If Caillou’s Mom Kept a Diary

caillou mommy oneFebruary 26, 2013        

Caillou’s Daddy hasn’t touched me in weeks.  Make that months.  I don’t get it.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how Caillou and Rosie even entered our lives.  It’s like they’ve always been here.  Caillou has interrupted us in bed so many times, but God knows he’s never interrupted any lovemaking.  The last time he sauntered in here whining about shadows and some nonsense, Caillou’s Daddy actually got out of bed and made him hot chocolate.  That child is never going to learn proper boundaries with that kind of parenting.

I’d accuse Caillou’s Daddy of sleeping with Miss Martin, but he’s such a eunuch I don’t think that’s possible.  I’m sure Miss Martin wouldn’t turn him down.  She’s such a floozie and a complete alcoholic.  I smelled vodka on her breath this morning, I’m sure of it.  But truthfully, how can I fault her?  She teaches preschool for God’s sake.  To that red-headed little heathen Leo, no less.  God knows it takes me at least two cocktails to make it through breakfast with the rest of this Sunshine Family.

March 3, 2013

Let’s get real for a moment and talk about the color scheme of this house.  My eyes bleed each time I walk into the kitchen.  Red and blue and yellow this and red and blue and yellow that.  I feel like the colors are mocking me and my true nature.  I’m an introspective woman at heart, and I prefer muted tones.  Tans, beiges, a nice ecru.  I ask you – who the Hell has a bright red roof over a bright blue primary structure?   Me, that’s who.

And to think I used to listen to Bauhaus in college.  Le sigh.

cailloumommytwoMarch 14, 2013

Grandma and Grandpa are coming over AGAIN tomorrow, damn it.  I feel like clipping some research about the importance of the nuclear family having time to strengthen and develop on its own and leaving it in a prominent place in the (primary-colored) living room.  Grandpa with his forced joviality and aggressive masculine nature, Grandma submitting to such obvious heteronormative roles (not that I can talk, truth be told).

Oh, wait, Grandma is an artist.  I forgot.  Throw some pots at the Senior Center once a week and now you’re Marina Abramović.  As if.

March 22, 2013

Caillou, that LITTLE TWERP.  I washed his shirt for art class and made him pancakes in the shape of a dinosaur and all I got was a whiny temper tantrum at the grocery store.  I know the doctor says there’s no way I can up my dosage, but I’m calling him tomorrow.  I simply must.

Rosie is a sweetheart and I clearly favor her, I realize, but it’s only because I see her future trapped in the same limited, thankless role while that bald-headed son of mine moves on to some other woman in some other ridiculously-painted house and expects her to make him dinosaur-shaped pancakes just like me.  Did the movement’s second wave ACHIEVE NOTHING?  Sometimes it feels that way, I will tell you.

Only Gilbert understands me.

 cailloumommythreeApril 2, 2013

Park, school, kitchen.  Park, school, kitchen.  And the mothers at the park.  Morons!  I tried to discuss Judith Butler’s latest essay with Clementine’s mommy and the mommy of those damn twins no one can tell apart, and all I got were vacant stares.

I’m a Vassar girl, for Christ’s sake!

 

We’re Good With One, Thanks

onlychildI remember my first post-delivery check up with my OB.  My husband and our newborn son accompanied me to a brief exam with my doctor.  All was well.  Then, on our way out, the support staff asked us when we’d be back for baby number two.

Folks, at this time I had stitches in my vagina.  Think about that.  Sorry, but just think about it.  Stitches.  In.  My.  Vagina.  And I was already supposed to be thinking about baby numero dos.  For serious?

The truth is my hubs and I have always figured we’d have just one.  It took us a year to conceive our son.  We had just started fertility testing when we found out we were expecting.  And now, at 36 and 45, it might not be easy to have a second anyway.  Financially, it also makes sense for our family to be little instead of big or even slightly bigger than it is now.

But the truth is, I think even if I’d ended up knocked up at 30 and my husband and I were in possession of some serious bank, we would still be planning on just one.

And this shocks people.  To be honest, it actually infuriates some of them.

