Now She’s Four … What a Ride It’s Been

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Four years ago my entire existence transformed, four years ago my former self became a mother.  You are not supposed to say that, or at the very least not supposed to admit it out loud. But parenthood was a game changer, a life changer, an electric shock to my perspective.  Four years ago, I watched in fear as my heart leapt from my chest and became entwined with an infant child.  Four years ago, you became my primal concern, my heart, my breath, my anxiety, my fears, my hopes, my dreams … my infant girl.

You were an infant that had to be held constantly.  You were fussy.  You didn’t nap anywhere, but in my arms.  As a first time mom, I was told that I must breastfeed fifteen minutes from each breast at each feeding.  As I studiously approach life, I diligently approached nursing, I had a pen at each feeding and I documented each feeding, minutes, time, etc.  I cried when you only ate for six minutes on my left breast and then fell fast asleep.  I worried whether you would be okay when you only ate for two minutes on my right.  I did everything that I was told, I undressed you, I tickled your feet, I squeezed your palms, and I brushed a cool washcloth on your forehead.  I worried why breastfeeding, parenting, work, life was not occurring exactly as it was described in the books.

You would not sleep in a crib, a swing, or a bassinet.  You chose only to sleep in my arms. Night after night months on end, I held you resting on the boppy as your dad brought me my dinner, crumbs falling on your bald head.  You were the definition of a baby that needed to be held, so I held you.  You didn’t just fall asleep in my arms.  Dad and I took turns spending endless hours on the large inflated bouncy ball with you swaddled in our arms.  We bounced and bounced.  We bounced until our backs hurt.  We bounced until our arms were numb.  We bounced and we tried to put you in your crib.  We would lie you down and creep away.  The moment we’d get to the couch your scream jolted us up.  So we held you.

No one tells you how hard it is to add an infant to a marriage, but it’s hard.  We learned patience in the midst of exhaustion.  We learned to divide our attention.  We tried to put a little focus on our marriage.  We struggled, we reminisced, and we accepted our new reality.  We grew with you.  Your dad laughed at ever giving parenting advice to his patients pre-children, he became a better doctor.

When you were almost five months old you took your first trip to Mexico.  You spent most of your time in a baby bjorn, where you would sleep on and off throughout the day.  You still had not learned to fall asleep on your own.  You dozed off for 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there, but never enough to allow you to feel rested.  We have an amazing photo of you falling asleep for 5 minutes sitting up on your Dad’s lap.  He was so proud.  Pre-kids he had dreamed about napping with his baby drifting off on his chest and for five minutes in Mexico that was his reality.

Before you were two-years-old you became a big sister.  It broke my heart to think you would have to share your attention with another little person.  It broke my heart to think that I would not be available to give you 100% all of the time.  I worried whether adding a child so soon was the right thing to do.  I worried how you would feel.  I worried about  how I’d manage two babies alone all day.  I still remember the first day I was alone with my two babies, pure panic, but I made it through, we all made it through, and expanding the love in our family was the greatest gift.

You are my hyena girl.  At two, you loved Lion King.  You had a strange obsession with the darker characters of Lion King, especially the hyenas.  I was a little worried.  You carried plastic hyena figures with you everywhere.  You took them to your two-hour preschool class, and by the end of the year, the other children were searching for Simba and the hyenas in the schoolyard.

When you were two and a half your vocabulary was huge.  I remember people teasing you that you sounded like a little English professor.  You inserted exclamations such as “clearly” and “of course” throughout your speech.  It almost sounded as if you had a British accent. My sister would imitate you to no end.  Your attention span is and was tremendous.  You sat for hours and listened to books, combing through the pictures, and asking numerous questions.    You never really played on your own. You needed to be entertained.  You jumped from playing with your parents to playing with your sister.

You loved to sing, you still love to sing. You awoke from every nap singing at the top of your lungs in your bed, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”, “Hakuna Matata”, and any number of childhood songs.  You have a great singing voice and I love hearing the unabashed melodies echoing from behind your closed door.

At three, we started reading chapter books with you and again your amazing attention span continues to surprise me.  We’ve read Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at least five times each.  Sometimes I wonder what you absorb in the books we read aloud, and then weeks later you will say something to me that will sound so familiar.  Suddenly, I realize that you directly quoted a line from a book that I read several weeks before.  It doesn’t even have to be a book that we have read thousands of times. Your memory is a sponge. I read to you and you often correct me.  It is not words that are glaringly obvious that you catch, such as wrong names, but sometimes you correct me when I insert the wrong preposition into a story.

You are an observer.  You love to play with friends and be part of the action, but you often sit back and take it all in.  You are cautious, but as you approached your fourth birthday you have become much more physical with your behavior and are less afraid to fall down and pull yourself back up.

At times you are heartbreakingly quiet.  If you are not comfortable in a situation, your voice is not heard. I struggle with respecting your quietness and trying to pull you from your shell.  YOU have so much to share with the world.  People have asked, “Does she speak? … Has she been in school? … Why is she so shy?”   I am a Mama Bear, I want to protect you from the world’s judgment and criticism.  All I want is for others to see your wit, creativity, sensitivity, and strength.  I never want you to be overlooked or lost in the crowd.

