Mermaids are a Boy’s Best Friend

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Just as we had hoped, kindergarten has been a year of enormous growth for our son. As evidence his pants are further from the ground each day, his teeth are dropping faster than the temps on the East Coast, and his adorable “Boston” accent is gone thanks to a record-setting articulation intervention for his r’s. (We had a Wodney Wat situation going on, which apparently isn’t so cute to kindergarten teachers who focus on phonetics).

While I celebrate the many achievements and milestones along the way, I have to admit to feeling relieved when I see glimpses of lingering youthful innocence. Simply put, the kid still loves mermaids. Sigh.

Here’s to not growing up too fast.

You didn’t have to grow up in the 80’s with a Jewish mother and you don’t have to love the (hysterical!) TV series The Goldbergs to appreciate the significance of the mother-son dynamic. Or the mother-child relationship in general. Can you fault a mom who is never satiated by enough “snuggies” from her “yummy” kid who “smells like the dryer?”

Here’s to the Beverly Goldbergs of the world.

Back to the mermaid. She sits next to me now as I write. This gorgeous creature was created by a spectacular balloon artist who entertains at the hip eatery Snooze on Sundays. Waiting for our pancakes, we saw that she was making the rounds and flagged her down as she approached our table. At first my son requested a puppy because it was safe. A safe bet for both of them. Somehow–perhaps after seeing the fantastic mermaid he had drawn on his placemat–the balloon artist knew that puppies weren’t really his thing. Gently and subtly she encourage him to challenge her skills.

“Would you like a merman? I did one for the bartender the other day. It came out great!” She assured him.

Bashfully my son shook his head.

“Oh, a mermaid? I think I can do one of those. But you need to tell me what color hair you’d like her to have.”

And with that we were all captivated. Yes, she twisted balloons into a fantastic form with uncommon skill. But, moreover, she read the mind and heart of a child, and celebrated a spirit that is often dismissively squashed. Yes, even Santa has second-guessed my son’s requests, and the cashiers at Target have questioned his choices. But the balloon artist? No, she was inspired by his creation. The result was one incredible mermaid and one ecstatic little boy.

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Unconventional Date Night

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Last weekend I volunteered my husband for a group camping excursion with my daughter. She was thrilled. He was less so. Off they went, leaving me on a mini-vacation. As anyone with children knows, the next best thing to unloading all of your kids is enjoying time with just one of them.

My son had big plans for us. We began with some holiday shopping–he has excellent taste and an appreciation for style that I lack. Barbie came with us of course. We read stories to one another–with his reading skills I have a new-found appreciation for Pinkalicious. We ate by candlelight–he insisted on a “fancy dinner” of ravioli, thereby foiling my plans of not cooking. A small price to pay for such a chivalrous gesture.Truly a homebody, he opted for two pieces of his Halloween loot in lieu of a trip to the ice cream store.

I think deep down my son cherishes tranquility as much as I do. He even noted at “fancy dinner” how nice the quiet was with just the two of us. After dinner we cuddled by the TV for a program, read some more and then he fell asleep as I snuggled with him in his bed, vying for space amid the dolls and animals.

It was, however unconventional, the best date night I’ve had in a while.

Dark Side of Neverland

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Never send me to Neverland. It’s filled with souls who refuse to grow up. And boy are we experiencing some growing pains. It hasn’t been our shining week. The principal to whom one of my kids was sent assures me that “it’s all a process.” By that does she mean a process though which I might lose my mind? Then my other kiddo had an altercation which required words with the teacher. Now I know for certain where I have been sent: Never-Lord-of-the-Flies-Land.

In this magical place I am trying to govern with limited success. Here, where mermaids are adored and loin clothes are sported, good spars with evil, yielding an uncertain outcome each and every time. Daily I am left to wonder if civilization and righteousness are taught or inherited?

I look at my son who admittedly makes a darling Peter Pan. Note, I did not choose to share the photo in which he depicts Peter Pan’s death scene, with foam dagger situated across throat and arrow positioned in a rather unfortunate, not to mention sensitive, area. Lord of the Flies indeed.  I wonder about innocence and promise; can they be maintained, and moreover, if they are lost can they be reclaimed?

It’s impossible not to think of my father on this day, which marks three years since his passing. I remember him at his finest– an individual of grace and integrity. He was larger than life, but at some point, as proved by fantastic black-and-white photos he, too, had been young and impressionable, testing personas from cowboy to boy scout. I see my son in those photos, and I see my father in my son. Should he be so lucky to turn his own measure of promise into a life so fulfilled .

