Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is What it Sounds Like...

Mommy drove to daycare from downtown on a Friday. She heard an old Prince song that she loved. "Why do we scream at each other," sang Prince against a backdrop of electric guitars and synthesizers. At almost 6pm, this made Mommy think of the hours ahead of her. She was happy to be on her way to pick up the babies. Friday was Mommy's DAY TO GET THINGS DONE and get things done she had. After a productive day without them, she missed Lil Buddy and Sweet Potata and couldn't wait to squeeze their collective cheeks and hear about their day. She longed for Lil Buddy to hop up and down with sparkly excitement and tales of the day. She couldn't wait for Sweet Potata to wrap her tiny arms around her neck and say "Ahmmy! Ahgghi!"

But Daddy would be home late from work so it might be a rough two hours between now and bedtime. And sure enough, it was.

Lil Buddy and Sweet Potata had had a big dinner at daycare so mommy put out snacks: cheerios on a ribcage level plate for SP; applesauce on a higher table for LB. Mommy scanned the messy apartment and made mental checklists of the things that needed to get done before guests showed up for Sweet Potata's birthday party the next day. Clean living room, organize desk, mop dining room floor, make little sandwhiches.

In her anxious mental notetaking, Mommy did not notice the cheerios, which now covered the dining room floor. She also did not notice Lil Buddy, who was asking her for the third time, "Mommy, what station comes after Rockwell?"

All she noticed, as Lil Buddy got louder and more anxious himself, was Sweet Potata with her tiny fingers stuck in a dresser drawer. Sweet Potata let out a pain cry and Mommy went to pry her loose and comfort her. She was okay, just pinched at the tops of her little digits. Mommy held her and stroked her sweet, hairless head. And then she heard Lil Buddy

"Mommy!" he shouted, "What--Comes--After--Rock--Well?????"

"Not now, Lil Buddy," said Mommy. Lil Buddy let out a blood curdling yelp and kicked Mommy in the shins.

"Lil Buddy! Your sister is hurt! I need to comfort her."

Lil Buddy scratched Mommy's arms. "Stop it now!" said Mommy.

"You stop it!" he yelled.

"I guess you don't want to read books tonight?"

"Nooooooooo!" Another curdler and big semi-fake cry with seemingly real tears. This made Sweet Potata cry in fear. Lil Buddy ran to his room and slammed the door.

After she was able to calm Sweet Potata down and set her down in a bed of soft chewy toys, Mommy went to see about Lil Buddy. She sat on the side of his bed and he wrapped his arms around her neck, putting his wet face on her shoulder.

"Lil Buddy, look at me." Said Mommy. "in my eyes." Lil Buddy tried.

"Take a deep breath." he did so. Mommy hugged him.

"Francisco," said Mommy.

"What?" asked Lil Buddy.

"Francisco. That's what comes after Rockwell. If you're going toward Kimball." said Mommy, naming the train stations that Lil Buddy had quizzed her on. He was a public transit expert.

"But what if you are going to the Loop?" asked a tear-streaked Lil Buddy.

"Well, then I guess it's Western, isn't it?"

"Yes, very good!" Said Lil Buddy.

They had the usual conversation about why it wasn't okay to scratch, hit, or kick; and how Mommy and Daddy would not do that to Lil Buddy. They hugged. Everyone was calm.

"Let's have a bath, okay?" said Mommy. Lil Buddy nodded.

 A small happy voice in the other room cried out, "Dahp dahp dahp! Ahdahhhh!" Mommy and Lil buddy laughed and went to see about Sweet potata.

Mommy thought of the old Prince song and she sighed. This is what it sounds like, she thought, When Doves Cry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mommy felt a little like a cartoon that might be labeled "Stuff White People Like." She sat, introverted, in a corner of Starbucks. Not her neighborhood Starbucks, but a much nicer one (down the street from her gym). She drank an iced tea that was made with complicated directions. She nibbled, bird like (she had just been to the gym, afterall) at a chocolate covered graham cracker. She surrounded herself with the latest technology: her laptop (so she could "write") and her smart phone (which was not the latest and rather dumb at times, actually). She checked the time frequently to make sure she would make it in time to her haircut, and then onward to home to relieve the babysitter. Once a week, Mommy sent both kids to Sweet Potata's daycare so she could have time to herself and "get things done." SHe told people she cleaned the house on that day. It was sort of true. Today was a magical second day of childcare for both children and Mommy was determined to enjoy it, even if she did look like a cartoon. Even if she was at Starbucks and not a magical more local locale with questionable wifi and unforturnate iced tea choices.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Mommy stood waist deep in a Chicago Park District Pool. Lil Buddy stood facing her, standing on the edge. Mommy wanted to swim. Lil Buddy did not.

"No, Mama!" he pleaded. He called her Mama when he felt anxious or needy. She reached for him and he backed away.

"Cmon, Lil Buddy," said Mommy, sweetly. "C'mon," she said in her sweetest, calmest voice, "I got you."
Over and over again she said, "C'mon Lil Buddy, I got you. Now just get in. Put your whole body in."

"Just my toes!"

"No, you promised. Your whole body. We talked about this."

"No. Just toes!"

Mommy leaned in and said, under her breath, "We'll get ice cream! Only if you put your whole body in." The whole pool, filled, as it was, with successful parents, did not need to know about this.

"But I wanna get ice cream!" Whined Lil Buddy at the top of his lungs. Mommy felt stares but didn't turn to look. She stayed focused on her almost five year old boy, so big, but seeming so small and afraid right now. What was it about swimming that made his whole body anxious? She thought back to the previous summers, all spent day after day at this very same neighborhood pool. What was different this year?

