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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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