Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Infant's Perspective

Back cover picture.
"Preferred Attire: Naked With Tasteful Scarf"
When my baby writes a tell-all book about her infancy, it will be titled something like "Suburban Guantanamo."  It will chronicle the indignities she suffered at the hands of various parents and caretakers, many of whom claimed to be blood relatives, as they stuffed her into snowsuits resembling arctic animals, day after winter day. She will note the absurdity of putting an infant in a snowsuit without ever putting the infant in the snow; "I'm not saying this violates the Geneva Convention, but I'm not saying it's NOT a violation, either."

"An hour or two later, they're at it again, this time removing the snowsuit. Apparently it annoys them when I'm content.  Someone immediately jumps to undress, re-dress or change me.  They don't seem to hear my protests, over their hushes and grins and rapid maneuvers to confine my flailing limbs in garments. Their smiles, meant to soothe me, are usually offensive; must be nice to don sleeves only when you feel like it.

And just when I think I'll get a moment to myself, they assume I peed again. Do I enjoy sitting in a wet diaper?  No, not really.  But do I celebrate being forced on my back, feet lingering at my nose as a cold, wet wipe makes its way across my bottom?  Dirty diaper please. With the remarkable advances in diaper technology, this is a no brainer."

I imagine some discussion of baby dresses, second in utility only to size-3-months sandals.  "What makes you think I want to sit on bunched up pink tulle?  The fact that I stopped wrestling with the huge bow you strapped on me, a sequined head-belt of sorts?  I was losing the battle to win the war.  Imagine my unbridled glee when I ended up in this flamboyant web of an outfit anyway."

She will conclude with a chapter devoted to hats, because "it's never cold enough in New York to make hat-layering a thing.  Throw a hood on me and let's take that walk.  I'm wearing a onesie, pants, pants (not a typo), socks, a sweater, and naturally, the snowsuit. We've been through enough today."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rules of the Suburbs

Moving to the suburbs is among the compromises new parents make when the crib/storage bench no longer fits in the bedroom/playroom because they were gifted an unwieldy toy that their kid saw/loved before they had a chance to hide it in the closet/pantry and return it later.

Having just gotten used to sleep deprivation and come to terms with newborn hair loss, a new adjustment must take place.  This list serves as an impractical tool for navigating the suburban initiation.

1.  Plan ahead. For literally everything.  Owning a car (and you must own at least one) should make last minute plans easier, but nothing gets done in the suburbs without prior notice.  Everyone is over scheduled and super busy and you would think you're dealing with CEOs and heads of state rather than the Joneses.

I have an hour available 2 Sundays from today.  Lets catch up over string cheese.
Takeaway: Don't try to make plans with one of your new neighbors for this weekend.  Their rejection will compel you to explain why/how you are possibly free this weekend, and I don't need to tell you this is an uncomfortable and unnecessary thing to do.  Want a summer playdate? Send out your requests with your winter holiday greetings.  (Want a carpool? And you just moved in? lol).

2.  Learn the unspoken rules of the railroad.  They make no sense, so save this part of my list for your first few weeks.

To sit in an empty 2-seater section, scoot down to the window; someone else will definitely need a seat during rush hour so don't make them ask you to move.

Not rush hour.

Same for a 3-seater *unless* someone is already at the window. If so, sit in the aisle seat, leaving an empty spot in the middle.  I don't know why.  I suppose the (non existent) awkwardness of sitting directly next to someone is greater than the obnoxiousness of forcing someone to ask for a seat.  And when they do ask, DO NOT move to the middle seat to give the third person the aisle. Rookie move. You're admitting to being a weirdo who didn't want to sit near the window guy but will now do so anyway. Instead, get out of your seat (as everyone else is shuffling in and the aisle barely accommodates one physically fit person at a time), let Third in, and sit back in your aisle seat, proudly making thigh-to-thigh contact with only one stranger.

3.  Keep up with neighborhood real estate.  I still can't manage to (care to) do this, and my social life has suffered as a result.  Know the houses that are for sale, the houses that recently sold, and the houses that will be on the market soon because the Joneses are divorcing or upgrading or died of suburban boredom.  Be ready to opine on prices, house styles, and your next renovation.  Name drop the guy you will use for this upcoming project, without actually using his name. Just "our patio guy."  The days of supers and building handymen are behind you; soon, when someone asks for a painter recommendation, you'll have a fastest guy, cheapest guy, and highest quality guy. Don't call them that to their faces.

