Teaching “excuse me” in an “outta my way!” world

As someone who didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a mother, here’s a recent situation I’d never imagined starring in: sitting at the top of a three-story, enclosed swirly slide, I watch a 6 or 7 year old boy go down on his stomach, backwards, while gripping onto the slide, disappearing from view in small increments.

Here’s the echoing conversation that ensues between us: “I’m still in here!” he says.

ME: “My daughter’s waiting for her turn to go, please.”

BOY: “OK, I’ll go down this time. But don’t come back.”

ME: “That’s not very nice. And my daughter has as much right to ride the slide as you do.”

Then Lily and I rode down to, at the end, see this boy’s face hanging upside down above us, as if trying to intimidate us. Nice. Continue reading

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How a 2 year old salvaged a holiday traveling nightmare (no, I’m not kidding)

Much of this blog, inevitably, concentrates on the struggles and difficulties of raising a little one. (Wouldn’t be much of a blog if I regularly posted things like, “This parenting thing’s a breeze! No problems here, no sir!”) But after the day my little family and I had today, I felt compelled to share the way Lily, our 2 year old daughter, managed to make a pretty crummy, delay-riddled day of travel into a tolerable, downright relaxing experience.

In order to celebrate Christmas with my family, Joe, Lily and I had traveled to my father’s home in North Carolina late last week. We’ve done this for many years now (since my parents retired to NC in the late ’90s), and we’re accustomed to getting off the plane to find warmer (than Michigan) temps and sunshine. So it never dawned on us to check the weather forecast before leaving this year. Aren’t there already enough details to worry about during the holidays?

So imagine our surprise as we watched, through the windows in my father’s house, six or more inches of snow accumulate on Christmas Day. Now, I knew from my two-year grad school stint at the University of Georgia that snow both excites and terrifies many folks who live south of the Mason-Dixon line, and judging by the local television coverage of the storm, this notion certainly seemed to apply to the people of Western North Carolina. But Joe and I soon became far more wrapped up in the snow’s consequences for us, specifically. As we checked in on the multiple flight cancellations out of Asheville that day, and heard forecasts calling for another couple of inches of snow the next day (when we were scheduled to fly home), our hearts sank. It’s one thing to be staring down a delay or an isolated cancellation on a regular day; it’s another thing entirely to wonder how an extremely large, upset backlog of people, all of whom would (understandably) be scrambling and jockeying for spots on outgoing flights in the coming days, would eventually all get to their destination – us included. Continue reading

I’m dreaming of a “White Christmas” sing-along screening

Early this past fall, I took Lily to the nearby second-run movie theater to see if she might sit through “Toy Story 3” (we’d previously had a failed attempt when taking her to “How to Train Your Dragon”). I thought it might be a good option for the post-nap, pre-dinner portion of the day because, A, Joe had to work and prepare for his upcoming trial; B, the weather was expected to cloud over; C, it seemed more her speed than “Dragon” was going to be; and D, I really wanted to see the movie. (Yes, I’m that selfish.)

Amazingly, though the theater was already dark when we entered, and I had to feel my way carefully to a couple of empty seats, Lily sat in my lap and watched the movie in its entirety.

Now, she didn’t respond to things in the movie; she didn’t laugh at things, or even smile, from what I could tell. But at the same time, she didn’t get scared at times when I worried that she might (when the toys are headed toward an incinerator, for instance) because she didn’t understand enough to BE scared.

And generally, because Lily wasn’t reacting to the movie, I ended up feeling really guilty for taking her before she was probably capable of enjoying it. Had this been about me and my intense desire to watch a movie in a theater again – an event that’s become a rare treat? Did I let that yearning cloud my judgment as a parent?

I grasped at straws later, to make myself feel a little better. When Lily saw her Mr. Potato Head and said, “He was in the movie,” I thought, “YES!!” and asked, like a desperate, smitten teenager, “Did you like the movie?” “Yeah,” she said. But keep in mind, that might be her answer, too, if I were to ask her, “Do you think we should stay in Afghanistan?” or, “How about a toddler enema?” Continue reading

Some whine to go with that (mac and) cheese? And, Just call me Jeeves!

We’ve spent much more time with Lily lately than we usually get to – at the end of last week, I minimized her time at daycare upon hearing that a nasty stomach thing appeared to be making the rounds, and we traveled to Pennsylvania with her during the first three weekdays of this week – and for the most part, it’s been really fun. Unlike when she was a baby, she can now engage with you while playing, tell you what books she wants to read, color with little supervision for stretches of time, etc. And she also often says some pretty hilarious things, which is fun.

