Saturday, October 31, 2009

My little Halloweenie

Sweet Boy declared about a month ago that he was not going to do Halloween this year. Hmph, thought we, his perplexed parents. No dress-up? No trick-or-treat? No parade and party at school? Nope, nope, and nope.

For about two weeks we tried to talk him into it -- brainstorming costume ideas (SpongeBob, Peter Pan, Superman, robot, ghost, puppy, anything!), discussing favorite candies, talking about the difference between make-believe and real. Nope. He didn't want to do it. And there's something I'm learning about my son: When he sets his mind to something, that's it.

So we finally let it go. We told him he didn't have to do Halloween, but ew made it clear he couldn't decide at the last minute that he wanted a costume and send us scrambling. We made sure he understood he would miss out on the preschool parade and party, and he wouldn't get any candy from trick-or-treating. That's ok, Mom and Dad, I don't like Halloween. Hmph, again said we.

I was nervous about it all month, of course: worried that he'd be picked on at school, or he'd be disappointed when trick-or-treat time came---or worse, that he'd feel pressured by the world around him to do something he really didn't want to do. But we did a few Halloweenish things together, to show him that it doesn't have to be all about creepy animatronic witches and gory face paint.

We picked pumpkins and carved them into the faces Sweet Boy drew; he helped me pick out the candy we'd give out to trick-or-treaters; he sang all the Halloween songs he learned at school. When Halloween morning arrived, and I woke him up with a "Boo!" my silly little boy smiled enormously and said, "Why didn't you tell me it's Halloween today?!" He scrambled out of bed to put on his new Darth Vader winter hat, picked out a black t-shirt and sweat pants, said "What kind of shoes does Darth Hayden wear?" as he put on his sneakers, and grabbed his toy Lightsaber. Darth Hayden partied all day in his own Halloweenie way, looking more like a rapper than an ubervillain, but he wore a smile on his face the entire time.

When trick-or-treat came around, it was drizzling, then pouring (and I was thanking my lucky stars to have the only kid on the planet who didn't want to troll for candy this year). We three sat in the driveway with our candlelit jack-o-lanterns and our bowl full of goodies, and Sweet Boy put candy in every child's bag. He sprinkled them with "Ooh, I like your costume!" and "Are you Batman? I love Batman!" and "Look, Daddy, it's Yoda!" He didn't flinch when the grizzly zombie masked boy arrived (Mommy averted her eyes), and he didn't seem to even notice the horrible sound effects coming from the haunted house on the corner. As the rain came down harder, he happily ate his special swirly lollipop in the tailgate of Daddy's car, and when the last trick-or-treater had come and gone, we snuggled into bed to read a book as usual. He looked up at me with those wide hazel eyes and said, "Mom, I had a really fun time today."

And there you have it: Once again I worried too much for no reason. Once again I have seen that when my kid makes up his mind, that's it. (By the way, I am proud that he stuck to his guns on this Halloween issue.) And once again I learned from him that sometimes the best holidays are the ones you do differently.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Talking through the big questions

Sweet Boy and I were riding in the car last week with both cats wailing in the back seat. We were on our way to the animal shelter for annual shots, when the discussion turned to the cat we had put to sleep before SB was born. "Simon the Cat is dead now?" Sweet Boy asked. "Yes, baby, he's dead now, but he had a good life."

And I'm sure you can see where the conversation went from here:
SB: Mommy, are you going to die someday?
[Oh. Lord. Help me. This is the conversation I've been dreading since I found out I was pregnant 5+ years ago! Take a breath, Mom, you can handle this...]
Me: Yes, honey, I'll die someday. But not until I'm much older and you're much older and we have a very long happy life together.
[Whew. Maybe that's enough...please let's talk about all the animals we'll see today...]
SB: OK. When you're old? Really old, like Great Gramma?
Me: Yes, honey, really old. Probably even older than Great Gramma.
[Which is an all-out lie. I am all too aware that even parents die too soon, but of course I can't say that to this sweet child who is working it all through right now.]
SB: Is Great Gramma gonna die?
Me: Someday, yes. Everyone dies someday. It's a part of life. Remember that movie The Lion King, when they talked about the circle of life?
[Because all of life's major lessons can be learned from Disney movies, right?]
SB: Oh. OK. So will I die too someday?
[Oh crap. Don't go there!]

Me: Yes, honey. We all will die someday. But not for a long, long, long, long time. I promise. Please don't worry. What kinds of animals do you think we'll see today? Do you think they'll have any guinea pigs at the shelter this time?
[Divert! Divert!]

SB: Hmph. I don't want to die, Mommy. That sounds sad. But will I go to heaven?Me: Yes, sweetie, you will go to heaven. And I believe heaven is a wonderful place where you have everything you ever dreamed of.
SB: Will my Jodi Bear be there too?
Me: Yes. And you can eat whatever you want for dinner every day!
SB: Will God be there?
[Oh my goodness. This is what I get for taking him to Sunday school, isn't it?]
Me: Yes, babe, God will be there. Remember, you're a child of God? He'll be thrilled to see you in heaven.
SB: And because God makes everything, he can remake me when I get to heaven, right?
[Wow. Now we're getting into some Eastern philosophies, aren't we? OK, go with it, Mom.]
Me: That's a nice idea, isn't it? You can get remade in heaven.
SB: Yeah. That would be cool. I can come back then and be your little boy again.
And this is the moment I had to pull over to take a breath and get myself together.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Know what makes me want to yell?