4.  Plan ahead. Oh I get it now.  You live an eternity away from anywhere you'd want to go, you have at least one child (if you don't have more, people will ask you why not, because we don't erect white picket fences around our private lives, only our backyards), and you drive a mini-apartment that screams "I never have to parallel park."  The mental preparation, alone, takes up to a week.

5.  Be prepared to see everyone everywhere.  Chances of anonymity are slim, and bumping into someone you know is no longer an unexpected treat.  It's something you account for in budgeting time.

Hoping not to see anyone, because laundry day and a bad hair day happened to land on grocery shopping day (which is now a thing)?  Good luck with that.  You'll probably recognize people just getting into your car.

And yes you will have to drive there.

But, if you picked the right place, the sense of community and neighborhood bond helps make the absurdly long trip to pick up milk worthwhile.  (It's just milk. How is there nothing closer).

Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Things I Don't Believe In

1. Ketchup on pasta. I will never understand why kids enjoy the taste of this, and I will never offer this culinary abomination to my children. I am no food snob. I've melted cheese onto oatmeal, and have eaten mayo sandwiches. But encouraging a child to assault her taste buds in this manner basically goes against my religion.

2. And while we're on food--I don't believe in kids menus, the small section where the most unhealthy items at a restaurant reside. Kids can enjoy fried food off their parents' plates and the regular menu, but let's not define their options this way. And it contradicts all parental food propaganda. Rude.

3. Sleep training. Ha just kidding. I'd rather repeat high school than discuss any sensitive parenting issue with The Internet. What I meant is sleep silence. Like the tooth fairy, this only exists in the world of children. As an adult (maybe), as an adult parent (probably), and certainly as an adult parent woman (mother, for short), sleep consists of sprints of restfulness separated by noisy bouts of snoring, crying, snorting, coughing, suspicious house creaks, "mama," and/or refrigerator openings (none of which are your own except the last one). A mother is the "princess and the pea" of sounds.

4. Dressing kids up for daycare. This is a source of discord in my home, but there are few days when it is a real decision. Usually, time constraints and toddler fashion instincts take over and the fact that she has never gone to school in pajamas (note: I did not say she has never gone to school in the clothes she woke up in that morning) is an incredible feat in itself. My husband loves dressing up our 3 year old and I get it, it's cute. My daughter rarely chooses impractical outfits, and if she must wear her pink tutu skirt over grey fleece sweatpants then so be it. But in theory, the utilitarian in me is ardently opposed to the gorgeous jeans and button down shirts my husband would choose, the restricting dresses and hair-tugging bows in which our kid looks amazing, because it takes a photoshoot or an occasion or at least a weekend before I will choose style over comfort for a little kid.

(Yes, it can be both stylish and comfortable- I'm talking about when it's not. Let's also assume I don't purchase intentionally hideous comfort clothes, although with the little accent she still has going, I'm tempted to source my childhood "immigrant in America in the early 90s" pictures for attire inspiration. I have not yet acted on this temptation.  Largely because size 3T windbreaker jackets with fluorescent geometric patterns have been hard to find).

5. Thong diapers. My sister nixed this as a business idea and I no longer believe in it either. We may have missed an incredible business opportunity but she was probably right. Impractical.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Becoming That Mom (part 1 of infinity)

"It's enough to just display the pictures," you told yourself.  The kids alone.  You with each kid. Your husband with both. A family picture. And passport photos, for good measure.

That's sufficient notice of the fact that you're a mom.  Enough imagery to evoke compliments on a slow day in the office, sympathy on a busy one, and to qualify as decor in your office away from home.

And yet a compulsion snuck in the moment your child brought her first project home.  Her "just a Wednesday in daycare" project.  The one you left on the dining room table for a couple of days, then neatly filed in a folder.  You wouldn't be that parent, you told yourself.