At four you are a little girl.  You are engaging, dramatic, bright, and fun.  You love playing with your close friends and cousins.  You are painfully aware of all the preschool social dynamics. You are learning to make new friends.

Your sister is your best friend.  You orchestrate long play sessions with her and your animals, stories with dramatic plot twists.  I see the two of you together and I am so grateful to have two girls so close in age with such a magical friendship.  Your interactions shine a light on the magical gift I had growing up with a twin.  No words or need for explanations are needed between you and your sister.  You truly are each other’s yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, and everything else that is different but just supposed to be together.  This last couple of weeks you’ve started sharing a room.  A couple of nights ago, I found your little sister had crawled out of her bed and fell asleep snuggled next to you in your twin bed.  You are each other’s warmth and security.

This summer turning four has come with big changes.  Fear of the dark has wreaked havoc on our nights.  Every night you drag your animals down the hall and fall asleep on the floor by my bed.  As a baby you were not a good sleeper, and you continue to be my problem sleeper.  You shower me and your dad with love, “You are the best mom in the whole world,” as you wrap your arms around my waist.  This is often followed by, “You’re the meanest mom ever.”  Your emotions run hot and cold, arms crossed, eye rolls, and stomping of feet have scarily become common gestures. A few nights ago you moaned, “my mom is sooooo irritating,” when I insisted that you stay in your room at bedtime.

The dogs have transformed from objects that you torture to furry friends that you love and help me care for.  You help feed them, walk them, and will curl up on the dog bed to snuggle Cru every morning (currently around 5am) when you wake up.

You hate to disappoint people.  The moment you are unable to complete a task, reprimanded for hurting your sister, or you spill something, crocodile tears appear in your eyes.  You have an uncanny ability to trigger tears on command, and I swear they are the biggest tears I’ve ever seen.  In fact, most babies don’t cry real tears for the first few months of their lives, but you have shed real tears from day one.

You took ballet over the summer.  You twirl and spin, jolted movements that  at times appear far from graceful, but I am so proud of you, bravely dancing with the other girls.  You make me laugh.  You have your Dad’s flexibility (an inability to touch your toes), gymnastics and ballet may not be your strong suits, but you love it all the same.

You have no fear of animals, reptiles, or bugs.  You love searching for bugs, especially rolly pollies, digging through the dirt.  Bug hunts are a favorite activity.  You love snakes.  We have pictures of you holding huge snakes with them wrapped around your shoulders.

You still love hyenas, but foxes are your four-year old passion.  When you watched Peter Pan, you didn’t fall in love with Tinker Bell, Wendy, or Pan, you fell in love with the Lost Boys and because you did so did your sister.  You continue to love the obscure characters in books and movies (i.e. the parentless children dressed as animals that live in a hollow tree with Peter Pan).  You dress up like the fox Lost Boy (Slightly Foxy) and your sister like the bear (Cubby) and you create endless adventures. Sometimes you ask me why you are the only one that loves these animals so much, and why no one else loves the Lost Boys like you do. I try to teach you that it is your differences that make you special.  I wish I could build a protective wall around your idiosyncrasies, so that you will always remain confident enough to be my lost boy or hyena girl.  I wish the world was more appreciative of everyone’s differences.  Our differences are what makes the world a beautiful place.  As the People book states, “what if we all looked and acted the same, what a boring place it would be.”

You are so special, so different, so unique, and not like anyone else.  You are brave, timid, loud, quiet, dramatic, logical, heart melting, and infuriating.  You are the most amazing, magical, interesting, and dynamic four-year old that I know.  I love you mountains and mountains and mountains.  Your dad and I have learned the world from you.  You teach us to be better parents and people.   You teach us to rethink everything we ever assumed of what or how parenthood should be.

We thank you for all we’ve learned and continue to learn, pushing our limits and stretching our perspectives.  We wouldn’t change you for the world.  You are magically unique.

We love you.

It’s Been a Long Time

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Wow, so I haven’t written in a long time.  It has been at least a few weeks.  I haven’t sat at the computer and felt inspired to say anything.  When I have sat down at the computer I’ve been distracted by online shopping and other nonsense that keeps me occupied until my free time has flown by and all I can show is yet another obscure order from Amazon.

Part of my not writing has stemmed from not sleeping.  My almost four year-old chose this summer to stop napping.  Simultaneously, she has become petrified of the dark.  The minute I step away from her bed in the evening she starts panicking and crying.  This draws out the bedtime routine for at least a couple of hours until I am physically and emotionally exhausted by the time her eyes shut.  She then continues to be up throughout the night with nightmares and whatever else.  Her, and therefore my lack of sleep has caused me to use any restful time during the day to actually lie down, zone out, and do absolutely nothing.

I’ve struggled with whether blogging is the appropriate medium for my writing.  I’ve enjoyed sharing my writing publicly, but it is a double-edged sword.  I appreciate the feedback from friends, acquaintances, and strangers, but simultaneously have spent endless hours consumed with how my writing or feelings affect those around me.  It is impossible to write honestly when one is consumed with the emotional repercussions of one’s writing on others.  And to be honest, writing publicly throws me into a state of heightened angst, my lack of internet popularity leaves me questioning my writing and myself, which admittedly is very juvenile.  I don’t like Fajitas, so why am I publicly airing my feelings and writing?  Clearly, I have to work on buoying my self-esteem, but is it worth sharing my honest self with strangers over the internet?  Hmm, I am struggling with that question.

