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You grew an inch in the past six weeks, but did not gain any weight despite consuming spoons of peanut butter on a regular basis. 

You selected the colors for Mama’s most recent pedicure: 

 You started a five-mornings-a-week program at your school and are adjusting well, though Mama has noticed that you are more apt to want to cuddle with her. You also seem to have forgotten how to wash your hands at home. 

You are enthralled by the Madeline books, a taste you come by honestly — Mama loved them when she was your age. 

You talk about death a lot, saying things like, “I don’t want to die,” and “Do you want to die, Mama?” This has been going on, off and on, for at least six months, but this time it’s more intense. We are being honest and kind with our answers, so you know that everyone dies but usually when they’re very old or sick. 

You seem to be enjoying school, though it’s a bit tough to tell since you have made a game of not telling us anything about your day. You insist for example that you don’t know who you sat next to at snack, or that it’s a secret.

You sometimes share details of your day in transitory moments, like the car on the way home from school. The other day you divulged that you had declared your love for a girl in your class. Another day, you excitedly taught Mama a new song while we were walking across the parking lot after school.

You want to go to our little neighborhood park every day. 

You love the Sound of Music soundtrack and know most of the words to most of the songs. We know this because we overhear you singing them when you think we’re not paying attention. 

You have developed a serious nail-biting habit. The paint-on remedy is not doing much to deter you. Mama is considering digging out the teething toys. 

You are reasonably proficient at putting your clothes on, though whenever you get your underwear or shorts backwards you leave them that way, declaring that’s how you like to wear them.

You’ve started your first session of swim lessons without Mama in the water with you, and your teacher says you’re doing great. It helps that you have a buddy from school in the class — so you both have a friend to splash. 

You named a bunch of adults, including Mama and Daddy, when asked who your friends are. 

You asked a teacher — from another class — if she loves you. (She said she does.)

You asked both your teachers if they will miss you when you go home. 

You asked Mama if she misses you when she’s walking down the stairs with you.

You clearly have a lot going on in that sweet little noggin.

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Wherein we answer your burning questions about the secret lives of SAHMs, and dispense advice — but only if someone asks for it.



Dear SAHM, 

Why are you people so crazy about pedicures?

Sincerely,

Muddled in Memphis

>Dear Muddled,

It’s not about the feet so much as the opportunity to sit still for 20 minutes and read things like this:

  
Dear SAHM, 

Is it true that you fantasize about cleaning the toilet by yourself? That just seems weird. 

Sincerely,

Stumped in Seattle

>Dear Stumped,

It seems weird to us too, but yes, we yearn to clean the house without “help.” It would take half the time, and with the brain space free from supervising the child, we could fantasize about other things — like inventive ways to cut grocery bills. Not really. Nobody fantasizes about saving money. That would be super weird. Ahem. 

*****

Dear SAHM,

I saw a woman doing a crazy dance in front of a giant display of Goldfish crackers. Was this a SAHM? Is this some kind of secret ritual?

Sincerely,

Amazed in Albuquerque

>Dear Amazed,

That may or may have not been a SAHM, but I can tell you for sure that those Goldfish were on sale. Sounds like a really good sale, too. Where was this?

*****

Dear SAHM,

I overheard some ladies debating which is the worst: Caillou, Thomas or Dora. Can you shed some light on this?

Sincerely,

Freaked out in Fargo

>Dear Freaked Out,

Sure: Caillou is by far the most evil children’s cartoon character ever invented. 

*****

Dear SAHM,

How are Stay-at-Home moms different from working moms?

Curious in Chicago

>Dear Curious,

We don’t go to an office, factory, or other work environment. In fact, we never leave our workplace, even to sleep. We have no official lunch break and no days off, even when we’re sick. Hm, maybe we should unionize…

*****

Dear SAHM,

What’s the best part of staying at home with your kids?

Waiting in Walla-Walla

>Dear Waiting,

Depends on the SAHM. Could be post-nap snuggles, unlimited access to baby feet, or the ability to wear pajama pants all damn day.

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To say that the Boo has grown tremendously throughout his first school year is like saying chocolate is good. Massive understatement. 

In the beginning, he would not only cry when I left but wander around like a lost, weepy lamb. This, despite a goodbye ritual that included a reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and a series of kisses and hugs and a lovey to comfort him in my absence. At one point, there was discussion of whether we should pull him out of school for a while. Instead, we decided to try adding a few more tricks to the bag — a photo of me to look at, a favorite CD. It was early November. 

Shortly after we expanded the comfort program, right after Thanksgiving, something clicked for the kiddo. He didn’t cry as I left. He started blowing me kisses goodbye. He began to find his place among his friends. We kept up with reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, though, partly because I enjoyed it so much — his classmates would cluster around us, chiming in on their favorite parts and beaming like only little kids can beam. 

A few weeks ago we dropped the book reading from the routine. Then we started doing our kisses and hugs in the hallway so the Boo can walk into his classroom like the big boy he’s become. Every time, we stop a bit further away, backing slowly toward more independence. 

