It’s been interesting to check out the kind of advertising they’ve been running on my site lately. Expecting something more along the lines of Legos or diaper deals, I’ve been shocked by all the ads for MBA degrees and thousand-dollar Polyvore skirts.
Or maybe it has more to do with my audience; in which case, you guys are classy folks.
In other news, Bridget, my 3-year-old, has been eating one bite of every apple we own.
Or strawberries, or bananas, or chips, or what-have-you: any grouping of like food substances in a bowl has been vulnerable. It’s the toddler equivalent of grownups who take a small chunk out of every chocolate in the box until they finally find a filling they deem acceptable.
Except in this case, they’re all the same. So why, toddlers, why? Are you trying to find the best one? Are you claiming all the apples for later use? Is it just because you’re not supposed to do it?
She loves to beg for “bapples” then scream “DONE!” after taking one taste. Or burritos, or tacos, or whatever else she catches anyone eating and therefore wants. It’s baffling.
But this toddler phenomenon is hardly news to other parents. A more compelling development has been her 5-year-old sister Brontë becoming the house’s new Apple Sheriff.
After observing the drama enough times, she decided to climb onboard my ongoing Bridget projects by coaching her on everything from potty-training to putting dirty clothes in the hamper to not finishing apples. What’s more, I just figured out that she’s been taping these coaching sessions on the iPad her grandparents bought her, which is hilarious:
Of course, Brontë never accounted for how much more fun eating one bite of an apple would become after Bridget realized how much it would torture her big sister. It’s like Brontë just handed her a big, red, sister-freakout button and then begged her not press it.
Maybe because wild imaginations often lead to paranoia, I’ve never been much of a natural saleswoman. I can still remember wondering, as a tiny child, exactly what the fifth dentist had against Trident gum.
So, given my cynical streak, I find my 5-year-old’s natural salesmanship startling. Maybe it’s her wild optimism. She almost already sold me the impossible, just the other day…
Brontë: Mom? You know what would be really nice?
Brontë: A bunny pet. That would be GREAT. Look at our yard… just pretend we had a bunny hopping around. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Me: Yes, that would be super cute, but…
Brontë: Picture a BLUE bunny pet, just chewing on the flowers, sitting by the waterfall…
And for a brief moment, damn it, I found myself picturing that adorable blue bunny. Brontë knows blue is my favorite color, you see, and she’s already incorporated this fact into her marketing.
Marketing that was effective enough to make me briefly wonder if getting a bunny was actually feasible, even though I know blue bunnies don’t really exist. It didn’t hurt that Brontë has worshipped bunny rabbits since she was a baby, so I could almost hear her delighted squeals upon seeing one.
She probably doesn’t remember how it all started, but I do. See, when she was an infant, she liked rubbing fuzzy blankets on the skin above her upper lip. In time, she grew to favor bunny stuffed animals because they had two long ears that were perfect for rubbing under her nose and dragging them around with…
“Yellow Bunny,” a yellow bunny with long, fuzzy ears, became one of her favorite toys and yellow, her favorite color. She’d blame many of her stuffed animals for the messes she got caught making, but Yellow Bunny could never do any wrong.
It didn’t stop there. She always loved the books I read her at bedtime, except one called, “That’s Not My Bunny.”
On each page, it would show a different bunny with tactile parts for babies to feel. It would have a bunny with a bumpy section on a page, for example, and the text would read, “That’s not my bunny, it’s too bumpy” until you finally get to the perfect bunny at the end and it says, “THAT’S my bunny!”
It was cute, but not to Brontë, who felt that all bunnies were, in fact, HER bunnies and we were pretending she was judging and rejecting them in the most hurtful ways imaginable She’d sometimes have to shut the book and throw it across the room to stop the lies.
It upset her so much, I had to quit reading it. And later, bunnies would invade her dreams. She’d dream about pink and purple bunnies driving around in cars, all stuffed in like clowns in a Volkswagen, or pink and purple bunnies raiding the fridge before setting out fine meals around the dining table. They’d smack their paws on the table with chants of “Bron-TEE! Bron-TEE!” to lure her down the stairs…
Brontë is vaguely starting to understand that I write a blog about her and her sister, which she finds fascinating. She wants to see it sometimes, pointing out “THAT’S BIDGIE!” or “HEY, THAT’S ME!” when the pictures go by. She wants to know what I’m talking about in the articles and giggles when I remind her of something funny she once said.
