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Archive for June, 2013

June 27, 2013 Because

“Mommy, why is the sky blue?” “Mommy, why eat dinner? Eddie no want dinner.” “Why go bed? But Why?” We are officially in the ‘Why?’ stage.

This morning, my two-year-old son, Eddie, said he had to make a poopy, so I asked him if he wanted to go on the potty. I could smell that he’d already gone in his pants, but he never tells me beforehand, so I’m left trying to potty train him after the fact, like rushing to catch a school bus that’s already departed. Surprisingly, he said he did want to go on the potty.

Reading material for the potty.

Reading material for the potty.

I carried him into the bathroom and placed him on his little children’s toilet and said, “Here,” and handed him a book.

“You can read a book while you’re on the potty, just like mommy and daddy,” I said.

I figured if he reads books on the potty like we do, perhaps he’d poop like we do.

He looked down at the book, “Why?”

“Why, what?” I said.

“Why read potty?”

“Why do we read on the potty?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Hmmm. I don’t know,” I said. “Because it gives us something to do?”

I didn’t want to get into how it takes me a long time to make poopy because I don’t drink enough water, but I knew he wasn’t going to be satisfied with the answer I gave him.

“Why give something to do?” he asked.

“Because it’s boring to just sit there,” I said. I picked up one of his books, and said, “Let’s read,” and I began to read, because sometimes the only way to stop the endless stream of why’s is to sever the conversation, like cutting the strands of Play-Doh as they’re oozing out of the fun factory.

The interesting thing about responding every time he says “why” is that you begin to see how your thinking doesn’t always make sense. This evening, we went to walk a neighbor’s dog, and Eddie wanted to hold the dog’s leash so my husband handed it to him. Eddie began to run with the dog, pulling on his leash so that the dog would follow, when it seemed like at that moment in time, the dog preferred to just dawdle and sniff.

“Eddie, let the doggie pee,” I said.

My son kept pulling on the leash and then started to trot again, as the dog was trying to urinate.

“Eddie, stop. Let him go to the bathroom,” I said.

Mommy, why do they line the trees up like soldiers?

Mommy, why do they line the trees up like soldiers?

My son stopped for a moment but then began trotting, and the dog began to trot behind him. But the dog soon found a spot on which he wanted to pee, and he tried to stop, but my son kept tugging on his leash.

My husband started to take the leash from my son’s hand, but Eddie wouldn’t let go.

“I do it,” Eddie said.

“Eddie, let daddy do it,” I said.

“No, Eddie do it!” my son said, grabbing on to the leash more tightly.

When my husband tried to take the leash away, Eddie began to cry.

“Buddy, let daddy hold the leash,” I said.

“Why?” he said, tearfully.

“Because you have to let the dog stop and go to the bathroom,” I said.

“Why?”

“Because that’s why we’re out here. So he can go to the bathroom,” I said.

A few minutes later, Eddie managed to get ahold of the leash again. Now, the dog wanted to run and Eddie was trying to hold him back.

“Hey, pal, let the doggie run,” I said, knowing I was saying the exact opposite of what I’d just told him.

“Why?” he said.

“Because the doggie hasn’t been out for a while, and he wants to run,” I said.

“But why?”

“Just because,” I said.

Sometimes “why” seems to perform a function, like as a way of keeping the conversation going when he has so few words at his disposal. And then sometimes the “why’s” feel like his way of wrestling away control in a relationship where he has so little. My husband sometimes does this on the phone when he detects I want to get off: he’ll start asking questions to keep me on, and then when I start answering them, he’ll say he has to go.

Sometimes “why” seems almost profound, like today, when I pointed out how someone had put a large plastic fish around the outside of their mailbox. The flap of the mailbox opened inside the fish’s mouth.

“Look, Eddie. It’s a fish. Their mailbox is a fish,” I said, pointing out the car window.

“Why?” he said.

I looked at the mailbox and thought about it. “I have no idea,” I said.