Well, now for the life update, I bought a minivan.  I never thought I would drive a minivan, not in my wildest dreams.  I swore them off.  If I needed a bigger car then I would definitely buy a larger SUV, but then there you are with two toddlers in car seats, two large dogs, and an infant on the way, and you start looking at larger vehicles. Here’s my thinking. First, large SUVs are much more expensive than minivans.  Second, large SUVS gas mileage sucks.  Third, lifting toddlers and preschoolers up and into large SUVs sucks.  Fourth, if you have a third row of seats up in a large SUV there is no trunk space.  Fifth, having two kids three and under is hard, and having three kids four and under is going to be harder.  I chose to make my life a little bit easier.  Minivans are convenient, on a busy street the kids can climb out on the sidewalk side.  If there’s a busy parking lot, get them all in, press a button, and the doors miraculously close.  Further, mine is kind of speedy and drives like a car.

“I can’t believe we are getting a minivan,” I sighed to my husband.  “How have we reached this point?  I can’t even pretend to be cool anymore.”

“Why, because you looked so cool before, driving in your Subaru station wagon with two huge car seats in the back seat?”  He said a broad smile on his face. 

I guess I just had an inflated self-perception of my cool factor.  But when my daughter picks up a play purse and throws it over her shoulder and calls it her diaper bag because she never sees purses, maybe I should’ve questioned my cool factor? Or when I ask my husband if I should get a haircut and he comments that a cut really only changes the length of my ponytail, maybe there is a problem?  My image is being dragged through the trenches of pregnancy, infants, and parenting toddlers.  I know some moms are able to do it all and look fashionable, but I am not one of them.  I have high hopes that when we are out of car seats, I may be trading the minivan in for a super cool car.  But for now, I drive a minivan.  I bought a black minivan because I think a minivan looks less mini-vanish in black. A black minivan equals cool …

It turns out it was a very good thing we purchased a mini-van, a couple of days later my wonderful husband had a basketball accident and tore his achilles.  Now we have his stroller (pictured above), his crutches, along with the kids stroller, two kids, and two dogs to load into the car.  We require no less than a minivan to sanely navigate this family through the next month until he can get behind the wheel again.  This injury could be a blog post in and of itself and adds a colorful dimension to my third pregnancy.  I am thankful that this handicap is temporary and very aware that it could all be a lot worse (we are lucky), but being the only parent that can drive and go up and down stairs freely  definitely sucks, especially when your youngest gets a stomach bug.  My husband is handling it better than I could’ve ever imagined, he keeps wheeling along with hardly a complaint.

The third and most exciting update is we are expecting a little boy!  My youngest insisted there was a baby boy in my belly, the oldest insisted on a girl.  I told them they would find out whether they were having a brother or sister depending on the flavor of ice cream we brought home after the ultrasound (vanilla =youngest favorite flavor =boy / strawberry=oldest favorite flavor=girl).  We ate vanilla ice cream cones.  Whenever anyone asks my youngest about her impending baby brother she raves about vanilla ice cream, and they have no clue why.  I am so excited to be having a boy.

On a side note, a week ago I went to the zoo with the girls.  My oldest used to be terrified of the carousel.  She had me stand by her animal and spot her.  Yesterday, my youngest hugged my neck, “me scared,” she said and wouldn’t let me put her on the leopard next to her sister.  A zoo summer camp was in session and four year-olds surrounded us on the carousel with their counselors watching on.  My big girl climbed up onto the African Wild Dog all by herself.  I stood by her and out of habit put my hand on her back, “You look good up there,” I whispered and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“Mom, can you and sister stand over there,” she pointed at the sedentary carriage a couple of rows behind her. “I want to do this all by myself.”  I smiled hugging my littlest baby who next summer will probably be saying the same thing to me.  Here I was the mom, bringing my four year-old girl’s “cool points” down already.  She smiled at the boy who had climbed on the leopard next to her.  Uh oh, here we go, as I saw it all fast forwarding several years into the future.  I sat down with her sister in the carriage and smiled to myself, this growing independence, this is how it’s supposed to be.

“Look at your big sister,” I said and my baby snuggled close and kissed me on the arm.  Around and around we went.  Up and down and around and around went my oldest.  All I could do was watch.

Later that evening, driving home from meeting my new nephew and witnessing the my girls’ excitement as they held him for the first time, my oldest said, “Mom, can I drive a “Mini-band” when I grow up?”  (She wants to inherit my minivan rather than her dad’s new SUV).   I laughed, thinking I still carried some cool points in my almost four year-olds’ eyes, (besides the minivan is kind of cool).  “Of course, you can drive my mini-band when you grow up,” I said, “I will happily pass it along.”

 

 

 

 

 

A Love Letter to Two

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My dear daughter you have grown so much this last year.  I have not done well at keeping up with your baby book and milestones, but I want to take the time to tell you who you are at two-years-old.

