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You are a natural born maker; this is a recent creation.

You are five years old.

You make emphatic gestures with your hands when you talk about something that excites you.

You love watching This Old House with Daddy and have a hard time understanding why there isn’t always a new episode to watch.

You also love watching car repair videos posted by Chris Fix, and consequently you recently asked Mama if she had a closed system transmission, which made her laugh, which made you a little bit angry.

You enjoy saying “wonky.”

You adore visiting Menard’s and Home Depot to spend quality time with the grills, snow blowers and washing machines. Halfway home from our last such excursion, you got upset that you forgot to visit the giant saw they use to custom cut lumber.

You insist on Mama chanting “happy dreams” right before she leaves your room at bedtime.

You want to know about how family and friends have died. Consequently you know what a stroke is, and that cancer is largely a mystery.

You love going to the symphony, and tried playing cymbals the last time you went.

You recently told Mama to use her words instead of yelling. Mama replied that she tries very hard to do that every day, but when she’s been asking the Boo to get his socks and shoes on for ten minutes, well…

You are already sad about leaving your best friend behind when you go to kindergarten.

You once again requested cake, and family to share it with, for your birthday party.

You get mad if we don’t let you help do things around the house.

You know the names of our both our old and new presidents.

You needed new shoes the week before Christmas, and were delighted to be able to look for, choose, and order them online.

You like watching Design Squad Nation, where teams of teenagers compete to solve specific engineering challenges. You were shocked to learn that the teenagers are not grownups, and you are quick to notice which teenager has an attitude problem.

You enjoy cooking with Mama, and increasingly want to be completely in charge of the process.

You know what “mise en place” means.

You spend a lot of time at your work table, often pretending to run experiments you’ve seen on Bill Nye the Science Guy or mumbling things about how to fix an engine.

You still enjoy a largely beige diet, though you are now more willing to try new things.

You shocked the pants off Mama by insisting on bringing broccoli for the class snack. You were upset that one kid told you never to bring it again; you haven’t.

 

You are five years old, and your curiosity knows no bounds.

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Image courtesy of MoWillemsDoodles.blogspot.com

It’s rare that I find a book I have no quibbles with, but this one is damn near perfect. I had no idea it existed until it called to me, loudly, from the Staff Picks shelf of my favorite library branch. 

You may know Mo Willems as the author of the super funny “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” and associatled children’s books. Turns out he’s been publishing small runs of sketchbooks every year for over 20 years. This coffee table book contains 20 of them, with cartoons ranging from hilarious to heartbreaking. There are also essays from his famous friends, but those don’t hold a candle to the simple genius of the man’s work. 

If you are an artist or writer, this book is for you. If you are a doodler or noodler, this book is for you. If you love cartoons, like to laugh or prefer your comedy smart, this is definitely the book for you. 

You get the idea. For more info, go here: http://mowillemsdoodles.blogspot.in/2013/05/dont-pigeonhole-me.html?m=1

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Last week I went to the Boo’s school open house, a lovely event where parents talk to teachers and learn more about what their kids have been up to. One of my favorite things about the evening is seeing the kids’ art, so I eagerly scanned the walls. This year, they’re doing self portraits. Here is the Boo’s:

As I saw it next to depictions of fully articulated hairdos and facial features, disappointment washed over me. We all stood around saying nice things about the drawings, and about the Boo’s, someone said, “Oh! Those are nostrils! That’s great!” So kind, really. I muttered something about my kid not being interested in drawing. Then one of the teachers said he’d been very willing to try. It was awkward, at least for me.

The morning after the open house, I asked the Boo a few open-ended questions about his self-portrait, and he answered them in a matter-of-fact way. Turns out that parent was right, those are nostrils. I sat there thinking about how nice it is that he’s cool with his drawing skills, and my mind wandered to the things he does well.

He can explain how an electric circuit works. He tells me (often) when I’ve skipped a word in a story he last heard a month ago. He is proficient with a screwdriver. He knows the French words for head, nose, eye and bottom, and most of the words to a Japanese children’s song.