But months passed, and the projects kept coming.  They even got better - or, at the very least, different.  New colors, new materials, new Xerox copied templates.  Your sister claimed one.  "It's cute when the young girl displays her niece's artwork," you sternly stated, during one of your no-nonsense talks with yourself.  "Do not be that mom."

But it's a tale as old as time, and we all know how it ends.  You brought the project to work.  In fact, you snuck the project to work because your daughter, trying to save what is left of your professional identity without knowing it, refused to relinquish it.

This will add some color, you weakly justified.  Ambiance. Whimsy. Democracy.

You thumb tacked your daughter's tree to your wall.  Near your list of matter numbers and upcoming deadlines.  And now, the only way to explain this objectively unremarkable item (no offense babylove, there's abundant other proof of your intellect and artistry), is to claim that it is not your kid's work.  To suggest that there's a reason beyond misplaced parental pride for presenting this art.  To put the burden on the viewer to conjure up scenarios in which this paper in the shape of a tree, with green dots and pink tissue paper, belongs on the wall of your corporate law office.

However, it doesn't matter if they believe you. It is irrelevant whether or not they begin to wonder about the potentially creepy, potentially genius origins of the art.  You've become that mom.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blizzard of 2015 - Parental Recap

Toddler in snow: rarely vertical.
Yes, it was in fact a blizzard of historic proportions, but most of the devastation was suffered on the interior of houses with children staying home from school. There was also a nice amount of snow outside, which presented a good learning opportunity for parents whose kids are now old enough to enjoy it.

What I discovered is the following.

I would [almost] rather retake the bar exam than get my toddler dressed, undressed, and redressed for the outdoors. You layer her up, haul the puffy ball of toddler out the door, place her down gently and uncertainly, and wait 6 seconds before she tumbles and yells, for the first of a hundred times, “I can’t get up.” To enjoy the snow, they have to be warm, but to be warm they have to be 90%-immobile chubby stick figures.

Understandably, she analogizes snow and sand. On vacation, she peed in the ocean without repercussions (yes, the ocean you swim in), and now she wants to freely pee again. “No love, you can’t pee in your clothes.” “No, you cannot remove your clothes and pee on the snow.” “Let’s quickly go inside and go back out again.”  “You don’t need to go anymore? You’re lying but I will gratefully play along.”

In an inappropriately goal-oriented manner, you work on building a snowman out of the uncooperative, powdery snow. When humpty-dumpty isn't calling for mama helplessly (and joyfully, unless you linger), she is smashing the modest sized balls you have managed to put together. You get irrationally annoyed, but hold it in because you’re out there for her, not yourself, and … remember that time you became an adult?

Snow mittens for toddlers fit about as well as oven mitts on adults. When your kid’s patience runs thin (and toddlers are known for their patience) -- when the thumb falls out of the thumb hole one too many times, or she realizes she’s as effective at handling snow with her mittens as she is at handling food with chop sticks -- you have about 3 minutes to get back indoors. Your toddler’s initial glory-filled moment of hand-agility and sensory glee is rapidly replaced by a shocking pain of the fingers. You will be frustrated at her shock: “I literally just told you it would be cold if you removed your mittens, you know that it is cold because you face-planted into the snow several times, and you are a sufficiently developed human being to understand this basic logic (according to grandma, you are a remarkably developed child prodigy so please, work with me).” You will then be frustrated at your toddler’s sense of urgency, because the time it took to get her fully dressed was rivaled only by the time it took you to (until now, unsuccessfully) persuade her to go back indoors. But now she sees her hands getting red, her sand (I mean, snow) toys call out to her but her fingers don’t listen, and though she doesn't know of “frostbite,” she screams as if her fingers are a snowflake away from detaching.

You rush into the house less carefully than you had planned. Snowwater is everywhere and you can’t decide whether you should undress her first or tear off some of your own layers to better assist her. She continues yelling, but only because she already has so much momentum that it would be wasteful to give up. Shortly thereafter, your clothes and her clothes lay dangerously close to the boots and the melting situation that is taking over your house but nothing matters because you finally got her a snack, her cheeks are rosy and bladder empty, and you think (aloud, within earshot of your husband) about what a remarkable parent you are.

And with ricotta pancakes and other breakfast foods for dinner, your first parental snow day is complete. Congratulations.