Das Big Boy has a song from school to the tune of Frère Jacques. It goes:
Friends are special, friends are special.
Yes they are. Yes they are.
We take turns when talking. We take turns when talking.
We need friends. We need friends.
Not so sure about the third line, especially as it applies to me and Rocky and me and ‘Burban Bestie. (I’m still waiting for one of us to finish a story without getting side-tracked.)
But the fourth line is spot on. Friends are coming up big for me today. It was a great morning, during which Rocky and I took the little ladies and Das Big Boy to Jam Time, an indoor playspace that our kids adore. She let me vent/confess about my recent short fuse which has gotten Das Big Boy and me into what I must admit is a mutual tantrum cycle. I’m trying to be better. I’m even–gasp–reading parenting books (something I don’t do). But I’m definitely someone who doesn’t want to be a yeller who has done some yelling recently.
Anyway, probably thanks to our fun morning, it was a good day. But it somehow became a crummy evening. I should know better than to attempt an evening errand followed by an organized craft project, but I did. We actually got through that, but dinner time descended into grumpy town. I yelled, and Das Big Boy scratched the wall to deliberately make me mad, which was ear-splitting, but also struck me as clever. And maybe scary.
Anyway, we ultimately made up. I apologized (I think it’s good to let your kids know if your behavior has been less than ideal. Shows room for growth, or self-awareness, or something.) And he’s very good at apologizing for behavior, too. A few extra snuggles at bedtime seems to have sorted it.
And now ‘Burban Bestie is coming over for wine gab, which always recenters me. So I’ll unwind a bit and be fresh for tomorrow (because, oh yeah, Herr Husband is gone until Friday after bedtime). Send me some zen mama vibes, please!
We’ve all internalized enough Oprah to know that one of the best ways to feel happy is to practice gratitude. Appropriate in light of tomorrow, obviously, when I’ll probably write a quick post from the car with pics of my kids at Thanksgiving.
So tonight, I’ll try listing some things from today that made me grateful. Please note that I tried to teach Das Big Boy the concept of gratitude. I told him I was grateful for him, his daddy, and his sister, then asked what he was grateful for, explaining that he feels grateful for the things he’s really glad he has.
“I’m grateful for my trucks,” he told me.
“That’s definitely true,” I said. “What are some other things or people you’re really glad are in your life?”
“Mommy,” he said. Good boy.
“And…” I prompted.
“And Daddy and [Little Liebchen].”
“Those are wonderful things to be grateful for,” I told him.
So my list from today:
I’m so incredibly grateful for all the positive feedback I received on my Ferguson post. Thank you all. It feels good knowing that so many people from so many different facets of my life are on the same side. Gives me the tiniest sliver of hope.
I’m grateful that my parents watched Das Big Boy this morning so I could take Little Liebchen to our adorable parent/child class, where she sits as close as possible to the teacher and hangs on her every word, except when she’s trying to get me or one of the kids to play chase.
I’m grateful that today I had lunch with my kids, parents, and 101-year-old grandmother.
I’m grateful that Mo [college roommate bestie] came over this evening, and embraced her role as beloved auntie to my children. I’m glad Das Big Boy crawled into her lap as if she were here every day, ate a TURKEY (not beef) hot dog for her at dinner, and even let her wash his hair. I’m glad LL decided Mo wasn’t a babysitter and flirted shamelessly with her. I’m so grateful that Mo fits right into our family even though she lives 3000 miles away.
I’m grateful that Herr Husband manned the fort so Mo and I could go to dinner at The Farmhouse (of course) and talk about work, life, kids, men, communication styles, dietary restrictions, and high-waisted jeans (Hers looked amazing! Look for some on me ASAP!).
I’m grateful for family and friends, for good food and shelter, for health and healthcare, for passions like social justice and literature and frivolities like fashion, for growing older and wiser but for still feeling like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing some of the time. For this tiny patch of the universe on which I can spew my thoughts, both silly and profound. And for wine. Especially that Montepulciano from dinner.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Let’s keep putting that love and gratitude out into the world. With a little bit of that fight, too.
I hate that my Ferguson post has to be short. You may hate that I’m writing one at all. So we’ll call it even.
A lot of things break my heart about the fact that an eighteen-year-old young man was killed by a police officer, and that said officer doesn’t even have to stand trial for his death.
But this is, for better for worse, mostly a mom blog. So I’m going to look at this as a mom. A mom whose heart broke for Trayvon Martin, for Eric Garner, for Tamir Rice, and of course for Michael Brown. And for so many more. And for their mothers.
Because here’s the thing. We all worry about our children. A lot. I may even worry about my son more than most (and it’s not a contest, but I can tell you that I worry more about him than I do about my full-term daughter. His start was scary, and I may never get over it.).