It means she’s more wiling to give me space, now, to tell the world about her hilarious antics. Even if I’m starting to wonder if her junior-high self will resent me for once reporting on her potty-training fails.
Brontë: It’s a GREAT bunny. Why didn’t you write words under the bunny picture, mommy? You wrote words under the other ones. You need to write what that bunny is saying because I WANT TO KNOW.
Her obsession makes me curious about how she’d react to a real live bunny in the yard, except we can’t have a baby bunny jumping around five cats and it would HAVE to be a baby bunny because, well… I’ve had bad experiences with grown-up bunnies before.
Back when I was in college, my grandmother once bought all my cousins stuffed animal bunnies for Easter, but because she knew I loved animals so much, she wanted to get me a couple of real bunnies instead.
Which was a very sweet gesture, except she had me pick from a pile of grown up bunnies that all seemed to HATE people. That’s when I had this reckless thought:
Okay, these bunnies are insane, but if I pick a boy and a girl, I could tame a baby bunny and sell the rest to a pet store.
Not knowing anything about rabbits, picking a boy and girl rabbit ended up being much harder than it seemed. I figured I’d grab two with different-looking genitalia and time would inevitably reveal which one was which.
It did. About a day later, the rabbits fell in love and they quickly became known as Patrick and Katherine.
Except later that day, Katherine was looking awfully dominant. Maybe I had it wrong. Katherine quickly became known as Kirk.
Except next day, Patrick was on top again.
It wasn’t long before I realized that Patrick and Kirk were really, REALLY into each other. Like, into each other all day, every day, taking turns… expressing themselves.
And those bunnies were bastards.
Not because they were gay. I don’t have bunny homophobia or anything. No, it’s because every time I gently tried to pull one away from its frenzied love-making, it would leave multiple bloody scratches along my arms with its back feet. They would flat-out attack me for trying to be friends with them, then run over to bury their head into their lover’s side as though they’d just been horribly violated. The other one with lick his face to help him get over the shock.
Even my rats hated their guts. That’s right, I had a couple of rat pets at the time and because of that experience, I’m fully aware that rats are approximately ten-thousand times smarter than bunnies, despite the terrible rep.
Because the rats used to tag team the rabbits in ingenious ways. One would crawl up the side of the rabbit cage to distract them, while the other would crawl up near the rabbits’ food dish to throw handfuls of rabbit food on the floor that the rats would later pile into their own cage, since the bunnies were to big to retrieve it.
After about fifty episodes of this particular rat con, Patrick finally figured out what was happening. He indignantly rabbit-kicked the rat who was stealing his food, which made the rat jump onto Patrick’s back and start furiously pulling out Patrick’s fur in handfuls while biting him. Patrick jumped around in circles, unsuccessfully trying to kick the rat, until I ended up picking Patrick up and oh-so-carefully extracting the hysterical rat while hoping not to lose a chunk of skin.
The rat didn’t hurt me, but Patrick responded by leaving a ten-inch gash on my arm. Meanwhile, Kirk looked truly baffled, though I swear he shot me a couple of dirty looks.
So… clearly… we can’t have an untamed rabbit on the premises. Those suckers are MEAN, despite being adorable. And a baby bunny wouldn’t last long.
Yet despite my sordid history with a couple of angry rabbit perverts, I was still briefly charmed by Brontë’s visions of blue bunnies dancing around the yard.
That girl’s got a future in marketing, if she isn’t too busy being a Jedi princess unicorn in Outer Space.
Whether or not to teach your child to share is a matter of great controversy.
Some may find this surprising, because sharing is good, right? Doesn’t it teach kids not to be selfish?
Eh, not so fast. Like practically every other aspect of modern parenting, the issue is much more complicated than it seems…
For example, let’s say your coworker Todd likes your watch. Or your car. Or house. How would you feel if your boss made you hand them over, just because it’s so nice to share?