I guess we all struggle to understand the things that go on around us. I remember when my husband and I first started dating, he had tickets to see a Red Sox game. The seats were in a corporate box, and he told me he hoped I didn’t mind, but it was going to be a “Guys Night Out.” Of course I didn’t mind, I said – until he returned home that night and told me his brother and his best friend had both brought their girlfriends. It was basically a party in the corporate box, with food and drinks, and everyone had brought their spouses. I asked him why he didn’t think to bring me, and he said, he thought it was going to be just the guys.

“But why did you think that, and they didn’t?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just thought it was going to be the guys.”

“But why?” I said.

“I just figured it’s a baseball game. It’s a guy thing,” he said, wishing he’d acted differently.

“But why did you think it was a guy thing, and they didn’t?” I asked, wishing he’d acted differently.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said.

“Maybe you want to hang out with your friends more than you want to hang out with me,” I said.

“No, I don’t,” he said, like a cornered animal.

“But I just don’t understand why, when push comes to shove, all things being equal, they thought to bring their girlfriends, and you didn’t? I just don’t get it,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“I know you’re sorry. I know. I just don’t understand why you did it,” I said.

Sometimes, “Why?” means, “How could you do that to me?”

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Some find the concept of Karma reassuring. “I’m a good person, therefore, the universe is nice to me.” The concept of Karma, in the hands of a neurotic like myself, can be a prison sentence, like having a Siamese twin who’s a back seat driver. “You know you missed your train because you cut that person off at the toll plaza.” “You shouldn’t have given your neighbor the finger. That’s why you stubbed your toe.”

My karma’s not all bad. If I find a good parking spot, I’ll think it’s because I gave money to juvenile diabetes at the grocery store. If I manage to get the last everything bagel at my local café, it’s because I had helped an old woman cross the street.

Drained the bath to get rid of the poop

Drained the bath to get rid of the poop

Such was my thinking the other day when I went to pick up a piece of paper from the floor of my office, and as I lifted my head, I whacked it on the corner of a bookcase, nearly knocking myself out. I put my two-year old son, Eddie, in the bath, and as I got showered and dressed next to him, he pooped in the bathtub. I tried to scoop the stool out with his plastic dump truck, but it kept breaking up in my hands. I hosed Eddie down and went to put him on our bed to get dressed, but my husband had rolled around the beach in his pants and there was now about a quart of sand all over our bedspread, coating my son’s wet body like breading on a chicken cutlet.

Things didn’t go any better down in the kitchen. As I made Eddie an omelet, I tried to coat the pan with butter, but it wouldn’t come off the knife so I flicked it, and it went all over the wall. I then burnt the omelet and in trying to salvage it, wound up serving my son what looked like a plate of confetti. He tried to eat it, but pieces of egg kept falling into his lap and onto the floor so I grabbed a dish towel to spread out on his lap to catch the food. But as I opened it, I saw it was encrusted with food, as if someone had used it to wipe up tomato, and the seeds were now dried into the cloth as if they were part of the pattern. I wasn’t sure what I’d done now to deserve this spate of mishaps but I was sure it was something.

I dropped Eddie off at day care and then rushed over to my local café to have breakfast and work for a few hours. I sat near the window, as I usually do, but after a few minutes, a massive 18-wheeler truck parked in front of the café, blocking all of the natural light.

It seemed incongruous to see such a large truck in our small town. In parking there, the truck not only took up half the road, but the whole line of cars parked diagonally in front of the café were now blocked in. For the first time all morning, I felt lucky: I’d parked farther down the street.

A truck pulled down a utility pole.

A truck pulled down a utility pole.

Just then I noticed my friend, George, walking briskly down the street, his cell phone in his hand, seeming like he was in crisis. I figured his was among the cars now blocked in. Moments later, the truck moved. Good fortune must have smiled on George, given how quickly he was able to locate the driver.

Suddenly, there was commotion in the street a few doors down from the café. A waiter from the café ran outside to see what happened. He returned and said as the truck had driven down the street, its trailer was too tall, and it pulled down a power line, which came crashing down on a few cars. I feared my car was among those damaged, but the waiter described the cars that had been hit and neither was mine. It turns out one of them belonged to George. When the power line came down, it took a tree limb with it, and it fell on George’s windshield.