Of the five women with whom I became close while Das Big Boy was in the NICU, four were women of color. Two of those women have sons. I know they poured every ounce of worry and love into their sons just as I did into mine. I know they worry to this day. But they have a worry I don’t. Because their sons are black. And that’s an injustice that really, really pains me. They have to worry that some people may respond to their sons with fear or aggression just because they are black. And that sucks, because we moms, especially we preemie moms, have enough to worry about.
I’ve broken some laws in my day. I needn’t detail them here. But if you went to college with me, you know what I mean. And my sole brush with law enforcement illustrates perfectly the concept of white privilege, that unearned privilege that my children will inherit from me unless our world changes.
I was twenty-two, recently graduated from college. A friend from high school and another friend’s ex-boyfriend and I took a cab home from a Boston bar to a Wellesley street in an effort to find the first friend’s ex-boyfriend. My friend may have vomited in the cab. I may have offered, in the ultimate act of lady chivalry, to wear her pukey shirt so we could spread out the stink. We may have changed clothes in the street. Someone (wisely) called the police. Surprise! The police did not even chide us. They drove us home to our parents’ respective mansions with friendly banter the whole way. Not a word about keeping it down at 2 am, nary a suggestion to lay off the booze, not even an allusion to any puke stink. How do you think that would have gone down if we’d been three black young adults in Wellesley, (a town where for every 1000 residents, 110.3 black people are arrested while only 9.4 white people are arrested)? And that, people, is white privilege. It doesn’t mean that all white people are overtly racist (although some of them are). It means our social structures benefit white people.
So what can a mad white mom from the suburbs do? How do we raise children who will work for justice and equality, who will reject their privilege or extend it to everyone?
I don’t have big or great ideas. I have little ones. But I’m going to try them and hope they help. And I hope you’ll share your ideas for teaching our children as well.
1) Read children’s books with black protagonists. My community is pretty white. My son has one black classmate. My daughter thinks the African-American baby on the diaper box is Rudy (daughter of our friends the Huxtables, who are South and East Asian). But I’m a big believer in familiarity being possible through art, too, and in that familiarity building understanding. So I’m going to get my children five books for the holidays that feature black protagonists. When I’ve chosen them, I’ll share the titles.
2) Give money to an organization that advances racial and social justice. It’s holiday time, when we all pick our charities. I’m always nagging you to give to preemies and lungs and hearts. This year, I also gave to The Southern Poverty Law Center.
3) Start talking about race and justice with my children early. Earlier than may be comfortable. I heard on NPR once that the average age at which black families start discussing race with their children is three, whereas in white families it’s thirteen. Because for black children it’s a fact of life and experience, but for white children, it’s an external, even intellectual exercise. It’s why kids can describe black culture but not white culture. White privilege again. But clearly the hippie love stuff–we’re all the same, yada yada–that we white liberals (or me white liberal) have always been fond of doesn’t work so well. We need to have conversations about race from an earlier age. I’m going to research this one, too. But if you have ideas, let me know.
4. Don’t stay quiet. I’m not saying I plan to get in a flame war on Facebook or a throw down at Thanksgiving dinner. But I do have to say that most of the people responding to Ferguson with dismay on my FB feed last night were either a) people of color b) sociology graduate students/professors or c) superpolitical people (and I DON’T think this is a political issue). But I know more of us care. We can share our thoughts without getting into fights. I’m going to try to do so.
5. Put more love into the universe in general. This is a goal toward which I’m always striving. Be kinder. Less gossipy. More tolerant. More patient. I’m trying to teach this kindness and generosity to my children, too. I’ll write about those strategies on another day, because I don’t want to detract from today’s goal of doing something about racism, however small, in my own white suburban mom way, in my own white suburban family.
Peace. Really, I mean it. Peace.
Das Big Boy learned about the notion of toadstools today, and the results were predictably hilarious. We got about an hour and a half of fun out of the concept. First we made moon sand mushrooms that we discovered were toadstools, and then he fed me mushrooms that were secretly toadstools. Finally, I pretended to be his three favorite doctors at their pediatrician’s practice, who were giving him the antidote to the toadstools. Only each time I was actually a witch who was giving him yet another toadstool. It was pretty high concept.
Tonight the kids and I went to dinner with Gigi. While we waited for our table, we went to the toy store, where Little Liebchen loaded every baby bottle in the store into a mini shopping cart. If we tried to stop her, she said things like, “”I want the cart,” and “No. I shop.” But finally, I got her to say and do, “Clean up juice.”
