The birds and the bees for the four year old set

standard June 5, 2009 5 responses

“If I go to school I won’t be able to be a mommy!” We we’re driving home and I was navigating heavy traffic. I heard what she said, but it didn’t instantly sound as odd as it sounded when I finally got settled in the right lane and really heard her words in my head.

“What? What do you mean?”
“If I go to school I’ll be too busy to be a mommy.”
“No, no. You can be a mommy and work. I’m a mommy and a writer. It’s possible.”
“Oh. How will I become a mommy and a writer?”
“Well, you’ll go to school for 12 years or so, go to college, maybe meet a nice boy, get married and have babies.” I squinted at her in the rear view mirror. I wasn’t sure if I’d said what she wanted to hear, but she nodded knowingly.
“I’m going to have four babies.” She held up four fingers. “There are going to be four in my tummy and four in the daddy’s tummy.”

I didn’t answer right away. First of all I didn’t hear very clearly, second of all I was once again navigating another gnarly lane change. Instead I made some encouraging noises, which might explain why she got annoyed when I corrected her assumption that, duh, the burden of pregnancy should be shared equally between the parents.

She waited a moment with a scowl on her face, pondering the unfairness of what I had just explained, and I was so wrapped up in my commute and the cuteness of her pout that I honestly didn’t anticipate what was coming next.

“Mommy? How does the baby get in the mommy’s tummy?”

My heart sank. I glanced back at her hopeful face and wondered how on earth I was going to answer her question. What does a 4 year-old need to know about sex? What would assuage her interest without revealing anything I wouldn’t be mortified to hear her repeat on the playground tomorrow? What wouldn’t warp her idea of sex and babies for years to come?

I waited as long as possible, took a deep breath, and jumped in.
“When a man and a woman love each other very much and they’ve thought carefully about wanting to have a baby, they have a special kind of cuddle. The man puts a seed inside the lady’s belly and a baby grows.”
I figured it wasn’t too graphic and covered the basics. I hesitated and stressed the fact that it only happened during very special cuddles, not every cuddle. Last thing I wanted was for her to start looking for a growing belly every time M and I hugged.

She didn’t reply and I risked a glance in the mirror again. Her face was contorted and when she caught my eye she giggled and looked away. She squirmed and laughed and squirmed some more. Her face was bright red and she had trouble meeting my eye. She looked exactly like a little kid who has heard a slightly naughty secret. A delighted little girl with a slightly naughty and embarrassing secret. I laughed and winked at her. She stopped looking embarrassed and just looked amused. We laughed the rest of the way home, giggling extra hard when our eyes met in the mirror.

Her big mouth, that’s what I inherited from my mother

standard May 8, 2009 2 responses

People come to me for advice. A lot. They don’t do it because I’m smart and know what I’m talking about. I mean, for the most part I am and I do, but that’s not why they come to me. No, they come to me because they get exactly what they ask for. I don’t sugar coat the truth. I ask the hard questions. And I make them see what they did or maybe didn’t really want to see.

You’d think people would hate me for it, but they really don’t. Of course I’m not mean about it. I’m not going to tell someone that they’re making a horrendous mistake or anything, but I will help them see the truth for themselves. It’s a gift. The gift of calling things as I see them. And it’s not a gift I can take credit for.

See, I owe it all to my mother, the woman affectionately nicknamed “Big Mouth Maman*.”

My mother has never been one to hold back. As kids we used to cringe at some of her comments. You never knew who would be the target and you never knew if they’d hear what she said. We’d cringe, and then we’d laugh, because sometimes it’s pretty liberating to say whatever crosses your mind.

You’d be surprised at how much I learned from my mother’s “I don’t care what people think” attitude. Clearly, for starters, I learned not to care what other people think. And I learned that the truth doesn’t kill. But most importantly I learned to observe, to notice flaws, to notice attributes. Because after all, if you want to critique, you have to first see things worth critiquing.

I might comment in a slightly more roundabout way than my mother, but I speak the truth just as candidly as she does. And when my friends thank me for my advice and tell me that they come to me because they can trust me to be brutally honest, well that just makes me proud. Proud to have been taught by the best.

This post was written in honor of the Parent Blogger’s Mother’s Day Blog Blast and and Johnson’s second annual Celebrity Hand Me Down charity auction, which runs from 7 pm PT on Thursday May 7 through 7 pm PT on Thursday May 14 and features items donated by celebrity moms Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba.

Be sure to visit the Parent Blogger’s Blog to see all the other fun things that have been handed down to bloggers by their moms!

