I thought Noggin was safe. And it was.
But now they’ve changed the name to Nick, Jr., so I’m thinking they’re just going to skip all the fake altruistic stuff and market wherever and whenever they can.
It’s a recession, I guess. Everyone’s struggling.
So I found myself dozing on the couch, my three-year-old tuned into Dora the Explorer, staring at the screen just like I had taught him to do.
Say what you will about letting toddlers watch television. All I know is that as a single, working mother of two boys and the guardian of a freshman in college, I’ll take my dozing where I can get it. Hence Noggin. Rather, Nick, Jr.
So Dora was saving the little star, or the baby bird, or looking for Boots’s boots; can’t remember what exactly that morning’s story line was.
All of a sudden, out of a vaguely-awake corner of my ear, I hear music that sounds suspiciously like a jingle. A toy commercial jingle.
I cracked an eye open to take a look at the flatscreen sitting on the floor of the living room and there found a scene that looked like it had come from the mind of baby Hannibal Lechter.
Cabbage Patch Kids.
With tufts of removable hair.
That’s right. Tufts. Of removable hair.
I’ll pause here for the full effect of this image to sink in.
The tufts had barrettes, so I suppose there was some measure of comfort there. Until I realized that the barrettes were the mechanism by which the tufts were attached to the skulls of the Cabbage Patch Kids.
I stared, mesmerized. Until Dash, in a moment of clarity I had not yet found, declared, “Mamae…that’s creepy.”
I must be doing something right.
Because he has just recently potty-trained. And going number two on the potty is something that he is having a hard time accepting as the normal thing to do. So he holds it for as long as he can, sometimes three days, and then finds the call of the bowl like that of a siren and finally hoists himself up, desperate to relieve himself.
After such an epic wait, the process of evacuation is, of course, one that is almost painful to watch. The effort faces alone are enough to induce a measure of compassion, even though, let's face, he's brought this on himself, the sphincter-holding beast.
Apparently, because of all the effort, and, umm, blood traveling to his nether region, his peepee has, umm, responded, shall we say.
Dash: "Mamae, my peepee is so big!"
I'm trying not to make a big deal of the fact that my son has a giant boner while taking a dump; and at the same time making a very concerted effort to refrain from laughing because that would likely induce its own trauma, one I'd be likely to have to pay some shrink to make go away.
So what is the proper response?
I smile and nod, at a complete loss for anything more helpful or interesting.
Dash: "Mamae, it's so big! Well, actually, now it isn't. It's just little again."
Smile and nod, smile and nod, wipe his tush, smile and nod while my son engages in a near soliloquoy about the size of his penis.
He took my toy! He's touching me! I'm hungry! He kicked me! I don't want to stay in my seatbelt! You said we would be there soon!Once there, it's hard to leave calmly.
I'm going to pull over and give both of you a what-for!
If I hear one more complaint from you, I'm leaving both of you on the side of the road.
Or at all.
There ought to be a law, or a Pavlovian command, or a restraint system...
But there isn't.
So I push the needle just a bit, and crank the music, and throw Cheddar Bunnies in their general direction, and threaten to throw whatever toys are being bickered over out the window. And then, when that doesn't work, because it doesn't ever really work, I grab the actual toy and open the window, from which I dangle the poor, unsuspecting Bakugan, whose short life is about to be pitiably and ignominiously snuffed on I-87.
AND THEN, when an imminent and hideous death is in the offing for whatever molded plastic piece of crap is the latest obsession, THEN the spawn decide that they will set aside their differences. For the sake of the Bakugan/Pokemon/Transformer, they will accept my terms for a peace treaty and stop fighting for as long as it takes to get to the next impasse, at which point there will hopefully be a McDonald's.
Well, let me clarify: there are many, many things I do wrong; but I think I might be doing something really, really, mind-blowingly W-R-O-N-G where men are concerned.
I find myself flummoxed, once again, by behavior both strange and mildly disturbing.
Like, say, someone sleeping over and having a perfectly lovely time, if my interpretation of, umm, the universal language of pleasure, is on point. And then the next morning, when I'm graciously walking him out, this someone says, as I put on my kick-ass metallic silver, wedge clogs, "Those are the ugliest fucking shoes I've ever seen."
