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Entries in kids (15)


Take My Sibling... Please.

This is not embarrassing AT ALL.My seven year old daughter informed me today that her younger brother embarrasses her. This information has left me conflicted. On the one hand, I am sympathetic. I had a younger brother and he embarrassed me. On the other hand, "Hey, you little Wednesday Addams wannabe, that's my SON you're talking about!"

Y. is a beautiful boy, both inside and out. At the age of three, he uses words like microscope and esophagus. He helps me mop the floor and puts his clothes in the laundry hamper without being asked. He's vibrant and talkative.

And my daughter is embarrassed by him.

This, I think, is one of those territories where one has to sit back and let the kids figure it out. I can't force her not to cringe when her brother starts chattering about how he'll be thirty two on his birthday when he'll actually be three. It terrifies me that one day, I will replace her brother. It's inevitable, I think. No matter how cool I am, I will embarrass her if I step outside of "normal" parenthood. Which I will because as my mother and mother in law have often said on different occasions, "you have strange ideas about parenting. 

It's taken me a long time to like me, and I don't know if I'm prepared to tolerate the girl's dislike for me. Can you force someone to love you? No? What if they're your child? Then?

I remember when Y. was born and how excited N. was about it. There's a beautiful photo of her holding him as she gazed at his little face with love and wonder. One might call the look "motherly." If I had been asked at that moment if N. would every be embarrassed by her brother, I would've scoffed. Grown ups aren't the only ones that change how they feel. Children tend to do it, too, if not more often.

I want to tell her that she, too, was once three years old.

I want to remind her how she used to run circles around her portable, little potty rhythmically chanting, "I need a diaper, I need a diaper, I need a diaper." 

Or about how one time we were lunching at the club at the  golf course near our home and she loudly proclaimed in a packed room where I was the only woman, "This chair hurts my vagina."

Or how about when she threw up on me without any warning once on the way to Saudi and I had to walk around the plane with a blanket full of vomit?

There was also the time she cried and cried and CRIED at preschool and I had no option other than removing her from the class.  I want to tell her how embarrassed I felt when the teacher of the class looked at me in a way that I was absolutely sure was full of blame.

I was embarrassed every single one of those times, but I loved her, you know? The love was more important than my feeling cool. Or even being cool.

I hope she gets that. 

Because, like I said, Wednesday Addams, that's my SON


Oh, but Parenting is, in fact, "a Job" @betadad

In addition to being timely, dependable, a great dad and a rakishly handsome dead ringer for Sting, my friend Betadad is an excellent writer.

All that complimenting, of course, means I'm going to disagree with him. I was going to e-mail him, but then I thought, you know, why waste five hundred words on a one person audience when I can publicly disagree with him in front of tens of people by writing a whole post.

Okay, it's hundreds. Not tens. I do have my pride. 

In a post on Dadcentric that critiques what I agree is a stupid commercial aimed at getting people to purchase soap by propagating an idea of parenting and motherhood that would seem more at home in a Greek tragedy, Betadad dismisses the idea that parenting is a job, at all:

We could have a very long and pointless discussion about what makes a job "hard" or "dirty" or "bad" or even "rewarding," but that would be beside the point.  The thing is, parenting is not a job.  It has some things in common with a job, sure, but it's a whole different animal.  We don't get paid to parent.  We can't quit if we get pissed off.  We can't look around for better parenting gigs.  We can't sue our employer.  We don't have an employer.  We don't have the option of not taking our work home with us.  We generally don't receive any training, on-the-job or otherwise. 

Well. I don't know.

If we're talking about job in the sense of being paid, then, yes, unless hugs, smiles and poopy diapers count, we are not, in fact, paid. But the word "job" doesn't just include work that is paid. While this is certainly the primary definition, my dear friend the former English teacher and Sting look alike, I believe the informal usage of "job" can refer to general tasks, paid or not.

Being the parent of small children can make you either want to tear your hair out or it can make you think you got this parenting thing in the bag. Truth is, that give or take ten years, you've got another forty or so years before you're not that child's parent any more due to the whole heart not beating any more thing.  If your kids aren't teenagers yet, you're about one thirtieth of the way through.

Saying parenting is not a job when you're three years in feels premature.

And when it's stated that one cannot be fired from this job? Having fired a parent myself, I know this to be completely false. The parent I've fired is still and always will be my biological parent, but they will never, ever hold the trust that a parent deserves. My spiritual and cultural beliefs dictate that they are treated with courtesy and respect. But my heart fired them a long time ago.

They were fired because they quit. They were fired because they tried to find a better gig. They were fired because they went to far away places and never bothered to take their work with them.

So, Betadad, it's easy to say that this isn't a job when you didn't have someone quit on you.