It appears the child-free folks have gained some momentum in earning the respect of others, and I’m glad for that.  A person’s choice to breed (or not to breed) is truly a MYOB situation.  But despite the fact that having only one child is becoming more and more common, you wouldn’t believe the crap people give us for choosing to have a cozy family of three.  So it’s my intent to work through some of the comments I’ve received since my kiddo was born almost three years ago – comments delivered by well-meaning friends as well as total strangers.

“But aren’t only children awful, terrible, selfish people?”

Okay, so maybe people don’t come right out and say this to me.  But they come pretty close.  I remember a teacher I used to work with.  Every time we had a parent teacher conference with the mom or dad of an especially difficult child, she would always ask, “Is he/she an only child?”  The implication was that only children are often assholes.

Let’s try this exercise.  Think of an asshole you know.  Since most people have siblings, the odds are that the biggest asshole you know has a brother or a sister.  Yet they are still an asshole.  Why?

Because having a brother or sister is not a vaccination against being an asshole.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t only children who are spoiled and nasty.  But only children don’t corner the market on those traits.  Research proves as much time and time again, and to suggest otherwise is lazy thinking as well as ignorant and just plain rude.

By the way, that teacher who had her Only Children Are Assholes theory?  Ninety-five percent of the kids we had conferences about had a brother or a sister.

“But what if your child dies?”                          

When people say this to me, I always punch them in the face.  Well, I dream of doing so.  Then I want to thank them for forcing me to think about The. Very. Worst. Thing. Ever.  EVER.  You wouldn’t believe how many people bring this sick question up when I talk about not having more children.

I totally admit that people who lose a child and still have others to care for are given a reason to get up in the morning in a way that a person who loses their one and only simply doesn’t have.  But I don’t care if you have one child or twenty.  When you lose a kid, it doesn’t matter how many more you have.  It’s got to be the most horrific experience on Earth.  Having more than one doesn’t negate that horror, and to suggest it even minimizes it is insulting to anyone who has lost a child.

A second, third, or fourth child isn’t insurance against immeasurable sadness, people.  So please stop suggesting it is.

“But won’t the burden of your old age be on your one and only child?”

Because everyone knows the main reason to have children is to make sure you don’t end up on Skid Row, homeless, infested with ringworm, and gnawing on your own feet, right?  Riiiiiight.  My first impulse is to ask folks to raise their hands if they know of a sibling group that faced some pretty nasty battles over how to best take care of an aging Mom and Dad.  Um hmm.  I thought so.

I have an idea.  Why don’t my husband and I take the money we would spend on a second or third college education and buy some long-term care insurance instead?  We can also hope and pray our son finds a lifelong companion to help him shepherd us into the Golden Years.  But again, to have another child only so we can have two people talk about the best time to move us into Shady Pines is not a good enough reason to give birth again.

“But don’t you want them to have the joy of a sibling relationship?”

My brother and sister are two of the coolest people I know.  I honestly do not know where I would be without them.  But my husband – also an only – has had similarly awesome relationships with very close friends that he has had since childhood.  Plenty of people have super tight relationships with their siblings.  And plenty of people have horrible, estranged relationships with their siblings.  It’s a crap shoot.  I can’t justify having a second baby we don’t really want just because my son may or may not have a great time hanging out with that person.  Especially when powerful, meaningful friendships that impact an entire life shouldn’t be and aren’t limited by blood.

“But aren’t you being selfish?”

Ah, the old selfish question.  My childfree by choice peeps certainly know what I mean.

People who have multiple children have my respect.  It takes a certain skill set to have multiple children, and I know myself and my husband well enough to know – we don’t have that skill set.  Ever since we were kids, my husband and I both craved solitude, and neither one of us does well with chaos.  Some people are meant to have lots of kids, and to them, I say – go for it.  Bless you.  But my husband and I wouldn’t do well with more than one.  And we know this.

There’s nothing selfish in making a choice that makes sense for you and for your family.  There’s nothing selfish in making a choice that makes you a better parent, a better partner, a better citizen out there in the world.  What is selfish is breeding thoughtlessly or because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.  To me, that’s selfish.