*Maman = Mom in French.

Mommies don’t get sick days

standard March 5, 2009 3 responses

When I woke up this morning I felt nauseous, stuffy, and all around icky. A lifetime ago I would have turned off the alarm, rolled over, and made a mental note to call in sick an hour or so later. This morning I suppressed the urge to puke, got up, and faced the day.

There was a toddler to hug and a preschooler to feed. There was asthma medicine to be dispensed. There was a lunch to be packed and there were children to be dressed. The laundry was calling and the kitchen was a mess. And even though I wanted to pack it all in and beg M just to take the kids to daycare so I could go back to bed, all I could hear was C say to her daddy “I get to paint today! Did you know they have an easel at school daddy? An easel with lots of different colors!”

On May 17, 2005 it stopped being all about me. And yes, I know it’s important for mommies to take care of their needs, blah, blah, blah, but it’s also a fact of life that we have to take care of our families. And if that means sucking it up when we don’t feel very well, or pushing through the day when we haven’t slept, well then so be it.

This morning I sipped lemon ginger tea to settle my stomach while I brushed Little L and C’s hair. I dressed them and popped them into the car. After dropping them off I took up residence in my usual coffee shop and sipped more ginger tea while I waited for preschool to let out. I didn’t feel well. I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to be in bed. I kept a close eye on the clock, counting down the hours until I’d be able to nap, but I was where I had to be and I made the best of the situation by getting some much needed work done.

I finally made it home and after putting out a few work fires I dropped into my bed and closed my eyes. My head was pounding and my stomach was achy, but it felt amazing to finally rest my head on my flannel pillow. I didn’t open my eyes again until I heard a familiar little voice chirp “Where’s mommy? She was supposed to be there on the couch working, but she’s not here. She must be out eating lunch.”

I smiled, dragged myself out of bed, and went to welcome my little family home. I swallowed some ibuprofen and hoped it would take care of my headache. Little children needed to be fed, bathed, and put to bed, and lots of hugs and kisses needed to be dispensed. Mommy was needed again.

I’m fine, really, just a little overwhelmed. Or is it more than that?

standard September 30, 2008 13 responses

“I’ve been reading your blog and I think you’re a touch depressed.” My mother informed me the other day. I brushed her off with a couple “I’m fines.” as I fought back tears.

I’m fine. Really. I just have a lot on my plate right now. A lot.

I mean. I just left my job and I’m starting a new career. I threw my family into financial straights for my own selfish reasons. My husband has been battling a series of back issues (and by back I mean his spine, not as in things from the past), that have been plaguing us (well him, and me by association) for a good 18 months now. I have two very young children, one who is deep into the independent seeking 3s and the other who is right dab in the middle of 14mo separation anxiety and very, very firmly attached to me. We have a brand new schedule to manage; preschool three mornings a week as opposed to just two mornings last year. We fired the cleaning service, so we’re all watching the house fall apart around us. And when I decided to take up jogging as an affordable way to get rid of my last 10 baby pounds I somehow did something to my knee that has made quite painful for me to run.

So, when my car died on Friday, leaving me stranded at home with two little girls and a very full work schedule, and I called my mother to vent, and she told me that she thought I was depressed I don’t think I was overreacting when hearing that made me want to cry. Or was I?

Is depression just the inability to deal with stress without wanting to go hide under the bed? Isn’t is normal for me to be stressed? Don’t I have a couple excuses? I mean, at least I’m sleeping these days, I guess things could be worse. So I need to exercise. Whatever. I’m going to get new running shoes, which should make it possible for me to run again without hobbling for a few days. And I’m eventually going to figure out how to balance marketing myself/working/taking care of the house/and taking care of the kids. I figure I’ll have that sorted out sometime before they leave for college. And after that it won’t matter so much anyway. Right? M will get better, it’s just a matter of time and yoga at this point. And we’ll sort out the car situation sooner or later. We have to, the dealer keeps calling to find out what we want to do.

I am convinced that I am no worse off than any other mom. We all have full plates. We all have a ton to juggle. I am not convinced that I am depressed. I don’t think that me being overwhelmed is a sign of depression. I think it’s just a sign of me being, well, overwhelmed. But a little tiny part of me can’t help but wonder, what if my mom is right? She often is. She might live on the other side of the world, but she knows me better than anyone. Is she on to something? Should I be able to grin and bear all of this? Am I in fact depressed? And how would I ever know? And is it OK that I want to go hide under the bed while I figure it out?