We’d find the idea outrageous, yet we expect our kids to comply without question. It’s admittedly a bit of a double standard, and one that rewards any kid who demands another kid’s stuff. We wouldn’t be happy if the adult world worked this way.
So, there’s a certain logic to the idea that making kids share is misguided, and NOT making kids share happened to be the policy of a preschool our daughter Brontë used to attend. It seemed to work well enough for kids who were around a bunch of kids who were roughly their own ages.
And probably also for only children, which my husband John and I both were.
But… once we had another daughter, it didn’t seem to work anymore. We were completely unprepared for the new dynamic.
You see, Brontë was two when her little sister Bridget was born. Brontë understandibly faced her changing reality with some ambivalence: on the one hand, her baby sister was cute and seemed to like her.
On the other, Bridget was a blatant usurper of mommy and daddy’s love. Brontë would “accidentally” trip and scream whenever Bridget needed attention.
And if that wasn’t enough, Bridget also felt entitled to grab any toy in the house. Brontë was used to ALL toys being HER toys, so she found Bridget’s behavior absolutely unacceptable.
To make matters worse, around the same age that Bridget began crawling and grabbing anything she could get her hands on, Brontë also reached that apex age of insisting the entire world belonged to her.
Other parents will know exactly what I mean by this. There’s a phase, around age two, where a toddler’s chief motivations involve negating suggestions and declaring universal ownership.
Well, our kids both reached the possessive and grabby stages, all at once. John and I would watch Bridget grab something Brontë was holding, then hear Brontë scream “NO!'” and “MINE!” approximately six thousand times per day.
Bridget would then move onto some other object, which Brontë would also wrestle away from her while screaming “MINE!”
That was PURPLE BUNNY, for the love of all that’s holy…
This would go on and on until Bridget finally broke down in hysterical seizures.
Which makes sense, because Bridget could hardly speak a word of English at the time, let alone fathom concepts of ownership. And Brontë couldn’t accept that while she had heretofore held complete dominion over every object in her environment, she now had to hand them over to get chewed on. Even when it was purple bunny.
It wasn’t easy to reconcile, but they clearly had to learn to share.
Problem is, the concept of sharing is a tough one for toddlers to grasp.
Because what does sharing actually mean? When you share a cookie, you don’t get it back. When you share a toy, the other kid keeps it as long as they want, which could be forever.
If your kids are supposed to hand over toys whenever another kid wants it, then they will also feel entitled to grab any other kid’s toys. Even when that kid is some stranger at the park. I mean, they’ll just pick up some other kid’s Tonka truck and try to take it home, which is super awkward, because you just told them that maintaining the integrity of one’s personal property is unacceptable.
So… after much trial and error, this is what my husband and I figured out:
Kid’s thinking may not be especially nuanced, but they can usually grasp basic concepts of fairness.
Fairness includes the idea that if *you* get one, then *I* get one.
It also involves the idea that everyone should get the same thing, including a turn at playing with or participating in whatever desired object or activity is in question.
So, instead of telling them to “share,” which is really vague, it’s easier to tell kids to “wait their turn.”
It gives them clearer rules… You will wait patiently until the other kid is done with the object, then they will let you play with it without hassling you.
And in return, they won’t bug you for playing with it once they’re done, just as you won’t pitch a fit when they pick up something you’ve discarded.
This approach has worked sooooo much better for us. The kids understand these rules better and seem to respect them. It appeals to their inherent sense of fairness. They get the idea of “you were done with it, so now she gets to play with it.”
And weirdly, now they’ll patiently wait for a toy (sometimes finding something else to do) as long as they know they’ll be the next one in line.
I’m guessing that as kids get older, they’ll have an easier time distinguishing the difference between personal property and community objects that should be shared.
But for now, telling our kids to “wait their turn” has made life a while lot easier.
So, what do other parents think about teaching your kids to share?
Do you believe it’s a good idea? Do you believe it’s better to let kids work it out on their own?
Generally speaking, Brontë and Bridget are much easier to manage now that they’re five and three. Gone are the days of three-hour fits and grocery store tantrums. Consistent refusal to reward bad behavior slowly winnowed them out.