This year you transformed from baby to toddler.  You still alternate between wanting to be a baby and a big girl.  You started the year with one or two words and ended it speaking in sentences.  Words like dog, no, mama, dada, dotted your early vocabulary. Now sentences like, “me wanna see too,” or “Baby Tiger misses her mommy” spill from your mouth.

You’re fascinated with wild cats.  Every night you sleep with Leppy, your stuffed animal leopard.  Wild animal figures and dinosaurs fill your imaginary world.  You also love Snow White, princesses, and castles.  In a year developmentally defined by parallel play you have been pulled into an imaginary world of play with your big sister, joining tea parties, slumber parties, far away lands of Lion King, and pretending you’re the lost boy “Cubby” from Peter Pan.

You are my sidekick, my partner in crime.  With your sister there was time for endless mommy and me classes.  I try my best to do fun things with you too, but our mornings when your sister is at school are often filled with shopping trips, helping with laundry, cleaning, and bike rides around the block.

Your sister is your best friend.  Everyday when we picked her up from preschool you rushed to her with open arms shrieking her name in happiness.  She was so proud to have her baby sister greeting her at the end of each school day.  You give her daily hugs.  You tell her you love her.  After naps you always ask to wake her up.  She loves you enormously.  You are her best friend too.

You are charming, social, and comfortable with the big kids.  This past winter you started greeting your big sister’s friends at school on the playground, “Hi Grace, Hi Annie, Hi Ellen,” as you raced to catch up with them and pushed yourself into the line on the slide.  I can already see the competition over friendships budding between the two of you.

Your emotions are electric, high voltage from one extreme to the next with no insulation to protect us from the shock.  At this age your sister had a couple tantrums, but you throw many tantrums.  You love to play outside and you often scream and kick when we must go in for the night.  Your scream is loud and high pitched.  You scream when my foot enters the room and you know that bedtime is approaching.  You scream when your sister reaches to have a toy in your grasp.  You scream when the dog comes too close to your food.  You fight teeth brushing like a kick boxer.  Your scream punctuates our days.  You are strong willed.  You make me fear adolescence.

Mid year your scream mutated to a roar.  You became the wild tiger you adore. You roar at your sister.  You roar at flies.  You roar at ants.  You roar at the dogs.  You often roar at me.

You have a little gremlin voice.  At two your voice often sounds as if you smoked a few too many cigarettes.  It is so low compared to the chirpy voices of your peers.  It makes me smile every day.  To add emphasis you sometimes whisper the last words of your sentences, it works and I don’t think there is anything more adorable in the world.

I gave birth to the infamous biter that you read about in parenting books, fear to have in your playgroups, and look at and think “my child would never do that.”  For a couple of months you bit.  You bit your sister.  You bit the dog, poor Cru I can still see the shock on her face.  You bit your Dad.  You bit me.  I think and hope this behavior is finally fading, but I had moments of fearing your preschool future.  Luckily, so far you’ve kept the biting within the family.

You are adventurous.  You jump from the side of the pool.  You put your face all the way in the water.  You float on your back and look up at the sky, closing your eyes peacefully.  You fill cups of water in the tub and pour them over your head.  Sometimes you are surprisingly sensitive, “me scared mama” as we climb onto the train at the zoo.  Some TV shows scare you.  You say, “me scared” and grab my arm and bury your face in my shoulder.  I’m impressed you articulate your fear.  I love that you love to cuddle.

You are a daddy’s girl. You say, “Me ride daddy’s car.” This summer you’ve insisted, “Me want Daddy stay home and Mama work.” Sometimes your words sting, but I agree he is golden.  I too love to spend my days with your dad.  You, my daughter, are golden too.

You have your dad’s dark skin, dark eyes, curly hair, and my long torso.  You dribble a soccer ball, shoot a basketball, and love to run.  You spell your sister’s name over and over again.  Starting at 18 months, you saw signs with letters on them and sang your jolted ABCs in recognition.  You count to ten. You know your colors.  You sing the months of the year song that your sister learned in preschool.  You imitate your sister and have mastered language and ideas so quickly.

You are our welcoming committee, pure love and warmth.  You shriek with excitement when your dad comes home from work and rush to see him.  You exhibit joy whenever your grandmothers enter the house.  You love your Zaidy.  You run excitedly to give him the first hug and be lifted up into the air.  You love your cousin (three months your senior) and have claimed him as “your own” since big sister has her own big girl cousins.

You talk constantly.  Your mouth is constantly running telling us what you are thinking, what you are doing, what everyone else is doing, and what you were doing when your big sister was doing something else.  There is no end to your stories.

This year you acquired a love of books.  Your sister loved books from an early age.  A year ago you did not want to focus on a story, you now love to sit and read.  You love books that rhyme with musical language.  You love books about animals.

No label describes you.  You are wild cats, triceratops, and princesses.  You are playing sports and playing dolls.  You are outgoing and the next moment you hide in my shoulder.  You are giant snuggles and ‘leave me alones’. You are rough and tumble and pink fluffy skirts. You are impossible to capture in words and labels.

