The other day at breakfast, I was handing my five-year-old some toast…
Me: Here, eat some jam and bread like your ancestors.
Brontë: What are my “ancestors?”
Me: Well… okay, you know how I’m your mom and my mom is your grandma?
Me: Her mom is your great-grandma, right? And her mom was your great-great-grandma. If you keep going, you get to your ancestors… like your great-great-great-great-great-grandma. A lot of them came out of England and Scotland where they have lots of shows about orphans and eat jam and bread.
She ponders this.
Brontë: We have boys in our family, right?
Me: Of course!
Brontë: And they are our “an-brothers?”
Me: Oh… no. They’re also our ancestors. It’s an-CEST-ors, not an-SIST-ers…
Upon finding out that Halloween is soon and she could eat all the chocolate she wants, my Viking baby Bridget made this face:
Because she loves spooky stuff (Jack Skellington is her personal hero) and really, really likes chocolate.
This was welcome news, because Bridget has been on a real tear lately. Having lots of baby angst about baby issues, I guess.
Just the other day, she was stomping around the house, grumbling under her breath like a crotchety old man: “Pshh… NO Chuck E. Cheese. NO chocolate cake. Brontë wants SPACE! Cat won’t TALK to me…”
And it’s been tough for me not to laugh at these disgruntled toddler ravings. I just don’t feel right about openly mocking her pain. Especially because cats-not-talking has been a real sore point.
Like on Wednesday afternoon, when she was lying next to me, sucking her thumb, watching My Little Pony. Her enormous cat Raj jumps on the couch and plops down on her chest, his nose three inches from her face…
She pets him with her free hand for a second before knotting up her eyebrows in an angry, cartoon “V.”
I figured it was because she couldn’t breathe with a thirty-pound stripey cat cutting off her air supply, but she hadn’t flinched. She just kept staring him down, harder and harder, until she finally pops her thumb out of her mouth and yells, “Raj, why you NOT TALK!?”
(That’s got to be frustrating. All the cartoon cats talk on TV, like pretty much every other animal, and she’s known Raj for three whole years… yet he refuses to say a single word.)
Plus, her desserts have been judging her. We were eating some leftover chocolate cake for breakfast yesterday (because that’s the kind of responsible mother I am) when Bridget points out two chocolate chips on her slice.
Bridget: Look, mama… eyes!
Me (not quite seeing it): Oh yeah? Cake eyes?
She starts to take another bite before violently throwing the cake back on her plate.
Bridget: NO LOOK AT ME, CAKE!
Fighting the Establishment
And lately, Bridget has been sassing her big sister too.
I was driving Brontë home from Kindergarten when Bridget kept going on and on, from the backseat, about “Tie-Back-Oh.”
What? I finally asked: “What is Tie-Back-O?”
Brontë explained: “She means ‘Twilight Sparkle,’ mommy.”
(OH. One of the My Little Ponies. The purple one who likes to read and hangs around with that dinosaur, Spike. Any current parent of toddler girls will know exactly who I mean.)
Then, Brontë set about fixing her baby sister’s pony-naming issue. It makes sense, because she wouldn’t want her sister to go embarrassing herself in serious toddler discussions about current issues.
So, she applied some of her Kindergarten teacher’s language techniques:
Clapping her hands on each syllable, Brontë said, “It’s TWI (clap)- LIGHT (clap)- SPAR (clap)- KLE (clap)!”
“NO!” Brontë screamed… as Bridget convulsed in giggles.
(I have to wonder if firstborn children more readily understand the parental perspective because they get all that baby sibling sass when trying to be helpful.)
So… with her breakfast silently judging her, her cat giving her the silent treatment, and her big sister talking down to her with her fancy-schmancy college techniques, Bridget is truly looking forward to the annual chocolate-binging fest.
He analyzes the show in such great detail, in fact, that I often walk away realizing I didn’t pay nearly enough attention when I was watching it (though in all fairness, Patrick did read the books too).
