The Best Present She Ever Gave Me

My 6-year old cleaned my bedroom the other day. She’d decided that mom and dad’s room needed an overhaul, so for an hour on a Saturday, she did the deed. We didn’t know she was doing it – we were downstairs cherishing the silence. She’d disappeared once before like that and was found sound asleep in her bed taking an impromptu nap. Usually if something bad is happening upstairs, there are telltale sounds like bumping or yelling or the ceiling shaking. In the absence of any of those, we assumed all was well. We just didn’t know how well.

She came down with a knowing smile on her face. “Guess what I did?” she asked. That’s never a good question, so my husband and I sprung to attention. We mentally scanned her for blood, broken bones, to see whether all the appropriate teeth were intact. Everything looked good. “Come, Mama,” she beckoned me, taking my hand. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention, the same way they do when I’m entering a hospital room or are being shown the stirrups (yes, THOSE stirrups).

My door was closed. I looked around for the cat, who has been taken prisoner so many times I can visualize black and white prisoner stripes on her fur. Nope – the cat was behind us. My daughter was beaming. “Presenting….your room,” she said with a flourish as she threw open the door.

The bed had been made. The night tables had been dusted. The miasma of papers, bottles, and chargers beside my bed had meticulously been put away or arranged into neat piles. My dresser had been cleaned of the usual piles of clothes waiting to be mended, empty glasses to be brought downstairs, and TV/DVD remote controls. My drawers, usually overflowing with clothes, had actually be CLOSED. Cedar chest at the foot of the bed was empty of the basket of clean clothes. Only my husband’s tall dresser, which my child is too small to reach, remained untouched. [Read more...]

The House of Brotherly Love

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, one of my first purchases was an ‘I’m a big brother’ tee-shirt for my son B.  I bought a few big brother books, too, including a cute one called “Mail Harry to the Moon.”  When I found out my second child was going to be another boy, I was very excited that I was going to have two little boys- brothers- who would be only 27 months apart.  My husband and his younger brother are also two years apart, and they are very close.  I was hoping the same for my boys.

As we neared N’s due date, I bought each of them presents to give to each other in the hospital: a stuffed monkey for N, and wooden trains for big brother B.  When N was born and B visited us in the hospital, he was not interested in his little brother.  I was not concerned.  Once we got home, the indifference continued for the first week or so.  Once my husband went back to work, however, and I was alone with two boys, my son started complaining about his baby brother.  Every time I sat down to nurse N, B would start demanding something.  Even if I tried to anticipate every need he could possibly have and take care of it before I sat down, B would still request something, then throw a fit when I could not get up to help him.

As N got older, B’s complaints escalated.  When N started sitting up and reaching for toys, B started having meltdowns.  I had never needed to discipline B or give him time-outs until this point.  B was repeatedly hitting or pushing his brother, or taking away toys.  I felt like I was spending much of my time yelling at B, putting him in time-outs or consoling a crying child.  I was stressed.  I tried to spend as much time with B as possible when N was napping, and my husband had alone time with B, but it did not seem to help.

Now I really began to worry.  Were my beautiful boys ever going to get along? [Read more...]

No More ‘Little Hooker’ Lines

The permission slip specifically noted “no thong bikinis” for the annual field day.  A friend asked me if we received the same letter at my son’s school in the same district which, amazingly, we didn’t.  A few other heads turned in the social skills class, prompting a mass cry of abject horror over who would dress their elementary school age daughter in a thong.  What purpose did a thong serve a young girl? It wasn’t to smooth out unsightly panty lines from showing in a snug, sheer skirt or tight pair of pants.

As a child, I thought Jeannie from “I Dream of Jeannie” embodied glamour.  Both she and Cher wore midriff-baring, outrageous outfits.  I pretended to be them, wearing conservative two-piece swimsuits paired with furry winter boots.  In kindergarten, I was warned not to wear wooden clogs that, apparently, resulted in noise pollution and potentially dangerous, slippery falls in the hallway.  Confusion struck me at age seven when, before picking up my dad at the train station, my mom made me wear clothing over my swimsuit.  Sixth grade brought me run-ins with the clothing and cosmetics police.  In that year, I not only was summoned to the principal’s office for wearing a modest pair of blue culottes, mistakenly determined to be shorts; but I also borrowed two cool baby blue and mint green eye shadows from my mom who promptly insisted I wash them off my “grown-up” eyelids.

However, I was horrified hearing about girls’ thong bikinis and further puzzled by the need for padded bikini tops that my mother-in-law shockingly spotted when out shopping.  As my friend G exasperatingly says, “I’m tired of the ‘Little Hooker’ lines for girls!”  Pair that with the “Little Thug/Pimp” lines and you have a disastrous combination of innocence and sleaze. [Read more...]

Trouble at the Border

I am an experienced traveler. Patience is not my strong suit, but I know how to wait. I once killed six hours on the Russian – Mongolian boarder reading Tolstoy and trying not to worry about whether the guards would want a bribe.

Since she was little, my daughter has been a good traveler too.  Gone are the days when she can sit on my lap tearing up in-flight magazines and riding for free, but we still enjoy traveling when we can.

So I was thrilled when, several few months ago, we planned a family trip to Quebec City. It would be her first time in another country and despite a nail-biting wait for her passport, it finally came just a few days before our departure. Still, this was not going to be an ordinary trip. For one thing, it turned out my husband wasn’t going to be able to join us. Sad, but not insurmountable. I’ve flown alone with the munchkin before, to a business meeting in San Francisco and to see her godmother in Florida.

I didn’t have much time to pack, and admit I did panic a little bit when Air Canada announced (two days before our departure) that their baggage handlers and some other staff was on strike. OK then. Seriously?! [Read more...]

The Nearness of You

My 6 year-old daughter is the ultimate Klingon. Not the wrinkle-headed humanoid kind from Star Trek, but the Velcro-monkey-arms draped around your neck kind. She is on me, for many, many waking hours of the day, like the proverbial white on rice.

Upon waking, my sweet child stumbles bleary-eyed from her bed across the short hallway to my room and climbs (sometimes directly across her sleeping father) into mine. She pulls back the sheet and inserts herself as adhesively as possible into my arms. If I’m facing away, she tugs at me until I roll over and drag her into an embrace. Once settled, she reaches a small hand up to hunt under my curls until she fastens onto my earlobe (right ear, free of post earring, preferred) and begins a rhythmic caress.

Throughout the day, she generally manages to stay on her own two sturdy feet, leaving me a pleasant sphere of personal space, but there are always intermittent bursts of cling. When she approaches to explain, in her wonderfully detailed stream of chatter, about some idea or experience she’s had—all wide eyes and dramatic gestures—she often ends up in my lap or sprawled halfway across my legs as she perches on the arm of the chair or couch I’m occupying. Throughout the lively monologue, she usually performs a number of grasps and proddings, as if I am some curious specimen she can only comprehend through her sense of touch. She squeezes at the flesh on my upper arms, leans in to examine my eyebrows (once announcing, “I know what those dots on your forehead are. That’s where you used to have hairs when you were an ape.”), runs her fingers over freckles and bug bites.

[Read more...]