Posts Tagged ‘parenthood’

Just a few of our well-used tools… I mean, check out the “edge” on that knife…

Before the Boo started school, I had a meeting with his new teacher to go over a few things about him. Stuff like he’s a rule follower, he’s sensitive, he’s probably the most creative speller alive. Here’s one I forgot: If he swears, I deserve the credit and the responsibility.

That’s right: I swear in front of my kid. Pretty much always have, although I did wait until I thought he was old enough to understand The Rules of Swearing:

  1. Never swear at school.
  2. Almost never swear in public.
  3. If you do swear in public, be sure you know your audience — or be ready to face the consequences.
  4. Practice fake swear words so they’re ready when you need them. (My favorite: Motherscratcher.)
  5. Do not use swearing to be mean.

I don’t subscribe to the “good words/bad words” way of thinking, with exceptions for a few that are just WAY too mean/gross/loaded for 99% of all humans to use. But the rest of them? They’re just words — they add color and spice to what you’re saying. Like hot sauce on eggs, it’s great as long as you don’t overdo it.

And like sauces on eggs, this is one area in which my husband and I do not agree. He swears so infrequently that we know he’s really ticked when he ventures beyond “come ON!” and “what a clown!” The Boo is aware that his dad doesn’t like it when he swears — so he makes an effort to avoid dropping word bombs within earshot of his dad.

This self-correction is part of why I’m teaching the Boo how and when to curse: it’s a life skill, a tool if you will, and as with any tool, you can use it in a negative or positive way. But hey, if you’re not comfortable teaching your kid to swear, use a knife or light sparklers, then by all means, don’t do it.

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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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You are four and a half years old. 

You asked, very casually, about the box below, “Why does it say ‘go’ on there?” 

You are in heaven when your Daddy takes apart something electronic for you. Usually this happens on weekends. 

You enjoyed summer camp, though you declined to go in the sprinkler even on super-hot days. 

You inherited a floaty from a good friend, and now you are plunging into the pool, intentionally dunking yourself, asking Mama to dunk you, and opening your eyes underwater. These are new developments in your swimming career.

You have recently discovered U2 (Daddy), Green Day (Mama), Blondie (Mama again), and Fleetwood Mac (the car USB on shuffle).

You started having bad dreams, or at least started talking about them (but only a bit because you believe talking about them will make them come back). The most recent one involved a bad car, a house alarm, and the inability to run or talk.

You are newly afraid of the dark, and require your chair to be draped and your closet closed at bedtime. 

You sleep through fireworks and thunderstorms. 

You clipped your own toenails last week — and did a very decent job, without drawing blood. 

You still wear a diaper at night, and have told Mama that you pee in it as soon as you wake up. 

You have expanded your diet a tiny bit and are now willing to eat cantaloupe, green beans and nutritional yeast, which Mama plans to use as a gateway to cheese. The big shocker was your request to try a fish stick, which you didn’t like, but agreed to try another day with lemon. 

You have lost your zest for scrubbing toilets, but you still enjoy helping Mama vacuum and view working with cleanser as a privilege. 

You are continuing your love affair with My Little Pony, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Peg + Cat. Justin Time and Ready Jet Go are new discoveries, and you’ve circled back to Word World and Octonauts. Most days, you still watch less than two hours of TV.

You traded your long-neglected easel for a “science table” which tends to be heaped with whatever you’re fiddling with. Right now, it’s egg cartons, scissors, a screwdriver, two rolls of blue painter’s tape, empty water bottles completely wrapped in painter’s tape, paint stir sticks intermittently wrapped in painter’s tape, and bits of string and drinking straws you decided to cut into very short pieces. Mama’s just happy you’re using the space and enjoying yourself. 

You are trying out stronger ways of asking for what you want, e.g., “Mama you have to get me a snack NOW!” Mama never tires of finding new ways to say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” Her hands-down favorite is the raised eyebrow. 

You recently visited a farm, where your favorite thing was turning the electric water pump on so you could test all the sprinklers. Your second favorite thing was the robotic vacuum cleaner, or maybe the waffles the lady of the house made.

You are four and a half years old, and you are still very snuggly, just with pointier elbows. 

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 Boo, cradling stuffed animals: I had two babies!Me: Congratulations! What’s this one’s name?

Boo: Zinc lozenge. 

Me: What do you call the other one? 

Boo: Green dot.

Me: …

Boo: Zinc lozenge likes to play baseball.

Me: Oh, great!

Boo: Now he’s tired so I have to sit on him to keep him warm. 

Me: …

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  Lately the Boo has wanted a story after books at bedtime instead of a song. If I had a bigger ego this would upset me, because I was a teenage opera major after all. Mais non, I am happy to be spared another round of “birdhouse in your soul” — which is a great song, but tedious when you’ve been on duty for fourteen hours and long to collapse on the couch. 

Anyway. The first time he requested a story, I asked him what he wanted it to be about. He said he didn’t know, so I started talking about a guitar, since he’d been really into playing with mine. It was an electric guitar with about three strings who lived in a dusty, smelly junk shop with a bunch of other electric guitars and desperately wanted to be bought and played. Long story short, one day someone did buy him because they could see how fabulous he was under all the grime. And naturally, they gave him to a little boy as a birthday present, but not before cleaning him up and hiding him in a closet, which the guitar found terribly sad, disappointing and confusing. 