I’d love to know if my father had any mischievous moments or perhaps a meeting with the principal? Let’s pretend it was possible, because then I’d have hope that we might eventually depart Never-Lord-of-the-Flies-Land with innocence intact and promise to nurture. Whether we decide to grow up or we wait for rescue we will emerge having conquered the process.

Riding Waves

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By 6:43 this morning I wanted to divorce my children. In any given moment all they need to do is look at one another and the squabbling begins. Refereeing is my least favorite part of parenting without doubt.  It sours my whole day, which is unfortunate when it starts before the day begins.

This morning conflict set in before the second was one even awake. No innocent bystander, she had not-so-passive-aggressively reclaimed a stuffed puppy from him as he snored and sweated in deep slumber. When he couldn’t find said dog upon waking all hell broke loose. She then dared to chastise him for waking her with his emotional outburst! He, in turn, took it out me when I sequestered the pup. Being the bad guy is a crappy job. Why again did I choose this?

Over the weekend I took my daughter to visit a beloved teacher’s newly adopted baby. She had many questions, and I would expect no less. The best by far:

When you adopt a baby does it come with a list of things the baby needs?

I couldn’t help but laugh. Of course there is no list; in this case the baby was handed over with four diapers, a half-can of formula and no name. The situation is no different for birth parents: no user’s manual provided. Each day we wing it, and with each day come the waves of emotions as intense, continuous and unpredictable as day one.

I’m not going to pretend that the emotional highs outnumber the emotional lows. But I will say that the peaks–however few and far between–are what make this parenting thing worthwhile. Last Wednesday was case in point.

From the moment I retrieved the clowns from school they were happy, kind, patient and darling. Off to the beach we went so that my daughter could surf and my son could, as per usual, avoid the sand and water–a challenging task given the circumstance.

Then something completely unforeseen happened: he ran headlong into the water, no parent attached. He let the waves crash over him, enveloping his whole being. With unbridled joy he played in that ocean as if this, in Rapunzel’s words, was the best day ever! This beach boy persona was a side to him that I had never, never seen and now absolutely adore. All those cursed hours of freezing cold mom-and-tot swim lessons and even colder (and much heavier) koala-carries in the ocean were forgiven.

Blood, sweat, tears yield this golden moment. And to top it off, he begged to go to the beach over the weekend so that he could try surfing. Who better to teach him than his surfer sister, who on that magical day caught her first wave from the outside and rode it all the way in? Fast forward to Saturday. With an unprecedented collaboration and fellowship of trust, she gave him some pointers, placed him on that board, turned him to catch his first wave. Up he popped.

No matter that the magical Wednesday was capped off with a ginormous night-time pee accident.

Riding waves indeed.

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The Birth Canal is a One Way Street

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When I think of a childfree life it is not one of glamour, adventure, romance, travel and leisure that I envision. Nope– it’s much more basic, encompassing the minutiae of life. It’s sitting down to a meal where the first bite isn’t interrupted by someone suddenly needing the potty. It’s sleeping consistently without someone screeching from night terrors or dropped Pillow Pets. It’s getting out of a car without cleaning the spilled contents of un-spillable milk boxes that have seeped into the crevices. It’s reading Time Magazine’s The Childfree Life on the toilet, undisturbed.

Clearly my dreams are not lofty. For me the short hours of the school day (thank you, September) most closely resemble a childfree life. Oh to go for a run post-drop-off alone in Torrey Pines is simply blissful! Or to be out in the open waters, surrounded by old school surf dudes and some (gentle) marine life–paradise!

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And when I want solitary time–no people, no conversation, no kids– I might find myself here where a swim in a most perfect pool is just two bucks.

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And of course there is the productivity component: being able to accomplish the goals of the day that require a chaos-free environment such as offering nutrition advice, composing blog posts and writing my yet-to-be-published children’s stories. This is my childfree life.

According to the article in Time Magazine some opt for life sans-children because instead of reproducing they pursued interests, talents and careers that yield a certain lifestyle–one that is comfortable and fulfilling. Why change all that?

I had children fairly young, though not according to North Carolina standards where we were living at the time. There if you don’t have several kids by your late 20’s you were deemed barren. Or so it seemed. I finished school, including a graduate degree, and happily worked for $16.50 per hour.  I enjoyed a comfortable life, but not one so luxurious or exotic that introducing kids might complicate. Into this life Thing One arrived. And we were happy. By the time Thing Two joined us our lifestyle hadn’t evolved too much. In fact, living standards had declined due to our move to the pricier New Jersey. And we made the decision to rely on one income largely because my chosen field was not exactly lucrative. Nannies and daycare would be more costly than my own attempts at raising the clowns.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t question my choice. At least once a day. I think anyone who claims that he or she doesn’t at times pine for a childfree life is not being truthful. I’m the first to admit that I am completely challenged, frustrated and depleted by my kids. It’s all too easy to imagine what I’d do with my time without them. So much activity and productivity!