You teach me every day.  You taught me that my parenting or lack thereof did not make your big sister a rule follower or cause you to throw tantrums.  Our children are who they are, there is no singular parenting strategy for well behaved children. Parents cannot take all the credit for their childrens successes or all the blame for their flaws.  You taught me not to take everything so personally.  You taught me that parent preferences change, I can’t be offended if you want dad to say goodnight.   You helped me to start to let go of my perfectionism.

I am so lucky to be your mom.  You will press my buttons, but I will always be awed and inspired by your fire, spirit, and warmth.  You are my firecracker baby.

I love you two-years-old.

My Gripes with Gender Stereotypes

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Focus on Physical Beauty

My daughters are beautiful and I want them to know they are beautiful.  However, I am frustrated by people who feel the need to constantly comment on their physical beauty.  “You are so beautiful,” comments are nice to hear every once in a while, but it should not be the only thing one says to little girls.  They should hear that they are smart, fun, unique, adventurous, brave, and the list goes on, the more specific the comments the better.

Society’s fixation on female beauty infuriates me.  From fourth grade through college, I was uncomfortably aware of who was the most beautiful girl in my class.  Growing up, girls constantly hear how they rank in the spectrum of superficial beauty.  Throughout my life my physical attributes were compared to those of my sisters.  Strangers felt they could comment, “Your oldest daughter is so beautiful,” as my twin and I sat next to her.  We were labeled, the “pretty one”, the “smart one”, the “artist”.  I remember thinking “if only I was prettier, I’d have more friends … I’d be happier … life would be easier.”

I know I cannot protect my daughters from the superficiality of our world.  I want them to have healthy self esteem, so they never feel ugly in this world fixated on beauty.  But it irritates me that at two and four, adults constantly comment on their looks.  Adults don’t approach toddler boys and continuously comment on how pretty they are.  They may comment on it once, but it is not something daily repeated to little boys.  Beauty does not play a primary role in a boy’s narrative.  It should not be a part of a little girl’s either.  I hate that I have heard my three and a half year old daughter ask, “Am I beautiful?”, after hearing an adult make a pretty comment about her sister.  My daughters have a lifetime to worry about superficial beauty, they need not concern themselves with it now.

I am struck by my daughters’ beauty everyday. Sometimes I tell them they are beautiful and I hope my words stick within their brains, but I don’t want to focus on it.  Telling them they are beautiful every day is not going to make them have healthier self-esteem, instead it will teach them that the adults in their lives highly value physical beauty.  My daughters’ are so much more than their physical appearances and I wish adults focused less on little girls’ superficial beauty and more on their individuality.

As adults we need to think before we address young girls about their physical appearances.  Cute comments have become ingrained in our psyche, I fall prey to the superficial focus as well.   It’s important to thoughtfully consider our language and engage children in gender-neutral compliments.  The more specific the comments the better – “I love how much you like hyenas, it’s so cool that you’re not afraid of snakes, you run so fast, you climbed that wall so well, or you’re so brave on the slide” rather than “do you know how pretty you look today?… or “your outfit is beautiful.”

Toddler Boys are so Much Harder than Girls

Oh, how I can’t stand this comment.  Yes, typically boys are wild and rambunctious.  They like balls, trucks, and all things physical.  They aren’t sensitive.  They fall and pick themselves back up.  They are messy.  I admit that often gender stereotypes can be true, but who is to say they are always true?  Accordingly, who is to say one sex is harder than another?  (Who knows maybe I’ll have a boy and end up eating my words, but I don’t think so).

For those of you that continuously make this comment: (1) do you have both a boy and a girl?  (2) Is it easier to label it a gender difference rather than a personality difference, or a birth order difference?

My daughters are as different as night and day.  One is at times more reserved, a reader, an observer, more cerebral, sensitive, and the other is at times more physical, she’d sometimes rather throw a book than read it, wild, adventurous, a hitter, a kicker, and a biter.  I hate to even use these labels on either of them because they both change daily and at any given moment can be so different.  However, innately they were born with distinct personalities.  If my second was a boy then maybe I would write her physicality off as a gender difference, but she’s not, so I know there is a wide range of personalities and physical differences amongst both boys and girls.

One often hears, “he is pure boy”, alluding that he likes all the stereotypical boy things, as if other boys are not “pure” boy.  I assert that a boy can be “pure boy” and play dress-up or play with dolls.  My daughters are “pure girls”.  They sometimes play with dolls and princesses, but they often prefer to play with wild animals or dinosaurs.

Give Me a Kiss and I’ll Give You a Cookie

It is pretty obvious what is wrong with this comment when you see it typed in black and white.  But this statement is made over and over again to my daughters.  It is not always so blatant, but sometimes I even catch myself pressuring my daughters to give someone a hello hug when one or both clearly don’t want to.  Is pressure like this put on little boys too?  It shouldn’t be placed on boys or girls.