One day about a month ago, the Boo came home with a bright orange flyer pinned to his backpack. Photo Day was coming, it said. Here are the 88 choices of print packages. Once I settled on a reasonable option and wrote a check, my thoughts turned to The Outfit. Surely something with a collar for Baby’s First School Photo. Shirt and tie? Polo shirt? 

I decided to involve the Boo by presenting a few possibilities the morning of Photo Day. I explained what a big deal the photo was, that both grandmas would have a copy, that it would be a good idea to wear something fancy. He considered the choices I held up and rejected them all, insisting instead that he wanted to wear the pajama shirt he had on:

 

I didn’t fight him. Why bother, when he picked the perfect reminder of how far he’s come since September?

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20140701-170106-61266583.jpgOver the past week, the Boo has been issuing declarations, usually after a period of what I can only describe as intense quiet. Herewith, a list.

During an episode of Thomas and Friends:
– When the steam stops, the train stops.

After we made a couple of mini books, bound with safety pins:
– If we take out the pins, no more book.

At the kitchen sink:
– Some water is good, some water is yucky.

Also at the kitchen sink:
– Fast is good. Slow is bad.

Always thinking, this one.

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Chapter One

A week ago I took part in a performance, part of a really cool project that turns poems into songs. Rehearsals had gone reasonably well, I had practiced quite a bit the week before the show, and I knew my keyboard and vocal parts well enough that I wasn’t nervous.

Then I had a massive brain fart in the middle of a song I’d had down cold for weeks. Started singing it in a different register. Lost my place. Stopped singing. Somehow found my place again and trudged on.

I had a strong desire to flee.

But we were less than halfway through the show. The song I’d written was coming up. And I was sitting as far from the steps as I could be. To leave the stage, I would have had to either hop off the front of the stage, or thread my way through cords and people and instruments.

So I stayed. I made a decision not to cry, to focus on not screwing up the rest of the songs. And that’s what happened. The rest of the set was fine, and the last song, where I had the most prominent keyboard role, was great.

Chapter Two

A few days ago during a bath, the Boo piped up. “What’s that?”

I turned around to see what no parent wants to see in a tub.

I had a strong desire to flee.

Instead, I mustered every scrap of Zen I had in me. Calmly, like it was no big deal, I said, “Oh, that’s your poop.”

I scrubbed my little boy, again, several times. I dried and dressed him, chatting all the while about the basic points of potty training. Then I attacked the tub with bleach.

So that’s the metaphor for the week, I thought as I scrubbed. Fighting the urge to flee, sticking around to deal with shit.

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Flowers aside, I don’t go in for Mother’s Day all that much (though I am looking forward to weeping over whatever my kid makes for me at school). I do, however, like to use the day to navel-gaze about what I’ve learned in the last 2.25 years. Herewith, my list for your amusement.

1. I loathe washing bottles. And yes I’m still washing bottles because…

2. I get off on being able to give my kid what he needs, whether it’s a new pair of flip-flops or another month of bottles because he’s just not ready to give them up.

3. My mistakes will not permanently harm my kid. I once made him cry because I yelled at him as he was about to grab a cup of scalding coffee. And I’d do it again tomorrow.

4. Having less free time makes me better at spending it well. Sometimes it’s chopping veggies that floats my boat, sometimes I just collapse back into bed, but when my kid goes down for a nap, I make the minutes count.

5. Staying home with the kiddo has turned me into a person who likes chatting with the neighbors despite being introverted.

6. That thing about getting dressed in non-stretchy clothes every morning even if you’re not leaving the house? Just doesn’t work for me.

7. I firmly believe that the garbage man should not be allowed to see me without makeup. You’d understand if you could see how fabulous he is as he waves to us every Monday morning whilst executing a flawless three-point turn in a behemoth of a truck.

8. All parents should be given as much kindness as possible because you can’t always tell when they’ve had a rough day with their kid. Compassion goes a long way on days like that, believe me.

9. I need my mom friends, to whine with, to laugh with, to shake my head with.

10. I’m so much better than I thought I was. More patient, inventive and fun. Able to claw my way through a day on very little sleep. Willing to let someone puke on me for hours because I know they need me to hold them. I can change a diaper like a goddamn ninja. If this sounds like bragging, that’s because it is — and more moms should do it.

And because this blog goes up to 11…

Nothing has ever made me as angry as celebrity anti-vaxxers, and nothing will give me as much satisfaction as seeing them go down in flames.

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Now that winter is beating a slow but definite retreat, we’re dropping by our favorite playground whenever it makes sense. It’s been really fun to see the leap in physical skills the Boo has taken since the fall, and he enjoys eating snacks at the little picnic table almost as much as he digs the ability to climb and slide on his own.

Playgrounds are surprisingly intimate spaces given that they’re open-air venues. I’ve seen children cradled after scary and/or bloody falls, witnessed dead-serious negotiations over balls and buckets and shovels, and smiled at babies nursing as their siblings run amok.