I picked up my son, and we drove to the grocery store to pick up some items for dinner. The lot was full but as I went up the aisle looking for parking, I saw the spot designated for “patrons with small children” was empty. That never happens. Perhaps my luck was changing.

As we walked into the store, it was so sunny I put on my sunglasses. We shopped for about twenty minutes and headed back out to the parking lot. As we emerged from the store, the skies opened up, and there was a torrential downpour. We were not going to be able to get to the car without getting soaked. Perhaps my luck wasn’t changing after all.

Some people don't mind rain.

Some people don’t mind rain.

I waited with my son, who was still seated in the grocery cart, under a roof just outside the store’s entrance, hoping the rain would pass. As I stared out at the parking lot, looking at the deep puddles already forming, I noticed a man at the far end of the lot walking slowly toward the store, completely oblivious to the rain. He was about 80 and was wearing a pastel blue golf shirt. As people ran past him, ducking down as if that would help keep them drier, the man strolled leisurely across the lot as if it wasn’t raining at all.

“You seemed completely unphased by that rain. I wondered whether you were even getting wet,” I said as he got closer.

“A little water never hurt anybody,” he said and smiled.

As he walked off, I thought the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who need everything to go right in order to be happy, and those who can be happy regardless of how things go. I wished I was the latter. I vowed to try harder.

Just then, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I pushed my son in the grocery cart toward our car. For now, I still need the sun to shine in order to smile.

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Today is Day 12 of the WordCount Blogathon, a day designated for inviting guest posters onto your blog. I am featuring writer and mom Denise Schipani, who blogs at “Mean Moms Rule.”

Elderly primigravida. That’s what I was called when I got pregnant for the first time at 35 (my first son was born when I was 36). Not just me, of course; that completely charm-free phrase is the official stamp the medical community puts on us aging reproducers, never mind that (a) women much younger than me have trouble getting and staying pregnant, and I had neither issue; and (b) women older than me have children all the time. Elderly? I get I was – am — older than your typical mother of grade-school kids (I’m turning 47 this month), but elderly I am not. Nor am I alone.

It’s only now, ten-and-a-half years later, that I realize that age really is just a number, though it’s a number that we “elderly” moms find ourselves playing with (adding to, subtracting from, comparing with) in our heads all. the. time. I call it older-mother math.

I’m the child of a young mother. In fact I had the youngest mom on the block, back in the day. My mom got married at 19 and had my sister nine months and five days later (your basic honeymoon baby). She had me when she was 23.

And then she and my dad got their birth-control act together and didn’t contemplate a third child until she was 31. That’s when my brother was born. I tell this story to illustrate one of those formative events in my young life: My mother frequently told me, both in so many words and obliquely, that 31 was a good age to become a mother. It was when she was ready to be a mom, when she felt relaxed and grown up, but not so grown up that she’d grown out of the whole thing. My sister and I were in school full time, of course (me in second grade, my sister in fifth), and back then that meant we were far more independent than, say, my own kids are. She knew what to do, and she delighted in my brother in ways she didn’t with my sister or me (which is not to say she didn’t love us, of course; it was just… different).

So I thought, not surprisingly, that 31 would be an excellent age for me to have a baby. Life did not agree with me. I was engaged to be married when I was 30, but my fiancé had other ideas, and the relationship imploded four months before the big day. I didn’t meet the man who would become my for-real, forever husband until I was almost 33.

Then time flew. We got married one year and seven months after we met. A year later, I stopped taking the pill. Daniel was born two days after our second anniversary, and James, 23 months after that. And as they’ve grown, the calculator in my head clicks and clacks constantly. When Daniel graduates high school, I will be 54. My mother was 38 when I graduated high school. My mother became a grandmother at 44 (my sister started early, too). When I was 44, my younger boy was finishing up kindergarten. And as for my chances at grandchildren? I’d say they’re good, but not so good that I’ll be dancing at my grandchild’s wedding, as my parents just did at my niece’s wedding last fall.denise blog photo

I admit that when I thought about my parents having a fabulous time at their granddaughter’s wedding, I did some of my usual older-mom math and felt sour.