So there you have it.  My testimony for having just one.  I adore my child, and I honestly can’t imagine my life without him – even if he did cause me to have to get stitches in my vagina.  Please stop acting like my choice to have him and only him is anything less than the thoughtful, loving decision that it is, made with care and concern.  Thanks.

Making My Students’ Heads Explode!

Ask any teacher, and they’ll tell you that one of the best feelings you can have as an instructor is the moment when a student doesn’t just think of you as the person who is holding them back from going to lunch, but as the person who can actually impart some useful knowledge or change their worldview.  And you know that for the rest of that student’s life, that kid is going to remember you as the person who created that moment.

As I get ready to start my eighth year in the classroom as an English teacher, I thought I’d share my top five favorite “Oh, wow!” student moments.

What the word loiter means

You would think I am kidding, but every single year that the word `loiter’ has been on my teaching vocabulary list, the result has been total amazement from my students.  They see the word on every gas n’ sip door in town but never know what it means, so this is knowledge they can actually use.  I remember one girl telling me she thought the NO LOITERING sign was “just a weird way to spell no littering.”  I’m sure she wasn’t the only one who thought that.

Dally dies

Okay, so if you haven’t read The Outsiders I’ve totally gone and ruined it for you, but this has to go on my list.  When I teach The Outsiders (also known as The Best Book Ever), my students are never surprised when they get to the part where Johnny dies.  It gets foreshadowed quite a bit plus his injuries from that church fire were pretty serious.  But the part they’re never prepared for comes a scant few pages later, when Dallas “Dally” Winston pulls a suicide by cop and goes down in a blaze of glory because he misses his best buddy Johnny so damn much.  They never, ever see it coming.

“He was dead before he hit the ground. But I knew that was what he wanted, even as the lot echoed with the cracks of the shots, even as I begged silently – Please not him, not him and Johnny both… I knew he would be dead because Dallas Winston wanted to be dead and he always got what he wanted.”

Every year when I read that part out loud, you see their little mouths fall open in surprised “Os!” and a few girls always cry.  This year, I had a kid throw the book down on the ground and yell, “I hate this book!  I hate it!”  I tried to get him to understand that he actually loved it, or he wouldn’t have cared so much that Dallas was dead.

Some words can be nouns and verbs…or an adjective and an adverb and a noun…or sometimes they can only be nouns, etc.

Remember as a kid when you had to learn, “A noun is a person, place, or thing,” and then when you got a bit more mature you were let in on the fact that a noun can also be “an idea or quality”?  And you also learned that a verb is an action and an adjective is a describing word like red, fat, or crunchy or whatever?  (You also learned what an adverb is, and a preposition, too, but I bet you twenty bucks you don’t remember those.)

Anyway, the problem with learning parts of speech that way is that kids don’t get the idea that a word can change from one form to another depending on how it’s used.  Quickness is a quality noun, but you could turn it into an adjective by taking away the “ness.”  Or turn it into an adverb by adding “ly.”

You would not believe how this just blows kids’ minds.

“Is kick a noun or a verb?” somebody will ask.

“Well, it depends on how you use it,” I say.  “In `I kick you,’ kick is a verb, but, in `He gave me a sharp kick,’ kick is a noun.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?

Tom Robinson is convicted

Perhaps it’s a sign of how far we have come that my students all believe Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird will be found innocent of those trumped up rape charges brought upon him by Miss Mayella Ewell.  And of course he’s found guilty.

It doesn’t matter that he has Atticus Finch representing him and all the physical evidence points to Tom’s innocence.  All that matters is it’s the 1930s in the American South, and Tom Robinson is staring down the worst possible charge a black man of the time can face – sexually assaulting a white woman.  He was guilty in the minds of the jurors before Atticus even opened his mouth.  And the kids are shocked every time.

(On a much, much lighter note, teaching TKAM does give me the opportunity to say the word “chiffarobe” out loud several times.  That’s a fun word to say if you’ve never tried it – FYI.)

The end of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”

Spoiler alert – if you haven’t read the end of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” go read it now!

