My favorite part of the piece are the quotes from Sendak himself. Good God, he's amazing. It just makes me love him even more.
“A woman came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’ I wanted to kill her.”
On Max as an adult: “Well, he’s in therapy forever. He has to wear a straitjacket when he’s with his therapist."
On parents who think the Wild Things movie is too scary for children: “I would tell them to go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate."
“I think it’s unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, happy-clouded childhood for anybody.”
"I refuse to lie to children."
"I'm totally crazy, I know that. I don't say that to be a smartass, but I know that that's the very essence of what makes my work good. And I know my work is good. Not everybody likes it, that's fine. I don't do it for everybody. Or anybody. I do it because I can't not do it."
You hear a lot about bullying - a lot of news stories that make your blood run cold and keep you up at night, videos that make you weep, even posts and articles that purport the problem of bullying is exaggerated and it's kind of not as big a deal as we think it is. Everything I read or see about bulling makes me feel demoralized, kind of hopeless and panicked, because no one seems to have really good answers. I see a lot of effort, and that makes me happy and encouraged, but I don't see he kind of results I hope for, as a parent. Because this is a thorny issue, which gets to complex and elusive aspects of human nature. It's not an easy problem to fix. But it's critical that we keep trying.
Which is why I was surprised when I watched this short video -- An Open Door.
Take two minutes and watch it. You will cry but not in the usual way you cry after watching a two minute video about bullying. You'll cry with relief, with faith in humanity, with amazement at the resilience of people and admiration at this teenager's resourcefulness.
It's a story with a happy ending and it might teach you something. How often can you say that?
In point of fact, it's not just the cheesy ones, though those do tend to be popular favorites. Read this article in the Atlantic discusses new research which uncovers the critically important question of why our kids rock out to cheesy songs from our golden years. It's related to a term which sounds super pseudo-scientific and which I am very eager to use soon in conversation called “cascading reminiscence bumps.” I was hooked from the title because "Billie Jean" is one of Primo and Terza's all-time favorite songs, and now, I guess we know why. So, go grab your kids and rock out to "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls", why don't you?
We've had quite a week. Nothing so very awful and nothing so very unusual, just a string of winter illnesses, all badly-timed. The saga of Primo's surprise strep infection, served up with a side order or terrible croup/ stridor, which ambushed him while on a class trip to Pennsylvania, is a story for another day. I'll put aside the details of Seconda's infection, too. Suffice it to say that on the Saturday morning leading to the long weekend, our apartment was a convalescent home.
Did this stop us from adventuring on to New Jersey? Of course not. There were no fevers in any children, and everyone had seen a doc, and been prescribed the proper drug therapies. In other wods, everyone was on the mend. No reason not to enjoy the well-deserved and much-needed change in scenery, the chance to spread out into a home with three floors and ample bathrooms. Provided, of course, we came prepared.
So, in addition to the usual clothing and baby monitors and nighttime diapers and books and electronic equipment, I packed a medical bag. I always bring a small version of my doctor's bag when we travel overnight -- the thermometer, the children's Tylenol , sometimes allergy meds and always, always the stainless steel German lice comb for which there is absolutely no substitution.
But this time, the bare bones Doctor's Bag would not do. This time, each child needed their own individual medical kit, and the items piled up so high, they could no longer fit in the toiletry bag I usually employ for such a job, nor the large freezer bag I use when the toiletry bag isn't big enough. This amount of medical equipment necessitated a shopping bag.
First, I put in the Chidlren's Tylenol and Motrin, the Dimetapp and then, for extra measure, I threw in the adult's Motrin, since Primo is big enough to take the adult stuff and chances were good either David and I would be coming down with something too. Then there was the antibiotics for Primo and the different antibiotics for Seconda and the medicine for the Primo's monster case of croup. With so many antibiotics, it would really be best to bring probiotics, to keep the guts in working order - so I tossed those in too.
We needed the Vick's Vapor Rub to help Primo's super congested nose breathe at night and the Aquaphor for the winter eczema they all have. I didn't think Primo was dealing with asthma currently, but he occasionally gets it as a result of a bad cold, and the croup was scary enough to make me bring the inhaler just in case.
As long as I'm bringing the inhaler, I thought, I really might as well bring the chamber to make sure it gets inhaled correctly. What's a chamber without a mask, really, so I stuck that in as well.
Terza had developed the croup, too, and while it hadn't reached ER-visit levels, I've seen enough croup to know it certainly could over the next two nights and though a steam shower is really the best and most effective remedy, there was no telling if my parents would have hot water at 3am or if their bathroom would steam adequately. I could use Primo's nebulizer to steam her up if need be, and all I'd need for that was some sterile water. Which was fine since I just so happened to have a big bag full of sterile water, taken from my father's doctor's office before he retired. I mean, who doesn't have that just lying around.
So, in went the nebulizer and the sterile water. You know, what everyone takes for a two night getaway to a neighboring state.
I thought I'd covered all my bases. After all, we were staying with my father who was a doctor and who had his own stethoscope. Wait, did he? I knew he had one in his Manhattan apartment but did he keep an extra stethoscope in the New Jersey house? I called my father to confirm and he said, no, regrettably not.
"No problem, " i said, "We''ll bring ours."
That's right. I have my own stethoscope. My dad brought it over to listen to Primo's breathing one day and he forgot it. I never gave it back because you never know when you'll need a stethoscope and you don't want to need one and not have it there, right then.
So into the medical satchel went the stethoscope.
"If only we had a blood pressure machine and a heart rate monitor and a centrifuge for blood collection," I told David/ "Then we'd be REALLY set."
And this is how, in the period of twenty four hours, a normal woman can morph into a deranged lunatic.