And here’s the deal – I know that my child is mainly interested in drawing as it pertains to practical applications, like watching me sketch a diagram of a three-point turn:


Oh look, my little apple fell right next to the tree.

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A few nights ago we had a hellacious storm roll through at 3 a.m., a grand finale to three days of pouring rain that brought cooler temperatures and skyrocketing mold levels. It is exceedingly rare that the Boo wakes up during a storm, but this time the thunder shook the house and he emerged from his room, agitated and wide awake. 
I crawled into his bed with him and once the thunder subsided, kissed him and left. All was well until the next line of storms came through about half an hour later. He did try to go back to sleep on his own, but the continuing light show and his anticipation of more thunder was too much. Also, he suddenly became pregnant with two small bears, and who can sleep in that last trimester, right? And then he got hungry – a syndrome I understand, having eaten more than a few bowls of 4 a.m. cereal during my own sleepless nights. 

And so down we went, Cheerios for him, Honey Nut Cheerios for me, nearly silent, bathed in the glow of the dimmest light in the kitchen as the rain beat on the windows. It was peaceful and simple, and as much as I wanted to be sleeping, I looked over at my boy, planted a kiss on his head and thought, “Remember this. This is a Moment.” Days later, I realized why: the light, feeding him, the wee hours all took me back to his newborn days. Four-ish years ago, and four nights ago, the simple acts of cuddling him and feeding him brought deep contentment and satisfaction. 

We finished our cereal and the Boo fell asleep about an hour later, shortly after declaring, “I can’t rest because there’s nothing for me to do.” We were both a mess the next day, but that sweet kitchen moment kept swimming up to soften the rough edges.

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So there we were. We had sailed through the Boo’s follow-up eye appointment, which he was anxious about because they had surprised us with dilation drops last time. But he was on my lap, pleased about getting an eye chart with letters like I get instead of pictures that little kids get. Meanwhile, I was pleased that the technician had much a better kidside manner this time. 

And then she leaned over and whispered, “How old was he when you got him?”

I was confused, and I must have looked it, because she repeated her question. But what she was asking didn’t register until she pointed to his chart. There it was, in all caps: ADOPTED

I stammered, trying to find something to say that would set her straight without getting on my kid’s radar. He’s four, he has amazing antennae, and this was not the time to answer the 8,000 questions I knew he would have: what’s adopted, am I adopted, are you adopted, why do people adopt kids, why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast (he’s smart, but he is Very Four.)

“Um, that’s not accurate. My husband is from India.”

Now it was the technician’s turn to look confused. She said something about not knowing how the word got in there, then asked whether glaucoma runs in our families, crossed the word out and led us to a waiting area, saying the doctor would be with us soon.

I had a few minutes to collect myself and think back on our first visit, three months ago. I asked myself questions like, “Did anyone ask if my son was adopted?” and “Did I talk to anyone about how awesome adoption is?” and “Could I possibly have misunderstood a question about my kid being adopted, maybe when they were asking about family medical history?” No, nope, and almost certainly not. 

It’s not as if this is the first time someone has assumed my child is adopted because his skin tone is different than mine. And admittedly, it always hits a raw nerve because I fought like hell to have a baby. But this time it hit a new nerve, because it was in writing. That made it feel more official, and threw other people’s perceptions of my family into harsh focus. I started thinking about how many people make that assumption on a daily basis, and whether I should make a T-shirt made that says, “HE CAME OUT OF ME!” Maybe one for every day of the week for August, when we will be attached at the hip during the hiatus between Summer Camp and school? 

Okay, maybe not. Maybe I’ll just write the practice a polite letter explaining why we won’t be back: If they got that wrong, how many other mistakes are they making?

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  All parents have child care tasks they detest. Mine is brushing and flossing my kid’s teeth. I would seriously, honestly, rather wipe my kid’s butt ten times a day. And this week, I had an actual bona fide fight with my kid about the aformentioned and detested task.