Or of Brontë’s poop-mural experiments, which went on for months. Making her clean them up, by the way, was what finally did the trick.
Or of Bridget ruthlessly tackling the cat. We let the cat sort that one out himself.
We’ve finally moved on to more advanced kid skills, like not constantly interrupting people and getting through meals like civilized people. Occasionally, they’ll try snotty attitudes on for size, experimenting with the social ramifications, or check to see how much leverage they’ll get from being tragic.
Like the other day, when Bridget fell into some gravel and scraped her knee. Viking that she is, she handled it by punching everything around her, including the air, which made her fall over and over again, growing ever angrier.
I raced over to help her with her bloody leg and she responded by boxing my legs like a violent leprechaun. This didn’t go over very well, because mommy is not a punching-bag. Even if you’re sick or injured.
Which pretty much set off a cascade of bad behavior for the next few hours, during which time her sister Brontë was the perfect, model child: holding mommy’s hand, cheerfully doing everything she was supposed to, and giving heart-melting monologues about how much she loves her family.
Because I don’t know if this is typical, but my kids like to take turns acting out. I think that one of them acting like a hooligan gives the other the perfect opportunity to look angelic by comparison, and they relish the opportunity to rub their good behavior and all of its associated privileges in their sister’s face.
But, growing bored with their good cop/bad cop routine, they changed places yesterday. While Bridget was snuggling mommy and bringing her flowers, Brontë was accidentally spilling huge glasses of chocolate milk and then later wouldn’t shut up about the “giant turd she’d been wrestling” during lunch because Brontë has picked up that mommy’s weakness is finding your bad behavior hilarious.
Yesterday was the day when Brontë forgot how to put on shoes, after years of doing it correctly, and suddenly found the request outrageous. She wouldn’t quit pushing around her sister either, grabbing toys out of her hands on account of her possessing such a “stinky butt,” which probably made sense to her wound-up toddler brain.
At any rate, it all culminated in last night’s dinner episode. Bridget was quietly eating her taco while Brontë somehow hovered in a blur about the air pockets around her seat as my husband and I desperately tried to have a conversation:
John: So then I went to the manager meeting, and
Brontë: I’M THE QUEEN OF JELLYFISH.
John: I went to the managers’ meeting where they were talking about…
Brontë: I HAVE A BURRITO. MY EYES ARE BLUE. I WANT TO GO IN THE POOL.
Me: Stop interrupting, Brontë. Wait until your dad finishes what he’s saying.
Brontë keeps jabbering on for the next few minutes while John and I try ignoring her until it stops. Bridget keeps eating her taco, watching the whole thing play out. Finally, John looks over…
John: Okay, Brontë. What were you saying?
Brontë: I WANT TO GO SWIMMING AT MIDNIGHT WITH THE POOL LIGHT ON.
John: Not tonight, because you’re going to bed on time. Maybe this weekend we can go swimming when it’s dark outside.
Brontë (stomping away): I’m EXCUSED!
John: Come BACK here and sit down. We didn’t excuse you.
Brontë (making a face): HMPH!
John: Go to your room.
Brontë screams down the hallway before slamming the door. The room gets quiet. Bridget takes another bite of taco, her tiny legs swinging under her chair.
Dieting SUCKS, so there’s usually some triggering event that convinces someone to start eating better.
For a friend of mine, it once was getting thrown out of a roller-coaster line by an attendant twice her size. For me, it’s been arguing with my five-year-old about not actually being pregnant. Because she insists that the last time my belly got SO BIG, she ended up with a baby sister.
She doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just that toddlers are painfully honest without any grasp of the social ramifications. Like how she keeps playing with grandma’s upper arms because they’re so “fun and squishy.” Or like the other day, when my daughter grabbed a handful of my postpartum belly and asked why it looked like that.
“Because you lived there for year,” I told her. “Your sister too, before you’d even taken down all the staples from your posters.”
She was understandably confused, and I’ll admit leaking a twinge of bitterness into my response. Even though I should know better, because kids say ridiculous, rude things all the time.