Done?  Good.  Then you know why each time I study this story with my students, they grow more and more uncomfortable with each paragraph, but they don’t know exactly why they’re squirming in their seats.

But when ol’ Tessie Hutchinson gets the crap kicked out of her with those rocks, they look at me like I must be a true sicko for even introducing this story to them.

“Why would they do that?” somebody will ask, horrified.

“Because,” I tell them, “this story is a metaphor for life and how cruel and unthinking humans can be and how they often follow traditions blindly.”  Then I laugh in this evil way and they’re all truly terrified of me.

(P.S. Okay, I don’t actually say that, and I don’t do an evil laugh.  But I do try to guide them to that conclusion.)

Happy 2012-2013 school year, everyone!

Deep Thoughts About Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

If you do not know anything about Thomas the Tank Engine, this post will make no sense to you.  But if you – like me – are the parent of a toddler who obsessively watches Thomas and if you – like me – find yourself falling to sleep with “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight…” swimming through your skull, then I think you will relate to these deep questions about Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

1. How Much Autonomy Do the Engines Actually Have?

The older episodes refer to (and show) drivers inside the train engines, but these gentlemen become less visible in the later computer-animated episodes.  Still, someone must be driving these trains, right?  Or do the trains do all the thinking for themselves?  When Thomas and Toby hustle through the Whispering Woods, who is making the decision to actually go through the Whispering Woods?  Percy and Gordon do some pretty stupid things.  So do Rosie and Emily.  If they have drivers, don’t the drivers have some say in getting them to not do these stupid things?  Thomas just runs off to the country show without making sure his whistle is secured and the driver just lets him?  Come on, drivers.

2. Is Sir Topham Hatt Also the Mayor or What?

He is head of the railroad, right?  But is he also the mayor?  What is his jurisdiction?  Is the island of Sodor so dependent on a railway system that this has effectively given Sir Topham Hatt the power to control everything that happens there?  If he is also the mayor, that would explain the fancy suit, but I seriously doubt the head of Union Pacific gets to march around ordering everyone around all the time while dressed in a tux.

3. Why Does Sir Topham Hatt Have Gentlemen-in-Waiting?

Who are these two guys who just follow Mr. Hatt around?  They’re just looking around, nervous, ready to do Sir Topham Hatt’s bidding.  These guys needs some lessons in self-esteem.  They look like they’re going to start crying if Sir Topham Hatt even looks at them cross-eyed.  That dude must be the mayor if he evokes that much fear in these minions.

 

4. Why the Relentless Capitalist Message?

Everything is about being a really useful engine – even at the expense of one’s dignity and personal health.  Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Edward – how many times have we seen them debase themselves and humiliate each other in an effort to prove to Sir Topham Hatt that they are a “really useful engine.”  I truly wish Thomas and friends would consider collective bargaining for at least one day off a week.  The trains have nothing to lose but their chains.

5. Is the Overt Sexuality Appropriate?

Percy pumped his pistons.  Bust my buffers.  I’ll be your back engine.  Emily is proud of her big wheels.  Also – what the heck is “shunting” all about?  I’m not sure my toddler son should be watching this.

 

All right – that’s it for now, but I admit these questions are on my mind way more often than I feel comfortable admitting.  I’m not kidding, either.  I seriously ask myself these questions when Elliott watches this show.  Maybe next week I’ll take the time to share with you my thoughts on The Backyardigans (Is Uniqua transgender?), Curious George (Why is The Man in the Yellow Hat so weak?) and Caillou (Does Caillou have cancer and is this why he is bald?).

