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I started this post last week, and my children kept interrupting me, so it’s been languishing. But it’s been another day that’s probably left all of us sad and angry, so I’m finally finishing this one for a little capture-the-precious-moments escapism.
It was just a few days ago that a friend shared the Reasons My Son is Crying tumblr, and already it’s become enough of a phenomenon that Good Morning America flew them down to New York to interview them. And now I’m feeling a little bit bad, because according to The Christian Science Monitor, the dad is taken aback by the attention. He’s hearing from plenty of freaks who are trying to pathologize the whole situation as emotional abuse or undiagnosed behavioral or phlegm-oriented dysfunctions. He’d rather that we forget about him and check out Humans of New York instead. Which, okay, admittedly HONY is awesome. But I’m stuck because the bittersweet images have been bumping around in my brain since I saw them, begging for me to write a post. I loved them and I can’t resist. I’m rationalizing that most of you have already seen the tumblr anyway, but if you haven’t, it comes with a plea: look at the crying toddler, but don’t send the dad any diagnoses or advice. Use that time to peruse HONY instead.
Ah, Reasons My Son is Crying tumblr, I love this so much and for so many reasons.
First and most obvious? I wish I’d done it. Earlier, I spent way too much time checking the photo archives, and found just a single toddler crying photo:
The only reason why I have this one is that we’d wrestled M into a dress and its little matching kerchief so that we could take a photo, and she hated wearing the kerchief. So it’s not like I’m documenting day-to-day life here. Even though I stocked up on pictures of messy faces and big spills and children running around naked, I didn’t think to snap photos of my kids when they were sobbing or having a tantrum. And I regret it, because it’s a defining period of time in kids’ and parents’ lives. Maybe it’s partly the fear that the tantrums and sobbing won’t ever end that makes us so reluctant to snap a photo. Or it’s just that listening to sobbing is excruciating and we want it to stop.
But it’s worth remembering.
Seeing the tears and snot rolling is so poignant and bittersweet. It’s this fleeting time when these small humans know what they want and have so little power to communicate or execute their own desires. You know: they have opinions and preferences. Strong preferences. Juice is better than milk. I want my sister’s toy. And yet these people who are in charge of them are foiling them at every turn. Milk! Sharing! Of course it feels like a series of tremendous injustices. It just doesn’t feel fair that toddlers have no control whatsoever. I scroll the photographs and read the captions and imagine myself a toddler, the whole thought process. For example, “He can’t climb into the sea lion tank.” Well, that’s ridiculous [says my imagined toddler]. I mean, they force me to get into the water for a bath, and they let me get in the hotel pool, and then there’s finally a really awesome pool with amazing rocks to climb and friendly sea creatures and I’m not allowed? That sucks. Or, “We wouldn’t let him open the hotel door and run naked through Times Square.” Come on, that’s alarmist. Maybe I just want to investigate the nub of the carpet that is incredibly dirty in the most fascinating way or push the button to make the ice machine go. Really, what would be the harm in that? I know that the parents are making completely intelligent and rational decisions. And yet I still can’t help feeling sorry for the kid. Words that you can’t yet enunciate, the desire to take care of yourself coupled with a complete lack of capacity to do so. Day in and day out. That is a tough life.
Growing up is a struggle. One of my favorite baby postures to witness is the straining sitter. You know that one? It’s when you see a fairly young child, maybe 8 or 10 months, who has recently mastered the art of sitting up, and someone’s put her (or him) into a reclining stroller or baby seat. And that child hunches forward as far as possible, pushing against the safety straps, because that’s what they can do now. Sit up. Like someone grown. Or more grown than them. It’s a completely different perspective. Kids get to see ahead instead of lying there passive, watching the sky or worse, a canopy. Maybe they’ll grunt and point. Because they have places that they want to go. Things they want to see. That struggle, that eagerness, just hits me in the gut every single time I see it.