You know, pretty standard stuff.

I spun roughly the same story for about a week and I was getting bored with it. And then one night the Boo interrupted me. 

“No, Mama! The electric guitar has 18 strings! And it’s unpainted! And the junk shop is not so dusty.” He spoke with urgency, gesturing with spread fingers as he does when he’s serious. 

“Oh, okay,” I said, and incorporated his details, plus a few new ones of my own. A friendly doll to repaint the guitar, several people passing it by before it finally gets bought. High drama. 

Weeks later, we are still telling a version of this story together every night, and usually at rest time too. The Boo often takes over, so excited his words tumble out faster than logic, changing the guitar’s home to symphony hall or giving a new name to the doll who paints it or getting the grownup to hide the guitar under the bed because the boy is coming upstairs OH NO!

One thing never changes, though: the boy always gets the electric guitar for his birthday. 

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It’s been over a week since Toyfest ’14, a/k/a Christmas, and already the memories are fading. Herewith I hope to capture at least a few.

– You asked if Santa was coming/if it was Christmas every few days for the entire month of December. You also asked where Santa was. A lot. Whenever Mama asked if you wanted to meet Santa, you said no, then you asked to go see him day after Christmas.

– You enjoyed decorating the tree, which in your world means telling Mama where to put the ornaments, and then occasionally pulling them off and leaving them somewhere after trying and failing to put them back on.

– You didn’t notice the gradual increase of gifts under the tree, but the appearance of a stuffed stocking on Christmas morning made an impression. (See cookies for Santa entry below.)

– You enjoyed making cookies with Mama, and became proficient at sifting and dumping and stirring. Rolling cookie dough balls in sugar, not so much — though you were very good at eating spoonfuls of sugar. You also loved playing with the stand mixer — it spent about a month on the floor so you could look at it, ask questions about it, attach and detach the beaters, and turn it on and off (with supervision).

– You went with Mama and Daddy to deliver plates of cookies to the neighbors. You only wanted to climb the stairs to ring the bell at one house, where twin girls live. At another house, the Chinese granny treated you to her rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” — on the harmonica.

– You enjoyed the Polish Christmas Eve tradition of oplatki — basically a giant communion wafer stamped with Christmas scenes that you break and eat with family while wishing them well in the coming year.

– You seemed skeptical about leaving a note and cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, but you gamely went along with it. We left your empty stocking next to the plate so Santa could fill it for you, and he did — with Gummi Bears, jelly beans, a tiny motorcycle, and a Caillou doll.

– You really got into opening presents this year, but we still didn’t get through all of them on Christmas. However, you also enjoyed opening the stragglers for days afterward. And still, everyone was so generous that we held a few of our gifts back for your birthday.

– You liked all your presents, but particularly enjoyed playing with your take-apart engine (from Daddy) and watching Totoro (from Grammie) on Christmas Day. As the days have gone by, you’ve been playing with everything in rotation.

– You were okay with putting away the ornaments and lights, but balked at parting with your Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD and negotiated to keep it for an extra day. Mama was not thrilled with this arrangement, but agree to it in the spirit of Christmas.

– You occasionally ask where the ornaments are, and if it’s Christmas again. Mama does her best to explain that Christmas only happens once a year.

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We spent Thanksgiving with my family in LA. Herewith, the highlights of the Boo’s first West Coast encounter.

You did very well on the flights, though it must be said the extra attention from the Southwest flight attendants was very helpful. As was the iPad loaded with Caillou videos.

You glommed onto your Unk almost as soon as you saw him. Within a week, you were asking for your Auntie when you woke up from naps and dancing a little greeting jig for her. She danced right along with you.

You wanted to know if we were still in LA every time with left Unk and Auntie’s house.

You saw Frozen, Cars, and The Little Mermaid for the first time, and joined your cousins in the traditional post-screening dance parties. You kept asking for the “build a snowman movie” for the rest of the trip.

You followed your girl cousins around the house, prompting one of them to complain a bit about your puppy-dog ways. A few days later, they were reading books to you.

You got creamed by one high-swinging cousin. After that, you were very careful to give her a wide berth whenever she was on the swing — and she stopped swinging to play with you on the playhouse slide.

You ate meals very nicely both with the family and at restaurants. There may have been chocolate chips involved.

You adjusted to the new time zone within 24 hours, and were willing to sleep on the floor at night as long as you got to sleep on your cousin’s bed for naps. Once back home, you started lobbying for a big bed almost immediately by complaining about the bars on your toddler bed.

You learned how to eat a Popsicle, thanks to your cousins and your Unk, who responded to your confusion with, “Look at them and do what they,re doing.”

You saw Dolphins herding fish to shore.

You took such a shine to your grandpa-in-law (you let him pick you up!) that he volunteered to be your surrogate grandpa since both of yours are gone.