Teaching girls to ignore their feelings and succumb to the pressure to hug or kiss someone sets a bad precedent.  I want my girls to have boundaries.  I don’t want them to be people pleasers.  I want them to listen to their own feelings and respect them.  If they don’t feel like hugging or kissing someone then they shouldn’t have to do it.  They should not be rewarded for doling out physical affection and they should not be publicly embarrassed for wanting to maintain their own physical space.  My daughters need to learn that their feelings deserve respect and they shouldn’t make decisions based purely on an adult’s happiness. For instance, if a situation is uncomfortable then they should leave even if someone will be hurt or disappointed.  I may be jumping ahead of myself, but they need to know if they feel uncomfortable by someone’s touch, they can say no.  I want my girls to know they are valued for something other than their looks and their physical affection.

We need to teach our children to trust themselves starting at an early age.  I want my girls to know that I (as well as the other important adults in their lives) respect their feelings, and hopefully this respect can build the foundation for mutual (parent/child) respect in the future and their own healthy self respect.

You’re Pregnant Again????  I Hope It’s a Boy!!!!

For all of my readers that don’t know, we are pregnant again.  I am due for a New Year’s baby this time around and we will find out the sex in August.  We truly are excited to have either a boy or a girl, what’s important is a healthy baby.

It bothers me when people tell us that they hope it will be a boy.  It seems that people act as if giving birth to a boy is winning the gender lottery.  When I was pregnant for the second time with a second girl, some people were truly disappointed to hear we would have another girl.  Or they’d say, well maybe the third will be a boy.  It hearkens back to medieval times as if girls are second-class babies and everyone secretly wishes for a boy.

Of course we would love to experience a boy, but we would also love to have another girl.  All we want is a healthy and happy family.

Little Girl Underpants

Now that my youngest will be potty training soon, we are looking for underpants that will get her excited to ditch the diapers and use the potty.  The problem is the only underpants sold for girls are fairies, princesses, hello kitty, Dora, etc.  My girls like princesses and pink, but my youngest loves Diego the animal rescuer (Dora’s cousin), wild animals, dinosaurs, and the lost boys from Peter Pan.  None of these options are available for little girl underpants.  They are not all available for little boys, but the boy options are more fun, i.e. Diego, Lion King, Monsters Inc., Spider Man, etc.  My oldest didn’t love the girl options either, so I ended up buying her a set of boy underpants.  I didn’t think this is a problem, but sometimes I worry what their preschool teachers will think if I send my daughters to school in underpants that are clearly made for boys (i.e. the open flap in the front).  I know we must not be the only ones in the world with this problem, so why do clothing manufacturers genderize toddlers’ underpants?

Another issue with toddler underpants, once the sizes get out of the toddler range, it seems that the preschool and above sizes are all bikini styles.  Why should four and five year olds be wearing bikini cut underpants? Little boys get to jump up to boxers, which provide more coverage and more comfort while little girls’ underpants get skimpier once they hit elementary school, there is something seriously wrong with this scenario.

To conclude, I like princesses, fairies, and the color pink, but there should be more fun options for girls.  We don’t need to pigeon hole our children into gender stereotypes at two and four years old.  It’s all about creating more options.

Speaking of which, after writing this post I saw this video on the Huffington Post. Goldiblox was created by a woman disappointed in the under representation of women in engineering professions, so she created engineering toys for little girls.  She too was frustrated by the lack of toy options for little girls i.e. barbie dolls, dress up, etc.

What do you think about gender stereotypes?  Am I being overly sensitive?  Do you think there is too much focus on girls’ physical beauty, clothes, etc.?

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Perfectionism, Competition, Comparison and Life’s Pendulum

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I struggle with perfectionism, competition, and comparison.  I need to enter a 12 step program and I need to find one quickly.  It has been a battle that I’ve fought my whole life.  You see I’ve created this gold standard that I need to drive for, and the standard is excellent, perfect, the best.  I feel like I must be the best or at least rank with the best to be validated.  One rarely meets this standard of excellence or perfection.  I don’t know anyone that can say with complete certainty that they are the very best.  My problem is when I don’t meet my unrealistic standards, I become my own bully – I claim “I suck,” or, “I’m bad,” or “maybe I should just quit.”  My personal self-critique is unhealthy, bad for my self-esteem, and a poor example for my daughters.  But how does one learn to silence this inner critic?

The flip side of perfectionism is that it has been a driving force and led to success throughout my life.  It has driven me to excel at school and always shoot for the honor roll, to graduate from law school and pass the bar, to relentlessly work to represent my clients to the best of my ability in the courtroom and beyond.  However, if I don’t get an A in a class, if I’m not in the top 5% at law school, if I lose a tennis match, if my writing is not published or responded to, then my inner bully gets to work dragging me into a mini depression.  Why write?  You’ll never be a writer.  You’re not smart. An endless from the harshest critic.

How come the balance scales so heavily tilt to the critic rather than the champion?  How do words shouted in praise get swallowed in whispered criticism?

Life is a pendulum.  I swing high and rejoice, but gravity will pull me back down.  A constant shifting of tides as the earth moves slowly around the sun.  None of our stations are permanent.  Constant changes and shifts will bring us high then low then high again.  I must find the love from inside myself to create an internal equilibrium as I am swept up and then swing back down, knowing I will soon be up again.

The joy of the swing.

“Higher, higher,” my big girl shouts as I push her and she sails through the air.  I push the little one too and she squeezes the chains with both hands.  Her knuckles turn white and a grin spreads across her face.

