Monday, January 19, 2009

Care Package

A few years back, a friend who was born and raised in the south moved far north to go to college. I admired her courage and shivered at the thought of long, cold winters and a world without the essentials of life, namely: sweet tea, flaky biscuits and Moon Pies.

After she'd been in Boston a few months, I sent her a care package of things you should be able to find in civilized society: pork rinds, grits, RC cola and Moon Pies. The package was 1/2 joke and 1/2 friendly hug from afar. With internet shopping, she could have probably bought all of those things with a few mouse clicks, but that wasn't the point. The point was, she was a newbie in a new world. I just wanted to make her smile and give her some familiar snacks from "home." (Though, since she's Jewish, I don't know how the pork rinds went over. That was the joke part, I guess.)

I once watched my grandmother pack for a trip to Chicago to see my dear Aunt Mary. She loaded her suitcase with clothing, shoes for herself and cornmeal, grits, Karo syrup, and Moon Pies for Aunt Mary. This was decades before the internet and dependable, timely shipping. When Grandmother and I got to Chicago, Aunt Mary accepted the care package with glee.

When my brother was stationed in England, my sisters and I would pack him elaborate care packages of candy, beef jerky, Bic pens and toiletries. No Moon Pies, that I remember. I don't know how he survived, frankly.

Care packages seem to be a dying art. Anyone can buy anything they want on the Internet, delivered right to their doorstep, any time they want. You can even buy ready made "care packages" on line and send them to a friend with a computer print out greeting card. What the hell is the point of that? That's not a care package! That's just a box of crap you paid someone to put together for you.

Today on Twitter, there was a discussion between friends (you are my friends, Tweeters. pinkie swears.) about food. Ex-pats were talking about food they remember/miss from home. I joked about making care packages for them, but now I mean it. In fact, I've already put one together.

So here's my proposal: tell me what you miss the most about home. E-mail me your mailing address and I will send you a care package. I can't promise anything elaborate or expensive (we're working on a tight budget at Casa Three of 7). If I can't find the item you really want, I'll let you know. I want to say thank you for reading this blog, thank you for listening to me whine and giggle. I want you to give you a hug, even if it comes in a box in the form of cheeze crackers and jujubes. I want to send you a care package.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Asshat

There are moments in parenting that make you feel like the smartest, most entertaining, most resourceful, kindest parent in the world. Gluing a favorite toy back together, catching a child in mid-fall, saying the just the right thing to soothe a sobbing child, occupying a toddler on a rainy day using nothing but Popsicle sticks, glue and construction paper. Those kinds of moments.

There are also moments that make you feel like a complete asshat.

If you play your cards right and work really hard at it, the good moments are more frequent than the asshat moments. But the asshat moments hurt. Hopefully you haven't done anything so awful that it hurts your child physically or mentally, but it hurts you. At least, the asshat moments hurt *me*.

There are simple ones, like the time I got the Bug all hyped up to go to her favorite indoor play center. We got there and the place was closed for a private party. Bug already had her shoes off and was excited about jumping in a bouncy tent. I had to pull her back and tell her we weren't allowed. Talk about taking the wind out of some one's sails.

There are scary ones, like the time I was holding Dos, who was enraged that I'd just changed her diaper. She bucked backwards and right out of my arm. I can still hear the sound her body made when it hit the floor and it makes me sick to my stomach. After four hours in the ER, Dos had a perfectly clean bill of health and Bug was have a grand time in the hospital cafeteria and I was resolved to hold my baby tightly, with two hands, no matter what.

And then there was Saturday night. A new level in ass-hattery for me. I was a major-league asshole to my child. I was frustrated and weary. She was energetic and insistent. I threw away a toy she gave me and stomped off, leaving her alone, wailing in the kitchen. I didn't just take the wind out of her sails. I shredded the sails, pulled the plug on the boat and left her there to sink.

I apologized a short time later and she seemed fine with everything, but I can't forget the sound of her cry. Add that to the nasty look Grinch gave me later, along with the admonishment, "She was really hurt. REALLY. Hurt." and my torment is complete.

No parent is perfect. I know that. I pray a lot for patience, strength, energy and fortitude. I don't know if God hears those prayers. I don't know what he'd think if I prayed, "Dear God, don't let me be an asshat to my children today."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The day to day business of parenting is pretty easy. Diaper changing, book reading, cup filling, baby totin', etc? Easy peasy. It's when you throw in an actual child that things get complicated.

