke in a panic at 3 a.m., and not just because the congested toddler next to me gets violent when he’s fighting a cold.

No, really. V.i.o.l.e.n.t. Kicking, hair pulling, pinching. In his sleep. Good times.

My 3 a.m. cold sweat arose because I realized in my semi-conscious state that I had misheard someone twelve hours earlier. She had said, it was now perfectly clear in the dark of night, “Did you have a fun Thanksgiving?”

But I heard, “Did you have fun playing?” So I had turned to my son who had just finished playing kick ball and asked him if he had. He mumbled something and I smiled at her. And considered the conversation over.

But that was all wrong, I suddenly saw in my darkened and mostly quiet bedroom. Socially horrific. I was supposed to beam and say, “Yes! Thanksgiving was great! How about you?”

I botched the answer. Not just because Thanksgiving was seriously top-notch great and I should have asserted that clearly but without bragging. No, I should have answered the actual question asked because those are the rules. You don’t defer to your kid on adult questions. And you definitely don’t leave someone without a reciprocal, “And how was your Thanksgiving?”

I screwed up an adult exchange. I hate that. I still have PTSD about failing in my conversational duties once in 1994. And another time in ’08.

So I did what any other rational adult would do…I weighed pros and cons on how to handle the gaffe. From 3 a.m. until 4 a.m I debated my options for righting this egregious wrong.

What would I do? Pretend it never happened? Confess the next day that I misheard? How? By saying, “I was replaying my day in my head searching for excuses to beat myself up for gross incompetence, and came upon our conversation…”

Of course not. If I addressed it at all I would be casual and adorable.

Ha ha. Got you. Of course I went with the creepiest, most apologetic and unbalanced approach. I hurried over to her on the playground as soon as I saw her and confessed my deepest darkest socially incompetent moment. Of the day. Including the 3 a.m. part. Because nobody who has ever met me has accused me of being anything but the poster child for neurotic.

All I want for Christmas is grace. The kind where I can let mishearing an acquaintance go, and get some sleep once I elbow the hair-pulling kung fu master next to me. That kind of grace. Wait, is that grace? Or am I thinking of peace? Or kickboxing-yoga fusion?

Anyway, this woman, to whom I’ve spoken three times in my life, got the whole story this morning. “I woke up in a sweat at 3 a.m. because I misheard you. I’m terrible at interpersonal communications. I couldn’t sleep after that. I’m a dork. Help me.” (Paraphrasing. Because there were a lot of melodramatic “Oh My Gawd”s in there, too. And perhaps an invitation for her to join me at a therapist’s office. of her choice. Because I’m not domineering.)

But at least I got in my, “So what I would have said if I weren’t a spazz, is ‘Our Thanksgiving was wonderful; how was yours?'”

I’m not exactly sure how she answered because I was so proud of myself for getting an “A” in grownup interpersonal communications. But I’m sure she had an answer. And probably felt all special because I noted and remedied my craptacular end of the conversation.

And that’s what communications are about, right? Making other people feel special and totally not 3 a.m.-panicky?

So why didn’t she do the same for me yesterday? Boy, she has some nerve…

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We now rejoin our regularly scheduled rant…

already in progress:

…and you’d better call the insurance bastards to see if it’s covered.

As for you, Peanut, you are a very interesting introduction to the fine, fine phase that is Four Years Old. Nothing could be worse than Three, it is true. But if Three was all Mr. Hyde and no Jekyl, Four is the maddening experience of discerning what dropped hat sends you from Jekyl to Hyde and back. No, I will not pick up the toy you kicked across the room. You threw one, I took it away. You threw another, I took it away. Most of your collection is on top of the bookcase today, waiting to see which version of you comes out of your room tomorrow morning. So when you kick a toy out of anger, you get to pick it up yourself. No, you do it. Cry all you want; I no longer flip out when you’re in distress. A newborn has made me immune to your terrorist tactics. Butter is the antidote to my occasional Peanut allergy.