Recently someone said something dismissive about a 2nd grader’s rough life. Sure, we grown-ups sneer, you don’t have a mortgage, and someone puts dinner in front of you every night, what’s there to worry about? But there’s so much. Trying to understand how to tell time and friends who don’t get along with each other and older siblings who can do everything and drawing a picture that doesn’t look like the one in your brain at all. That’s stress. It might not be grown-up stress, but it’s tough stuff. And a 12-year-old who’s lost a best friend and has a pulsing red pimple and just got cut from the basketball team. . . yuck. Awful. You couldn’t pay me to go through that again. I found old diaries once and thought that I’d find it amusing, but it was awful. So much sorrow and anger and ennui, and reading it, I felt just as sad and mad and melancholy as I had decades ago. My heart was breaking for poor Puberty Katie. It’s easy for us grown-ups to counsel that all this will pass. But it’s passing through it all that’s the problem!
So all of those toddler crying photos call up the drama of growing up, but also the best and worst of parenthood. Because it’s hilarious and baffling. As parents, we’re constantly making reasonable choices and feeling like horrible people no matter what choice we make. We say “No” because we’re good parents knowing that our children will use those “Nos” as evidence of our utter malice toward them and all of their most deeply-held desires. Toddler parenting just highlights a theme that’s laced through all the parenting years: You absolutely cannot win. The other day, M was protesting because we don’t always conform to J’s bedtime, which M thinks is unfair. Not just unfair, but evidence of our greater love for J than for her. I pointed out that (1) it wasn’t really her business and (2) they’re two different personalities who will get different treatment based on their individual needs, and (3) my strongest point, that M never even had a specific bedtime until this year. If she thought about it that way, I said, then really, poor J was getting the harsh treatment, because she had an imposed bedtime three years earlier than M. At which point M argued that J needed that early bedtime and we were responding to that need because (Oh my gosh, do you see it coming? Do you? Do you? . . .) we love her more! And she believed both statements with great sincerity and conviction. There’s no way to win when you’re dealing with that. So I feel for these parents, these poor baffled parents who are shaking their heads over the booger-sodden sob-fest their toddler has launched as a direct result of their considered choices, made in order to best keep the child safe and clean. Because we’ve all been there.
Something else that I love is the documentation of this transitional time between baby and big kid. In one image he’s got a full diaper and all the little rolls and creased wrists of babyhood, and in another image from the same day he’s dressed and rolling his luggage through the airport like a little man-about-town. Children are always shifting between the baby and the grown-up, and capturing that juxtaposition, and how their development ebbs and flows, is lovely. Maturity approaches so gradually, with so may leaps forward and back, that it’s like a high tide coming in very, very slowly.
Or I guess it’s more like low tide, going out. Because if we’re doing it right, we’ll end up alone on the shore, squinting out toward the horizon as they roll out into the wide world.
April 15, 2013 5 Comments
After rallying for the water park trip (I’ll link to the review when it’s ready), J wasn’t feeling great again. She stayed home yesterday, but this morning she said that she could handle school, and against my better judgement, I let her go because it was Leprechaun Trap Day (you know that I don’t love leprechauns, but J is an enthusiast). In fine J tradition, she’d been laboring over this fun piece of homework. . .
And she was so proud of her finished product.
Plus, tonight was the Learning Fair at school, rescheduled from our snowy day last week.
She only made it to about 12:30 before she gave up and reported to the nurse’s office. So now she’s home instead of attending the Learning Fair, and her fellow goddess wrote and designed loving tributes to J and their other friend A, who could not attend, in the form of framed photographs and some touching words. It was really sweet and looked slightly like a memorial shrine, especially when her friend draped the presenters’ tags over the appropriate framed photos.
