Saturday, March 28, 2015

A new (insane) perspective on sibling rivalry

When I added another child to the family, I greatly multiplied the possibilities for sibling rivalry. If you were a math person, you could compute the exact number of permutations or combinations or whatever you call it. I am not a math person. I am a sandwich person.

By my count, we've got the following combos on the rivalry menu:

Big Boy vs Big Girl aka The Original Combo (Primo vs. Seconda)

Biggest vs Smallest ( Primo vs Terza)

Girl vs Girl (Terza vs Seconda)

and then your more harry fare, the two against one deals:

Bigs vs Small (Primo and Seconda vs Terza)


Girls vs Boy (Seconda and Terza vs Primo)

So many options for sibling throw-downs! Which is great, because variety is the spice of life!

Despite the number of possibilities, though, there is one combo that is far more popular than the others, winning by a landslide. That's the Original.

I don't know whether it's the fact that Primo vs Seconda deal has been on the menu five years longer or the fact that Primo and Seconda are just such contradictory flavors that it makes for an incendiary melange, but whatever it is, the big kids arguing accounts for 90 percent of all sibling rivalry. Roughly. I'm no mathematician.

If you're feeling irritated by this seriously overused metaphor, that really wasn't that sound in the first place, consider this: by thinking of my children as sandwich fixings and their showdowns as sibling panini, it makes the chronically unbearable business of sibling rivalry so much more tolerable. Since I don't have anything useful to offer in the way of advice for you, fellow parents, about how you might address sibling rivalry, let me suggest this coping strategy then: imagine your children as lunch meat.

It's the least I can do.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Darkness and In Light

It has long been a dream of mine to share my story in the Modern Love section of the New York Times.

A few days ago, that dream came true. You can read my story here.

If you'er looking for another story about love and blindness -- a stunning one -- read this Modern Love by writer Ryan Knighton, author of the memoir Cockeyed: Seeing The World Through My Wife's Eyes. Prepare to weep!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Facetime Babysitter

You have to respond to a pressing email or get dinner in the ocean and your 3 year-old is running amok. What do you do to get 20 minutes to take care of business? You may just dial up Aunt Rita or Grandpa Mo and ask them to babysit -- through your cell phone.

According to The New York Times's Motherlode,  FaceTime Babysitters  are becoming more and more popular for short stints of time -- when parents are at home but need to get stuff done. It's not the worst idea is the world but it's probably not the best idea either.
“The art of dealing with boredom or nonstimulation is an exquisite skill that children need to develop,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician in Seattle and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media. 
Of course, this begs the question: if Grandpa Mo or Auntie Rita are really boring, is it OK?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Opinions on parenting

I used to have a lot of opinions on how parents should raise their kids. 

Then I had children. 

Little by little, year by year, my opinions grew weaker until they began to disappear altogether. They were replaced by opinions on how I should raise my own kids, whose needs I understand thoroughly, and who belong to a family, whose needs, talents and limitations are very clear to me. 

But the more kids I have and the longer I raise them, the fewer opinions I have about parenting in general. That's because I see the tremendous range of children out there and the tremendous range of families who are trying their absolute best to support those kids and love those kids and make those kids into great adults. I see how little I actually see of families inner workings, and I see how many of my assumptions over the years have been inaccurate. And having seen all this, I realize there can never be one right way to do something as complex as raise a happy, healthy, good human being. 

Love your kids. Love yourself  Laugh. Ask for help. Give some thought to your decisions about their care. Try to see the forest for the trees. 

Those are my opinions. And if I didn't already believe every single parent I know was doing all of these things already, maybe I'd venture to offer them. 

The one opinion I have that I think parents need to hear is that if you have a lot of opinions on child rearing, you should probably keep them to yourself.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Oh my gosh, the lights!

Larry Hester, who has been totally blind for 33 years, recently saw New York City with restored sight, courtesy of a prosthetic retina.I read about him in this story in People magazine and it totally reduced me to tears. Especially this part:
"Oh my gosh, the lights," he says while squeezing his wife Jerry's hand on world-famous 42nd Street. "They're everywhere."
It's a terrifically inspiring story about hope and love and gratitude. Read it!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Licking Phase of Toddlerhood

Kids go through many gross phases. They eat their boogers and scratch their butts and engage in all sorts of other similiarly distasteful habits frowned upon by medical professionals.