Butter, you’d better stop it. Seriously. Knock it off. I followed all your nonverbal cues, I did everything you wanted, and I got you to sleep. Just because I moved the slightest bit does not mean you can flutter your eyes open and start flirting with me. Yes, you’re cute. Yes, you’re still tiny enough that everything you do is precious. Your loud sleeping is delightful, your recent partial baldness is adorable, and your waste products are coo-inspiring. But go to freaking sleep, you little monkey!

And quit suggesting that you want to nurse just so you can gather huge mouthfuls of milk and the spit them on me. That’s not funny, despite what your brother says.

Hey, agents who have my novel and haven’t replied in well past the 6 weeks you promised: screw you! What is wrong with you? All the other rejections came within the appropriate timeframe. It’s rude to set a deadline and miss it without notifying involved parties that you need longer to complete the task. I don’t want your representation, anyway. This thing is gonna be huge, and so will the next dozen or so I write, and you’ll rue the day. You’ll weep, you’ll rend your garments and pull out your hair. You’ll want a time machine to take you back to when you first heard my name just so you can jump at the chance to take on all my current and future brilliance. You will self-flagellate, and you will be correct in so torturing yourselves.
Asshats.

Sure, Peanut, we can go to the playground. Sure you can climb that big ol’ thing you’re always scared of. Sure I can help you down. Just turn around and…no, I can’t climb up there with you. I can’t help you from up there. I can help you from down here. No, I can’t take baby home and come back without the sling. Even if I did, I’d still be short and unable to lift 35 pounds down from well above my head. I will stand here and talk to you gently for 30 freaking minutes, convincing you that I will help and you won’t fall and you can do it. And after that interminable period of patience and goodness and model mothering, during which I have to take two time outs to keep from beating you and one to nurse your brother, I will grab you by the ankles and pull you off the play structure. Yes, you technically fell. I mostly, kind of caught you, though. It was a slow fall. Are you hurt? No? Good. Come on. Time to go make you the dinner you request and then refuse to eat.

My new philosophy

In order to connect with my inner child and to empathize with my son, I will behave like a three year old for the next month or so.

From now on, when frustrated, I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs and throw things. The volume and number of items thrown will be inversely proportional to the adult-perceived importance of the incident. If my shoes won’t work I’ll shriek and fling them. If my toys won’t work I’ll scream and throw everything within my grasp, hoping to break something. If the car won’t work when I’m late for something important, I’ll whine a bit but get over it quickly.

This month, if I see something really disgusting in the gutter, I’ll pick it up. And if it seems particularly dirty, I’ll try to put it in my mouth.

From here on out, if someone looks at me sideways, I will hit them.

Food will be used primarily for wiping on my shirt and on my parents.

For as long as I can, I will whine for other people to do everything for me. If someone won’t blow my nose within 0.2 seconds of my asking, I will scream until the snot comes out through my ears.

As much as possible, I will wait until something important is happening, either in a conversation, at a gathering, or at home, and will shriek “Listen to me!!” even if people already are.

I will choose 6am as the time for ringing my scooter bell incessantly.

If someone suggests I bathe, wash my hands, or brush my teeth, I will throw myself, writhing, to the floor. If they try to help me, I will scream until their eardrums rupture. If they don’t help me when I can’t do it, I will scream until their eardrums rupture. If they suggest that basic hygiene is necessary for inclusion in American society, I will kick them.

If anyone threatens my desire to have brownies for every meal, I will kick them, too.

Whenever someone else looks away, I will make a beeline for the last thing they forbade me to do, and I will touch it. A lot. And probably lick it. Because I can.

For the length of this social experiment, if anyone states that I may not wear my jammies every day until the end of time, I will writhe and flail about impotently as I whine that I don’t want to wear clothes. Ever.

If anyone dares use the telephone or computer while I am awake, I will break either their technology, their favorite knickknack, or their eardrums.

I will wear a jacket and rain boots when it is 90 degrees. If things cool off to, say, 50 degrees, I will don shorts and flip flops.