The headline on one of the most ridiculous NYT articles I have ever seen reads: "For some parents, shouting is the new spanking." Interesting that this appears in the Fashion & Style section of the Times, but whatever. I'll read on...only to discover that now, according to this nonsense article, we need to add yelling to the list of things we should not be doing as parents. Okie doke. That's reasonable.

There are a number of choice quotes in this piece, but here are a few of my favorite:
"Parental yelling today may be partly a releasing of stress for multitasking, overachieving adults, parenting experts say." (Translation: Focus all your energy on your child, not on running your household, volunteering at church, or your outside-the-home job.)
"Psychologists and psychiatrists generally say yelling should be avoided. It’s at best ineffective (the more you do it the more the child tunes it out) and at worse damaging to a child’s sense of well-being and self-esteem." (Translation: It's much healthier psychologically for your child to run all over you than for you to express any sort of anger. Ever.)
"...while spanking is considered taboo by the major medical and psychological associations, there are still some religious and conservative groups who support it as an effective disciplinary tool....But...'There is no group of Americans that advocate yelling as a parenting style.'" (Translation: Not even religious zealots think yelling is ok, so really, you should feel lower than low for raising your voice last night when little Jimmy flushed his toys down the toilet and flooded the bathroom.)
But here is my favorite bullcrap tip:
"Experts suggest figuring out ways to prevent situations that make you most prone to yell."
Wow. Thanks for that piece of advice. Too bad the only way I can think of to prevent situations that make me most prone to yell would be to stay in bed all day long. Which is not really an option since I'm a frazzled, overwrought, under-rested, impatient, multitasking, working mother. Hmph.

So, in light of this new piece of parenting wisdom, let's recap the Guilty Mommy Commandments together:
  1. Thou shalt not work outside the home.
  2. Thou shalt not feed your child anything from a can, box, or bottle that contains any type of preservative or added sugar.
  3. Thou shalt not let your child watch television, especially the kind with commercials.
  4. Thou shalt not buy toys made outside the USA because they may contain lead.
  5. Thou shalt not allow your child to play in your yard unattended because there are lunatics lurking everywhere.
  6. Thou shalt not spank. Ever. Big no-no.
  7. Thou shalt not even threaten to spank.
  8. Thou shalt not put a child in time-out for more minutes than his/her age, no matter how much time you need to cool off in order to avoid spanking or threatening a spanking.
  9. Thou shalt not yell.
  10. Thou shalt not ever become frustrated because that leads to yelling. Which leads to crying. Which leads to you feeding your child salty, processed snacks in front of an episode of SpongeBob because you feel so guilty and ashamed.
Got it? Good. If we all just follow these simple guidelines, we will raise happy, healthy, overindulged, pansy-ass kids with sensitive digestive tracts and no idea how to cope with anything other than sunshine and rainbows.

By the way, instead of yelling at or spanking my child, I am now considering this mom's approach as the most sensible:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A taste of what's to come

One of my favorite traditions at the end of my work-at-home days is to power down the computer and go for a walk around the neighborhood with my Sweet Boy. It's a time for both of us to decompress and reconnect, to notice the simple things that make us smile, to hold hands and breathe deeply. During the fall, it's also a time to collect pine cones, ooh-and-ahh and the "burning trees" maxing out their colors, listen to the high school marching band warming up on the other side of the hill.

Today Sweet Boy took his scooter out with us on our walk. This scooter is way too small for him, the kind with the two wheels on the back, but I can tell he feels much more comfortable on it than on his (much hated) bicycle. He's mastered this little scooter, and he's proud of himself when he rides it. And he feels like a big kid on it, like the grade school kids who skateboard up and down our street.

About halfway around the block we encountered three boys from the neighborhood, all between the ages of 8 and 11, and all who live within a few houses of us. They were skateboarding and playing in the creek. While SB and I threw monkey balls into the creek, the boys came over and started talking to us. In fact, I quickly realized, they were talking to Sweet Boy, showing off for him by climbing over the railings at the creek and jumping from one muddy bank to the other, demonstrating how you can drop sticks into the sewer and see them come out on the other side of the street, doing tricks on their skateboards. Boy stuff, for sure.

Oh, you should have seen the stars in Sweet Boys eyes. These big boys are talking to me! They want to show me how to climb down into the creek! They want to show me their scooters! He joined in a couple times with "Watch how fast I can go!" and the boys cheered for him as he raced scooter down the sidewalk. They talked about their schools and SpongeBob. The boys told him of a legend of an alligator in the sewer -- and then the oldest boy, sensing SB's nervousness, said, "but don't worry...that was a long time ago, when my dad was a kid." Sweet Boy responded by snapping his hands like an alligator jaw and laughing.