But lately I’ve been trying to quit the calculations. Is it too simple to say that I am who I am, I had my kids when I had them, because that’s how the world spun for me? And I was lucky, so so lucky that it turned out the way it did, with a great husband and two sturdy, healthy, crazy boys. What happens next, well, it’s not something I can balance like a checkbook.

Because really, maybe I won’t have or see grandkids at all. Only a couple of weeks after dancing together at that same wedding last fall, a cousin of mine lost her husband, who was the same age as I am. They had two boys the same age as mine. It was a car accident. One moment he was on his way home on a rainy night to resume a life that he probably assumed would someday involve high school graduations, college graduations, weddings and maybe grandchildren, and the next, a shock wave rippled through the family and everything changed, forever.

When I was an elderly primigravida, everything changed for me, forever. But what does forever mean? I can’t add that up just yet.

Denise Schipani is the author of Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later (Sourcebooks, 2012). She blogs at Mean Moms Rule.

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We took our two-year old son, Eddie, to Puerto Rico.  On his first day at the hotel pool, he so enjoyed swimming, it was hard to get him out of the water. As he splashed around by the stairs, he met a boy called Noah, who had a sack of little rubber sea animals. Eddie kept admiring them, and Noah let him play with one, a red octopus that Eddie kept calling “Applepus.” When we stopped by Walgreen’s that night, I spotted the same sack of sea animals and bought them so Eddie could have a bag of his own.

The following day at the pool, Eddie dumped his sack of sea animals into the water, but instead of swimming and splashing around as he’d done the day before, he stood near the top of the stairs with his arms extended like a corral, trying to keep all of the animals from floating away – and into someone else’s hands.

“Why don’t you let them go? They’re fish, buddy. They want to swim,” I said, adding, “If someone takes one, we’ll get it back.”

The coveted sack of toys

The coveted sack of toys

“No,” he said, reining the animals in even closer.

My son’s attitude reminded me of a scene from the documentary, “Swimming to Cambodia,” in which performance artist Spalding Gray talks about his involvement in making the film, “The Killing Fields.” Gray tells about how after the filming, the crew went to a beach that was the most beautiful he’d ever seen. He threw his stuff down on the perfect white sand and ran out into the clear blue water, and as he lay back and relaxed in what could only be described as paradise, he suddenly remembered he’d left his wallet on the beach. From then on, as he bobbed up and down, all he could think about was his wallet. He imagined little arrows going from his head out in the water to his wallet back on the sand, from his head out in the water to his wallet back on the sand.

My son’s unwavering desire to protect his toys was so strong, it had rendered him inert. He was afraid to move off the first step of the pool. I finally convinced him to set the animals free, and as soon as he did, a young boy came by with a pail and started plucking them up and depositing them in his bucket like he was harvesting blueberries. Eddie grabbed the two left bobbing in the water before the young boy could seize them.

“You’re hoarding them,” I teased the young boy.

I turned to the woman watching him. “He’s hoarding,” I said.

“Give them back,” she instructed the little boy.

He didn’t want to. I found a truck on the side of the pool and handed it the little boy.

He took Eddie's applepus

He took Eddie’s applepus

“Here,” I said, and as I handed it to him, I took his pail and dumped the animals back out in front of my son. I felt like a prisoner bartering cigarettes to get my own belongings back.

When Noah and his mother arrived, she spotted Eddie’s plastic toys. “You found them! I see Eddie has his own now,” she said.

“Yes, but geez, trying to hold on to them is hard. Everybody wants them,” I said.

“I know. I only let Noah take a few down to the pool now, after we lost so many,” she said.

Just then, a brutish looking boy of about six, who had a square face like a cartoon thug, sidled up next to us on the stairs and seized Eddie’s blue hippopotamus. I’d seen him taking something from one of his siblings the day before, leaving them in tears. I snatched the animal out of his hand, quietly, so his parents wouldn’t see.