March 15, 2013 No Comments
J crept into our room at 2 am complaining that her head hurt and she was coughing too much to sleep. Sure enough, she had a fever, and even after some Motrin she was shivering under her covers, so I spent much of the night in bed with her before stumbling back to my own bed in the early morning. Next thing I knew I was the last person awake (story of my life), Cute W was reading The Lord of the Rings to J over breakfast, and I was wandering around, wondering where M could possibly be. It turns out that my bedside clock was the only one left in the house that hadn’t been sprung forward yet, so I was an hour behind and she was already off to school.
By the time I got myself oriented, J had already written out her agenda for the day:
Basically eating and being lazy.
She and I read some more The Lord of the Rings again. I do not relate to that book at all. I can’t keep track of all the names, much less pronounce them. But it’s something else that J and Cute W are bonding over. In fact, he just ordered a poster-sized map of Middle Earth, and she was thrilled. It’s hanging directly above her bed so that she can follow the group’s progress while she listens to the bedtime reading. –Just now, when Cute W realized that I was talking about J’s current obsession, he ran upstairs to find her homemade bookmark, in which she’d quoted, “One ring to rule them all,/One ring to find them,/One ring to bring them all,/ And in the darkness bind them.” I said, “Oh, yeah, I saw that, and she’s writing down the names of the chapters, too, right?” And Cute W just sort of shook his head at me, that I didn’t appreciate the significance of her copying this down. “It’s just, all the LOTR geeks–never mind,” he interrupted himself. “You just don’t get it.” He’s right.
She also pulled out the Smarty Girl Science Growing Gems Kit that Santa had slid into her stocking because it was on super-sale and he couldn’t resist.
J hadn’t been particularly interested in this kit because it was too pink-and-sparkly girlish, so the other day I said that we should give it to someone else if she wasn’t going to use it. That, plus the prospect of a full sick day, motivated her to give it a shot. We were both pleasantly surprised, because the little activities, all involving super-absorbent polymers that suck up water to expand, were easy and fun. Her favorite were the super-fine bits which grew instantly to look like a pile of snow. Her assessment? “I thought that this was going to be lame, but it’s actually very fun.”
Then she did some reading.
And finally, she watched the movie Oliver. As soon as she requested this movie, I almost laughed out loud, because she’d been talking about it for the last week or so, and no one else in the family was particularly interested in watching it again. So a big, long sick day was the perfect opportunity for her.
For a sickie, she had a pretty good day. The only bummer is that the sickness might mess up our plan for tomorrow, which was to go to Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park overnight to write a review for KidsOutAndAbout.com. I know, I know: it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! Anyway, she seemed a bit perkier this afternoon, but we’ll see what tonight brings.
March 11, 2013 No Comments
When we went shopping for Valentines this year, J got ambitious and asked to make little crafts for all the kids in her craft. Luckily, we timed our shopping trip perfectly for Thursday afternoon, so J had an activity all ready for her snow day. They turned out pretty adorable.
Target was selling little kits of supplies for ten pom-pom creatures. Once J had finished all the creatures, she wasn’t ready to stop crafting. So she layered duct tape over the little boxes the supplies came in and made three little purses:
Cute, right? Even cuter slung over J’s shoulder as she headed out to shop!
Speaking of Valentine’s Day, here are some old posts:
- Skip the babysitter and go for an internal date.
- A Valentine’s puzzle
- My pretty heinously ugly Cupid cupcakes–maybe you could do better, though
- A cute Valentine’s soapmaking craft
So, do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions at your house?
February 12, 2013 No Comments
Oh, we enjoyed yesterday. We’d spent most of the weekend half-asleep, it seemed, and by Monday and Tuesday we finally made some headway, getting the house organized and getting ready to jump back into the routine. The girls also had an excellent time enjoying their Christmas gifts. Here’s the scene I came across as they waited for J’s Shrinky Dinks to shrink. I loved the book she got, which had a bunch of blank sheets, which made the whole experience much more free-form and creative.