"Honey," she told him, "you can touch the bottom here. The water will only come up to your neck. You can touch."

"There is not very much water?"

"No, no there is not."

"I can touch?"

"Yes, yes, you can! Now come on in. Should I help you?"

"No! I'll come in myself!"

"Okay." But Lil Buddy stood there, fidgeting and thinking and over thinking. Mommy stood there too, thinking of the parents she had spoken to recently who admitted their very own children had the same issues. Where were these parents today? Certainly not in this pool. Mommy looked around and saw only happy swimming preschool age children and toddlers. They kicked and splashed and jumped off the side of the pool into their parents' arms.

"He's just always loved the water!" said one mom to another. "We've been coming here since he was a baby!" She gushed.

Well, so have we, thought Mommy.

"Mommy, are they gonna blow the whistle? Is it time to go? Do you think they will blow the whistle? And if they do will they blow the whistle because someone is horsing around?"

"No, Lil Buddy. And don't worry about that, " said Mommy. "Let's just get in the pool while there's still time"

"Are we running out of time? Because they are going to blow the whistle?"

"Lil Buddy!" said Mommy, "Forget the whistle, okay? now let's get in the pool and practice, just like you promised."

"But I don't want to!"

"Why?" Mommy asked, desperate.

"I just want to put my toes in." And lil buddy dropped to his bottom and swung his feet around the edge, dipping his toes in. He giggled with excitement and sparkled in him arms and hands.

"Good!" Said Mommy, "Now, let me help you in," and she reached for him and he backed 20 feet away.

"Lil Buddy, come back here right now!" Mommy demanded.


Mommy sighed and thought of the well meaning Mom at the YMCA who had incurred her secret wrath. After observing Lil Buddy's behavior in swim class, the well meaning concerned mom had asked Mommy, "Does he like baths?" Mommy had to count to ten in five languages before she could answer this gal. But in her head, Mommy answered:

What the fuck do you mean by 'Does he like baths?' He's 5 years old. 

And in her head, Mommy also said this:

Oh, no. He hates baths. We have to chase him around the house just to give him a sponge bath. It's so difficult that sometimes I just let him go for weeks without bathing.

But right then and there, at the Y, all Mommy could say was, "Yes he likes baths. He loves the water."

Mommy wondered what she would do if one of these parents made such a comment. She decided to go with sarcasm if the opportunity arose. It didn't.

The only opportunity that did arise was when the lifeguard blew her whistle to warn someone about horsing around. Lil Buddy sat down and watched the lifeguard move from her post to the offending child. He was distracted. Mommy knew there were only 5 minutes left of parent and tot swim so she picked up his curled up body and pulled him in.

"Noooo!" cried Lil buddy and he kicked and screamed. It was unpleasant and Mommy tried to encourage him to swim, but he wouldn't. "I wanna hold on!" he shouted. So Mommy let him take hold of the pool's edge and he promptly pulled himself out and backed away another 20 feet. Mommy followed this time. The lifeguard blew the whistle.

"Okay, let's dry off," she said, trying to be cool.

"Mommy" said Lil Buddy, "are you so proud of me? I put my whole body in!"

Mommy thought for a moment and said, "yes. But next time, you do it by yourself, okay?"

"Okay," he said. "Can we sit on the steps and watch people swim?"


Tiny Dancers

Lil Buddy sparkled with energy until it seemed like his trembling, 5 year old body might burst with happiness. He narrowed his focus and went into his own world,  dancing his very own exuberant preschool trance dance. He kicked his feet happily up and down and shimmied his arms by his sides, giving his dance a decidedly, early 60s, American bandstand look. He folded his arms and swung his hips side to side, bobbing his head. Finally, he opened up his arms and legs into a giant X shape to prepare for his latest, favorite move. "I'm 'pocketing,'" he said, as he slapped his swinging hips on each side.

Sweet Potata had been taking all this in as she made her way around the room, but now she stopped, mid-crawl, to look up at her brother and smile. There on all fours she began to nod her head to the rhythm of her big brother's dance.

"Look Mommy!" said Lil Buddy. "Sweet Potato and I are exercising! We are getting in shape!"

"I see you," I said. "I love your dance moves."

"Because if I do not exercise I will not be healthy?"

"Yes, dear," I answered. Lil Buddy had been obsessed with health and exercise.

"And I will be so tired?"

"Yes, you will not have enough energy," I said, although I wasn't sure this was possible.

"And my muscles will get all drongly?" He asked. Daddy and I smiled at each other from across the room. "Drongly" was by far, one of our favorite Lil Buddy words. It was an adjective used to describe everything from fireworks, to old spaghetti, to well loved books. It seemed to mean a combination of old, tired, well worn, and dingy. It was a highly useful word so we encouraged it.

"yes," I said, "your muscles will get drongly."

Lil Buddy heaved a heavy sigh and flopped onto his giant hedgehog pillows. "I'm tired, " he said.

"Eeeayah! Buhdapp!" said Sweet Potata, shaking a tiny, 11 month old fist in the air. Her little vocal outburst was so loud and funny that we all burst into giggles. Lil Buddy's giggles bubbled into snorts and he rolled around on the floor.

Sweet Potata just slid back onto her baby haunches and stared at us. It was as if she was saying "What's so damn funny?"

So I scooped her up and nibbled her cheeks, which made her giggle like the rest of us.