What really struck me about this encounter was that Sweet Boy had no trepidation about joining in with these three kids who were so obviously older than him. He was one of the gang immediately, though his awe at being included was obvious. I caught a glimpse of my little guy growing up right before me, like in those 10 minutes he crossed the invisible line between toddler and boy. One minute I was holding on to the back of his pants as he leaned over the railing of the creek, the next minute I could picture him zooming down the street on his own skateboard. It's hard to describe the emotion in those moments -- proud of him, wanting to protect him, backing off to let him interact -- my heart was full and shattering at the same time.

As we left for home, he called "See you later, buddies!" and they all called him buddy right back. A giant smile on his face and a spring in his step, he turned back into my little boy again, reaching up and grasping my hand as we turned the corner. He beamed up at me and said, with all the desire in his oversized heart, "I wish I could be a big boy like my new friends."

Soon enough, lovebug, soon enough.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Winky? Hoo-ha? Who knows!

Once again we sat with baited breath (and maxed-out bladder) at an ultrasound appointment, only to discover that our unborn child is a modest little stinkerpants. Here's the exact conversation as the procedure wound down, at the big drum-rolling climax of the scene:

U/S tech: OK, let's find out if this is a pink baby or's the's the's between the legs...ummm...this is the umbilical cord...umm...hmm...
Me: What do you think, Bachman? Do you see a winky?
Chris: Um, I don't see what you're even talking about.
U/S tech: Well, here's the left leg, here's the right leg, here's the butt...jeez, this kid is in a bad spot...
Me: [Wincing as the tech digs that little wand into my belly to cajole baby out of its cozy spot] I don't see a it a...?
Chris: No, wait, I see it...what's that?
U/S tech: I'm gonna say girl...but's that?
Me: I don't see anything.
Chris: What is that? Umbilical?
U/S tech: Oh, man, I don't know...I didn't see anything before, but that is definitely something now...but Baby is all jammed up against the placenta and here's the's hard to might be the umbilical cord, or it might be a might be nothing...
Me: What? I don't see a winky...where?
U/S tech: I don't know...I can't really tell...
Me: But I've been having girl vibes! Move it around some more...want me to do jumping jacks or hold my breath or something?
U/S tech: Sorry. I just can't tell. Maybe at your next ultrasound.
U/S tech: [shakes her head] Sorry. I can't say, and I don't want to guess wrong. Good luck! [And she speeds out of the room while we sit starting at each other in silence.]

So that's that. We don't know if Baby is a he or a she. And as we walked out, I felt bummed -- I was really hoping to prepare my brain, bond a little with my new son or daughter...not to mention prepare Big Brother (who won't even listen to the possibility of a baby sister) and paint the nursery and choose a name and get stuff together. Drat.

But as the day goes on, I've regained perspective. We have a healthy, very active baby growing in there, and up until a few months ago I didn't think that would happen ever again. I saw his/her head and heart and spine and legs and arms and foot -- I saw our baby's little foot! I caught a glimpse of a miracle, saw a tiny 11-oz. person swimming around inside me. And that makes me giddy-teary-happy.

I suppose, too, there's something to be said for the "last big surprise" on the day I get to look this little stinker in the eyes and say hello, my love, we're so happy you're here (now you're in time out for not cooperating at your ultrasound!).

As my sister so deftly put it, "You've got plenty of time --and so does Sweet Boy -- to figure out what it means to have a brother or sister while your infant is changing from a seemingly genderless mass-blob of breastfeeding and pooping hilarity into a real human being that cares about colors and toys and stuff." True. Very true. And like I keep telling Sweet Boy, there's really no difference between teaching a brother or a sister all you know about life; your little sister can play with trucks with you just as well as your little brother can play the piano with you, right?

Stay tuned, then, for the ongoing saga of Is It a Winky or Is It a Hoo-Ha? To be continued around, oh, mid-March.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When expecting, expect the unexpected

There's a lot that goes on while one is expecting that is, in fact, unexpected. For instance, there are times you sneeze and come close to peeing your pants...hmm, unexpected. Or sometimes you step on the scale and find you've gained five pounds in a week, even though you've been nauseous and sleeping most of that time...also unexpected. Bad skin is unexpected, since everyone talks about glowing and whatnot. And widening feet is fairly odd and unexpected.

But my favorite unexpected moments come when you break the news that you're knocked up to friends, family, and colleagues. Here is just a sampling of my favorite reactions to the big news, collected from both my pregnancies:
  • Are you sure Chris is the father? (asked by one of my husband's female colleagues at a Christmas party...fabulous)
  • Will you breastfeed? (asked by a male coworker during my first pregnancy, while standing with a group of people at a lunch function)
  • Why?
  • Oh, thank God, I was afraid you'd never give that poor kid a sibling.
  • It better be a girl this time!
And my #1 most unexpected reaction -- from my dad, of all people:
  • Again?!
Today, however, I received a really nice unexpected reaction when I told one of my colleagues: His eyes teared up, and he said with a big grin, "Family is #1, Tor. You've got it right, and this news really makes me happy." Good words, unexpected moment.