We’d gone sledding on Monday, and that’s when I realized that M’s snow pants were so tight that she was walking around with them unsnapped and unzipped. I looked, and they were a size 6/7!! Umm, I know that they run large, but that’s pretty negligent of me. So she and I ran off to Target, where they’re already thinking spring, so the bib overalls we ended up buying were $10. Then she became entranced by various sneakers. She had convincingly argued, earlier this year, that since all she ever wants to wear is sneakers, she should have a second pair instead of casual shoes. Now we were coming off a holiday of many gifts and she was sighing over two other pairs. I was not going for it.
“You have plenty of money saved up, and you already have sneakers. If you really want them, you can buy them yourself, my dear,” said the evil hag.
“How about if I chip in $10 and you chip in $20?” bargained M.
“How about if I front you $30 now and you pay me back when I get home?” countered evil hag.
“Or I could chip in $15. . . ?”
“Or maybe I should charge interest. . . ?”
At this point a young woman walked into the aisle smiling over our conversation. And then she decided to join in.
“Oh, my Mom buys me shoes all the time! Still! It’s great! And I’m 24. She’s here now, somewhere. . . .”
I offered the young woman a tight little mind-your-own-business smile , and she beamed at me as she reached for some boots. She didn’t strike me as particularly perceptive.
M, on the other hand, exchanged an amused glance with me. Sure, she’d been Wheedling As Required By The Tween Code. But her look told me that she knew full well that this young woman’s reality was not her own.
In the end, M decided to shell out the $56 for both pairs of sneakers.
Then my old, clever, tween girl (whom I fervently hope will have better things to do than shop at Target with her mother when she’s 24, although fourteen years from now I will no doubt be pining for those mother-daughter trips. But I’m getting off track again. Anyway, she) walked around the corner and saw a big display of baby shoes that I could swear she fit into a minute and a half ago:
“Oh, my gosh, Mom! Look at these things!” She squealed. “When I first saw them, I thought that these were key chains! And I am not even kidding!!”
Which, of course, only brought home the fact that we’re closer to key chains than baby shoes now.
Meanwhile, J was with Cute W, and she’d hauled out another one of her Christmas gifts: a Smithsonian Gem and Rock Dig. She’d circled something similar in a catalog, but I was scared off by the super-crappy reviews. Then I stumbled onto this kit on sale at a craft store, and I’m glad that I impulse-bought it, because its online reviews are even worse. And $27 is way too much. But whatever I spent ($15, maybe?) was well worth it. J spent hours chipping away at the block looking for gems and miracles, all while wearing adorable safety goggles. It was so cute. She loved the little stones that she found (there’s a striped one on the newspaper below, and she was brushing around and uncovering a pearly white stone when I took this picture. Now she’s considering doing gems and minerals as her learning fair topic. So: success!
Speaking of success, I have a new technique for thank you notes. In the past I’ve kept a running list and caught an individual at a free moment and nagged them to, “Just write one or two notes, please-please-please, and then you can take a break.” It becomes an endurance test. For the after-Christmas extravaganza, I let us share cards, and I got everyone together doing the cards simultaneously (that includes me and Cute W, too). Somehow this stirred everyone up (the competition? the camaraderie? how do I replicate this?) and we knocked off a whole bunch of cards in a stunningly short amount of time (maybe 20 minutes). It was one of those parenting triumphs.
I hope you’re all happy to be getting back into the routine.
January 2, 2013 6 Comments
Cute W loves playing games (we’ve mentioned a few before), so we usually get a few at Christmas. One of this year’s favorites is Fluxx. In this card game each player is dealt three cards, and the first player follows the Basic Rules: pick up one card, then play one card from their hand. One of the types of cards that you can play is called a “Keeper,” and the object of the game is to have two specific Keepers that will let you win. But which specific Keepers you need changes unpredictably, depending on the “Goal” card. So if the Goal card is “Squishy Chocolate” and you have the Sun and Chocolate Keeper cards in front of you, or if the Goal Card is “Lullaby” and you have the Music and Sleep Keeper cards in front of you, then you win. During a turn, a player might choose to put down a new “Goal” card, thus changing the object of the game for everyone; or put a Keeper card in front of them; or place a new “Rule” card, which might change how many cards everyone draws, keeps, can hold, or can exchange. Or there are “Action” cards with all sorts of possibilities, like stealing someone else’s Keeper or collecting everyone’s hands, reshuffling them, and passing them out again in random order.