All of these behaviors are subject to change if anyone, and I mean anyone, figures them out. At that point, I reserve the right to do whatever obstructionist, violent, vocal, or illogical behavior necessary to get people out of my way. Unless I need them. Then I will use whatever technique necessary to get them to do my bidding.

Ow! Not in the eye!

Sweetie? Pumpkin butter? Love? Mommy doesn’t want to talk about this right now.

Why?

Well, first of all, Mommy is driving. We are hurling at 70 miles an hour toward home after a long day of doing everything you want, and the only thing keeping us from smashing this steel cage into a cement barricade or another car full of humans is Mommy’s ability to keep her brain in control of her hands and feet. And honestly, the neurons are firing quite a bit slowly since you were born.

Mommy is trying to concentrate. Also confounding us just a bit, honey, just a tad in our quest to keep Mommy’s thoughts and actions on the same basic page, is the fact that, while rolling my eyes at your question, the same question you’ve been asking all day, and the same freaking question I’ve answered, I swear to Aphrodite, twelve times already, during that process I managed to lodge a contact lens somewhere deep in my barely functioning brain. Okay, honey? So not only am I operating a motor vehicle hurling down the highway, limbs dead with “when-do-I-get-ten-seconds-of-time-to-myself?” fatigue, and a brain hobbled by your awesome attempts to understand the world, I am also gouging my eye out trying to get to the lens, to relieve the pain and fix the fauceting from my eye and potentially restore the level of vision usually required for the tasks in which I am engaged.

So, sweetheart, it all comes down to this: there is a thin piece of precisely machined plastic wedged into the Why Is Harold with the Purple Crayon Happy When He Gets in the Boat part of my brain. It’s unfortunately inaccessible at present, lovekin. I also can’t freaking see anything, doodlebug. Mommy is blind, Mommy is tired, Mommy is flying home HOPING TO MAUD that Daddy is there so she can drop your adorable little body into his arms for the five minute break that is bathtime.

I know it’s been a long day, pumpkin, but that’s not my fault. Traffic is not my fault. The sun in your eyes is not my fault. My not being willing to answer the same emotive question thirteen times in one day is, I swear to all that is holy, not my fault. You see, I was only given enough patience to give twelve remarkably similar answers to the same question. Blame your grandparents. I can guarantee you they only answered eleven times, because they roll their eyes at your Mom now every time she answers you twelve times in a row.

So please. I’ll say this again, politely. Please put a sock in the exploring-the-emotions-of-cartoon-characters part of your darling, kissable little mouth while I try to get us home safely. There are, like, fourteen freeway interchanges between us and home, buddy, and I think we’re gonna wind up in the wrong county if I don’t pay attention right now.

Ah, dammit, now we’re on the bridge.

Did you just ask why is there water? Because we’re on a bridge.

Why is it a bridge? Because I made a mistake.

Why did I make a mistake? Honey, mistakes are…

Tell you what. You take your purple crayon and think fast and soon we can be climbing aboard a trim little boat, too, and you can tell me why that makes you happy.
Because I’m all out of answers today, bug. I really am.

Crossroads

I’m at a defining moment in my parenting career. I’ve espoused ideals about raising the next generation to do better—be better—than previous generations. To raise a thoughtful, intelligent, wonderful creature. And if that really is my goal, I have to step up to the plate now. Because it’s go time.

But I’m not sure if I’m up for it. Picking our battles, and all. Limited resources and energy, and all.

I mean, if I’m the only one in the house who wants the seat down, and there are 812 battles a day as it is, do I really want to fight a three year old over leaving the seat up? To tell him, patiently, every day for the next 15 years that it needs to be down?

Spouse, who has always put it  down, would prefer it up. Peanut uses the whole seated apparatus more than the rest of us each day, and is new to the gender politics of leaving it up. And is a pain in the ass to reason with. The twin male cats use biodegradable  litter that gets scooped right into the toilet, which is easiest with the seat up. Four to one, my friends, are not odds before which I wither. Four to one, ladies and gents, is nothing for a spitfire like me. Four to one, dear readers, is the odds I am playing against my summoning the reserves to pick this battle.

