Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Bonds That Tie

A relationship between a parent and child is a forever thing. Regardless of age or distance, the bonds that tie exist, both in their ability to connect and restrain.

For a parent, it is the hope that if we do it half right, our children will grow up to be good people, able to face life's challenges with grace and bravery; that they will find passion in their lives, will not repeat our mistakes, and that the mistakes they are bound to make won't scar them too permanently or deeply.

For the child, there is a tether stretching back through time and generations, connecting us those that came before us, stretching to its maximum capacity on occasion, but holding us back from ever revoking our past completely.

This bond can be a thing of beauty, or an instrument of oppression, and as we stumble along, sometimes blindly, all we can do is hope that we are making the right decisions, nurturing this chord which connects the past to the future.

Chris Martin sings,

Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.

And these words make me cry every time I hear them, because they are beautiful and true, and they remind me that I am a mother, trying to raise my child in the best way I know how; and that I am also a daughter, and there is someone out there that has wished all that I wish for Otter, for me. And that this connection is forever.

Potty Mouth

Apparently, I was potty trained with ease and at an incredibly early age. By 18 months (as my mother's oft-fuzzy memory serves her) I was peeing and pooping into a potty with wild abandon, and, to hear her tell it, enjoying every minute of it. And, being parent to an only child, my mom has little else to compare this experience to, other than that of her friends, who's lazy, slacker children ran around in all states of incontinence well into their second and sometimes even (heaven forbid) third years.

Unwilling to play grandmother to such a slothy kid, my mother's single-minded mission in life has become to get her peeing in the potty ASAP. A mission which she plans to accomplish from 3ooo miles away by asking everyone who's ever borne a kid for advice on what I can be doing better to hurry this potty training thing the f up.

Each of our conversations now begins or ends with some tale from the streets of one child or another and their pooping habits, along with helpful pointers on what their guardians did to accomplish the Herculean task. "I asked _________ (fill in the name) what (s)he did, and they __________ (fill in helpful hint)."

"That's great mom. I've heard about _______." In fact, we've probably at least attempted some version thereof.

Here are the problems:

Otter is 18 months old, and apparently not the potty prodigy that I was. Her interest in the potty is limited to shoving her dolls into it, taking it apart, or inverting the basin over her face in an attempt to drink (?) from it.

She refuses to sit on it for more than 30 seconds at a time, and I see no way to rectify this short of tying her down to the toilet, which I'm told is illegal.

That helpful potty book we got? SB's mostly exclusively interested in the last page, where Elmo gets his big kid underwear (a current obsession). and much less so in how he got to that elevated state.

The desire to be dry and clean so vital for one to have a stake in going in a potty vs. the convenience of pooping right in your pants? Otter cares not...

So we're left with little to do but wait for nature to take its course and SB to come around to the idea of peeing like a big girl. I can live with this. My mom, having a bit more trouble.

"I really can't do this any more," I told her during our last potty stand-off. "I'm not worried. We have plenty of time."

"That's all relative," came the curt reply. "Some people are ok with their 5-year-olds running around in diapers."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


One of my greatest fears has come to be. I'm the mother of a girly-girl. Who loves all things pink, and flowers, and doggies, and her dolls. And, apparently, fashion. This was this morning's ensemble (minus her favorite doggie shirt, which, sadly for Otter was in the wash). More to come...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Balloon Nazi

Every once in a while I'm reminded why I hate most people. At a birthday party yesterday, apparently there had been a balloon guy - you know the one that makes all those animals the that kids love?

My child being a bit gun-shy around strangers, she certainly wasn't going to join in with the balloon fun. But, my child being 18 months old, she wanted a balloon.

The opportunity for one came an hour later as she wandered around the park grounds. One of our fellow party guests, had parked her stroller by a picnic table, and lying on the ground around it, were 3 or 4 balloon animals in various colors. Otter honed in on an orange one and went in for the catch.

"Um," said the grandmotherly owner of the stroller, as Otter happily carried her prize. "I think that fell out of OUR stroller."

Are you kidding me? I spun around in disbelief. Granted, I'd been up since a quarter to 5, which may have accounted for some of my crankiness. But seriously, are you kidding me? You, a 60-year-old woman, with FOUR balloons and ZERO grandkids claiming them, are going to make me take a balloon away from my 1 1/2 year old? Have you no sense of decency? "I'm sorry baby," I told my toddler, "This isn't ours. Let's go play by the train." I handed the inflated latex back to the Balloon Nazi trying to send death rays from my eyes. "You've got to be kidding me," I not-so-quietly said to Bree as I turned around. "I am so close to saying something to her."

"Walk away," he said. And walk away I did, but not without giving her the dirtiest looks I could muster at every given opportunity. And it worked!

Whether it was my scowling demeanor or common sense that prevailed upon her, BN gathered her grandchild and a red balloon and came over to us a few minutes later. "We wanted to share this with the baby," she said. That's right, feel the guilt. I smiled sweetly and thanked her profusely. And Otter ran off with her new prize.

Now that my rant is through, I do want to reiterate my sincerest gratitude to ex-BN. I really don't hate you. Just continue to wonder what initially motivated you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rise and Shine

The problem with toddlers is nobody told them the proper time to wake up. When the memo stating that 5:05 am is too early went out, they weren't on the distribution list. Apparently they missed the "Don't even THINK about getting up before 5!" memo as well. Never one to repeat a performance, SB decided that 5:05 was so Saturday morning, and greeted Sunday at 4:46 am. As did we, her hapless parents.