The other day as I was spotting my kid’s ascent on a metal ladder (!) I heard a snatch of Japanese, which I used to speak fairly well. I turned my head just in time to see a mom next to her daughter at the bottom of a slide. The girl was 4 or 5 (I’m terrible at gauging ages) and was in a lovely frilly dress and hair bow. Her eyes were closed, seemingly because of the bright spring sun. The mom placed her daughter’s hand on the slide and said, “1, 2, 3.” The rest of what she said was beyond my capabilities, but the meaning was clear to me once the girl flickered her milky eyes and smiled.

This is a slide, this is what you do on a slide. Someday soon when you’re ready, we’ll get you up there.

I hope I get to be there when that little girl is ready.

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It started with this:

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J is for jellybean, I would say. Then I realized the poor kid had no idea what a jellybean was. Also, Easter is coming, and I feel that an important part of my parental duty is to prepare him thoroughly for the garden of delights he’ll find in his basket. In other words, get him hyped up.

I tried to explain them in terms he’d understand: “They’re sweet, like chocolate.” The Boo was unimpressed and asked for chocolate. “The next time we go to the store, we’ll get some jelly beans.” He remained placid. To him, going to the store means a ride in a cart and maybe some stickers. None of it is nearly as exciting as running in a circle (our new favorite game now that the big baby gate is down).

As promised, I procured a small packet of Jelly Bellies during our next grocery trip. At home, I waited for the Afternoon Crabs to come skittering in with their whining and drama and penchant for pinching. Then I pulled out the packet with a flourish, tore it open, and let the Boo select a bean.

He looked at it with suspicion, but ate it and accepted another. This one, though, was greeted with a squinty face and his trademark, “Don’ like it!” He was looking for somewhere to spit it out, so I did the classic Mom thing and offered my hand. I gazed at the mangled pale pink confection in my palm and chuckled, wondering how this small thing had offended my child.

I sat down to eat the rest of the packet. I’m not crazy about jelly beans but I do enjoy the occasional Jelly Belly and after all, someone had to eat them. I may have emitted a small sigh as I poured a few onto the counter (I like to figure out what the flavors are before they go in my mouth. Also, they’re pretty.)

The Boo came over, asking/demanding to be picked up. Once in my lap, he asked for the packet. Then the real fun began, because he wanted to feed them to me. Quickly.

And so that’s what we did for the next 20 minutes. He’d pick up a bean from the counter and try to shove it in my mouth. I’d make a ridiculous face and say, “still eating!” He’d open his mouth wide, tongue out — his way of saying, “show me!” I’d happily oblige and the giggling would ensue. Inevitably, beans were dropped and went spinning across the hardwood, so I’d put him down, he’d collect them, squealing the whole time, and hop back up with me. Then he’d feed me another one, wiggling with delight the whole time.

Best $1.69 I ever spent.

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There are so many long stretches of parenting a small child that are absolutely mind-numbing in their repetitiveness that when you occasionally come up with a genius childrearing idea on the fly, it’s both a shock and cause for celebration.

I had one of those moments a few months ago when I asked the Boo to take me upstairs instead of telling him we had to go up. I have no idea why I did it, but he appeal to his budding independence was instant and dramatic — he seized my finger and practically dragged me up behind him. A couple of weeks ago, though, I came up with an even better trick, though once again I couldn’t tell you where the idea came from.

The Boo was being particularly disinclined to be happy about delaying his desires, which is to say, it was close to nap time on yet another butt-cold day in February and I needed to do a few more things before I could grant his wish to help him play at the sink. I pulled out my phone and opened the clock app.

“I tell you what. I’ll set the timer. When you hear the bells, it’s time for water play.”

He looked a little unsure about this timer thing, but he was pleased that I let him push the start button. Then I made a huge deal about the bells ringing and let him push the cancel button. Then I set it again to signal the end of water play, because he will seriously spend as much time as we let him “washing” dishes.

So now, instead of whining at me (my least favorite thing about my kid) when he needs to wait or stop doing something he likes, he submits to the will of the phone. Because, see, the command is coming from the phone — the provider of videos and games and general fun — not from me. And he doesn’t have it in him to whine at the phone.

Yet.

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A week ago I left the Boo in my husband’s care for the day. I had never done this before, as there had never been a need. But an uncle had died and there was a memorial in Detroit and we take our funerals seriously in my family, and so off I flew.

I was worried about how the baby would react to being away from me — I’d only ever been away from him for a few hours at a stretch. The day dawned and he slept late, so I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him — and he’d be asleep by the time I got back.

Naturally, he had a great time with Daddy. So great, in fact, that he now asks for him as soon as he wakes up in the morning. And when he wakes up from his nap. And it’ s only been a few weeks since he started calling out “Amma” when he wakes up.

The first few times, I thought it was sweet. Then it began to rankle. Nearly two years of constant care brought down by one day — one DAY! — of non-stop fun. Suddenly I was the proverbial chopped liver in my kid’s life.

But on the plus side, perhaps this means he’ll have an easy transition to school.

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