Wednesday, October 1, 2008

That Girl Is A Batgirl

Halloween in our house begins early every year. The children love spooky decorations, scary treats, pumpkins, ghosts, black cats, and, of course, all of the anticipation regarding what they are going to "be." Z decided at least a month ago that he would be Ben 10 and has never wavered. Not once. I purchased the only component of his costume that we didn't already own, and he is ready for the big day (and the multiple costume-wearing opportunities preceding it). M changes her mind often, sometimes several times during a single conversation. So far this year, she has "decided to be:"
- a cat
- a cowgirl
- a pirate
- Spiderman
- Superman
- a witch
- a duck
- a lion
- a tiger
- a monkey
- Thomas the Tank Engine
- a werewolf (yikes!)
- an ice cream cone (!?)
- Optimus Prime
- an alien
- a mummy
- a vampire
- a spider
and probably more that I can't recall right now.

The funniest costume "decision" came while the kids and I were driving in the car one day, and the song Dangerous by Kardinal Offishall featuring (like every other song lately) Akon. The lyrics contain, "That girl is so dangerous, that girl is so dangerous, that girl is a bad girl." You can search "Dangerous by Akon" on YouTube to hear it. Z determined that the girl was so dangerous because she's a BATGIRL and everyone runs from her because they are very afraid. When M heard that, she had to be Batgirl. She absolutely insisted.

Shortly after the Batgirl incident, the disturbing vampire phase began. It lasted for a solid 3 days. This morning she declared that she was going to be a cat (again). I refuse to make or buy a costume at this point, so her choices in the end may be limited by the costumes and items we have around the house.

I should be pleased, I know, that my daughter is a strong-willed girl who is not easily influenced. This will serve her well as a quality for succeeding in life. Additionally, it will prove useful in driving her parents completely insane when she reaches her tweens and teens, but for now she is still two. She is two, and aside from her very first Halloween, I have not been able to successfully influence her costume. Last year she was Spidermangirl (not Spiderman and definitely not Spidergirl). She would accept no other suggestion. She's not a child who accepts even perceived choice in a matter such as this: what she is going to be on the one day she can be anything. The whole choice, with everything in the world available to her (yes, including ice cream cones) must be completely hers. I have to admit I am a tiny bit proud. I am also very, very aware of the implications that this strong personality trait will have on the greater parenting challenges we are sure to face as she grows older and the consequences of her choices become more serious. Fortunately, she is blessed/cursed with parents who can be as headstrong as she. And, yes, I am fully aware that this has most likely been inherited. My father occasionally refers to M as my "payback." Of course, he means this in a most loving way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

At The Risk Of Waxing Whiny

As a SAHM, I spend a lot of time and energy helping my children to cultivate friendships, but equally important is the need for me to cultivate my own. At the risk of waxing whiny, I will share that it’s not always easy to make true "mom friends" with whom all of the wonderful, scary, funny, sad, and very real moments that are part of life can be shared. It’s especially satisfying to have a friend with whom your kids and theirs get along wonderfully and you enjoy as her own individual person child-free. I truly value friends I can gab with on the playground while the kids scramble around as well as over a margarita in a rare, shared moment on the town while the kids are home in bed with Daddy puttering in the garage. I have many wonderful women with whom I share stories, activities, and laughter, but true personal connections are tough to find. I am fortunate to have a few women in my life I share a real connection with, but most of these women are located a phone call away. It’s impossible to grab a quick cup of coffee or a late-night cocktail when a personal jet would be required.