Seriously, I should put up or shut up. I spend my whole life railing about men who left the seat up. Who raised these insensitive, lazy louts, I wailed?

Well, it seems, maybe, possibly, probably—Me.

Surreal carolling

The only holiday music I’ve heard today:

Working in the living room, which faces the street, I heard young voices singing. We live on a quiet street, so I heard at least 100 feet’s worth of the musical walk home from school of three high school girls. Their carol of choice?

“Summer Lovin'” from Grease.

Happy Holidays throughout your Su-hu-mmer Ni-hi-ghts

Voice-activated Hell

Today, even though I felt like death warmed over, TMobile called, and the whore they (don’t) pay to harass me wanted to rumble.

Okay, so I understand why companies are shelving all their workers and turning to computers. Sure, it saves a few bucks. Sure, it helps the American economy by putting money into the pockets of robots, who seem to be taking the high price of oil especially hard. But seriously, communications companies, stop with the voice-activated customer service.

Here’s how computer customer service and I usually get along: the computer asks me what I want to do. I say, “customer service.” My son, who has now noticed I’m on the phone and sets his taser to stun, parrots, “customer service.” I shake off the distraction (is that what we call a small person who needs you and depends on you for everything he’s not able to do himself? a distraction? a Napoleonic dictator? my best little helper in the world? love of my life? Pain in my ass? as alittlepregnant says, “unstoppable arch-nemesis, perhaps.”) Anyway, I try to hold off the deluge of those Kodak moments in which he is possessed by the “hey, mom’s on the phone, which only happens once a week, and all bets are off!” mood of the minute, and wait for the computer to recognize my request.

DCSR (disembodied customer service rep): I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Let’s try again.

Okay, lady, or disembodied lady who spent a fortune in voiceover lessons to get this one gig and get no residuals from every fucking time the computer doesn’t understand me.

“Cus-to-mer ser-vice,” I enunciate.

DCSR: Okay. you want to establish new service, right?

“No,” I say, patience running thin. My son has glimpsed his opportunity to head to the bathroom to relieve the toilet paper roll of its pricey tree pulp. My cats have decided his absence from the room is their window to the one moment of my attention a day. My head is swimming, trying to decide who gets the focus.

DCSR: Please say yes or no.
Me: [small boy is trying to decide which button on the butane lighter will heat the pinking shears to a temperature sufficient to burn cat hair but cool enough to leave their skin unsinged] What was the question?

DCSR: Okay. Let’s start again.

“No, let’s not,” I think. Is it my imagination, or have they hired Sarah Palin for this job? The voice is just folksy enough, just approachable enough to make me forget for a moment that she is a tool of the Dark Side. Then she says something so classically bitchy that I am recalled from the trance in which I want smaller government, even though both Wasilla’s and Alaska’s grew under her reign as prom queen, and lower taxes, dropped just low enough that we force race victims to pay for their own rape kit.

“Customer serrrvice,” I trill, thinking that getting all happy and Southern will get me better service. I can play Palin with the best of them. Except Tina Fey. That woman is freaking genius. Maybe, maybe minus the letting her kid watch Psycho bit, but still.

“Okay,” the Sarah Palin robot computer disembodied nemesis trills back. “You said, ‘customer service,’ right?”

“Yes.” I’m shaking my head, no, at the toddler who is trying to put nail polish on the cats’ toes. Cats are resisting. Silly mortals. Toddler is undeterred. That’s it, boy. Way to pursue your artistic dreams. I believe in you!   Except, please don’t do that. Find something I can support would you, instead of going all “find the netherworld in which unconditional finds a few conditions.”

DCSR: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Please say yes or no.
Me: I did say ‘yes or no.’ I said ‘yes.’ Please listen to me, since it’s just me and an almost-three year old and enough people aren’t listening to me today that I just might lose it.

DCSR: Let’s try again.
Me: [whining] No! Let’s not try again!

DCSR: [insistent, implying that I’m a failure for not even knowing how to talk] Please say, account balance, check minutes, send money to relatives in Peru, new credit card, deplete my savings account, or wait endlessly on hold.