And he’s inspired me to not only watch the show again, but to share the bizarre insight I had while seeing it a second time:
Male characters in GoT get a lot nicer after having something chopped off.
I’m not judging here, just reporting what I’m seeing.
Because it’s happened several times…
Jaime Lannister started out such a despicable character that he initially made me give up watching the show.
I already wasn’t thrilled with the kidsicle opener and then thepilot episode… the PILOT… closes with Jamie tossing a child out of a tower because he’d seen Jaime knowing his sister. In the biblical sense.
So, he casually tosses a little kid out a tower window while making an offhand joke about it.
And I was just DONE after seeing that nonsense. It took me several months and many glowing reviews from people whose opinions I trust to come back to the show…
When I did, Jaime was busy paying off assassins to kill that kid he crippled in his sickbed and then framing his own brother for the murder (which, luckily, doesn’t work out).
Jaime keeps up this douchey behavior for some time: trying to kill Ned Stark in an ambush, brutally murdering a squire who worshipped him just to create a diversion, and harassing Lady Brienne like any cocky, rich jock in an 80’s flick would…
Until he gets his hand chopped off.
Sure, he’d been hinting at human decency right before that (by talking his captors out of violating Lady Brienne), but it was only after the hand-chopping incident that Jaime truly emerges as one of the “good” guys of GoT’s extremely morally-relative world.
Then, Jaime risks his own life by jumping into a bear pit to help Brienne. He helps the brother he previously tried to frame for murder escape from prison after being unjustly accused. He tries to talk his sister into retiring someplace nice instead of continuing her mass murder spree. All of which is truly noble by, you know… Lannister standards.
I’d almost forgotten what an incredible jerk Theon used to be.
I mean, he actually starts the show of in full sociopath mode by jumping at the chance to slaughter puppies (the dire wolves who eventually became the Stark’s pets). He ironically makes fun of Jon for being a bastard and generally spends his time being a violent, arrogant, pervert.
Theon grew up with the Starks, who are essentially his immediate family. But while Robb Stark (to whom Theon pledged his loyalty) is busy waging his military campaign, Theon takes advantage of the opportunity to betray them. He takes over their house and starts executing anyone who disagrees with him, including loyal servants whom he’s known since childhood.
This includes his adoptive brothers, who are kids. When he’s unable to find them (because they escape while he’s… distracted), he murders two innocent farm boys in their stead and adorns Winterfell with their burned corpses, just to make a point.
Pretty horrible person, right? Well, he then gets captured by Ramsey Bolten and Ramsey is enough of a monster to actually make us start feeling sorry for Theon because Ramsey redefines all our goalposts for crapiness.
That’s when Theon gets… well, we all know what he gets chopped off.
But it apparently did him some good, because it’s only after his time with Ramsey that Theon is ever motivated beyond his own immediate self-interest: he risks himself to help Sansa escape (after finally showing some empathy for his adoptive family), he supports his sister Yara’s bid for leadership of the Ironborn instead of pushing his own (more traditional) claim, and lets himself get beaten to a pulp while rallying the Ironborn to help him rescue his sister.
(Sure, there was that whole unfortunate incident where Theon jumps off the ship instead of rescuing Yara from Euron himself, but being Ramsey Bolton’s prisoner is bound to cause a little PTSD. It’s still an improvement over murdering innocent farm boys.)
Varys was an especially interesting character to watch for a second time because at first, it was impossible to guess his moral alignment.
Like his counterpart Littlefinger, Varys has to carefully navigate GoT’s treacherous world to keep on breathing. He must, like Littlefinger, show skillful diplomacy while working behind the scenes… effectively playing different sides against each other. So, you never knew whether Varys’ brilliant manipulations were ultimately self-serving or not.
