Monday, December 31, 2012

Growing Up

growing up

On New Year's Eve last year, Claire had yet to say her first word or take a step. She hadn't felt ice-cream melt sweetly in her mouth, nor had she crunched a slice of shiny red apple. She hadn't returned a hug or a kiss. She'd yet to make a joke that had us laughing together. 

She enters 2013 able to do all of these things and more. The new year holds such possibilities for her as well.

Just as 2013 contains potential for all of us. I wish everyone a year of growth like a child. I wish you the capacity to embrace change in 2013, to make new discoveries, and to lust for life in the way of a child -- curious, courageous and eyes wide open.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Guns: Getting Past the Fantasy

gun control

I've started thinking about how I'd like to talk to Claire about guns. The issue is a difficult but important one to confront -- up there with don't talk to strangers, where do babies come from and, down the road, don't have unprotected sex.

My parents weren't much for communication, and were silent on all of the aforementioned big topics. But guns were an every day event during hunting season. 

I remember admiring the colorful orange and shiny gold shotgun shells. I remember dead ducks being stripped of their feathers in paraffin. And the deer, how could I forget the deer with limp bodies, glazed eyes and tongues hanging out of their mouth. The gaping hole in their blood spattered sides. 

Guns killed, that's for sure. No denying this gory reality. 

Hunting mostly disabused me of any fantastic notion I might have had about guns. But, when I was about four, I begged for the best black and white cowhide Annie Oakley outfit. I was so proud of that getup, complete with red cowgirl hat. The shiny silver pistol with holster was basically an accessory to me. But, in case I had any doubt about its function, every time I picked up it up, I was told to NEVER, EVER point a gun -- real or fake -- at another human being. 

My brother begged for a BB gun at around age seven. That conversation was short…BB guns in the hands of small children do nothing but damage, either to humans, small animals or objects such as windows. End of story.

Because I was around guns and instructed about them, I learned just how seriously they were to be taken. I learned that guns had their place for some, and that there was zero negotiation about their use.

It's a different world for Claire growing up than it was for me. We live in Manhattan: no deer here (even if we did want to hunt). The stakes have risen so that assault weapons are a gruesome reality sitting alongside shotguns. My Annie Oakley fancy is being replaced by the fantasy of violent video games and movies. It's such a complicated mix of issues that even our sharpest pundits are struggling with the scope of influences contributing to senseless gun violence.

But I know that I want Claire to learn some of the lessons that my family taught me about guns. I want her to know that human beings are responsible for how they are used, and that this responsibility is not to be taken lightly. I want her to know that, while you can take back words and some actions, the damage that guns cause is swift, dangerous and, too often, irreparable.

I haven't figured out how the conversation should go after that. I would love to open up this discussion amongst mothers. In light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, I think it's important one to have. It's a dialogue in which moms can and should be taking the lead, for all of our children. 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Father Daughter

"Get up!" my toddler, Claire, implores, as she tries to push me off the living room carpet.

Evidently, I'm not moving quickly enough, so she orders again, "Get up! Papa coming!"

Papa has arrived. My time as the sun, stars and moon in the eyes of my nineteen month old has ended. George is now the desired partner for the block building party.  It's not surprising that it took longer for the father/daughter relationship to blossom like it is now. After all, Claire and I got a nine month jump on her father. Perhaps, this is the beginning of "Daddy's Little Girl" that I've heard so much about.


Intellectually, I know three things about this recent shift in familial relations.

First, it's hilarious to see a toddler engage in exclusionary behavior worthy of a Mean Girl, even when the person she is giving the cold shoulder to is moi.

Second, watching the father/daughter relationship grow is such a gift. Claire and George play together so beautifully. Papa doesn't treat her like a baby; she's his equal. I've never seen two people make more meaningful towers of blocks together. I relish the opportunity to see what else they will build in the years to come.

Third, I know that this kind of early triangulation is a hallmark of individuation, a process through which all children must go. I'm glad that Claire feels safe enough in our relationship to reject me without fear that I will abandon her. 