Let me pose this question: would I appreciate a childfree life as much if I were actually childfree? It’s like East Coasters maintaining that they need the seasons to appreciate good weather. West Coasters (particularly down in the SoCal) don’t buy it: living in Utopia doesn’t make it any less satisfying.

But of this I am sure: the birth canal is a one way street. You can’t put the kids back (though no doubt one of mine would climb right in if he could). The fact is I do love my kids.  And the last thing I do before turning in at night is remind myself of that. I take a peek at them sleeping, a peaceful snapshot in which they truly are adorable and almost angelic.

I am also quite certain that had I opted for a childfree life, this would be the image I’d conjure when inevitably pining for children.

 

 

A Tiger’s Funeral

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Have you ever been to a funeral for a tiger? Nor have I. Apparently one took place just the other day right here in this house, but I was banned. I would have brought purple flowers to express my condolences.

The tiger had been a victim of drowning. For that my son holds me accountable. But I wasn’t the one who peed in my bed, resulting in having to wash all items from the bed–tigers included. Yet he doesn’t take responsibility for the tragic accident, maintaining:

Someone peed in my bed….and it wasn’t me!

Regardless of the culprit (and I have my suspicions), everything went straight into the wash in several shifts. I have a finely tuned system, as a veteran should. This time I enlightened my son, involving him in the process from carrying the pee-sheets to re-making the bed so that he might begin to appreciate the answer to the commonly asked question:

What do you do when we are   ______________? (Fill in the blank with any of the following)

  • at school
  • at camp
  • sleeping
  • playing
  • completely unaware of what it takes to keep the household going

Indeed the tiger may have drowned. But he smells a lot better now. Perhaps the tale of the tiger’s funeral will come in handy when I need to remind my kids that even when I inadvertently cause heartache, I’m looking out not only for their olfactory senses, but for their entire moral fiber.

Duchess Kate: No Rest for the Royal?

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Nary a hair out of place, Duchess Kate stepped out of the private hospital wing and into the media frenzy. She looked no different (and no less gorgeous) than when we saw her last, only this time the baby was not in her belly but in her arms. Perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, perfectly perfect. Isn’t that how we all felt having just produced a human? At least that’s what she claimed–she is feeling what any new parent experiences. Um, not quite. I’m pretty sure my experience, the ordinary birthing process, was not even close. Perhaps the only commonality is that underneath all of her glam, I’m fairly certain that some of her royal areas are seriously smarting.

Birthing is birthing, whether you’re pushing out king or commoner. But from there nothing is the same. Most moms struggle to shower and dress. We don’t have a personal hairdresser meet us at the hospital. On top of always having washed hair, I’m guessing that Duchess Kate won’t walk around smelling like sour milk–or worse. If she ever does feel like a real new parent she won’t ever let us see it.

This likely won’t change even as her regal offspring grow. Sometimes I think I have yet to emerge from the new parent haze. Eight and a half years in I’m as frazzled as ever and my spawn are no more civilized than when they first arrived. Last night’s dinner was case in point. It’s as if they weren’t in camp all day with the amount of energy they were able to expend popping out of their seats. It was like a prolonged pee-pee dance but without the biological urgency. Thing One was spewing bits of egg that finally stuck to Thing Two’s elbow. Thing Two had chocolate pudding up his nose–only after trying to lick it off his finger. Apparently we still haven’t discovered the meaning of a napkin. And then there was the miniature polar bear flashlight that took an unexpected plunge into the cup of milk.

“IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!”

It’s always an accident.

Except when it’s intentional. Between the two were are in a perpetual state of behavior modification!

I love a good irony. Yesterday when the world was waiting with bated breath (or some of us realized we could set the DVR to CNN) to catch a glimpse of this royal little angel my darling child went off to camp dressed as a red-hot devil. It was alphabet soup day; she chose D for devil. Why?

“That way I can be naughty.”

There’s something to be said for spirited children: they keep you on your toes. I don’t have time to be tired. I’m just glad that I don’t have cameras chasing me around in my haze. Poor Duchess Kate isn’t so fortunate. One day after the immaculate introduction of Britain’s Prince George she’s captured on camera with her flowing mane thrown into a less-than-fabulous ponytail and presumably tired eyes guarded by over-sized sunglasses.

Rest up, Kate, it’s only just begun. If raising a devil is hard work, rearing a future king is simply unimaginable.