But eventually, we figure out that Varys is a good guy. There was evidence for this fact all along, which became more obvious when watching the show the second time around. Though he can’t openly fight the Lannisters, for example, you can see him subtly disapprove whenever Joffrey cruelly harasses someone (like Sansa or Tyrion).
Though he won’t pointlessly sacrifice himself for a lost cause (by helping Ned Stark escape), he will risk himself for a good one (by helping Tyrion escape). Unlike many of the Starks, he has a good sense of when keeping his mouth shut will allow him to fight another day… a long game that ultimately makes him a much more effective player.
When challenged by Daenerys, we get a better sense of Varys’ inner moral code. He describes his loyalty for the common people against brutal despots. He also won’t harm the innocent (revealed when he says he would never hurt children, since they are “blameless”), which puts him squarely on the good team according to murky GoT metrics.
And how did he come by this altruistic perspective? From being castrated by a sorcerer after growing up a slave… again, another relatively-good male character who’s had an important body part hacked off.
Sir Davos Seaworthy
Sir Davos is undoubtedly one of the kindest characters, which is rare within the older set because you have to be pretty Machiavellian to survive long in Westeros.
More humble than most of the players who have drastically risen in rank, Davos still speaks plainly, yet convincingly… moving the Iron Bank or Daenerys or Stannis even after his more aristocratic counterparts could not.
Sir Davos puts himself at great risk to do what is right: standing up to the Red Woman, questioning Stannis the “king,” helping Gendry escape… Davos was sent away before Shireen was horrifically killed because, well, Stannis and Melisandre knew he wouldn’t put up with it.
And, again… Sir Davos had been mutilated. Stannis had cut four fingertips off Davos’ right hand as punishment for his smuggling past. Because Davos was a criminal before getting his fingers chopped off.
Definitely a pattern, right?
I’m not sure of its significance, except maybe GoT characters start identifying more with the underdog after getting mutilated in some way, or maybe it just keeps their hubris in check.
And I can’t think of any female characters who were mutilated to make comparisons.
So lately, my three-year-old daughter Bridget keeps getting attacked…
Just the other day, she was drinking a glass of water when out of nowhere she shrieked and threw the cup down:
“SHARKS in my cup!”
Bridget doesn’t always speak clearly, so I wasn’t sure if I’d heard her right.
“There are sharks in your cup?” I asked.
Bridget peered nervously, and very carefully, inside:
She showed me. There was a lot of ice in the cup. I tried to decide whether ice could look like shark fins if you squinted your eyes and had a wild imagination. Or if it was a mini-world of icebergs with sharks lurking underneath.
“Well, that’s scary,” I told her.
Bridget rolled her eyes.
“Just baby sharks,” she told me, like I was being a total wimp.
Of course, she was already on edge from all the ghost nightmares she’d been having. She’d been screaming “GHOSTS!” at 3 AM, night after night, and I’d run to her room to find both of her arms held up in cartoon shock.
“It’s okay! Did you have a nightmare?”
She’d nod her head and tell me about the ghosts who were trying to “take her.” They were MEAN ghosts. One had a bear head and wouldn’t stop farting in her room.
Which must’ve really added insult to injury. This routine kept up until she finally had a dream about nice ghosts who smelled good.
What a relief after that nasty, farting bear.
And then Santa started menacing our house…
Bridget cut her foot two days in a row while taking a bath with her big sister Brontë.
And I mean, really CUT it… like she left bloody footprints all over the floor after getting out.
Which freaked me out. The cuts were smallish, but bled a lot, and I couldn’t understand how it happened.
I looked the bathtub over, inside and out, never finding anything sharp and finally figuring she must’ve somehow kicked the shower door tracks (since she was being very kicky at the time).
Still, I wasn’t sure:
“How did you cut your foot, Bridget?”
“Santa did it.”
“Santa, like Christmas Santa with reindeer and toys for the kids?”
“YES!” she screamed in persecuted agony. “Santa CUT my FOOT.”
She changed her story when her father came home, though.