Terza is going through one of my least favorite phases yet.

The Licking phase.

Not to be confused with the Mouthing phase, which happens much earlier, well under a year of age. I find the Mouthing phase gross, naturally, but I don't fault the kids for it; after all, at 8 months old, they can't talk or walk or do anything really, except put stuff in their mouths. If the choice was Suck On a Slipper or Do Absolurtely Nothing, I'd suck on the slipper every time.

No, the Licking phase comes much later, and is -- at least from what I've observed -- much more about testing limits and getting a reaction than actually exploring the world around them. I have far less patience for this phase since at nearly 3, Terza can do most of the things I can do. She can pick out her own outfit, put it on, look in a mirror, decide she doesn't like it and change again. That alone, could occupy you for the better part of a day. There's just no need to lick things.

It wouldn't be so mortally revolting if Terza licked toys or plates or even clothes. The child licks surfaces. Walls. Counters. Floors. FLOORS.

But because she's my third, I retain a decent amount of composure about it all. After all, I remember, clear as day, when Seconda at this age, was riding the R train and I caught her extending her tongue to the lick the subway pole. That instantly became my new benchmark for Grossest Things to Lick.

A few weeks ago, though, a new benchmark was created. Over winter break, we took the kids to a cheap hotel near the Philly airport, one with a swimming pool in which we could fritter away many long, cold hours. When we got to the hotel, it was pretty shabby, shabbier even than we expected. It was the sort of place you check for bedbugs twice. The chain lock on the hotel door was broken, probably the result of a drug deal gone awry. Half of the electrical outlets didn't work. I voted we go home - our home was just as dirty but at least it was our own dirt and it was free. But we couldn't get our money back and the children, David pointed out, were delighted. They didn't mind the squalor -- they never do. And there was a pool!

If the hotel room was dirty, you can imagine what the pool area was like. On the evening we arrived, I asked what time the pool closed and the woman at the front desk informed me it was closed early because there'd been an "incident" and it needed to be cleaned. I was tempted to ask which manner of bodily fluids we were talking about but I decided it was better not knowing.

So the next morning, when we headed down to the pool, I wished we'd brought full scuba gear and possibly a acquatic Hazmat suit. That the pool was packed with kids did not make it more appealing or less gross. My own kids blithely jumped into the pool which was approximately 20 degrees.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The pool was not only grimy but freezing and the hot tub . . . is there a nice way to say cess pool?

However, I am an intrepid woman and also, a strong believer in getting your money's worth, even if that will eventually require a long course of antibiotics. So I plunged into the hot tub tried to enjoy it.

I took Terza in the hot tub with me because she's too young to tolerate hypothermia. But after a few minutes she got bored, and climbed out of the hot tub, sitting on the edge with her feet in the water. If it was difficult to relax in the fungal hot tub, it was even harder to relax while watching my toddler walk around the slippery edge.

"Sit down," I told her. "You're going to fall."

So she did. Well, she didn't so much sit and drop down on all fours.

And then, as I watched, she lowered her head to the filthy puddle of water next to the hot-tub-cess-pool and stuck her tongue in it.

You know that slow-mo moment where you cry out in horror but it is too late because the damage is done? Yep, that about sums it up.

The good news is we got our money's worth. The bad news is, it's our money's worth of bacteria.

Can't wait for this phase to be over . . .

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This Grimm deep cut will give you nightmares

A few years ago, I picked up this amazing audiobook collection of Grimm's fairytales at my favorite bookstore ever, The Strand. I could listen to the hypnotic narration all freaking day -- it's all these female British vocal talent artists who make me feel like I am in an episode of Downton Abbey. So, really, the fact that they are saying anything of interest is all bonus.

But what they are reading is of great interest. Those Grimm brothers were totally screwed in the head. This is abundantly apparent in tales like Snow White (we don't even blink when the evil queen says "bring me her heart in a box" but just take a sec and consider how fucked up that is). But if you want to really hear the seriously screwed up shit, you need to get into lesser Grimm. You need to listen to the deep cuts. Like, say: "The Wolf and Seven Young Kids"

Here's how it begins:
"There was once upon a time an old goat who had seven little kids, and loved them with all the love of a mother for her children. One day she wanted to go into the forest and fetch some food. So she called all seven to her and said, “Dear children, I have to go into the forest, be on your guard against the wolf; if he comes in, he will devour you all—skin, hair and all. The wretch often disguises himself, but you will know him at once by his rough voice and his black feet.” The kids said, “Dear mother, we will take good care of ourselves; you may go away without any anxiety.” Then the old one bleated, and went on her way with an easy mind."