Me: None of those. Customer service. Honey, please put that down. That’s a no-touch. Please put it down and we can play with this, instead.

DCSR: You said, ‘deplete my savings account, right?’

Me: [resenting this new turn Sarah Palin’s career has taken, even if it pays a bit better than 365 on per diem at home while your husband attends to government business for you, and almost wishing she was pardoning and butchering turkeys as VP instead of as disembodied customer service bitch] [as clearly as I can manage] No.

SP as DCSR: Please say yes or no.

Me: No. No no no no no no.

At this point, the kid is screaming at the top of his lungs because I’m saying ‘no’, the cats are hiding because they sense that formaldehyde is not on their list of “well, at least this is better than the shelter” activities, my savings account is gone, and the computer cops a ‘tude with me.

SP as DCSR: I’m sorry we’re having trouble. Let’s try again another time.

Click.

Okay, you fucknecks. I don’t have time to explain to your computer what I need. I don’t have time to Minnesota/Alaska/Georgia my accent to make myself intelligible. I want the good ol days where the motherfucking computer made me “press one” for self-immolation and “press two” for Kvorkian assisted conflagration.

Today’s was even worse. I’m sick, I’m on crutches, and Spouse is waiting on me hand and foot because every other time in our almost ten year relationship that I’ve been sick he’s been out of town. So he owes me some major tea and honey, some major shared childcare, and some major motherfugging midday naps.

And this TMobile bitch wants to rumble. (Don’t get me wrong. TMobile has been okay, I guess, even though I had no service at my old house and even though they lock me out of the website everytime I try to log on to pay my freaking bill. They did give me the cell phone MP3 player that might be the solution to outsidevoice‘s kindergardener with an iPod problem. But still. They’re fucking with the wrong nasally bitch today.)

T: Please say your account number now.
Me: 5-1-0-achoo
T: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Please try again now.
Me: [thinking, of course you didn’t. I didn’t finish.  a person would know that, you robot a–hole; then trying again] 5-1-0 [mommy mommy I need poop!]
T: We seem to be having some trouble.
Me: You said it, Lady. [“Daddy!” (yes, I’ve developed the nasty habit of calling Spouse “Daddy.” Vowed I never would. And every mom does something she vowed she never would, so as long as heroin and twenty-seven hours of tv-babysitter are still off the list, I’m good. “We’ve got a pooper in here!” To which he pleasantly replies, “Do I have a few minutes?” Where do I start?]
T: You said, pay the bills of all my friends and family, right?
Me: No.
T: Please say yes or no.
Me: No. [Achoo]
T: Dice Espanol?
Me: [in Spanish] No.
T: [composed, if robotic] Your bill is wicked overdue. Would you please pay, you deadbeat fucker, or we’ll cut off your only contact with the world.
Me: Look, I just moved, I didn’t know the bill was due, and I can never log onto the web site because my kid sucks my memory dry both of password and of, well, memory.
T: You said, add text messaging, right?
Me. No. [cough cough cough]
T: I’m trying to be patient with you, but it seems you pal around with terrorists.
Me: Oh, please. I met him once. He taught math, I went to office hours. That’s not pal-ing.
T: You said please enflame me, right?
Me: No.
T: You’re taken care of in that department?
Me: Yes, thank you very much.
T: You said please disconnect your service, right?
Me: No.
T: Please say yes or no.
Me: What was the question? [sniffle]
T: Thank you. Consider your service terminated. Now, can we schedule your personal visit with Sarah Palin?

Oh, sweet Mary, mother of my cousins, just shoot me now. I just want to press one for self-immolation.

Can’t stop laughing

I’m really not okay with linking to another blog as my post, but I can’t help it. My abs hurt from laughing so hard, and the only mascara I’ve worn in two months is dripping onto my “hey, you’ve taken out your contacts, shouldn’t you be in bed” glasses.

http://thebloggess.com/

Have at it. Twisted, hilarious FREAK, she is.

Love it.

And on her other site:

whose god is nicer

I think that says it all.

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…

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.

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.