Furthermore, I say, yes, this is a job. I work hard every day not to be the kind of parent that will be fired. I worry every day about dropping that ball, about unconsciously quitting, about slipping into a better gig without realizing it until its too late and I'm left wondering why those damned kids never call me. We don't get paid, that's true, but we can get fired. To me, that's enough to make me want to work very hard and do a good job of it.

Furthermore, I hold the people who do this job well in high regard and esteem because I know, from experience, that they absolutely have a choice even if they think they don't.

Now, is parenting the hardest job? I don't know about that. My understanding is that dumpsters have to be cleaned and scraped on a bi-annual basis. My vote is with the dumpster cleaners.

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Needing to Know

I was once a person that needed to know what happened next. You're thinking that everyone needs that, but they don’t. Most people want to know. They would like to know. It was a need for me.
In keeping with the grand tradition of separating life into two distinct phases more for the purposes of drama and less so for the need to extract wisdom from a given situation, forgive me when I say... and then I had kids.

Look, I just never know what to expect. Today, I think I have it all figured out and the next day she looks at me and smiles at me in a way that is completely different. Where there were once two, perfect, tiny baby teeth, there is now a gap that looks something like a doorway causing my extraordinarily articulate child to lisp in a way that makes me turn my head because I don’t want her to see me giggle at her.

I’m thrust into a reality that I never expected. I will never experience that "before" smile again. I wish I had looked harder, so hard that it would be burned in my memory to the extent that I would have no need to long for its return. Is it possible to remember the past so clearly that it sears the regret from your heart? I’d like some of that, please.

Photos aren’t enough, either. In fact, photos make it worse because they remind me of the fact that my brain is incapable of holding on to this beautiful, very important memory. Unexplainably, this speaks to the darkest part of my heart whose voice though terribly sporadic is nonetheless powerful as it reminds me that I don’t love her the way I should... that I might not be enough.

Her smile will be replaced by a new smile, and I have been undergoing a subconscious preparation for the new one over the course of the past several weeks. One year ago, I was greeted every day after school by a mess of long, brown hair, too thin arms, and legs blurring with speed as they ran towards me and jumped into my arms. Now, a little girl with a bob that’s much too fashionable for a child of six glances up as I walk up the sidewalk and half of the time I can see that she hopes that I don’t see her right away so she can keep playing with her friends.

One year ago, she would tell me I was her best friend, and I would gently explain that a mother and a best friend are a little bit different and that one day she would have a best friend that was not her mother and she’d realize that it was better that way... and I don’t know, I didn’t think that would happen so fast.

I wish I would have kept my mouth shut and just been her best friend like she wanted.

I used to be a person who needed to know what happened next until I realized that there’s no way of knowing. The things you know always fall away so they may be replaced by newer, stronger and hopefully more beautiful things. Then, you’ll close your eyes and feel the happiness that only hope can bring as the very need to survive the march of time transforms desperate needs into passing wishes.

It's hip to be a Square. I just migrated to the Squarespace platform. Other than the blog looking better in your browser, this doesn't mean much to you. You will notice, however, that the reply feature is not available yet. Please check back sporadically for replies to your comments until I get that figured out.


The Dr. King & I: Intentions and Realities. # HappyMLKDay

MLK Day History: You cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have been.

I woke with the intention of making today meaningful.

When we first decided to move to Memphis, the first thought that came to me was "That's where they shot Dr. King." Yes, I called him Dr. King because in my family, you always put Dr. in front of someone's name if they're a doctor. And, yes, I thought the words exactly like that ... "they shot him." Like an army of people fired shots at the Lorraine. Aside from proving that I'm careless when I'm thinking to myself, this is illustrative of how many view race, if not life itself.

The National Civil Rights Museum rests quietly beneath a vintage green sign with red letters proclaiming the words "Lorraine Motel" on it.   It happens to be two trolley stops away from our apartment. To give you an idea of how much I wanted today to mean something, Tariq commuted 45 minutes to join us for our very own Family Civil Rights Remembrance Lunch today.

Because this is Memphis.

This is where Dr. King died, you know.

In the morning, I explained slavery to my daughter.

She was horrified, as she should be.

Then I explained segregation.

That seemed to confuse her, as it should.

I repeated the "content of his character" line like you do when you're trying to be inspirational about race. I explained non-violent resistance. I'm not sure what stuck, but it felt significant at the time.

We stepped off the trolley towards the museum, and there were so many people. I realized going into the actual museum was a bust.  I've been there once already, so that wasn't too big of a deal. There was music playing, food cooking, laughter... people, there were funnel cakes!

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Memphians come out to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday

Funnel cakes!

At the place where "they" shot Dr. King!

This was not a place for martyrs.