You have to contend with squirming, crying, fussing and cussing. And you think pregnant women are moody? Honey, baby and toddler moods switch so quickly you could get whiplash. Grinch and I often remark to one another, over the angry wails of a certain tot, "Five minutes ago, everything was funny. Suddenly, NOTHING is funny."

And here's a surprise: 3-and-a-half year olds have very strong feelings about things. Very strong feelings that they don't tell you about until it's too late. "nononoNOOOOO! I wanted to peel the clementine! Aaaaaagh!" "Where are my pink monkey pajamas?" In the wash. "WHAT?! I wanted to wear those tonight. Aaaaaagh!" "I can buckle my own belt! Aaaaaagh!" You get the idea.

My best response to these outbursts is to say, "I didn't know that, darlin'. Next time you can (fill in the blank). Next time. Hey! Look! Charlie is chewing on your sister's sock! heehee!" and I go on about my business.

That works pretty well with the bug, but Dos doesn't know anything about "next time." All she knows is that you made her mad! right! NOW! Diaper change: Waaaaaaaaah! Car seat buckling: Waaaaaaaaah! Removal of small objects from her mouth: Waaaaaaaaah! And she, unlike her sister, is a fighter.

My 20-something brothers used to wrestle me to the ground when I was just a pre-teen. I was regularly knocked around by my childhood "playmate". But the pain of being bitten on the shoulder by pointy baby teeth is like no other. And who taught this little angel to slap? Seriously. She has never been hit, never seen anyone get hit, but she can land a slap better than Joan Collins.

I don't know if baby-on-mama violence really hurts, or it's just the indignity getting whalloped by an infant that riles me up so much. Plus, you can't hit back. I go hit the washer/dryer and scream into a pile of laundry instead. If our laundry pile could talk, it would probably repeat some very bad words.

The furniture and the laundry bear the physical manifestations of my frustration and anger. I get it out of my system and go back to the baby or the toddler, hold them close, kiss them, whisper loving words into their ears, sometimes all while they're still wailing about whatever injustice has befallen them. I throw myself back into the fray because parenting is hard, but loving them is easy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Would you?

Would you be worried if you child's babysitter:

joked about your baby (who, admittedly, cries loud and long), saying, "With her, I know why there's shaken baby syndrome."

told you about your baby's crying jag, trailing off, "oh, baby, you're such a little pill....sometimes."

tearfully told you how she was fired from her former job (not babysitting, but an entirely different field), and included the words, "...and a year and a half later, I'm doing THIS..." (pointing to your living room floor).

while babysitting your child, updated her Facebook account with the words "I went to college for this!?!"

This is a person who is always on time, accommodating to your schedule, gets glowing reviews from other employers and by all appearances is kind, gentle and loving with your children.

There's no reason to suspect any wrong doing of any kind. There's just a feeling that maybe this isn't the exactly the right person for you right now.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

She Is

She is strong-willed. When the nurses tried to hold her in, she forced her way out. She was ready, even if they weren't.

She is opinionated. Give her a toy she doesn't want and she dashes it to the floor, using her newly free hand to grab what she really wants.

She is tenacious. She learned to climb before she learned to walk. She did it so she could reach toys that had been placed out of reach.

She is full of wonder. Take her outside and she hushes, taking in the sunlight, the twittering birds, the buzz of the neighbor's lawnmower. She is wide-eyed and looking in every direction. "Show me more!" she seems to say.

She won't be ignored. If her sister is getting lap time, she muscles her way in. If that's not enough she climbs higher on my shoulder. If that doesn't do the trick, she gets into nursing position. The kid knows how to work the system.

She is tough. She rolls off beds, jumps out of arms, falls while learning to walk and barely misses a beat. She's given of a dozen heart attacks, but just keeps going.

She is funny. She'll roll up my shirt-sleeve to get bare skin upon which to blow a proper raspberry. If I'm laying down, she'll lift my shirt to blow on my belly. She chuckles at her own trick and does it again and again just to hear me laugh.

She laughs and cries lustily and with great purpose. There is something wrong. There is something funny. She can't talk, but she can communicate and she does it with unmatched fervor.

She is my Dos. My do-si-do. My monkey. My cookie. My bunny.

She is one year old today. I can barely believe it. The textbooks say she's not a baby any more. She'll always be my baby. My special baby girl.