My visceral reaction is a different story, though..."What am I, chopped liver, here?" I find myself on the outside, not a part of their exclusive, little club.

I feel a little sorry for myself too…"Nobody likes me, not even my daughter."

Then, I start to question my interpersonal skills, "She's right. I need to be more fun, like George." Now, I'm acting like an insecure teenager who's trying to figure out how to please a boy or get those Mean Girls to like her. 

But I'm not a teenager anymore, I'm a mom. So I remind myself that, if I were Claire, I'd probably prefer to play with George too. I love them both more watching them love each other.

And, really, I don't need to change. The next time Claire bumps her head or needs a hug, I'm sure she'll seek out mama. She's smart to play to our strengths.

Plus, Claire's cosmos clearly contains room for both of us. And so much more.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wonder Weeks

Have you often wondered what's going on inside that tiny head of your baby? I know I have (especially when NOTHING seems to please her!) That's why I've visited the Wonder Weeks website often since Claire was born. I'm fascinated by the authors' contention that babies reach mental milestones at predictable ages that change the way they perceive the world. Who wouldn't want such a wonderful window into the world of babies? After all, babies do a lot of communicating, but what they are actually saying  often remains a big mystery.

The book's authors outline 10 stages of a baby's development called mental leaps. Each stage is often proceeded by a period of fussiness, as a baby learns to process her world in a new way.  At eight weeks, they contend that a baby starts to understand simple patterns such as "the way light displays shadows on the wall", or at 46 weeks, a baby begins to understand that there's an order in which things are done to reach a goal.
My daughter, Claire, is just past the 75 week milestone, a time when the authors suggest that toddlers begin to recognize they're part of a family, distinct from others.

This mental leap is clearly evident at our house. Claire is obsessed with family right now. She will point at us, back and forth, "mama, papa, mama, papa", over and over. Her friend Archie and his mother Elaine are referred to as the one-word contraction, "ArchiElaine". Of course, as with anything toddler, she tends to overgeneralize. She points to all kinds of images throughout the day, and calls them mama.

She calls me some things that are sweet.  Some of the things named "mama" truly make me wonder. I don't wonder what week it is, but, rather, what planet my daughter is from. Here's a sampling of the random things she has called "mama" from the last few days:

Adorable Mama:

super simple learning

Classical Mama:

greek yogurt

Holy Mother of God Mama (my personal favorite):

jesus and mary

Sex Change Mama (huh?):

labeled body

"Really? Should I be insulted? What's she thinking?" Mama

sandra boynton

(On second thought, I am rather frazzled. Maybe, my daughter -- and the Wonder Weeks-- is on to something.)

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, Our Town

Newtown Memorial, 12/14/12

I want to look away, but I can't. I stare at the pictures. The light in the face of each little boy and girl reminds me of my own child's light. I read about their lives and cry, sharing in the devastation as much as I can. All that I am able to do is bear witness to the tragedy. My efforts aren't enough, though. I'm helpless to do more. So I sit here looking at pictures and cry. And I pray, because the families need our prayers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Story of Us

couple kissing

"Well, I'm not sure if I can even have kids at this point, since I'm in my forties," I said.

The thought bubble over my head was saying, "Why on earth are you telling this man these things on your first date?! Not exactly fun and flirty dinner conversation!"

Another part of my brain was saying, "Oh well, if you're gonna scare him away, make it sooner rather than later, for everyone's sake."

My future husband replied, "I want children, but I'd rather end up with the right woman than worry about what our life should look like. I'd be happy adopting."

I tried to do my best first-date-nonchalant-nod, while inside my heart did a flip of wonder at the man sitting across from me. I don't know how we brought the conversation around to more pedestrian things after talking children and finding 'the one' in the first twenty minutes of our first date, but we did. We also ended up drinking too much wine and lingering at our dinner table longer than the waiter probably preferred. 

Claire was born two and a half years later.