It touched a nerve, though, because my jeans are indeed getting tight. I can still CLOSE them, thank you very much, but it’s not super comfortable and results in some sideways flare-out. My husband looks mildly panicked every time I frown at my muffin top, because it could mean all the chocolate is about to vacate the house.
The weird thing is, I actually lost the baby weight from both of my pregnancies within six months. You see, I’d grown up hearing countless women talk about how they used to be so skinny and had such fast metabolisms until they had children and then never managed to regain their pre-pregnancy figures again.
Since I didn’t have a fast metabolism to begin with, the threat of permanent explosion seemed imminent. So I hopped right onto a diet and exercise program as soon as I recovered from childbirth. I knew I had to unleash a Tony Horton-style dictatorship onto those rioting hormones before they swallowed me whole.
And I conquered it LIKE A BOSS. Why? Because I was prepared to fight that estrogen-soaked battle of making people, but knew nothing of the parenting lifestyle’s insidious creep. It turns out, you still can’t let your guard down once pregnancy is over, because having kids makes it really, really easy to put on weight.
So I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have decided to warn prospective parents about what they’ll be up against:
1- Kids have really small bodies
Once you have children, you’ll never take a normal, grown-up step again.
See, most of your free time is spent in their company. That means if you walk anywhere on foot, you’ll have to take them with you, usually while holding their hand.
And kid bodies are very small, which means their legs are really tiny. They can’t walk at a grown-up pace. If you try to walk like a normal person, the child will trip on the sidewalk, smack their face on the ground, begin screaming and make everyone stare at you in horror like you’re a monster who won’t wait for your kids.
So, you’ll have to start walking at the pace of someone with ten-inch legs. It’s slow, even without accounting for them being mesmerized by the mysteries of sidewalk grooves or the life-freezing eurekas of passing thought, both of which will occur approximately every 15 seconds because kids really don’t care about getting somewhere on time.
Clearly, strollers would seem to be the obvious answer here, except they mean sacrificing the exercise your pent-up toddlers so desperately need. I’ve seen far too many über-fit moms pushing grumpy, pudgy 8-year-olds in strollers to think strollers are a good idea once the kiddos can walk.
2. Kids take ages to get through everyday activities
Things that used to take 30 seconds now take 10 minutes, if not half the morning. Things like just putting on shoes and walking out of the house.
You used to just grab your keys and walk out the door, but now you’ve got to clean up, change someone, and lace their shoes up, assuming that locating shoes doesn’t become it’s own drawn-out detective saga, or that said child isn’t naked, which are both wildly optimistic assumptions when parenting.
Remember how I said kids get mesmerized by sidewalk cracks? Apply that same principle to eating a meal or exiting a vehicle…
You’ve unsnapped their car seats, you’ve opened their door, and you’re now standing on the side of the car while they stare blankly into space. “Okay sweetie, time to get out of the car,” you say.
So they take a step forward and start messing with the parking brake. Thirty seconds go by and you’re telling them, “Don’t mess with that, sweetheart. It’s time to get out of the car now.”
And then they step onto the doorframe, hold the back of the front seat with one hand, then stare at the ground with all the intensity of someone trying to solve the Palestinian crisis. They just keep standing there, as you look at your watch.
It’s all you can do, at this point, to not scream, “GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR,” except you’ve read about how vitally important it is to never, ever rush a child through trying to do something. Because rushing your kid means being impatient, which makes them feel incompetent, eventually destroying their self-esteem and leaving them sobbing in the women’s bathroom a decade from now, right after their pole-shifts, wondering where it all went wrong.
If only frustration burned calories.
3. Because kids want to eat garbage
Before I had kids, I used to go to the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce with which to make elaborate meals from scratch. In fact, my insistence on unprocessed food was once a bone of contention with my Hot-pocket-eating boyfriend (later my husband).
I assumed I’d keep my lifestyle up after the kids were born, neither envisioning how much less energy I’d have, nor my frustration at seeing a thousand carefully-prepared meals splatter against the wall.