It was a lovely day for the Husband Hausfraus, or at least for the Hipster and her offspring. Herr Husband was at work. But we three walked to Trader Joe’s, had lunch at Sweet Corner, made a UPS truck out of an Amazon box (that had ironically arrived via Fed Ex), and capped it off with a delightful wine-fueled play date with ‘Burban Bestie and her babes.
But the day was not without a teachable moment, which I feel duty bound to share.
Sometimes, when Hipster Hausfrau is walking around her idyllic suburb, she starts to feel a little boss. It began at TJs, where they were playing “Tell Me Something Good.”
Who doesn’t want to dance when they hear that song? And one great thing about children is that they totally legitimize singing and dancing in the grocery store. What a great mom, people think, totally unafraid to make an ass of herself in order to keep those babies happy. To be fair, what I really wanted to do was cut loose with some hair swinging, getting low, grinding it out stripper dancing, but I held back. Almost entirely. And then my smugsbyness continued on the walk to lunch; this may have been related to my outfit choice which involved skinny jeans, legwarmers, and some gray go-go type boots with little heels. I confess that I may have been checking myself out in store windows.
After lunch, at which the children earned accolades for their behavior, I was basically feeling like hot shit as I strolled home.
And then the weight of the food I had purchased to feed my family outweighed my children, thereby causing the stroller to tip back in middle of the street, such that my children and groceries were flat on their backs and I was flat on my face. Yup. I totally bit it. Blame the heels on the boots.
But anyway, the kids were totally fine, the groceries were totally fine, and I was totally fine. Not even embarrassed because when I’m in a good mood, things like this immediately strike me as hilarious. But oddly, the woman who had pulled up as I was crossing the street just sat there. She, her daughter (about my age), and two grandchildren (about my kids’ ages) waited patiently as I checked on my kids, adjusted my groceries, and dusted myself off. I waved an apology, and she nodded.
But then she drove off. Didn’t roll down her window to ask if I needed help or even if the kids and I were ok.
What the fuck is up with that?
I would have gotten out of the car to make sure the mom was ok. Isn’t that what friendly, busybody-small-town living is all about?
Asshole, I muttered. And not that quietly. It’s a word I know Das Big Boy already has access to, because I am usually careful about my swearing until I’m not, and he once informed me that a truck was fixing some assholes in the street.
But then I realized this was a teachable moment.
“What do you think that lady should have said to us?” I asked DBB.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“When she saw that we had fallen, I think she should have asked us…” I looked at him expectantly.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
“Exactly.” I told him. “Are you ok? Do you need help?”
So that’s my lesson people. I guess it’s two lessons. If you think you’re hot stuff, the universe will remind you to take it down a level. But also, if you see your fellow man (or mom) in trouble, help a sister out. Don’t ignore her because you’re worried she might be embarrassed or you’re in some all-fired hurry.
Check on people.
Make sure they’re ok.
Show a little love.
Tell me something good.
What a bitch.
I’m talking about the comeuppance I received at 6:45 this morning. Not the perpetrator of said comeuppance–though the B-word would totally describe Das Big Boy this morning–but the swift reality check after last night’s bliss. When Little Liebchen and I went into greet him, he noticed my Kindle which reminded him that he broke my previous Kindle. (Through no fault of his own. I let him use it on the potty and he dropped it at just the wrong angle. Amazon replaced it for free! (Thanks, Amazon! It’s true that they do lots of evil stuff but their customer service really is INCREDIBLE. Probably the best I’ve ever encountered.)). Anyway, this breakage memory reminded me that he’d broken a souvenir cup while climbing on his shelves last night, per our awesome sitter’s report. Not the biggest deal either, but I wanted to remind him that climbing is not ok.
But thinking about things he’d broken sent him into a huge, epic tantrum that lasted almost an hour. Lots of tears and yelling and door slamming and saying he wanted to throw things. These days, he’s having a lot of issues with guilt, and I’m trying to help him process his feelings while letting him know that tantrums are not the way to express them. Not sure how well it’s working and I welcome your suggestions. A wise Red Baroness once told me that the terrible twos were a misnomer, that really it was the terrible threes and the fuck-you fours. Pretty sure she was on to something. For every bit cuter and funnier and more chatty and charming Das Big Boy becomes with age, he also becomes more challenging. Thus is life, I guess. But I wanted you to know that this morning I totally paid for what I got last night. Proving that every time you start to hate me for the charmed life I sometimes portray on this blog, I get what’s coming to me.
But we got the grumpies out of the way before eight am, and then were free to do things like go to the mall (where the wing-dinger was LL; do NOT try to get between that child and a toy stroller). But we actually had a lovely time and they let me shop (by which I mean I stashed them in the double stroller and shopped), and then we played with toys we had no intention of buying. And on the way home we went to the car wash! It was a first for the kids (and for my three-year-old car). They loved it and were impressed to see the famous bird poop finally washed away.