When John asked why she had Bandaids on her feet, she explained that Poppa had:
Crawled into her shoe,
Crawled into her sock, and
Bitten her foot until it was bleeding
Which was strange, because she worships her grandpa and begs to go to his house so much I almost find it irritating…
So, I have NO idea why she would blame both the guy who brings her presents every year as well as her grandpa for her bleeding feet, but she absolutely wouldn’t let up.
Maybe it was revenge…
You see, Bridget really likes men with mustaches. Her Poppa has a mustache and he seems to be the measuring stick against which she compares all men. Whenever she sees a guy with a mustache, for example, Bidgie insists he looks just like Poppa. Even when they’re completely different-looking people apart from both having a mustache.
Except my dad inexplicably just shaved his mustache, which did not go down well with my kids, who now say he doesn’t look “right.”
I don’t know if that’s why Bridget started accusing him of crawling into her shoes to bite her feet, but… it did happen at roughly the same time.
The following day, Bridget cut her foot in the bathtub again. This time on her heel, instead of her toe.
I was baffled.
I asked her how she cut her foot and she again insisted that Poppa did it.
“But Poppa is nice, ” I said.
“Yes, Poppa nice. He BITE MY FOOT!”
She seemed outraged. She demanded yet another Mickey Mouse bandaid then appeared to forget about the incident until later that night, when my parents came over to pick up the kids for a visit.
In front of them, I asked Bridget whether Poppa had been crawling into her shoes to bite her feet.
“Psshhh… no,” she said, turning bright pink and smirking. “Psssh…”
It’s my favorite season: crisp, but not freezing. The leaves turn pretty colors and the world smells of cinnamon.
Plus, the kids go back to school… yay!
Brontë is a Kindergartener now, and her little sister Bridget really wishes she were too.
I know, because she yells “Too! TOO!” whenever we drop her sister off. One day, Bridget brought her own backpack along, hung it with the other backpacks outside the classroom and quietly got in line with the other kids. She figured that backpack was TOTALLY her ticket in and was SO sad when they turned her away.
And on that note, I was recently contacted by Education.com and asked to review a fun learning activity for kids. It’s called “Octopus Love” and goes like this:
Octopi aren’t the most cute or cuddly creatures, but they deserve love too! Let your child share her love on the legs of a paper octopus.
What You Need:
Construction paper (red, pink, and whatever other colors you desire!)
What You Do:
Draw a octopus head for your child and help her cut it out
Draw a face on the octopus using the markers. It can be realistic or more like a cartoon, whatever she wants.
Ask your child to thing of a few different people and things that she love. Lightly write out her responses, one in each heart. Let your child trace over your writing with a marker.
Help her glue one heart to each leg.
You can post this octopus of love on the refrigerator or display it prominently in your child’s room as a reminder of everything she loves about life!
And here’s what happened…
Well, this was a very cute activity and the kids had a lot of fun doing it.
I did have to slightly modify it because my kid’s skillset isn’t quite up to drawing even limbs or cutting out shapes as intricate as hearts. Maybe if you made a really BIG octopus, it would go better… or maybe if your kid is particularly good with scissors or a year or two older, you could follow it to the letter.
Because, kids do develop at different rates. There’s this little girl from Cambodia in Brontë’s class, for example, who completely blew me away with her reading and writing skills when I was helping her in the classroom last week. And English isn’t even her first language…
Still, the kids still had tons of fun and are proud of their octopi, even without having cut out their feet.
It was also very interesting to get a peek into the things your kid loves right now. Bridget named the various lead characters of My Little Pony, plus baby cows and horses, because she’s all about ponies.
Brontë named me and her sister (aww!) and also cookies, apple juice, playing outside, tag, coloring… and Rainbow Dash. Because unicorn glitter ponies are really big over here.
But so is spending time with mommy doing something creative and talking about the things we love. They’re so proud of the friendly octopi!