I made a really good friend (I thought) in my area. I will call her Mia. I met Mia through a moms group I am in and we hit it off immediately. Loved her, loved her kids. My kids loved her kids. Our birthdays were only a week apart…that’s how in sync we seemed. All was great. How lucky I was to have found such a good friend. We hung out quite a bit and e-mailed sporadically. Then, suddenly, one day, nothing. No responses to my e-mails. She left the moms group. Worried, I sent her an e-mail about my screwed up life at the time (both because I was worried that I wasn’t "being there" for her and because I wanted her to know what was going on with me). Still nothing. Odd, because now she knew how things were for me, and still no response or even a show of concern. I finally sent her a point-blank e-mail letting her know I was worried about her. Still nothing! I knew her to be really good friends with another woman in our group I’ll call Karen. Karen was really vague and said that she and Mia had had a falling out. I went back to Karen again and told her how weird this was, how worried I was, and asked if she knew anything. After I had spoken with Karen several times expressing my concern and distress, she decided to share her e-mail correspondence with Mia so I would know what had happened. Karen did not do this out of spite. She did not initially want to share anything about it because she hoped Mia would just contact me again and all would be well for us. After it became clear that wasn’t to be and Karen knew I was really bewildered, she shared the correspondence. I was especially fortunate that she chose to do so because she did not consider her e-mails to be the best example of her behavior either.

What I pieced together was disappointing. Mia and I had both been guests at a gathering at Karen’s home. Evidently, some of the guests at the gathering mentioned something to Karen about negative comments Mia had made (about Karen). Mia and Karen had an ugly e-mail exchange for a while, and then parted ways. It became obvious (to me if not immediately to Karen since no names were used) toward the end of the exchange that Mia thought I had said something to Karen or somehow talked about her (Mia) at this gathering with these women. So Mia just completely blew me off. I was so sad, as Mia was someone who had appeared to be such a good friend. Karen told me that she initially thought that Mia might have assumed one of the women who went to Karen with this information was me, but she was hoping not. Karen, of course, knew that I was completely uninvolved and figured that certainly Mia would ask me about it if she had any questions since it was clear from the Mia/Karen exchange that Mia claimed to value this sort of thing in her relationships. Honestly, I had had a good time that night at the gathering and was completely oblivious to any drama at all. Karen was really surprised that Mia dropped me (she steadfastly maintains that Mia considered us good friends) but not as surprised as I was.

At the time this occurred, the knowledge that I should not want to seek friendship with a person who would behave in this manner didn’t make the situation any easier. My feelings were hurt. I considered another e-mail to Mia, but what would it have said? Would it have been an "it wasn’t me and I was totally clueless" e-mail, or a "f you for treating me like dirt when I was supposed to be your friend" e-mail? Was it worth it to attempt to salvage this friendship and, if so, what exactly would I be saving? I eventually concluded that she thought far less of me than I initially did of her. Now that some time has passed, I can clearly see that, like other types of relationships, it’s better to be happy, healthy, and alone than get swept up in the drama of someone else’s dysfunction. Sometimes I miss her and her children, but in the end, I decided to leave it alone and try to deal well with all of the other things in my life...things I know I can have a positive impact on right now. Things I know will have a more positive impact on me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Preparing for Life and Death

The obsession with death and life continues.

"Mommy, when Grandpa died out, did you make a video?"

I am not sure I'm hearing correctly, so I ask him to repeat it and he does.

"No, honey, we didn't."

"What?! You didn't get it on video?" He seems to be personally insulted or offended at this perceived slight. I have to explain to him that Grandpa was at the hospital and we didn't get to be with him. Any discussion about recording death, I think, can be tabled. Random questions about death keep occurring at the most improbable times, and I do my best to keep that precarious balance. I attempt to be truthful without offering too much information. I try to answer questions the best I can without causing fear.

The other fixation for Z is about which animals carry babies "in their tummies." We have had the "mammal" discussion, and my children have been exposed to an unusually great number of pregnant women at playdates and at preschool. Multiples are a popular topic especially. Z loves to discuss how many babies are in the tummies of various creatures and how they will drink from their mommies. He loves to talk about how when he was a baby, he used to drink milk from his mommy. He likes to "milk" the wooden cow and goat at the zoo rigged with rubber udders for the children to try. He is eager to learn from whose tummy various people came. It is not unusual for him to cuddle up to me and ask me, "Tell about when I was in your tummy," and I do. I tell him stories about how happy I and everyone was. I tell him of flying in airplanes, singing to him, floating belly-down in the water, and petting a real dolphin. I tell him about the preparations for his arrival and things we did together while I carried him in my tummy. These are some of his favorite stories. What a tender age to show such concern about preparing for life and death.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cow, Pow, Ow, Bow

Z informs me as we examine a craft visor he made some time ago, that visor rhymes with geyser. I have to admit that I am impressed with that one, and I tell him so. Best rhyme ever, Z. Not to be outdone, M spontaneously comes out with "Cow, pow, ow, bow." Learning is still so much fun.