The Boo has always been a bit silly about getting his teeth brushed, asking me to play the part of his dentist and demanding hugs when it’s my turn to brush. So I allow lots of time to get through the routine of letting him start, then hitting all the hidden spots before we take the same tack with flossing. It takes a while, but we get the job done and have a bit of fun along the way.

But this week was different. Maybe because he was home sick for two days, maybe because of the full moon, or maybe because he’s growing up a bit. Whatever the reason, he suddenly amped up the fake hug tactic, and it bugged me. I just wanted to get the job done and move on, but he wanted to make a never-ending story out of it. In frustration, I pushed him away mid-hug, and he pushed back. I made a speech in a loud voice, and he stuck his fingers in his ears. I yelled, and he yelled. Finally, I left the bathroom.

Eventually I got him to cooperate, but things were no better that night. After I blew him kisses and closed his door, words from a very wise parenting coach came back to me: You can’t have a tug of war if one person drops the rope.

The next morning, I dropped the rope – by telling him the truth.

Me: “Honey, can I tell you a secret?”

Boo, eyes wide: “Sure!”

Me: “I don’t like brushing your teeth. It’s not fun for me. I do it because it helps keep your teeth clean so you don’t have to get so much scraping done at the dentist. I don’t like the hugs you give me before I brush your teeth because they’re not real hugs. I prefer to have a real hug when we’re done.”

He was still listening, so I went on.

Me: “I’m done fighting with you about brushing your teeth. If you want me to help you, that’s great. But if you don’t want me to help you, that’s fine too. And that might mean more scraping and maybe a cavity.But it’s your choice. You get to decide.”

He thought about it, opened his mouth for flossing, and then started up the old games. I threw the flosser in the trash and walked out, saying I understood his choice. He protested and said he wanted me to floss, really, please floss.

I didn’t floss his teeth that morning. I reminded him of the choices again that night, and after reminding me that a cavity might be one of the consequences of not brushing, he opened his mouth like a baby bird. A baby bird that’s making his own choices.

And then the next day we were back to square one, or maybe square one and a half. So now I’m singing him a “mystery song” every time it’s my turn to brush or floss. It’s working, for now, and when it no longer works I’ll change my tactics again and cross my fingers. 

This, my friends, is life with a four-year-old. 

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I’ll have one of each, please.

We have had some successes on this week’s Voyage to the Land of Rainbow Foods, but since the Boo started wearing glasses on Thursday (!) I’ve dialed down the food efforts a bit. He’s got a lot on his plate, so to speak.

So I’ve had some time to think about my role in all this. And I’ve realized something: My expectations are getting in the way of our process.

For example. I have this vision in my head: I lovingly prepare a gorgeous pizza from scratch. I take it from the oven, let it cool to the perfect temperature, cut it into kid-size slices, and put one on a bright purple plate. I turn, place the plate in front of him, and he takes a bite. And smiles. And says, “Mama, I love this!” And then he eats it! The whole slice!

And then I snap out of it. Ain’t gonna happen. My fantasy is getting in the way of the reality in front of me, tripping up the food journey before it even starts. How can I help the Boo get anywhere if I’m anchored to something that doesn’t exist? Deep, I know, but sometimes parenting is like that. Things just come up.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my feelings of failure around his eating habits, and how that affects how I am with him. I feel guilty. I feel like it’s entirely my fault. And to an extent, it is. I’m the one putting the food in front of him. I’ve known he needed some serious guidance, but picture a little kid on the floor kicking and screaming, “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!” That kid is me. Or was. 

And the reality is, picky eaters just… are. And it’s no one’s fault, it just… is. But when you feel bad about yourself as you approach the task of getting your kid to open his mind and mouth to new foods, it ain’t great for either of you. I was getting impatient. Angry, even. Why do I have to deal with this? Why won’t my kid just eat pizza and hot dogs like every other kid on the planet? What the hell kind of kid won’t eat cheese?

Mine. 

Time to get over my issues so I can help him with his. 
 

 

 

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