I don't know how Florence Nightingale kept her shit together, I'll tell you that much.
I was scrolling down my Facebook feed and I saw a link for an article in the Huff Post on Super Lice
I did not read it. Though I love whipping myself into a neurotic froth as much as the next guy, I draw the line at the Lice Apocalypse. The only Super Lice I want to hear about are ones wearing capes and saving lives, I decided.
And then, a minute later, I clicked on the link and read the article. My self-control could use some work.
I was glad I'd read it, though, because my fears were totally allayed. It's breaking news that the lice shampoo alone isn't sufficient to kill the lice? Not to me. I've apprenticed at the hands of the Lice Ladies, though, so I'm Super Lice Girl, with a wealth of knowledge and a hard-core stainless steel comb from Germany.
I'm also slightly immune to the Super Lice fear-mongering because, for years, I've heard about the original Super Lice from my grandmother. Those were the World World Two Lice and those were about as apocalyptic as you get. My grandmother basically was lice-infested for the entirety of her childhood, and so was the whole village. Then, she says, the Americans dropped DDT on the village and whammo presto! no more lice.
Kinds of helps you keep everything in perspective.
Seconda is a big-time animal-lover. We've never had one of those in the family so we're at a bit of a loss as to how to meet her animal-loving needs. We certainly can't get a dog or cat. The cat would be OK if I weren't very allergic to one. And I guess the dog would be OK too, if I had a fleet of servants to care for the animal and I lived in a mansion where the dog could have it's own wing, which is to say a place he could go where I didn't hear him. Neither of these possibilities are likely to occur, though. So, I found myself googling. "Playing with animals in NYC" and I found this:
This webpage wins the prize for Most Useful Webpage ever. It includes such startling obvious tips as:
Visit a pet store
Hang out around dog parks
Make a friend with a dog
I guess it's what I get for running a stupid google search. Just as there certainly are dumb questions (don't believe those who tell you there aren't), there rare dumb google searches, and "playing with animals in NYC" is definitely among them.
At 5:30 at night, I need a break. Most days, I've had my kids under my care for a few hours by then; I've schlepped them around in the cold and rain and general awfulness out-of-doors. I've helped them with homework, in the process teaching myself complex computation with fractions, or else earning a bleeding ulcer from agida. I've cleaned up juice and crackers and poop and pee from the floor, courtesy of Terza and I've served up roughly two hundred thirteen portions of snacks. I've counseled them through crushing defeats, moderated innumerable feuds, assuaged unbearable slights. I may have even celebrated, with preternatural gusto, some successes.
That's to say nothing of the day of work which precedes retrieving my kids. So, at 5:30, I'm ready for a little break. I'm ready to crack open my computer, respond to a few emails, take care of some annoying bits of business so that I won't be up until midnight doing it later. I need the break in order to make it through the rest of the night, which involves dinner and bedtime, otherwise known as Everyone Yell Loudly For Three Hours Time.
So, last night, at 5:30 when Terza announced in her most adorable voice: "I need my snuggly" I hardly even looked up from my computer. .
"What's that?" I asked.
"My snuggly bunny, Mommy," she said, really laying on the cuteness. She titled her head to the side and pouted her lips together in a patented don't-you-just-want-to-eat-me-up look. "I need my bunny from my crib because I want to snuggle with it so I can get so cozy and toasty and warm."
For a second, I almost caved to the cuteness. It was really highly concentrated stuff, top shelf. But then my fatigue won out. The thought of getting off the couch was just too much to bear.
"OK," I said. "I'll get it for you in a minute."
Her cute-as-a-button face melted instantly into her Hell-hath-no-fury face. She was obviously vexed that I'd grown immune to her charms.
"No you won't!" she shouted.
She was a hundred percent right. I would not get the bunny in a minute, or even, probably, five minutes. It could be a good twenty minutes before I got up to get the snuggly bunny, so essential to my daughter's warm and cozy master plan. It would probably require one of the big kids to have a major problem which prompted them to yell for me incessantly from the other room, enough that I'd get fed up listening to it and storm up off the couch and over to them. Then, as long as I was up, I'd get the snuggly bunny. This is what it means to be a third child. Your mother is always tired. Your mother has no time. Your snuggly bunny, no matter how adorably you ask for it, is never high on the priority list.
The guilt prompted by this revelation, combined with the realization that if I didn't get the snuggly bunny from her crib, she would do it -- which would require her to climb into the crib, which would cement that awful, hideous, deal-breaking, life-as-we-know-it-is-over habit -- made me get up.
"Here, " I said, tossing it to her and resuming my business on the couch.
When Primo was but a wee one, he used to call resolutions "revolutions." I much prefer to think of them that way; makes these commitments sounds a helluva lot more powerful, dangerous even.
I have a few revolutions underway this year but the main one is . . .
Work on patience
I have many strengths as a mother and as a person but patience is not among them. It's hard to be patient when you're ambitious, when a churning yearning is part of your very constitution. The propulsive forward momentum is not a bad thing -- it's why I get shit done -- but I'm finding it needs to be tempered. As I get older, I find more and more that patience is a critical ingredient in my recipe for happiness and success, especially in parenting. There is very little instant gratification in parenting. You can't tell, often for years, if some great, carefully-thought-out approach of yours is working. You might get little glimpses of hope from time to time, moments that will make you think, "Ah ha! My master plan of creating a happy, healthy, productive member roy society is working!" but chances are, you'll also have as many glimpses of doom, which lead you to think, "Oh no! It's all going to shit! What cleared me for parenting duty?"
The incubation period, when you're trying to raise a good person, is long and anxiety-provoking. But there's no way around it. And I think I'd be a good deal more pleasant and productive if I just accepted that. So, bam. Working on patience.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.