I could take this post in a few directions. I could talk about the struggle to date in your 40's, when a large chunk of the male population has written you off as ready for pasture. I could share the story of how hard and easy it was for us to have Claire. I could detail the advantages and disadvantages of being older parents. 

But it's the fourth anniversary of that first date, so I want to tell my husband a few things. 

George, my first impression of you was that you put relationships above goals. Knowing you as I do now, I've learned that there is no other way for you to be. You have shown me how easy it is to embrace the unknown, when you are loved. You have taught me that hope isn't getting what you think you want, but being open to what you receive. 

I may have carried Claire for nine months. But she was born out of this beautiful spirit, which came solely from you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Things No One Ever Told Me About Motherhood

Ah, gotta love (or hate) the mom blog list -- for thoughts that are too long for twitter and not quite a blog. I think I'm relying on this form too much, but that hasn't stopped me from sharing this latest list, "Things No One Ever Told Me About Motherhood":

1) Your bladder will never be the same. I've heard people say "your body will never be the same". I imagined this sentiment referred mostly to weight gain, stretch marks and varicose veins. Maybe people were being too polite to add bladder control. Maybe they didn't know how to break it to me that no amount of Kegels will assure that I experience an uncomplicated cough, sneeze or laugh now.

2) And speaking of bladders, you will never get to go to the bathroom alone again. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Your child will follow you wherever you go, as what you are doing is way more interesting than the toys that you spent your hard earned money on to get him or her to leave you alone long enough to do things like go to the bathroom (or write a post).

3) And speaking of entertaining a child, it's horrible realization that the only thing that your child finds more interesting than following you around is what's on television, a smart phone, or a computer.

4) Even if the television is babysitting, your child will cause great difficulty if you decide to talk on the phone for more than two minutes. You'd think I'd have known this fact, as I distinctly remember my mom yelling "I'M ON THE PHONE!" quite a bit when I was a child. My recollection is that she only had to give this warning once, and we'd leave her to her conversation in peace. I'm sure my mom's memory would be entirely different -- more in line with how talking on the phone is going for Claire and me now.

5) Babies find another thing entertaining --- your pain. They can be sadistic. I get it now. It's developmental. They really don't know they're own strength or understand they're hurting you yet. But it took me awhile to get used to being slugged in the neck, and then having my child laugh like bodily injury is great sport.

6) Your own entertainment takes on a different quality too. I get really excited about things that never would have interested me before -- like apple picking, an awesome swing set at a playground, or going to a tree lighting ceremony.

7) You get really excited about things that never would have interested you before. Your child shows no interest in these activities (like apple picking). Or he or she is interested for about 15 minutes and then is ready to go (like swinging on that awesome swing set). Or he or she is more interested in other things than the activity itself (like eating the hot pretzel you bought from the cart on the street corner instead of watching the tree lighting ceremony).

8) Numbers 6 or 7 show how boring you become after having a child. You morph into a more conservative person too, wanting to control the world in ways you never did before. When I had Claire, I walked out of the hospital and saw the world anew. Yes, our life seemed filled with possibility and I felt surrounded by a new glow. I was also surrounded by way too much trash on the ground and cars honking their horns loud enough to wake the dead. On the ride home, I wanted to kill all the aces in cars weaving in and out of traffic. All that happened before I had even gotten her home!

9) Numbers 6, 7 and 8 are examples that illustrate something I had heard before -- you will become your mother. What no one shared was the extent to which I get served this humble pie on a daily basis.

10) No one ever told me what the "hood" in "motherhood" stands for. I imagine it's called such because a mom is a safe place to call home. No one ever told me how hard it is to be that place for my daughter on a consistent basis (because of numbers 1-9, and because I always want to write a post). Like much about life that is challenging, I can always keep trying.

I'm sure there are more secrets that haven't dawned on me yet. Feel free to share them in the comments below. I wish I could say that a representative will be with you shortly to help you with your issue, but, unfortunately, you're on your own there.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

I've been tagged and it's catching!