Or how desperate I’d be to keep the kids from rioting. Ideally, I’d love to feed the kids healthy food, all the time. I do still try, but it’s hard to keep throwing money and time at meals that end up in the garbage when literally every television channel and store display is flashing cartoon utopias of brightly-colored garbage that’s so much easier and cheaper.
You’ll also find yourself in the grocery store with a wound-up kid and a dozen reproachful eyes, just waiting for the looming meltdown, while knowing you could either put a stop to it all with a 50 cent treat, or hold your ground through yet another public episode of overwhelmed-mom-with-the-tantruming kids.
The struggle is real. And sometimes I cave.
4. Because kids don’t eat much
You know how you finish your lunch because you paid for it and you don’t want to throw your food away, only to get hungry an hour later and have to pay for something else?
Yeah, kids don’t worry about that. They don’t care what you just spent on their dinner when you’re eating out and will push it aside then literally start throwing a fit about being “so hungry,” 20 minutes later.
You’d think a few rounds of “Well, you should’ve eaten your dinner then, because I’m not not getting you any more food” would fix that, but they’re surprisingly stubborn. Because kids always plan roughly five minutes ahead of wherever they are now. They don’t remember how hungry they ended up being last night and won’t apply that lesson to this evening. Sometimes I’m amazed the human race is still around.
Even when they DO eat, it’s frequently only a tiny bit. I’ve watched my daughter suck the chocolate out of a croissant, pick the croutons out of a salad, lick the parmesan off pasta, and pick the Shake-n-bake coating off pork chops before loudly declaring that she was done.
My husband cleans up our kids’ leftovers like a champ. It just sucks too much to spend your hard-earned money on a meal that ends up only two tablespoons lighter, so my husband takes one for the team by polishing off the rest. Problem is, I’ve noticed him pushing the kids to order something he really likes an awful lot. Which makes sense, because you may as well order something you like if you’re going to end up eating most of it… except it’s a slippery slope from being thrifty to eating an extra, fatty meal because you “have” to.
Most of these meals, I notice, involve a lot of melted cheese. On the plus side, he’s really been leaning on our 3-year-old to practice her silverware, because who wants to polish off a meal someone’s massaged with booger-hands?
5. Your own habits start to backslide
So… you find yourself ordering increasingly empty-caloried garbage in hopes that your kids will possibly eat it, then polishing off said garbage so you won’t feel like you just set your wallet on fire.
You find yourself keeping a few more boxes of cookies around too, because it’s so helpful to have little rewards handy for when your kids finally pick up all their Legos and use an appropriate receptacle to pee into.
And after a while, that kale & quinoa salad isn’t looking so appetizing to you either. I’m not sure it ever really did, but it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself without all this peer pressure.
You get used to meandering along, taking 45 minutes to do what used to take you 10.
Plus, you may be eating a few more chocolates now, because it’s the only vice you’re still allowed. I mean, after you’ve put all that drinking, swearing, and watching violent movies aside, what else can you do?. Who doesn’t want to stuff their face after 300 hours of Caillou?
Either way, these are some of the health pitfalls to watch out for after you move into a lifestyle with kids.
It’s tough, but I’m sure we can overcome it: start following an exercise program and letting the kids get hungry enough to choke down some well-balanced meals. Remind my husband to stop ordering out for pizza or bringing home fast food before we’re shelling out for whole new wardrobes of pants…
I haven’t been keeping up with my blog for the past few weeks and ho boy, did the comments, postings and emails blow up. It’s like that old episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy lets everything pile up on the chocolate factory, only I wasn’t seeing the chocolates threatening to avalanche because it was all happening in the mystical, invisible land of the internet.
So, today I literally tackled 4000 emails. They weren’t entirely my blog’s fault because I also spent half the day unsubscribing from various marketing assembly lines, which was a dragon whose slaying was long overdue.
I mean, what else was going to happen to an openminded, very curious (likely undiagnosed attention-disordered) woman like myself? SURE, I’d love to learn about the world of cycling and how runners should eat. How about the mysteries of ancient civilizations and Abraham Lincoln’s private letters while we’re at it? Of COURSE, I want to hear about whenever your breakthrough mascaras that will change my life forever go on sale (shockingly perfect eyelashes -> ? -> perfect life!) And WOW, you’ll tell me whether I have a fire, air, earth or water personality with your free quiz if I just enter my email that you promise not to share with anyone? (So weird, because Six Flags over Georgia keeps telling me about their promotions, though I’m almost positive I never asked).