OK, so first, I just have to say: the mom goes on her way with an easy mind? Really? A conniving, shapeshifting wolf is on the loose and she totally takes the kids' word for it that they've got this under control? Hmmmm. I'm all for free-range parenting, but dude, come on.

As you have probably predicted, the wolf comes immediately. Like, in the next sentence. Like, I'm surprised the mom didn't run into him on her way out. And he's like, "Little kids, let me come in, I'm your old mom." And they're like, "No way dude! You have that rough voice our mom told us about. And we are street smart kids. So get thee gone Satan." And he's like,"Drat! Back to the drawing board."

But he's a conniving old thing so he goes and swallows a big chunk of chalk, which, as everyone known, makes your rough voice turn silky smooth. And it works, of course. So he comes back and goes, "Little kids, let me come in. I'm your dear old mom." And the kids are like, "Well, she does have that silky smooth mom voice. BUT we're street smart so let's check the paws." And bingo, they're black. So the kids say, "Nuh-uh. Forget it. Get thee gone Satan."

Now THIS part, I love. The wolf knows he needs to cover his black paws in dough because, DUH, what else do you do to trick defenseless young kids that you want to devour? But when he goes to the baker to get the dough necessary for this endeavor, the baker knows better.

"Now hold on one cotton-picking second. I know what you want that dough for and you can forget it," says the baker.  And the wolf is like, "Oh yeah? Well, how about I just tear you limb from limb and eat your goddamn entrails?" And the baker is like, "Take all the dough you need there. Mr Wolf. Hope those kids go down easy."

The wolf goes back and this time, the kids let him in. After all, their mom just told them to look out for the rough voice and the black paws and they totally did and he's clear. So they let him in and he eats every one -- well, almost every one. The tiniest, and apparently smartest, kid, hides in the clock and seriously, what a good hiding place. Plus, after feasting on six kids, the wolf is kind of stuffed.

The wolf, who has gorged himself, goes to sleep. Then the mom comes back and she's like, "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE? I THOUGHT I TOLD THEM ABOUT THE ROUGH VOICE AND THE BLACK PAWS!!!!!" Then her smart little one pops out of the clock (that one is going to need therapy forever) and he tells the mom what happened.

The mom finds the hideous wolf sleeping and she notices his belly is, well, moving. And she realizes its all her six children in there, who are STILL ALIVE, because the wolf, as wolves are wont to do in Grimm fairytales, gobbled them up whole. Hallejuia!

She knows just what to do. Apparently, she's read LIttle Red Riding Hood. Get the knife, slice the wolf  open, and let those kids out. He's sleeping so, you know, it's all good. It's not like a little disembowelment will rouse an animal when he's napping.

HERE is where the story gets good (yes, I realize it's the very end but remember, good things come to those who wait). The mom gets all Kill Bill on us. Hell hath no fury like a mom whose six kids have been devoured by a wolf. She says, "Kids! I know you've suffered a terrible trauma but go get the biggest rocks you can find because your old mom has a plan!"

Then she puts the rocks in the wolf's belly in place of her children and -- Grimm brothers are sure to note -- she hustles because she doesn't want the old wolf to wake up, and she super fast sews him up.

The wolf wakes up and he is kind of thirsty so he walks over to the lake to get a drink and all the rocks in his guts knock together and he realizes something is amiss.

"Then cried he,

        What rumbles and tumbles
Against my poor bones?
I thought ’twas six kids,
But it’s naught but big stones.

And when he got to the well and stooped over the water and was just about to drink, the heavy stones made him fall in and there was no help, but he had to drown miserably."


These Grimm brothers don't pull any punches. The rocks in his guts slowly drowned him. Come on. That is some dark shit, even for the Grimms. It makes Snow White seem like a lovely little lullaby. 

So, there you go. Sorry if I gave you hideous nightmares. but at least you didn't play that story on tape for your young children.