“When I close my eyes it feels like I’m going to fall,” my big girl explains as her big brown eyes squeeze shut, her feet in the air shooting above me as I continue to push this toddler who more and more is becoming a little girl.  “But I don’t fall.  It just feels that way.”  She laughs.  Up she goes and then back down.   She delights in the ups and downs, how it makes her stomach lurch, her eyes gently closed.

“I love the swing,” big girl states.

“Me love swing,” my baby says in her unexpected low gravelly voice, which always makes me smile.

I watch them swing back and forth, the chains squeaking loudly, a loud moaning chorus to the ups and downs.  I like the swing too.  The ups and downs are what it is about.  There is no such thing as perfect.  No life comprised only of successes.  Gravity always brings us down.

How boring and lonely life would be if we all lived atop the highest peaks and were never able to venture down into the valleys below.  There is beauty in the canyons carved out through the passage of time.  You fall into these canyons, the valleys, and the grasslands and you see the rivers, cliffs, pines, spruce, aspens, wildflowers, wildlife …  Life.   The return trek up the mountain is intense.  One scrambles for a decent hold that doesn’t crumble beneath your fingers.  Your foot slides down as you search for solid ground.  You fall.  You cross tree level.  Life becomes scarce.  But eventually after climbing, working, and struggling you reach the summit.  You see the sky. The sun.  The clouds.  The apex.  The majesty.  The endless possibilities.  You are alone.  You feel grateful for all that you have seen along the way.  You breathe.  You rest.  You know the descent will soon begin.

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An Ode to AAA

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Every year I debate whether to pay the $100 renewal fee for my AAA card.  I don’t know why I debate this payment in my head, but I do.  I just paid the renewal fee a couple of weeks ago, and once again I’m relieved that I did.

Today my girls and I had a fun day planned.  We were going to meet a friend and her kids at the pool.  All the parents out there know that getting two toddlers to the swimming pool is not the easiest feat.  Our morning itinerary included getting dressed, using the potty at the precise moment before we left and before swimsuits were put on, so as to not have to use the potty immediately after entering the swimming pool, which would entail getting out of our wet swimsuits in a public restroom with two wet whiney toddlers.  I applied copious amounts of sunscreen.  I packed swim diapers, a change of clothes, floaty devices, pool toys, coolers with lunches and cold drinks, and a stroller to lug all our equipment. 

As I was preparing for the pool today, my girls were in unusual sorts.  They would play well for a few minutes then I’d hear crazy screaming from my oldest, “The baby took my pots, I’m baking a cake,” she cried.  “Give it back!”  Her screams were earth shaking.  “She stole my dinosaurs!!!!”  This morning the screaming occurred at 15 minute intervals, play nicely for 15 minutes, then screaming and hitting.  

“ROAR,” my littlest shouted.  As I approached to take away the toys that instigated their repeated arguments.  My baby has started roaring at people.  She roars at me when I try to change her diaper, put her down for a nap, or brush her teeth.  She roars at the dogs when they get too close to her food.  She roars at bugs outside, or on the road she roars at cars driving by.  My husband and I are now constantly repeating, “Please don’t roar. Roaring isn’t nice.”  See this baby knows how to use her words, she just chooses to ROAR and when I say ROAR, I mean she ROARS.  Her guttural roars have become pretty aggressive.  The dog flees, the big girl cries, and my baby knows her ROARS are powerful.

Finally, we were ready.  I got the girls outside, locked the dogs inside, and loaded the car with a profuse amount of swim equipment, sufficient for a morning at the pool.  My baby screaming, “No pool. Me Wanna Play Outside. No Pool, Mama, PLAY OUTSIDE!!!”  I turned the key, no sound.  My battery was dead. 

“Okay girls, we’re not going to the pool.  The car won’t start.” 

At this point the Baby started screaming, “Pool Mama, Me Wanna Go to the Pool!  Mama, Me Wants to GO TO THE POOL.”  Clearly, she woke up on the wrong side of the crib, an indication of how my morning had gone thus far.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote that taking my car to the carwash was a pointless venture because minutes after leaving my car is covered in snacks. (I wish I knew how to insert a permalink in this blog -”I Will Vacuum More – Or Maybe I Won’t”).  The post car wash clean usually only lasts for the return drive back to my house.  Well, the other reason, taking my car to the carwash never seems worthwhile is because every time I take my car to the carwash, they accidentally hit the hidden light switch above my steering wheel that ignites the hidden light that cannot be seen.  I therefore leave my car in the garage over night with the hidden light on and my battery dies.  Over the past several years this has happened several times.  However, I do not take my car to the carwash frequently enough for this to be burned into my brain.

My solution to today’s snafu, I didn’t panic, I wasn’t too upset, I picked up the phone and dialed AAA.  “Hello,” the lovely operator said, “How can I help?” 

“My battery died and I need a jump start,” I respond to the kind lady.

“Are you safe?” She asked.

“Yes,” thinking as safe as one can be with a roaring and biting two year old and her big sister.

“I’m glad,” she said, “a driver will be there in less than an hour.”