Phew! Sounds a little complicated, and it is and it isn’t at the same time, because each of the cards explains exactly what you’re supposed to do. It’s supposed to be for ages 8 and up, and I think that’s about right. Players need to be very comfortable with reading because in the middle of a games you might have five or six different Rule cards on the table, so being able to look at them and re-read explanations is key.
One thing that we especially like about Fluxx is that you can jump in or out of the game. At any point, a new player can just start, and since things are changing constantly, they won’t be at a terrible disadvantage. Or if someone’s never played before, they can pick up the game pretty easily because the rules are right there on the table. Or if, say, a grown-up has to go cook dinner or a child stomps off in a huff, the rest of the players can continue playing without a problem.
The girls like that there’s both luck and strategy in this game, because the games Cute W favors are always all-strategy, all the time. Which is why he always reminds us of the number one rule whenever we start a game: “No crying when Daddy beats you.”
There are a bunch of varieties of Fluxx, and honestly? I totally see Zombie Fluxx in our future.
So, how about all of you? Anyone get a new game this year that your family’s loving?
December 30, 2012 2 Comments
Look at this craft J brought home from her school party:
It’s one of those paint stirrers that you can get for free at any home improvement store. Just paint it white and add a little felt or fabric hat, scarf, and nose. And measurements, of course. Speaking of scamming free craft materials out of the stores, you can also cut up those paint chips and paste them together like mosaics.
We’re hanging out by the fire and watching Miracle on 34th Street. Holy crap. That demon mother just referred to Santa Claus as a “myth.” I was trying to remember why we hadn’t watched it before. Ugh. Okay, okay, I know. At the end she finds out that he’s really Santa. I’m going to try to get over it.
December 23, 2012 2 Comments
In our house, it’s a tradition that Mrs. Claus sends a little gift. It’s typically what I’d consider a sensible “old lady” gift. So if the girls are low on socks or underwear or long underwear, that comes wrapped up with the other items on Christmas morning. This year the girls are fairly well-supplied, so when I saw some of those adorable slipper socks at Kohl’s, I snapped them up. Both of them spend quite a bit of time cooing over items that are super-soft, which these are. They had socks that were shorters, but these knee-high ones were just so cute and knee highs seemed extra cozy.
Both girls love purple and turquoise, so when I saw that they came packaged in two pairs, I couldn’t choose who would have what, so in the grand Christmas tradition, I got two for each of them. The other slightly annoying hitch is that the while the shorter socks had little non-skid pads on them, these had nothing. Dang. So I had to get crafty.
Have you ever heard that you can use fabric puffy paint to create a non-skid surface? I decided to go for it. And, since they have the exact same socks, I figured that I’d skip a polka-dot or striped pattern and identify the socks by initials. Ta da!
December 22, 2012 No Comments
Beyond trying to figure out gifts for the various children and other loved ones in my life, I’ve been coming up with gift ideas for myself lately, and I thought that I’d share some stuff on my wish list and/or things that you might ask for, if you’re looking for ideas.
This ball-chair thing from Isokinetics, Inc. is actually a hand-me-down from my sister, who has graduated to a stand-up desk. Even though it’s not as pretty as my old wooden teacher-style chair (also, coincidentally, a hand-me-down from my sister–3 out of the 4 rooms on my first floor contain hand-me-downs from her–it is a wonderful thing to be a coddled kid sister!), I really like it. All this blogging/writing/emailing means I spend a lot of time on my butt, and this definitely improves my posture and alertness. I’ve heard it’s supposed to strengthen your core and make you an Entirely Better Person, but that hasn’t happened yet. Still, I’ve officially moved the other chair into the basement. Now if the kids would stop stealing the damn thing, we’d be golden!