You were fascinated by the ocean, waves, surfers, and sand at Venice Beach. A big wave surprised you and knocked you on your butt in the 64-degree water, but once you got over the shock you wanted to go right back in. You grabbed handfuls of sand over and over and wanted to take some home — this, despite being reluctant to touch it at school.

You began shouting “mine!” and “I want to do it myself!” after a few days with your cousins.

You also began poking your cousins after a few days, and began following pokes with, “Time out?” and a grin. So much for that disciplinary tactic.

You occasionally asked to go home, usually when you were tired or hungry.

You did not miss your toys, probably because it was so warm you went outside as soon as you finished breakfast and had to be coaxed in after dark on more than one occasion.

You learned the word “thankful” because of the family’s suppertime thankfulness tradition. Once, you said you were thankful for school, another time, for Mama. Back at home, you’re responding to mealtimes by saying, “I want to say something” and then saying what you’re thankful for.

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For two months, I’d prepared the Boo for school with a multi-pronged campaign of propaganda. I started by reading him chirpy, syrupy books about first days of school (four or five of them, from Baby Elmo to Maisie to Harry and his dinosaurs). After a while, he rejected them.

So I started playing school with him, making his train set figures ride in cars to school, where Mama would drop the Boo with his nice teachers and friends, and then leave to go to Target. The Hubs and I talked excitedly about school, saying what a cool big-boy thing it was going to be and how much fun he’d have.

Last week, I added a song recommended by my mom’s friend, a very experienced early childhood teacher. Here, check out the video, it’s pretty amusing.

The Boo loved the video and did not object to me singing the song to him at every nap and bed time. I also whistled it a lot to get the association nice and deep into his little brain.

Then the day arrived. The Hubs, his mom, Boo and I all went together to take photos and visit his classroom. The hubs left with his mom, and I stayed with the Boo for about ten minutes, talking to him and his teachers, and helping him glue some stuff.

Then I took a deep breath and said, “I will help you put your photo up, and then I’m going to go.” I made masking tape loops and had him help me position it and pat it in place. I explained that we did this so he could find his hook without needing to read. Then I gave him a big hug and kiss, told him I loved him and would see him soon, took another deep breath, turned around, and left.

I rounded several corners and made my way to the Director’s office, where I made myself a cup of tea, smeared some cream cheese on a bagel, and reminded myself to keep breathing. I didn’t exactly feel like I was going to pass out, but I was fuzzy and disoriented. I’ve spent the past two and a half years within sight and/or hearing of my kid, and suddenly not being able to see or hear him felt completely wrong.

Another mom and I went to the school’s foyer and chatted with the Director for the next hour. It was distracting, and it was nice to get to know them better, but it was difficult (and a little bizarre) to sit there socializing, knowing my kid was probably having a hard time at the other end of the building.

Later, as I chatted with an old friend, I realized what else was bugging me: This is the first time I’ve trusted anyone other than a family member to take care of him. I hadn’t realized that when people talk about letting go of your kids, they’re really talking about relinquishing control. It’s a good thing for both of us — but in my focused drive to prepare him, I hadn’t realized how much of an adjustment it would be for me.

At the end of the class, the teacher brought the (weepy, babbling) Boo to me. I knelt down to cuddle him as the teacher gave me the full report, cradling his head in my hand as I listened to her. The important part: He was never so distressed that he needed to be brought to me. This was better than I expected, a success in the teacher’s view and in my book. But the most amazing thing about the Boo’s first day of school? I didn’t cry when I said goodbye to him.

I guess my propaganda campaign worked after all.

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The Boo was over a year old when he decided he liked being sung to at bedtime. This did wonders for my self-esteem, what with me being a teenage opera major and all. The songs he likes, however, are far from the repertoire I studied in college.

Here’s the current lineup:

Port Side Pirates, a gem we found to explain what pirates are.

Downtown, yes, the Petula Clark tune. I don’t know all the words, I just fudge my away through a verse and chorus, twice. He also likes me to play it on the piano, and it’s one of my favorites to from a vocal perspective.

Our House, the Madness song from the 80s because yes I am that old. I started singing it on the way home one day and he liked it so much I showed him the video and put it into heavy rotation.

The Thomas And Friends theme song. I won’t inflict a link on you, although as kids’ songs go it is fairly tolerable and interesting to sing.

Last but far from least, Don’t You Worry About a Thing, which I randomly sang in the grocery store one day.

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I wish I had made a note of the first time I turned the word “tuna” into a game. My best guess is that I was putting a can of tuna in the pantry, narrating the event like you’re supposed to do so your kid learns to talk all proper-like.

While I don’t know the when or why, I do know what I said. “Tu-nah, tu-nee, tu-nay, tu-nai, tu-no!” You know, like you do when you’re sleep-deprived and desperate for entertainment at three in the afternoon. The kiddo probably laughed, and I probably repeated the string of silliness a few times.

So now this is one of our go-to verbal games. The Boo or I will break into a string of tuna riffing from time to time, and then pause and look at the other player with a silly, expectant grin. We run through the list, usually ending with “tu-no.”

One day last week, I was the one to say “tu-no,” and then the Boo said, “tu-yes.” And giggled at his first joke.

My little boy, folks: Lover of language, maker of goofy jokes.

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