After he left, a young girl leaned toward me and said, “I don’t want to let him use my float because he takes it and doesn’t give it back.”

I looked over at the boy and the children next to him, who were screaming because one of them had taken someone else’s purple noodle. In another corner of the pool, a brother and sister were fighting over a plastic truck. I suddenly realized everyone was arguing over stuff. Even the pigeons on the side of the pool were pecking at each other because one got a hold of a French fry and the other two wanted it.

In fact the wrangling over stuff was going on at both of the hotel’s pools. I even saw a tussle out on the beach over pails and shovels and who should get to use the plastic yellow boat. I know this because I moved between the pools and the beach early that morning to reserve us two lounge chairs at each, staking out our turf with towels, sunglasses and bottles of suntan oil. I feared if we grew unsatisfied with one location, by the time we moved to another, all the seats there would be occupied.

Even the pigeons fought over scraps

Even the pigeons fought over scraps

That night, we went to Old San Juan, where pieces of the wall that once fortified the city were still standing in some spots. The Spanish inhabited Puerto Rico, which in English means “rich port,” after Columbus came upon it in 1492. But for the next two centuries, the Spaniards had to fend off attacks by the French, the English and the Dutch. The Spanish wound up building the wall after the Dutch landed on Puerto Rico and attacked, as they tried to plunder the island of its riches.

The following morning, we brought Eddie back to the pool, and he played with his little plastic animals but was more preoccupied with the inflatable green ring we’d purchased – though it was a little big for him. As he floated past a family with a young child, they offered to lend us their inflatable ring, the front of which was shaped like a toucan and was smaller and more suitable for a two-year old. Eddie had been eyeing the bird for hours. He floated back and forth in the pool on their ring, grasping on to his red octopus, a blue dolphin, and a blue shark. When the young boy who owned the inflatable ring saw Eddie’s blue dolphin, he wanted to play with it.

“Dopheen,” the boy said.

Eddie tried to ignore him.

“Dopheen,” the boy said as Eddie floated past him again.

“Why don’t you give him the dolphin, pal? You’ve got two other toys,” I said.

“No,” Eddie said firmly.

The Spanish built a wall around San Juan after the Dutch attacked.

The Spanish built a wall around San Juan after the Dutch attacked.

“Sharing is good. You get more stuff when you share,” I said, a message that may have been a bit cryptic for a child to understand.

“No,” he said adamantly.

I said it more clearly this time. “You’re using his float. Let him play with your dolphin.”

Eddie looked down at the three toys in his hand, considered what to do, and thrust forward the blue shark, thinking the boy wouldn’t notice. Eddie then floated off.  Behind us, I could hear the little boy crying out, “Dopheen!” and reaching out in my son’s general direction.

The following morning, I woke up early and went out on the balcony of our hotel room, and as I looked out at the coastline and the vast blue sea, I thought this must be what the Spanish saw– just before the Dutch boats surrounded them and tried to take their stuff.

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This piece was originally posted in February. In honor of National Potty Training Week, I am republishing it today.

This morning, I placed my two-year-old son, Eddie, in his high chair and put a plate of bananas covered in peanut butter on his tray. He looked up at me with his little pinkies extended, and clearly, as one might say, “Hi,” or “Bye,” he said, “Fuk.”

Yes, I said, "Fuk."

Yes, I said, “Fuk.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Fuk,” he said. And once again with more emphasis, in case I didn’t hear him the first time. “Fuk!”

It was the third time he’d used that word this week, and every time he did, I thought, “Dammit. The fact that I have a foul mouth has finally come home to roost.”

Friends had warned me if I didn’t clean up my language, it was going to rub off on my son. Until now, Eddie wasn’t old enough to understand what I was saying. It appears that’s now changing.

I was never one to care about cursing in front of children. Before I had my son, I even resented having to curb my language. I hated the way when we’d visit friends with children, I couldn’t get a story out without constantly being interrupted with “Shuh!” or “Achem!” every time I said a four letter word. These same friends usually had prohibitions on anyone watching shows like “Law and Order” or “Family Guy,” in their homes because they deemed the language or subject matter to be inappropriate for children.