I also asked for this Buxton Madison Tote, which is apparently very last season, but since I have no concept of fashion, it doesn’t matter.
They’ve disappeared from the internet, but a few are collecting dust on random Office Max shelves. I got a new laptop for my birthday, but for the moment it has no padded case of any sort, so I’ve been making it wear a couple of sweatshirts, putting it into a duffel bag, and hoping for the best. That must stop. Also, I like red.
You might remember me talking about the Pilates ring when I posted about my Pilates class at the Schenectady JCC. That’s on my list, too.
Did you hear that you can get a free Chipotle burrito (or something) with $30 purchase of gift cards? Gosh, I wonder what I’ll be getting in my stocking? But seriously, if that ring is going to make me work my inner thighs while simultaneously crunching abs work, I’m going to deserve a delicious bowl full of goodness!
Do you have an electric toothbrush? I didn’t, either, for the first 35 years or so of my life, and I thought that electric toothbrushes were sort of silly, and it seemed like my life was going fine without one. But I was missing out. Really, acquiring an electric toothbrush was a revelation. Why not feel a little bit better every single morning and evening? You deserve that. Come to think of it, this isn’t a gift. Just buy the damn thing.
Speaking of taking care of yourself, the most efficient and convenient work-out I can recommend (although I do like me some Zumba) is Mark Lauren’s You Are Your Own Gym. He comes off as a bit too much of a cocky military guy, and and it’s not fascinating, really. But it’s a bunch of basic exercises and most of the time you can do the workouts in about half an hour. Plus, they often don’t seem that bad, and then you are so incredibly sore that you feel like you accidentally got the best work out ever. Seriously, the legs workout from week 3 almost crippled me two days later. I felt so virtuous! He’s got some new book that’s supposed to be specifically for women. Sounds like it might be more boring. But that’s what podcasts and instant video streaming is for, right?
I want this veggie chip maker because I saw a picture of delicious and exotic homemade vegetable chips in a magazine and it looked delightful.
Mary gave me these earrings, and I wear them almost all the time. I am a very simple earring girl. I also always shove a little plastic backing on these beauties because I am very good at losing earrings. Someday when I become either an entirely more responsible person or a so sedentary that the only place the earrings could fall is into my lounge chair, my bed, or the path in between, I will ask for more gorgeous Ed Levin earrings. For now, I’ll just hang onto these.
Books are always on my list, and this year I asked for a Falling Together by Maria de los Santos because I thought her first two novels were completely fun and likeable. I’ve also asked for a couple of titles by authors who will be appearing at the Savannah Book Festival, because I’m going there this February. I usually go toward historical fiction, and two books I finished recently and would recommend are The Seamstress: A Novel by Frances de Pontes Peebles and The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier. If you need more book recommendations, you know I was just fighting over those Lois Lowry books with M, and I offered another stack recently, too. Oh, and this year I also loved reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Love them!
How about you? What’s on your list for yourself this year?
December 11, 2012 3 Comments
On Saturday I helped out with our annual Homemade Holidays program at church. Grown-ups made wreaths and there were plenty of simple-but fun crafts for everyone. Kids loved squeezing glitter paint onto glass balls.
Glue and glitter made pinecones extra-special, and little circles of pipe cleaner made cute little stands.
There were homemade beeswax candles. Kids cut little shapes with cookie cutters and put them on the candles.
The pomander balls were popular. If you’ve ever tried these, it’s too difficult for kids to puncture oranges with the cloves themselves. On Saturday, they were poking the oranges first with giant push pins, which was a great idea.
At my station, I was doing wire ornaments again, bead-on-wire snowflakes that were leftover from last year’s Crafty Girl party, and a bunch of pipe-cleaner-and-bead snowflakes.
Phew! We crafted ourselves into exhaustion. But these were all fun and satisfying.
December 3, 2012 No Comments