 

 

 

Horrible Things I’ve Done as a Mother (So Far)

The following is a list of horrible things I’ve done as a mother (so far):

  • Had an epidural
  • Fed my son formula
  • Nursed in public, including a time on an airplane where I’m pretty sure everyone saw most of my left boob
  • Shared a bed with my son (co-sleeping)
  • Gave my son ice cream for dinner without even trying to feed him anything “healthy” first because I knew he wasn’t in the mood for anything healthy, so I just gave him ice cream
  • Applied the methods of Dr. Richard Ferber and let my son cry in his crib for prescribed amounts of time
  • Let my son go outside without sunscreen or a hat once (and it was way sunny!)
  • Let my son mindlessly watch television for hours and hours as I stared into space
  • Nursed while drinking a beer
  • After a day at work, left my son with a sitter so I could go out with friends or my husband, meaning I saw my son for a total of about an hour all day.
  • Knowingly allowed my son to eat dog food off the floor – okay, to be honest I was pretty sure he was nibbling on it, but I went into denial mode and thought, “He’s probably just playing with it,” when in my heart I knew he was actually eating it but I was too damn tired to get up off the couch and make him stop.

Okay, so – the truth is I actually don’t think any of the above items are horrible.  They are all perfectly fine, in my opinion, and yes, I have done them all.  But I’m willing to bet I could find plenty of angry ladies on the Internet and in real life that would disagree with me and threaten to call CPS.  The militant Dr. Sears types might weep at my use of Ferber and formula and wonder how I could ever think of not giving birth all natural in my bathtub despite the fact that I had back labor and contractions for 52 hours (but who’s counting).

The more conventional types would probably be super freaked out by the co-sleeping and the boob on the plane thing, and everyone might be a little disturbed by the dog food.

All right, the dog food thing is disturbing.  I’ll cop to that.

But regardless, it doesn’t take a lot of trolling around on the Internet or listening to moms chatting at the park to realize there’s a lot of mom-on-mom violence going down these days, and it burns me up.  I remember when my BFF from high school had her first kid, and I went to visit her.   Being sort of rules-oriented and somewhat hyper about doing things “right,” I projected myself into her shoes a few years down the road.  How, I asked her, did she know what to do?

“I always thought there was one way of having a baby,” Lisa told me, “and that when I had a baby, I would just find out what that way was and do it.  But it turns out there are lots of ways.”

Oh was she not kidding.

Once I had Elliott, I was completely taken aback by the number of mom blogs and forums and online debates about the best way to parent.  I was utterly shocked by the militancy of some of these ladies, and their obsession with spewing their opinions in comments and posts all over cyberspace.  I’m willing to bet that in real life parties and get-togethers, they might be too shy to say what they’re thinking out loud.  But they’re thinking it, no doubt about that.

And what are they thinking?  Here are just a few examples: You’re gross/weird if you breastfeed past twelve months.  You’re awful if you choose to work.  You’re stupid if you choose to stay home.  You’re endangering your child if you co-sleep.  You’re the spawn of Satan if you let your little one cry it out.  You’re a criminal if you give your kid Similac, which is akin to nothing less than rat poison.  (You think that’s hyperbole, but Google “formula and rat poison” and check out the absolutely psychotic commentary that exists out there.)

When I first encountered this Army of Psycho Mommies, I could only think to myself, “Wow.  These women suck.”

And it was always ladies, you know?  Dads didn’t seem to care much about such issues.  (I know my husband didn’t seem too concerned about any of our parenting choices as long as Elliott was healthy and happy most of the time.  Wow, how novel of him.)

And maybe I’m wrong, but this Internet raging doesn’t just seem to be the purview of women, but of a certain kind of woman.  A middle to upper middle class lady (usually white) who loves to tell other moms what to do.  That’s not to say that some working class woman of color waiting tables at Denny’s doesn’t have the intelligence and sophistication to self-reflect, but she’s probably too worried about being sexually harassed by her boss or busy finding affordable health care for her family to navel-gaze about how she feeds, diapers, and comforts her kid.

I’m not saying we can’t have debates or discussions.  Frankly, debating and discussing are two of my very favorite things, right up there with whiskey and pizza for dinner.  But what we can’t have is whacko, super judgy women jumping down other women’s throats over nonissues.  It’s not feminist, it’s not productive, and frankly, it’s not very nice.

I mean, think about it.  Did these women ever consider that if we stopped beating up on one another and banded together we might, oh, I don’t know, finally achieve parity in the Congress?  Just sayin’.