When I called him on it two days later, he was outraged because he thought we were in an "open and honest relationship."
Or take, as another example, the one who asked for my number, sent cute texts for two days, quoting Shel Silverstein, no less, and then vanished into thin air. After, of course, making one date and flaking a few hours before we were to meet; then making a second date and never showing.
In related news, there's the one I dated for two years, who flitted in and out of my life at will for the last six months. I, of course, was an accomplice in the flit-fuck game; I guess at some point, though, it became irritating. Only because of the agonizing and hand-wringing and anxiety-ridden phone calls I would get six weeks after poking me. Which went something like this:
Me: Hey, great to hear from you. Wanna grab a drink?
Agita-head: Yeah, I don't know; I don't think that's a good idea. It doesn't end well.
Me: Funny, you seem pretty happy at the end of the night.
Agita-head: No, it's great...I just don't know if it's the best thing for us to be doing at this point.
And on and on, round and round, in circles; pacing back and forth past the quivering mass of developmentally arrested, quivering, pussy-ass pile of bullshit he vomits up on me following every single one of our encounters.
I finally tell him, I have to go, got lots of work to do.
Next thing I know, I'm blindsided by a request to friend me on Facebook.
So I text to ask why he's trying to friend me on Facebook. Why not? he says. Because we're not friends in the real world, I say. Sorry you feel that way, I rescind my request, he says. I hit delete and bathe in the deliciousness of my newfound Putting My Foot Down posture.
Because the bottom line is that although I'm probably doing something vastly and quite devastatingly WRONG on this front, my mandate seems pretty clear: Protect the motherboard at all times.
- Got into graduate school.
- Saw undergraduate transcripts from ummm, well, all those years ago - can't remember taking 73% of the classes.
- Taught Dash to call minivans "Big Ass Cars." Video proof coming soon.
- Ex-husband's girlfriend moved out.
- Ex-husband's new girlfriend showed up for brunch.
- Got winks from RETURNofTHELion, losthair, pro_fit_able, OfficerKrumke, and gentleman_jay.
- losthair augmented his wink with a profound follow-up note - "You are very pretty. Call me." Ooh, ooh, yes, please, I can't wait.
- Luca learned to swim!!!
- Dash went pee-pee on the potty!!! And pooped in the woods!!!
- Teenage sister, Gabi, moved in with us to start undergrad at NYU.
- I discovered the joys of having family close.
- And the frustrations of living with a teenager.
- Middle-aged (if my dog year calculations are correct) Westie dog, named Wallace, came to live with us after a stint with my ex-husband.
- Wallace got mad when we left him alone at home for a couple of hours and ripped up the crappiest McCrapped-Crap diaper he could find in the garbage.
- Discovered new community at off-leash hours in Fort Greene Park.
- Lost in court to Dash's father and his shark attorney.
- Figured out how to put my tax dollars to work with free legal help.
- Served papers on aforementioned sperm donor.
- Became a yoga studio manager. Found inner peace.
- Even in the face of idiocy and collapsing economy.
- Re-ignited my passion for blogging.
- Playdate host informs you your son has responded to calls to clean up playroom with, "What the fuck?" Make sure your son is properly rewarded for cursing in context.
- Take argued-over toys and hurl them out the window. When child says that's littering, threaten to recycle his toes.
- At random and unannounced intervals, swat child with a fly-swatter and then apologize for mistaking him for a bug.
- Loudly, and in public, explain the details of how he was conceived.
- At school drop-off, inform child he must eat all of his lunch or risk being left at school overnight.
- Send child into pharmacy with Monopoly money with instructions to ask for Super Large Extra Absorbent Tampons because Mommy's bleeding to death.
- At the supermarket, answer every request for junk food with, "In your fucking dreams."
- Answer every Why? with Why the Hell Not?
- Tell child his whining is why you drink.
- Begin every morning with, "You're still here?"
I'm trying so hard not to feel guilty, and to remember how the little turds I spawned have taken me right to the edge of insanity, only to smile with such joy and innocence that falling off that ledge seems ill-advised, not to mention badly timed.
