More field notes from the front lines of parenthood

* I previously posted about how the second pregnancy is different from the first – but in what ways is it the same? Well, I’ve been lucky enough to never suffer nausea; because of my poor sense of smell, presumably, odors don’t bother me; the closest thing to a craving I’ve had is a slight urge to drink more fruit juice on a regular basis; I still hate how most maternity pants have no pockets (though I say this while realizing that because you have to constantly hike the stupid pants up all day, weighed down pockets might make the issue that much worse); peculiar to me, I think, my shins occasionally itch like mad, usually at night; I once again feel wildly self-conscious about the popped meat thermometer belly button; and because I walk through life naturally giving off a “don’t even think about touching me” vibe – which admittedly provided challenges in my dating days of yore – I have yet to suffer a stranger touching my belly. For the last thing, I am truly thankful.

* I’ve been wondering lately precisely how many times we will have to prompt Lily before she starts automatically including “please” with any and all requests. Currently, I’d estimate that we’ve posed the question, “How do you ask nicely?” about 14,000 times, and it’s gotten really old – and automatic, not surprisingly, so that on the rare occasion when she’s said “please” to start with, I catch myself saying, “How do you – oh. Right.”

* Perhaps the upside of her hearing this sentence construction thousands of times already is that she has demonstrated a decent grasp of adverbs at age two, which warms my writer-geek heart. “Walk slowly, Mama,” she’ll say, or “She’s not feeling very well.” Bless her little grammatically correct heart.

* When I don’t have to review a show on Friday night, and sometimes even when I do, we try to have Shabbos dinner. So we light candles, say the prayers (yes, I’ve phonetically learned the Hebrew, after much practice), and after clinking glasses, Lily has learned to say, “Shabbat shalom, Mommy and Daddy.” She has no idea what these rituals are all about, of course; and I’m merely riding on the coattails of Joe’s culture; but I will say that I really like that this has already been established as a simple tradition in our family, and that Lily embraces it and feels a part of it.

* In a similar vein, I recently bought a Passover book from her pre-school book order, and it’s truly bizarre. It’s based on The Gingerbread Man, but it’s the Matsoh Man, who everyone ends up eating at the seder. I don’t know what Lily thought of this story, but like the afikomen, I may be hiding this book. It just creeped me out a little.

* We’re mostly through the “I’m going to see how much I can control you” stuff, I think, but this morning, it reared its ugly head again by way of Lily insisting that I go put on the red shirt I was wearing yesterday. I refused, and this didn’t go well. She screamed and screamed at me, pulling on my sleeve, and this time, I thought, “I’ve got a lot to do before leaving. Why don’t I do these things instead of watching her turn purple?” So I said, “I don’t respond to people who scream at me,” and I unloaded the dishwasher, went upstairs to put in my contact lenses, etc. All the while, she pathetically tailed me every step of the way, squalling and bawling. The strategy eventually led to her calling it quits, which pleased me. But then I remind myself that one of the many frustrating, maddening things about parenting is that what works today won’t work tomorrow. Peace is always a moving target, and you’ve got to keep moving with it – which gets exhausting, but it’s simply part of the game.

* On a recent morning, Lily refused to let me change her diaper and get her dressed, I received an angry work e-mail, and the dishwasher flooded the kitchen floor. This last event was my cue to lose it. So just as water poured out everywhere, the floodgates inside me burst, and I bent over to cry for a minute. Lily was in the midst of doing something I asked her not to do, of course, but to her credit, she dropped it upon seeing me upset and ran to me, opening her arms wide to hug me. “It’s OK, Mommy,” she said. “It’s OK.”

“Thank you, sweetie,” I said. “Mommy’s just tired and sad this morning. But hugs always help. They help a lot. Thank you.”

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see signs of empathy in Lily at such a young age. On the walk to preschool that morning, I thanked her again for hugging me and added, “I’m really proud of you for giving me a hug when you saw that I was sad. That was exactly the right thing to do, and I appreciate it.”

* Lily’s going through a fabulous phase just now, wherein she’ll sing made up songs and words for long stretches of time. (She sometimes sings the whole way on our morning walk from the door of our house to the door of pre-school – often while making naked Barbies dance in her hands.) Not always, but the tune often vaguely resembles “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Here she is in action:

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