Aaaaand on top of that, I started taking a French class with my mom and working out early in the morning, which screws up my powerfully creative middle-of-the-night writing time more than you’d expect. You see, mom and I thought I would be nice to do something together, like take a French film class. Except she’s a retired French teacher and I… well, I learned some French from hearing her speak it when I was little and later studied it in school, but I haven’t used it in quite some time. Picking a class that would neither bore mom to tears nor be ridiculously over my head was a true challenge.
So, I took a placement test and according to the Alliance Francaise, I’m an Advanced Intermediate, but it hardly feels that way when I’m watching French war films from the 60’s, paying extremely close attention to everyone’s body language in the desperate hope of figuring out a gnat’s wing of context, and reading out French dialogues in class while feeling about as ashamed as I’d imagine feeling after just peeing on the public floor. (Why do they have to talk SO FAST!?)
The entire class is in French, including the instructions, and while I understand about 87% of it, I nevertheless have to hear myself answering the teacher in cavewoman grunts while watching her look at me with that pained, patronizing expression that means she’s pretending that I don’t sound like an idiot so I won’t get discouraged. When it’s just too rough, I occasionally break into English again, whereupon she looks mildly startled by my capacity for abstract reasoning, as though she’d assumed my aching attempts at normal French conversation reflected my general aptitude. This must be how blind people feel when others shout at them in slow, simple language. Or immigrants, when natives assume that their fractured grammar represents how their whole brain operates.
Eh, I complain because it’s entertaining, but I’m actually enjoying this class a great deal. I like being forced to learn something new. You see, I spend most of my time around toddlers, and while I love my kids to pieces and cherish the time I spend with them, it’s not exactly an intellectual challenge, right about now. For example, I spent the bulk of today’s afternoon helping my 3-year-old practice writing her name, which consisted of her randomly scribbling on a paper then looking really proud of her alphabet mastery. Essentially, she was me in French class, except she’s blissfully unaware of how far off she is, whereas I can’t help but catch every micro-condescension in my French teacher’s eyes.
But in addition to taking the French class, I’ve also started waking up early to work out. You may be wondering why, given my obvious night-owl tendencies…
You see, I decided to start exercising more and eating better after my five-year-old started asking me if she was going to get a new baby sister.
“No,” I told her. “Daddy and I are happy with two girls. We aren’t going to have another baby.”
“But your belly is sooo… BIG. Like when you were making Bridget.”
“No, I’m not having another baby.”
“But it’s getting BIGGER and BIGGER!”
Frankly, I think she’s being a bit of a weight Nazi, because I’ve only put on around ten pounds or so.
Maybe 15. Okay, maybe it’s 15 and I happen to think 15 pounds from skinniness is a little premature to start asking your mom whether she’s pregnant. Still, I read something about how only yoga pants and toddlers tell the truth and figure if your belly is getting big enough for your kids to notice it, it’s probably time to jump on it before it becomes a larger issue.
And it could be worse, given that she’s also been asking her dad if he’s making her a baby brother, since she assumes women make girls while men make boys. Which makes primitive sense, assuming you don’t fully understand the process.
So, I’ve recently embarked on a P90x exercise routine in the mornings, because doing it anytime later throws off my entire day, as well as a bold attempt at eating better. The whole process has made me reflect on how much easier it is to get fat and out of shape once you have kids.
Yesterday was Bridget’s 3rd birthday. She spent the daylight hours indulging in cookies, cat-stalking and sunshine in the kind of present-moment-savoring paradise that most adults wish they still had the freedom to enjoy.
She was playing on the porch swing when her big sister Brontë put one of Douglas’s dog toys in her mouth, barking and crawling around on the ground.
Oh gross, I chuckled. Brontë, put the dog toy down!