By 10:30, when we had been up for SIX HOURS, Otter was starting to melt down, big-time. Everything annoyed and upset her, and led to tears. It was clearly time for a nap. I turned to Bree, bleary-eyed and asked, "Why did we decide to have one?" And then we headed off to Travel Town, for a birthday party.

Travel Town, for those who have not been, is a magical world of trains and tracks, cabooses and train rides, and a museum of all things choo-choo (including a horrifying zoo crate marked "Cheetah" that I would barely fit into).

Otter was thrilled. Even though she avoided the other kids, the idea of running full speed down train tracks appealed to her immensely. With nary a look back at mom and dad, she bolted away, scampering over rails that nearly came up to her knees, collecting rocks, and trying to climb under train cars. And the ride on the mini-train had her right-out laughing. All grumpiness and tiredness were forgotten.

She (and we) survived it like a champ. She was happy and fun, and adventurous and independent - all the things I adore about her. How could I begrudge her an early-morning rising when she was so easy during the day? Oh wait - that's still TOTALLY not cool...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Playing Doctor

The 18-month doctor's appointment blows. For those of you who haven't done it yet, it involves non-stop crying occasionally mixed with checking of ears, stomach, heart and lungs. It begins with a questionnaire, designed to diagnose your child with any latent autism, and ends with a barrage of shots. Somewhere in there, your kid is measured and weighed and, after a full-on struggle, their head is measured. I'm pretty sure at one point her eyes may have been tested. I believe there was a quick chat about pre-schools and the doctor may have asked me if I had any questions. I had only one: "When can I get out of here?"

Here's what I learned:

Otter is still tall (75%); and skinny (15%). She is hella strong (as determined by the pediatrician, nurse and me struggling to pin her down while her ears were checked) and perfectly normal.

In more awesome news, we don't have to go back until she's 2!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Other Child

Most days, these virtual pages are devoted to my alternate musing and ranting regarding SB, but today I'm going talk about my other child, that of the dog variety.

Now for many, having a "real" baby, makes them realize that a dog is just a dog and now that they've traded up, they can start ignoring or worse, mistreating their pet with a clear conscience. For us, the opposite was true.

Once SB arrived, Foz gained all kinds of new privileges, including the right to sleep in our bed. And that was a big gain for him - if you've ever shared a bed with another adult AND a 100 lb. pit bull, you know what I'm talking about. But he deserved it - he'd never asked us to have a baby, and after all, he was here first.

At this point you're fixated on the words "pit bull," wondering what kind of irresponsible maniacs would let their newborn cavort with this beast. Will he not eat her in a mad, jealous rage? Will he not tear her limb from limb because he, well, can?

Chances are, not so much. Foz has been the patient victim of hit-and-runs with strollers (both the toy and the real varieties), the hapless recipient of slaps to the muzzle. He's been fallen on, tripped over, poked, and stepped on. He meets these insults by fleeing from a creature 1/5 his size.

Of course there is an upside to having SB around. Besides the bed, there's the bonus Otter's mealtimes, when, more often than not, at least a third of the meal ends up in Foz's mouth. There are also the daily hugs SB doles out to him, though I'm not sure how much they're appreciated. But they are in love - as any two siblings would be.

So today, on Foz's 5-year anniversary of his rescue, when he insinuated himself permanently and irreplaceabley into our lives, I pause to appreciate him in all his smelly, dogly, wet-nosed, snoring, farting glory. Because I'm a happier mom for having him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So When's The Next One?

It could be that a number of my friends are currently with child, or the fact that everyone we meet now seems to have reproduced, or maybe it's just a function of the passage of time, but the topic of "another one" has been broached. Apparently, like book ends or socks, children ideally come in multiples of 2.

I can see the logic in this. On the upside, they can entertain each other when you've dumped them in a room, giving you a chance to live your own life for 10 minutes; they can help with each other's care; multiples keep the population from diminishing with each generation; if you get one of each gender, everyone has supposedly had their secret offspring wishes fulfilled.

But much like anything else, there is a downside. First and foremost, from what I understand, two is MUCH, MUCH more than one more than one. The ripple effect is exponential. Just when you thought you were done with sleepless nights, having your body belong to someone other than you, and had finally had that moment to yourself while your kid was busy eating Cheerios off the floor, it starts all over again. And even amid all that glorious sibling bonding, you still have to, you know, take care of them.

For a few, the agony was completed in one fell swoop, with twins. Sure they suffered greatly, but now they can safely say they're DEE-YOU-EN, DUN and I dare anyone to tell them otherwise. Others just missed that day in health class, and got knocked up again right away, ripping the band-aid off in one continuous, albeit prolonged motion. But for the rest of us the decision to have another baby is an actual decision. That takes thinking about, and deciding. And that's just hella scary.

Lest anyone jump to any conclusions, this is not my way of revealing a baby on the way, a plan of a baby, or even a plan of a plan of a baby. We've stuck to our mantra of "at least a three year difference," with all the ambiguity that "at least" implies, and all the requisite lack of mathematical computation that is necessary to continue living ignorance of when that means there could be more. For now, SB lives on alone, with no siblings but the dog to plan her revolution with. Her onliness is my talisman against my greatest fear - what if "the next one" turns out to be twins?