But then, there’s the down-side of a two-and-a-half year old. You know what I’m talking about. The whining. The trumped up weeping over nothing. The repeated grunting while reaching toward something vague. It’s baffling. She’s a verbal kid, and she talks a blue streak quite often. Yet even so, she often lately reverts to this kind of whining.

I suppose it’s inevitable, but it’s no less annoying for being predictable.

We’re trying to nip it in the bud, naturally, insisting that she use her words, and that she stop (pretending to) cry while asking for something. But it’s hard to keep your patience when she seems stuck in that mode. Hearing it is the toddler equivalent of listening to fingernails scrape down a chalkboard. Wish we could skip this particular phase. Continue reading

Barbie, our uninvited guest

Recently, Lily said, “I want a dollie.”

Now, she has three different baby dolls (rendered distinct by the monikers Old Baby, New Baby, and Weird Baby), as well as a rag doll kind of thing, so I asked about whether she was referring to any of those first. Nope.

I remembered then that she’d occasionally played with Barbies in the older kids’ playroom at her daycare, so I took a deep breath and reluctantly asked, “Do you mean a Barbie? You want a Barbie?”

“Yeah, a BOB-by,” she said, nodding emphatically. “With white hair in a ponytail. And wings.”

Admittedly, the last detail threw me a bit. But still, the dreaded B-word had been spoken. So I’m thinking that I’ll have to look past my own baggage regarding the iconic doll’s ludicrous, lifelong-body-issue-neuroses-inducing physical proportions and let my daughter explore her innocent desire to play with one.

Not that it would be the first, or only, Barbie in our house. But up until now, the others’ presence had been, well, subtle.

For a dear friend (and fellow “Project Runway” fanatic) had once given me a collectors’ edition Barbie. (In season 2 of the reality series, the contestants designed an outfit for Barbie, and the winning look was actually produced in a limited edition.) That doll sits in its box on the bookshelf in our bedroom, and Lily recently pointed at it and asked, “What’s that?”

Because the doll had been a gift, and because I’d generally hoped to minimize Barbie’s presence and influence in our daughter’s home, I said, “Well, sweetie, that doll is Mommy’s. A friend gave it to me, but I don’t take it out of the box, because it’s a special one.” Naturally, I felt profoundly silly and guilty while saying this – so guilty that my mind immediately combed through any other doll options that might be in the house that I could offer Lily as a substitute. Continue reading

Briefs

– Strangely, about six weeks ago, our little barfly, who liked to stay at daycare playing with me until the folks there threw us out at 6 p.m. each day, started wanting to go home immediately upon seeing me. So much for her being the Norm Peterson of the place. She still runs to me and gives me a big hug when I arrive, but now, rather than struggling to unbutton my jacket and urging me to stay, she then runs to her coat and says, “I want to go bye-bye.” Don’t know why this change occurred when it did, after more than a year of ritualized behavior, but there you are.

– For some reason, Lily didn’t want to take home three of her art projects (a painted apple, a painted pumpkin, and a colored turkey) from daycare. She spotted them packed in her lunch bag and said, “I don’t want to take those home. Leave them here.” Well, the pieces had been taken down and replaced with new projects, so I said, “No, they either get thrown in the trash can here, or we take them home. Why don’t we take them home, so Daddy can see them?” I thought for sure that the prospect of tossing them would alter her thinking on the matter. But by now, Mommy should know better than to try to outsmart a toddler. “Let’s throw them in the trash,” she said, grabbing them and walking toward the cabinet where the room’s wastebasket was. She dumped them in without a thought and went to do her new, patented coat flip so we could go home. Bizarre. And so random.

But something that was heartbreakingly sweet that came of the whole thing was that before Lily threw out the pieces, and I was asking if we could please take them home, she looked at me earnestly, brought her palm to her chest and said, “You can take me home, Mommy. But you can’t take the apple or the pumpkin.” She said this again as we walked home together, and I said, “I will happily take you home, sweetie, because I love you like crazy.” And it’s true.

The push-pull of parenting is so baffling. I make sure to give myself a little me-time each day before walking over to pick her up from daycare, but once I start heading there, I always have the urge to sprint there, because I suddenly can’t wait anymore to see her. It’s like I’m suddenly going to burst from missing her. Yes, she’ll surely do something to drive me absolutely batty shortly thereafter; but there’s just no explaining this crazy experience. Contradictions abound. Continue reading