So every time one of them calls me, just to say hi, just to say goodnight, just to say, Mamae, I miss you, I say that I miss them back, that I love them so much, and when the anxiety starts to rise and threatens to choke off my good mood, I take myself back to last week, when Dash was up all night throwing his little body all over the bed, and Luca was taking the fucking Hot Wheels cars from Dash's clenched fists just to see how loudly he could get his little brother to scream.
And the anxiety recedes, and the guilt settles down to a low simmer, sometimes even disappearing completely. And I wonder why I didn't book a longer stay while my ex was in such a giving (perhaps dissociative) mood.
It is a funny-feeling thing to want time away from your children. It is something I want when I want it, a reprieve from the daily and nightly groundhog-day grind that, if timed well, can help me be a nicer mommy. Because being a mother is the single most rewarding and epic thing I've done yet in this life. It's also, quite frankly, the most bone-headed, idiotic and mind-numbing wagon I've managed to hitch myself to. And remember that I've been married.
I mean, who in their right and rational and sober mind would knowingly give up sleep, sex, time for oneself, light-colored upholstery, long showers, and disposable income, to mention just a few things, in order to be enslaved to a demanding, insatiable, selfish, boob-sucking, assplosion machine?
Who in their right and rational and sober mind would forgo the life-changing love one feels for one's child? The naked tushies; the tooth-less and toothy smiles; the sweet, unconditionally given hugs and cuddling; the joy in their faces when you show up at the end of the day; the chance to love someone in a way you don't even (admit it) love yourself.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
On any other day, particularly the school mornings when it's all I can do to get myself and my flailing toddler into street clothes, the fact that Luca managed to get dressed in under five minutes would have been cause for a minor celebration. HOWEVER, I am very Brasilian in some ways, one of them being that I am slightly neurotic about how my kids are presented to the world, especially on a day that is supposed to be all about ME, and for a party at which all the little girls will have on pretty toile dresses. I would like my boys to measure up in the threads department, you know what I'm saying?
So when Luca came downstairs in a Silver Surfer orange tee, and frayed jeans, and proudly showed off his having dressed himself so competently and efficiently, what could I do but smile wanly and offer up praise for the speedy change from pajamas?
Except then I remembered the impending onslaught of toile, and tentatively suggested to Luca that he either put on a nicer shirt or fancier pants. Sensing the weakness in my voice, my six-year-old, who was perfectly happy, as he should be on any day OTHER than Mother's Day, with his choice of clothing, very strongly and in short order declared he was fine with what he was wearing and we should get going to Stellie's house. Having the excuse of not being quite done getting myself or the resident floundering two-year-old ready, I said in a slightly more insistent tone that he should seriously reconsider his tee or his jeans and that I would prefer him to don something nicer for Mother's Day.
It was a no-go.
I even tried to explain the vagaries of a quid pro quo, going so far as to suggest that should he ask something of me in the future, near or far, that he should not be shocked if I declined to fulfill his request.
Still a no-go.
I tried one last-ditch effort, as now we were getting dangerously close to being late, and if there's anything that irritates me more than being improperly attired, it is arriving late to someone's house for a celebration. I asked that, for me, for his Mother, on this Mother's Day, that my son switch to something more appropriate for a Mother's Day dinner.
Again, I must have tipped my hate-to-be-late-hand a bit too far, because my underdressed son turned to me and asked, in a not-quite-whiny voice, "But Mamae, what does Mother's Day have to do with fancy?"
And for that, dear reader, I had no good answer at the ready.
So my now-finally-dressed thrashing toddler and I headed downstairs and out of the house, with the Silver Surfer happily bounding along at my side. Beat-up sneakers and all.
Happy Mother's Day, he said. And he meant it with all his heart.
So I did - have a happy Mother's Day, I mean. And decided that the clothing does not a good mother make. Choosing my battles does.
Three wooden knives, the very ones I had been searching for a couple of days before because the boys and I had been playing kitchen together.
We got off the subway at 125th Street and Broadway, and headed for Madame Alexander's doll factory on 131st, just east of the river. RAD school had booked a tour there for our kindergarteners - a chance for the kids to see the dolls being designed and built.