This was a party. The smell of funnel cakes summarily decimated my romantic notions surrounding today and drove home an obvious reality.

Today is the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, there are funnel cakes.

I know the readership of this blog enough to know that most of the people reading right now are not exactly like me.  I write for people who want to learn about difference or diversity, so it follows that most people reading here are not "like me".  The funny thing about being "brown like me" is that you're not "black" or "white".

Bask in the brilliance of that little gem.

When you're "brown" (I'm totally doing air quotes), you don't carry a lot of American baggage.  Hold your envy, my friends, I have baggage of a different type. Slavery, separate water fountains, back of the bus and such, though?  Not so much. I own this history, but I do not live it the way someone who is "black" or "white" would.  (Again, with the air quotes).

From my position, I see shame, guilt, anger, finger pointing and even justification when it comes to these topics. Some decry this nation's racial past as shameful , others justify it as natural, many are somewhere in between. Some rant about how nothing has changed and others talk of how there's nothing left to do. Some people get angry if race is brought up at all while still others seem to make everything about race.

What I seldom see is what I saw today: celebrating.

I was not here when you were here, but I know we have come a long way. Today, my brown kid sat in a sub shop just around the corner from the Lorraine with black kids and white kids and all the kids ate the same food and nobody told them they couldn't sit wherever they wanted, and God love 'em every one, they all drank from the same soda fountain. As we walked home, we passed the site of the first schoolhouse for "colored" children and I had no idea how to even begin defining "colored" to my daughter.

That is something.

We can remember and we can be vigilant and we can be happy.  These things aren't mutually exclusive.

I woke with the intent to make today mean something by going to the place where Dr. King died.  I intended to honor his memory and legacy.  I realize now that it's not how or why he died that should be the focus, but what he did while he was alive that is most significant.

We live his dream.

Today, I woke with the intent of making this day meaningful.

So, it was.

Go Play. Away From Me.  Please.

I was a "latch key" kid.

Do people even use that term anymore?

Back then, there was a lot of discussion about kids coming home to empty houses and having to fend for themselves while horribly selfish, career driven mothers were off making money.

There was even a club for us at school.

They taught us the highly useful things in this club: don’t open the door for strangers, don’t tell people on the phone that you’re by yourself, don’t use the stove to make yourself something to eat, and, good God, you poor, miserable children, look how you brave you’re being by making peace with the fact that your mother is not at home like she’s supposed to be.

We did learn a few things on our own.  For example, this situation unequivocally taught me that wrapping a barbeque sauce laden hot dog in aluminum foil and sticking it the microwave in order to emulate a barbeque flavor is an extremely ill conceived plan.

Our system at home was unique.  Mom’s office was right next door to the house... she would walk over at random times to make sure we were okay or not blowing up the house with radioactive aluminum hot dog bombs.  We were instructed to call if we needed anything.

But, mostly? We were on our own.  Two kids, making their way through the hours of 3pm and 6pm with the world at our feet and all the television we wanted.  I learned a lot about the value of diversity and cultural negotiations between American rural values and the opulent wealth driven mores of Beverly Hills from Jed, Ellie May and their concrete swimming hole.

(That sounded obscene, didn't it?  Unplanned.  But too good to edit.)

I’m not sure if  being a latch key kid played into my decision to be the kind of mom who is always going to be home with her kids.  When I became a mother, something just made me decide that my kids were not going to learn about aluminum in the microwave on their own.

It sounds good on paper.  Be home when the kids are home... be there for them when they need you.  Be there for them... every... second... of... every... day.


Kids need space, man.

This clicked for me the other day when, after we’d had a snack together, played on the computer together, watched TV together, did an art project together and, then, went on a bike ride together, both of my kids said something to the effect of, “What are WE going to do now...”


Not “I”.


Everything has become “we.”

“Go play on your own for a while,” I said trying to sound NOT irate.

“No.  That’s boring....” my daughter said.

"NOOO... DATS BO-WING," my son echoed.

Huh.  Imagine.  Being bored.  With YOURSELF.

Being extremely interesting myself, I have a hard time understanding this at all.

If my children were a food, I would eat them every day, three times a day, snack on them in between meals, nibble on them right before bed, and then keep them in the nightstand in case I woke up hungry.

I want to be here for them, and I crave their attention when I don't have it.

This isn’t about me, though, it really is about them.

Because you know what?

They really do need to figure out that sometimes the best company you can keep?

Is yourself.


Did you know that it's Ramadan?  Did you know I explained stuff about Ramadan in one of the episodes of the podcast that I host with my token Jewish friend Mike?  Go here to listen, it's like getting a degree in religious studies in thirty five minutes or less.

Credits may or may not transfer to actual universities.  You get what you pay for, people.

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