The big attraction in our house right now is our "new trampoline." This is actually a toddler mattress on the floor of our great room, spare for us since Z moved into his Big Boy Bed. The children love it, and spend much of their play time jumping, bouncing, and flopping. It's a truly special toy for our home, because I am one of those mean mommies who allows my children to use neither trampolines nor motorized vehicles. Literally every child in our neighborhood who is at least 3 owns and operates a motorized vehicle. Barbie "Jeeps," John Deere "tractors," mini "quads," and other child-sized vehicles with motors are visible up and down our street. Many times when we visit our especially good friends down the block to play, we finally disconnect the battery on the Lightning McQueen car because M cannot resist the temptation. My father was excited to purchase one for the kids, and I felt a little bad crushing his grandfatherly urges when I informed him that the kids can have motorized vehicles when they become licensed drivers. So far my children accept the explanation that I am their mommy and I don't allow these things, but I know this will become increasingly difficult as they grow. I do not judge the parents who allow these things, and they seem to understand that this is the decision I have made for my children who are too young to examine the risks for themselves.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Where's Grandpa?

"Where’s Grandpa?"
The kids watch one of the men at Grammie’s new assisted living facility (WSM) make his way slowly across the lawn. Z knows the answer to this question, I think, but he asks it anyway.
"Grandpa died, honey."
"No, I know, but where is he?" Asking, once again, a different question than I originally thought.
"Grandpa is in a cemetery in the town where Daddy grew up."
"What’s that?"
"It’s a place where people are buried after they die."
"Oh, so his skin is gone and you can see his bones?"
"Yes, that’s probably right."
He is excited now. "Oh, can we dig him up????"
When I held that sweet, needy infant in my arms, this is one of the conversations I never anticipated. Nobody ever plans to explain to their dinosaur-loving 4-year-old that it’s not nice to dig up the bones of people to study their skeletons. I certainly didn’t think about having to teach a child the fact that we leave dead people "to rest" in a cemetery, bones and all. I try to explain that Grandpa lives in our hearts because we still remember and love him. Our conversation continues for a while, and he is thoughtful. After a while, he is redirected and we are playing on the gliding swing in front of WSM.
"Where’s Grandpa," M asks in her piercing, 2-year-old voice a few minutes later when another elderly man shuffles past.
"M," Z lectures knowingly, "Grandpa died out."

Death becomes a recurring topic of conversation. Frogs die. Elephants die too, but they live longer than frogs. Rhinos die, giraffes die, doggies and kitties die, pigs die, and people die. Everyone dies. People die, but sweet little children don't have to worry about that for a long, long, long time because Mommy and Daddy plan to be around and love you and hug you and kiss you until you are grown, and then love you and hug you and kiss you some more. Things live and then they die. We don't plan to die until we are very, very old.
"Oh, like Grammie? She's going to die. That's because her hands are like this." Z somehow makes me understand that he's describing my mother-in-law's wrinkly skin.
"Grammie will die some day, but her body is working pretty well now, and we have time to have fun with her and see her and love her while she's still here."

Death is a difficult topic, but someday we may have some conversations about Grammie that are, in some ways, even tougher. Grammie's short-term memory is already shocking on some days because of Alzheimer's disease. Yes, one day I think this "living death" may be even tougher to explain. For now, I continue to teach my children to be loving and accepting of all kinds of people and embrace difference. For now, they are enjoying making new "friends" in Grammie's new place, and the "friends" are truly enjoying them.