Being tagged by another blogger usually reminds me of chain letters and/or virus transmission, so I have a tendency not to participate. But I love the holiday season and Alicia at One Mother Hen. She tagged me to list five Christmas wishes and pass the honor/germs to five other fine bloggers. In the spirit of Christmas and/or economy, I'm going to do them both at the same time.

Santa, baby, put these presents under my tree:

1) A bowl of tiger soup. Not really; I'm a vegetarian. What I'd really like for Christmas is a brain that works like Sarah at Sadder but Wiser. She posted this picture, which is nothing less than diabolically inspired.

tigers in a bath

2) Some face time with Deb at Urban Moo Cow, because we've decided we are the same person (except that she runs marathons and I run on Dunkin'). Two words: Mom Clogs.

mom clogs

3) A button on my laptop that delivers an electric shock to anyone who follows then unfollows me on twitter. I'd like to give one to Lisa at Life Happens Then Write too, because she has her share of problems with social media as well.

dislike button

4) A marriage like Marcia at Menopausal Mother. Actually, I'm fine with my marriage. I'd really like some of their buttered rum and the antics that follow (no have to visit to her site to see the full majesty of the season).

5) The true spirit of Christmas that I find present every day in the photos on Rachel's blog, Finding Joy.

hands playing piano

So…Sadder But Wiser, Urban Moo Cow, Life Happens Then Write, Menopausal Mother and Finding Joy, you've been:

                                                      TAGGED FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

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Monday, December 3, 2012

The Mahna Mahna Phenomenon

I'm not sure whether the point of this post is to confirm George's paternity, or to show that my husband can act like a baby. Actually, it's more like a list of how father and daughter resemble one another. George and Claire both:

1) Get extremely cranky when they haven't been fed.

2) Function best with an afternoon nap.

3) Are either way too loud or completely inaudible.

4) Require face-to-face time with me at the most inopportune moments, like when I'm on the toilet.

5) Have an uncanny ability to make a giant mess out of limited resources.

6) Enjoy tinkering with computer wires and electronic equipment.

7) Crack up watching "Mahna Mahna" on YouTube.

8) Don't mind that I poke a little fun at them in this blog.

9) Love me very much.

10) Are loved by me immeasurably.

I've changed my mind. The point of this post is to thank them for #8. And to reiterate #'s 9 and 10.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Confession: I Hate Elf on the Shelf

You can divide the world into two camps in many ways. Coke or Pepsi, Lennon or McCartney, people who steal pens vs. those who lose them. During the holiday season, it's Elf on the Shelf lovers vs. Elf haters.

Oh, wait, according to Amy at "Funny is Family", 99% of Americans are pro-Elf! Alas, she and I find ourselves among the minority regarding the newest holiday tradition to sweep the nation. I'm emboldened by her recent post, I Hate Elf on the Shelf, to add my dissent...

Elf on the Shelf is nothing more than a snitch. He's a brown-noser looking to curry favor with Santa by sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. Just when he's lulled you into complacency by looking a little too cute, he stabs you in the back without blinking an eye. I want to wipe that disingenuous smile right off his phony face.

At any other time during the year, I wouldn't invite a spy into my house. The holiday season is no different. Isn't it enough that Santa's watching like Homeland Security? 

Look, I realize I'm new to the Christmas with kids game -- and motherhood, for that matter. My daughter is a mere 18-months-old. She doesn't get that Santa or the North Pole even exist yet. Right now, we don't require the perceived threat of a pint-sized weasel to keep our child in line. 

I'm humble enough to know that I have yet to encounter what I will resort to, in order to keep my child merry and bright during the holiday season. I'm open to changing my mind about the value that an extra set of tiny eyes can add to maintaining Peace on Earth.

But, until a clear and present danger is unequivocally established, Elf on the Shelf will remain a tattletale who is not welcome in my home.

Elf on the shelf haters unite

Have a confession: Link up with Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturday.

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