She did. We later went inside to start the birthday celebrations, the girls forgetting all about the dog toy incident… until a startling discovery the very next morning:
A photo of Brontë with a dog toy in her mouth splashed across the front page of the The Sacramento Bee today, visible from every newspaper stand in town.
I’ll admit to being a little bit mortified.
And it’s not that I don’t believe most little kids have had far worse in their mouths at some point (kids chew on everything); it’s that random snapshots of our lives can create unbalanced impressions. I didn’t want people thinking I routinely let my kids chew on dog toys that have been sitting outside in the dirt because that’s not usually how we spend our time.
This idea didn’t bother Brontë at all, however. She was too busy being thrilled by her joke making the local news. She grabbed a paper and spent the next couple of hours running up to strangers to point out her featured photo. “It’s SO FUNNY,” she kept telling them. “They put it IN THE PAPER!”
Now, you may be wondering how this all came about…
Months ago, I wrote a blog post called Americans Are Too Damn Clean, inspired by parents who get rid of pets during pregnancies or use hand sanitizer before handling infants from what I consider to be good intentions gone awry, encouraged by our national tendency toward germ paranoia.
In it, I bring up scientific studies showing how kids who grow up around pets actually have fewer allergies, lower rates of asthma and eczema, and better gut ecosystems. No need to get rid of your pets.
Apparently, the Health Reporter for The Sacramento Bee came across my article and was intrigued. She called me for an interview and to set up an appointment to take photos of my girls being natural kids in a laid-back environment around a mom who would let them get dirty.
And Brontë, being the natural performer that she is, supplied the piece de resistance by chewing on a dog toy for the cameras, which ended up being a teaser on the front page. Oh, and she also grabbed the camera from the cameraman when he wasn’t looking and snapped some photos of me. Luckily, he was a really nice guy who has twin 8-year-old girls of his own, so he completely understood.
The only real bummer is how the reporter promised to mention Bubbles and Beebots in the article, which would’ve been great press in a nationally-known newspaper… especially since I live just outside of Sacramento, talk about the area from time to time, and since some of the studies mentioned in the article came straight out of my blog post. There’s a link included on the online version, yet the actual newspaper only referred to me as a parenting blogger.
Dang. Well, maybe the editor cut it. You never know.
At any rate, I think it’s pretty cool that Bridget’s birthday will be forever remembered as the day before she appeared in the local paper. She seems to think it’s pretty cool too.
I’m afraid of ghosts, even though I don’t believe in ghosts.
To start with, it doesn’t make sense that most ghosts come from the 19th century. Where are all the old guys in Bermuda shorts? You never hear about mundane ghost problems like Uncle Rob eating all the mixed nuts every time you leave the room.
It’s never Aunt Josie hanging her orthopedic bra over your shower or some 80’s kid who keeps flipping the stereo to Michael Jackson hits. No, it’s always some creepy little girl in a white dress staring you down in the hallway, or an axe murderer writing blood messages on the mirror. What about Neanderthals?
The rational part of my brain doesn’t believe in ghosts for a second, but that doesn’t stop me from flipping the light on every time I think about them too long. I’d never be able to sleep in a haunted house because I’d be too busy curling into a quivering ball at every random noise (Being a ball totally protects me from supernatural powers, right?)
These days, if I need to walk across my house in the middle of the night, there’s a very good chance of encountering a discarded doll along my journey. She’ll just be lying on the floor, staring at me in the quiet darkness with her menacing dead eyes as I crab-walk sideways to grab a glass of water.
And it was in this creepy hellscape of frozen dolls and off-key music boxes last night that my four-year-old daughter Brontë asked me, “I don’t like dead bodies, mommy. Do you?”
“NO. I do not like dead bodies,” I told her while wondering what put this idea in her head.
“Where have you seen dead bodies?” I asked.
“I’m seeing themright now.”
Aaaand that’s when my blood turned to ice.
Heart pounding, I looked down at the Wii balance board I was fixing up for her, sorting out what direction to insert the double AA’s. Something clicked.
“Dead… BAT-TER-IES?” I ask.
“Yeah,” Brontë says. “Dead batteries means your stuff doesn’t work! You don’t like them, right?”