Gigi and Papa then called to invite Das Big Boy on an outing, so they took him to the fire station and for lunch while LL napped and I cleaned out my car. Herr Husband and Rocky are the only people who can fully attest to what an epic undertaking this was, although I suppose anyone who’s peeked into the car at a preschool drop-off also knows the extent of the mess (and has surely judged me harshly for it). Seriously, last week DBB had a chat with a police officer through his open window and I was afraid the officer was going to run my plates and call child protective services. Now the car is just dirty as opposed to dirty and messy. Once it’s fully clean, I’ll post before and after pictures. Maybe.
Tonight we had our usual dads-away dinner with Dr. G. and her beautiful brood. The topic turned to college rapists. Dr. G.’s five-year-old daughter took an interest in the conversation, but Dr. G. managed to convince her we were talking about grapes, and guys we’d known whom we’d called grapes because they’d eaten a lot of blueberries which stained their skin. Little Lady G. was unfazed by this logic. Sigh. If only campus grapes were the biggest danger facing young women….
And then LL took off her pants for no reason in the restaurant.
Now both kids are in bed and I have some HGTV coming to me. I *never* got the appeal until about a month ago, when a sitter left it on. And now I feel like Love it or List it basically sums up my life. Any thoughts out there? Should I love my house or list it?
NB: my mother and husband believe that I like looking at real estate because the houses are clean and organized, not necessarily because they are empirically better than my house. Not sure I can refute this theory.
I’m dating myself. Not in the way in which I make myself look old in front of the babysitter by talking about Thanksgiving pep rallies, but in the way in which I take myself on a date.
And it’s fucking awesome.
I’ve always loved dining in restaurants alone. A book, yummy food, wine, people watching and weird chit chat with strangers. It’s a joy I associate with travel, but something one can do anywhere, even in her hometown.
So yeah. Herr Husband is traveling for work all weekend, and our fantastic babysitter was available tonight. So I decided to take myself out.
I had a ninety minute massage. (Courtney at Lotus is a goddess. She has that sixth sense where she finds all your tension and presses it out of you. See her now. But not while I’m seeing her.)
Then I took myself out to dinner. I first fell in love with dining alone when I lived with a Spanish family in college. I was a newly minted vegetarian, and some nights their garden salad efforts at feeding my weird palate (“Estás segura que no quieres probar el cordero?”) just weren’t cutting it. So I would fake a study group and sneak off to the restaurant around the corner with my book and postcards on which to write deeply philosophical and revelatory notes to my high school boyfriend. The restauranteurs found my requests for gazpacho increasingly odd as autumn wore on, but they humored me with their deliciously cold soup and their cozy Rioja and left me to my my late-adolescent musings. The last time I remember dining solo was on a research trip to Germany shortly before I got pregnant with Das Big Boy. And once again, that combination of a book, wine, food, and writing materials was just perfect as I tried to trace my grandmother’s footsteps all over Berlin.
But once you have kids, it’s hard to mark out time to dine alone. I wouldn’t choose it over a date with Herr Husband, because we get so few of those. And when I do ditch him (or when he ditches me) it’s usually for friends. So I’ve inadvertently abandoned one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
No more. Tonight it was the wonderful Farmhouse for Montepulciano, kale salad, and cheese plate. And make a note of it people, it is possible to experience Euro-style solo dining fun in suburbia. I walked to dinner. I had a glass of wine paid for by a stranger: a fellow mom (of older kids) whom I’d just met who clearly appreciated my efforts at me-time. [Shout out and big thanks to Charlotte!]. And I ate yummy food including dessert and coffee. I read my book, The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe, because yes, I adore the charming #1 Ladies Detective Agency novels. I thought thoughts and remembered memories and breathed and relaxed and smiled to myself about my sweet family. I chatted with the bartender about his impending baby. I walked home and bumped into my neighbor the life coach and enjoyed his friendly if unsolicited advice. My (amazing) babysitter said all was well. My children slept.
Life was good.
So here it is, people. I’m not going to make November 7 international date yourself day, if for no other reason than it would make getting a babysitter really fucking hard. But I insist you all date yourselves. We parents talk about me time but I don’t think we’re good at it. We come home and the kids are awake and we’re right back in the thick of it. We choose to go out with friends or our partners because we don’t get enough time with them as it is. But I insist. Go out by yourself. Dining alone is the best, but if you’re too shy, just go get a cup of coffee alone. Take yourself out. You’ll find you’re excellent company (and if you’re not, I do know a life coach you can call…).