*****

“You really don’t need a boyfriend when you have AAA,” my sister, single at the time, confided in me after AAA had replaced a flat tire for her on the side of the road. 

“So true,” I said. “And if you have a boyfriend he doesn’t really need to know anything about cars.  AAA may even be more reliable than most boyfriends, a phone call away, to your rescue in less than an hour.  Have you ever met a man that is that reliable?”  We both laughed.

*****

I love my husband, he is truly my best friend, and I know how lucky I am.   I also am fully aware that it is best that we all learn to jump start our own cars and change our tires.  I aim to have someone teach my daughters to do these things, but if we fail to do so, I will rest easy knowing that they will definitely be added to the AAA Family Plan.

But for all of you single women out there, I grew up with one, you really don’t need a man if you have:

(1) AAA card

(2) The number for a good handyman, and if this handyman is also a plumber, you’ve hit the jackpot

(3) A big dog

(4) Hmmm, I can’t really think what else to add to the list, cable television?

*****

As for today, I think it may be smarter if the girls and I stick to our classy backyard inflatable pool.  My handy husband filled it up.

I’m Going to Love You, Forever and Ever, Forever and Ever Amen

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“Digging up bones, I’m digging up bones, exhuming things that’s better left alone.  I’m resurrecting memories of a love that’s dead and gone.  Tonight I’m sitting alone digging up bones.”

The familiar and warm crooning of Randy Travis filled my ears.  My sister and I buckled into the backseat of my father’s dark blue Peugeot station wagon speeding through the streets of New York City.  My father quickly switched lanes and I slid into my sister.  Our voices young and pure, “Digging up bones,” singing the chorus in unison, songs etched in our little minds.

My father met my gaze in the back seat.  Michael had the habit of telling a story while driving, taking his eyes off the road and actually looking at you.  It was terrifying and surprising that he never got in accidents.  None of his kids dared tell him to focus on the road or remind him that he was driving and there were other cars on the road, instead we all suffered a terrified excitement as we drove with him.  “A city driver,” he always said, one aspect of his larger than life persona.

It was our Wednesday to have dinner with him.  He drove us across town, crossing from the Upper West Side to his studio bachelor pad on the Upper East Side. It had become our Wednesday ritual, Matthew would be waiting at Michael’s apartment and we would walk the two blocks to Mumbles, a restaurant with a green awning nearby.  Each Wednesday we passed the same homeless man on the corner who would ask us for change, “No Man, I don’t have anything,” my father would say, his words and vernacular shifting to a street talk I only heard him use with friends or other men on the street.  Then sometimes, to my surprise, he would drop a Five Dollar bill into the man’s hat and tell him to grab a burger.  We’d fantasize that the homeless man on the street actually had a penthouse on Park Avenue, “you never know,” my father would say.

As we’d get to the restaurant our booth would be waiting for us.  My dad’s diet coke sitting in its position, my sister’s ginger ale, my sprite, and my brother’s coke, each drink and meal laid out in its appropriate spot.  They knew where we sat and what we ate and drank each Wednesday.  This was our family’s new normal, our version of the traditional family dinner.  His best friend John would often meet us at the restaurant.  He had an expletive tattoo on the inside of his lip that my sister, brother, and I found hilarious.  He appeared normal, strikingly normal for a friend of my father’s, but when he pulled his lip down and we saw the F—- Y—, I learned that looks could be deceiving.  He would laugh and tease us, Uncle Mo, we called him.

My dad had colorful friends.  His friends didn’t look like my friends from schools parents.  Michael’s friends were people that as I got older I may have been scared of if they had approached me in a dark alley, but as a child I recognized their gentle souls and had no fear.  One had tattoos that covered every inch of his body up to his face.  My sister and I analyzed each image until we found our favorites.  We sat outside our loft on the hot and dirty pavement, trying to determine which one was the best.  He’d smile and laugh listening to our serious commentary.  These friends of my fathers had stories that memorized us.  Later I learned that these were friends found in a new found sobriety, a family of support in their recovery, vibrant lives stitched across all socio-economic and racial backgrounds.  Colorful characters with lives that were even more dramatic than I knew.

We walked back to his apartment passing the same man, begging for change, who this time wished us a goodnight.  My brother would accompany my Dad to an AA meeting, listening to men and women tell their stories of mistakes made and recoveries found in the basement of the church a couple of blocks away.  I was jealous that only he got to hear the stories.  He would then spend the night in my dad’s studio on a mattress on the floor.  He ran up the steps to Michael’s apartment to do homework as Elizabeth and I piled into the back of the dark station wagon, the old leather seats cracking and sticking to my legs.  Michael lit a cigarette and pressed play on the cassette player and Randy Travis’s voice blared from the backseat speakers.

The three of us, barreling through the city, belting out, “I’m going to love you forever and ever, forever and ever amen,” as buildings and city life sped by in a blur outside of our windows.

“Oh, I’m going to love you forever and ever, forever and ever, amen.”

*****

Excuse the lack of editing, the girls are awake.  I’m preparing for my Dad’s funeral next week and digging up the good memories.  Today I am happily putting on my rose colored glasses and remembering good times.  Thanks for reading and again please excuse the quick edit.