“So we all have to suffer?” I would think.

My husband has even gotten on my case about word choice.

“You know he said ‘Fuk,’ the other day,” my husband said.

“Yeah, I’ve heard him say that, too. I think he was talking about his ‘truck.’ I don’t know why he calls it that, but he meant ‘truck,’ “ I said.

“Yeah?” my husband said.

“Yeah,” I said.

While using profanity may not be genetic, the idea that it shouldn’t be verboten apparently is. My father thought the prohibition on cursing was ridiculous. But more than that, he thought such a prohibition actually encouraged it. To prove his point, he conducted a scientific experiment in our home when I was young. He told me and my brother that under no circumstance could we ever use the word, “Gherkin.” It was simply forbidden. And don’t you know, whenever I felt angry, the first word I would utter was, “Gherkin!” When I felt defiant? “Gherkin!” Frustrated? “Gherkin!” In our house, this miniature pickle was something to be avoided, not because it tasted bad, but because if you said it, you could get your mouth washed out with soap. When the experiment was over, and I could use the word “Gherkin” as freely as anyone else, I no longer said it, proving his point.

Years later, I replaced “Gherkin” with any number of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The words weren’t just alluring because they were prohibited. When I used them, I seemed to exude toughness, something I didn’t feel as a shy youth who was afraid to express her opinions. People seemed to think a girl who uses foul language eats nails for breakfast and can kick your butt, if not physically then verbally. Nothing says “strength” like a string of sewer-mouthed invectives.

Of course nothing says “disrespect” like a string of sewer-mouthed invectives, and that’s what I’ve finally come to realize. People have strong opinions about cursing. In a crowded room full of chatter, profanity is jarring. It sounds menacing, like shattering glass. When you use it, people form opinions about you that aren’t always good, just as they might form an opinion about someone who has a tattoo or a nose ring. And some of the people forming those opinions will be my son’s teachers or prospective friends. I figure Eddie’s got plenty of time to disenfranchise himself from the people around him. I should at least let him get to second grade before that starts happening.

A wild cussing animal

A wild cussing animal

But I know Eddie doesn’t have a chance in hell of keeping his mouth clean unless I clean up my own mouth, and I need to do it fast. He’s already begun mimicking the things me and my husband do. He’s started calling me, “Scay-bee,” the pet name my husband and I call each other. He takes tissues out of the tissue box and pretends to blow his nose, because he’s seen me do it. He sits briefly on his little training potty, grunts once and then says, “All done,” because he watches us. After seeing me put strips of first-aid tape on my chest so that when I go running, my bra doesn’t give me an abrasion, Eddie now asks for tape and then places it on his own chest, in the same spots I place mine.

My son’s daycare is in a church, and when I attended a Zumba class there the other day, I found myself standing next to the daycare’s director. I turned to her, after a particularly strenuous dance routine, and said, “Oh my god, my f—ing ankle is killing me!” As she looked up at me incredulously, I could feel the words float out of my mouth in slow motion the way people describe that moment in a car accident when their vehicle turns 180 degrees before crashing into the guardrail. It seems I need to curb my cursing not just in front of Eddie but in front of his teachers, lest they think I throw curse words around our home with impunity. Much in life is viewed like the “Broken Window Theory:” People will think if a parent allows cursing at home, what other dirty, filthy habits will they tolerate?

I watched Eddie in his high-chair, and he didn’t seem to be eating his bananas. He just sat there staring at them.

“Fuk,” he said again. He then pointed to a drawer of our kitchen cabinet.

“This?” I said and opened the drawer. “Fork!”

I took a fork out of the utensil tray and handed it to my son.

“Fuk,” he said, holding up the fork. He then speared one of the bananas and stuck it in his mouth and smiled.

There's a fucking WHAT behind me?

There’s a fucking WHAT behind me?

I was given a reprieve, but I knew it was only temporary. With Eddie now two, I was going to have to begin training my potty mouth now. Because I hear it only gets more challenging as time goes on.

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