I’ve been a teacher for seven years and I’ve seen kids who were the victims of abuse.  Real, break-your-heart, make-you-sick-to-your-stomach abuse that had me calling CPS.  And I’m here to tell you that none of those cases involved giving your son formula or letting your daughter sleep in your bed or hiring a babysitter when your kid is 2 months so you can get a break or putting your child in day care or nursing your kid into toddlerhood or making organic baby food or spooning mass-produced Gerber out of a plastic dish absolutely covered in BPA.  I’m here to tell you none of those things qualify when you call CPS.  Not a one.

Like my friend Lisa discovered and I quickly learned, there are many, many ways to be a mom.  Probably about 95% of them are okay.  So why don’t we all just relax a little and do what works for us and for our families.

Although I’m willing to admit you should probably hide the dog food.  That’s just gross.

P.S. One of the best sites for moms ever.

What’s In My Journal

With apologies to William Stafford

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s In My Journal

Twenty million notes to self on pastel-colored Post-its –

GET MILK, CALL VET, PAY MORTGAGE.

Maybe I should have one that says

WRITE MORE INTERESTING NOTES TO SELF.

All Things Considered, sippy cups half-filled with day-old milk,

that rotund little dictator Sir Topham Hatt

(Such a know-it-all)

My son’s robotic dancing

both spectacular and bizarre.

My husband’s towers of library books

threatening to collapse at any moment

and kill one of the cats.

(I kind of want those cats dead sorry there I said it.)

And speaking of death let’s not forget the pathetic patch of grass

we call the front yard

and that we frantically keep on life support.

Maybe we should pull the plug…

(After all, it’s just grass.)

And I must acknowledge

the toasty warm sheets

birthed out of the dryer

in the late hours of the evening.

I want to sink into them

and fall asleep, but

I fold them again and again and again and again and again…

I’ll fold them forever

because I’m a grown-up

and grown-ups do laundry

and write boring notes to self.

(It’s okay.  It happens to everyone.)

 

Conversations I Never Thought I’d Have With My Husband Until We Had a Baby

Kevin:He had some diarrhea yesterday.

Me: Did he eat any grapes?

Kevin: No.

Me: Was it real watery?

Kevin: No, it wasn’t that bad.  I saved it for you.  It’s on your bed if you want to look at it.

***

Me: You know, I think he can start eating Yo, Toddler yogurt instead of this Yo, Baby yogurt.

Kevin: What’s the difference?

Me: I think there’s, like, more DHA in Yo, Toddler.

Kevin: What’s DHA?

Me: Some crap they put in kids’ food these days to make them smarter.  It’s the reason kids take Algebra I in 8th grade now instead of freshman year like we had to do.  We were so deprived.

Kevin: Dang.  We gotta get us some of that DHA.

***

Kevin: I noticed something really weird about that Baby Beluga book today.

Me: What?

Kevin: Look at this page.  It says, `Is your mama home, with you so happy?’ That makes no sense.  With you so happy?

Me: Oh, I know, I noticed that, too.  Whenever I read that page, I just change it to,  Is your mama home, are you so happy?

Kevin: Yeah, that sounds better.

Me: Remember when we used to argue about James Joyce?

***

Kevin: Guess who does the narration for the Curious George episodes?

Me: I don’t know, who?

Kevin: William H. Macy.

Me: Oh, that is so cool!

***

Me: Do you think this new haircut is, like, too mom-bob?

Kevin: I thought that was the look you were going for.

Me: A mom-bob?!?!

Kevin: Yeah.

Me: Well, I guess it was.

***

Kevin: I found those spinach nuggets you were talking about.

Me: Aren’t they crazy?  Like chicken nuggets but with spinach.  He doesn’t even know he’s eating vegetables.

Kevin: We’re living in amazing times, babe.

***

Kevin: Well, he’s finally asleep.

Me: You wanna…you know…get bizz-ay?

Kevin: I don’t know.  I’m so exhausted.

Me: Yeah, me, too.

Kevin: I have something even better.  I DVRd a new episode of Full Throttle Saloon.

Me: Is there any bourbon?

Kevin: Yes.

Me: You’re right.  That is better.