Mother Lamb

The other day was picture day at my daughter’s school.  And she came home in tears.

While lined up for the class photo, some boys starting teasing her about the shirt she was wearing, a ruffled, pink-checked number she hadn’t been 100% sure about wearing in the first place.  They kept at it, too, the whole time the class was arranged for their group photo.  When it came time for my daughter’s individual portrait, the taunting shifted to her ears.  When she put her hair behind them, they stuck out something awful, they said.  She looked just like an elf.

An elf.

To this day I still remember the part of my body that I got teased about as a kid: my ankles.  And I am still self-conscious about them.  (If I catch you looking at them if we ever meet, I’m not sure we’ll be able to be friends).

So, the shirt was one thing. I gave her an impassioned speech about being herself regardless of what others think.  A speech she’ll no doubt ignore while she conveniently “forgets” to ever wear that shirt again.  Okay, I can live with that.

But the elf bit?  That made the mother lion in me bust hard out of her cage.  I announced that I was calling the boys’ parents.  If I couldn’t turn back time, I could at least get the boys to apologize for what they had said.  But my daughter didn’t want me to do that.  She begged me not to.

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Free To Be You and Me, Within Reason

There has never been any love lost between me and princesses.  As a little girl, I was a tomboy, spending most my time in dirt or on horseback.  I never played dress-up and I never understood the appeal of Barbie.  I did not dream of being Cinderella and never once donned a tiara for Halloween.

Of course, this was not part of some well-developed, pre-school feminist agenda.  Princesses and their ilk just weren’t my thing.  Like football wasn’t my thing, or lima beans.

But by the time I had my own daughters, my feelings about princesses had hardened into something a tad more complex.  Suffice it to say, that I wanted my daughters focused on saving themselves, not on waiting for a rescue.

Even now, some mellowing years later, I stand by that view as a philosophical premise.  My execution, however, may have left something to be desired, at least in the early years.  Let’s just say, it did once culminate in me refusing to allow my then four-year-old to have the Ariel-themed birthday party she so desperately wanted.  Instead, I foisted Supergirl on her.  And I’m still not even sure that’s a real actual character.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, her burgeoning interest in princesses vanished shortly after that.  And I emerged victorious.

For about five seconds.

At which point, my daughter discovered Hannah Montana, years earlier than her peers who were, you guessed it, still all into princesses.   It became routine for other mothers to ask how she’d gotten interested in a tween icon at, “such a very young age.”  Yes, it was a very proud time for me indeed.

Taking a lesson from the beloved children’s book Ferdinand, a recent piece on the Motherlode Blog by Gretchen Rubin argues that one of the greatest challenges and responsibilities of parenting is to allow children to be themselves.

Past bad behavior notwithstanding, I agree with Gretchen (and with Ferdinand’s mom) that it’s crucial that we as parents accept our children as they are, for who they are, no matter how hard we have to bite our tongues.  We must do this so that our children can one day, hopefully, learn to accept themselves.

Now, if I happen, in the meantime, to permanently “misplace” a Barbie or two, I might just have to accept that of myself.  After all, I’m a work in progress too.

 

Blair Witch Brooklyn

So my daughters are at an age where they like to take my phone–sometimes with permission, sometimes not–and make movies of themselves usually lip-syncing to Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, sometimes practicing piano or doing the gymnastics I have forbade them to do inside the apartment at least 1,000 times. They like to take pictures too. Sometimes the photos are of themselves making funny faces or they set up their toys and take strange, slanted stills.

They take photos of me too, always when I least feel like having my picture taken and routinely from unimaginably unflattering angles.  These I try to delete before the horror of viewing them is seared too deeply into my memory.

But today, I discovered these.  All four of them, just like this.  All by themselves.  I have no idea when they were taken.  And I have absolutely no idea why.  But I’ve seen the Blair Witch Project, and I’m totally sure that I do not ever want to know.

P.S. If you haven’t seen the movie The Blair Witch Project and you don’t know what I’m talking about, check it out 1)  I thought it was fantastic (and scary, be forewarned) when I saw it in the theatre a million years ago and 2) You will fully get why these pictures are so totally creepy.

Besides, ’tis the season for witches….

 

 

 

 

Paxil

She was an awesome dog.

She was also totally crazy.  Certifiably so.  Ironic given that her name was Paxil.  Or perhaps naming her that had guaranteed that she would be anything but calm.

I adopted her my senior in college, while living in a dorm that didn’t allow dogs. Several of my friends did the same ill-advised thing and that’s pretty much my only excuse.  And for some reason campus security went along with it, turning a blind eye to us secreting our three puppies in and out of the dorm as we were housetraining them.

Upon graduation, Paxil came with me to New York City and, while I worked long hours as a paralegal, ate an entire loveseat.  She also almost died of Parvo virus.  I am still grateful to the vet who saved her and wrote off all but $500 of the $5,000 bill I could never have afforded to pay.

And for many, many years, Paxil was my family when I so desperately needed one.

That did not change the fact that she was insane, of course.  She was absurdly needy, aggressive with other dogs and would break off her leash and run wildly through the streets of New York until doormen would coral her in their lobbies.

But I loved her, despite her insanity.  After some convincing, my husband grew to love her too, and my babies after that.  And she loved us all back until she died of heart failure five years ago at the age of thirteen.

This weekend we’re headed upstate to pick up the new puppy we’ve waited months for.  A puppy that will, no doubt, be the only dog my children remember.

But I won’t forget.  I will remember Paxil, always.

 

 

Any Given Day

This morning I saw my life flash before my eyes.  Or her life.  I saw her life flash before my eyes.

She is my five-year-old.  And this morning started like any other hectic school morning: me running in from the gym to launch into the packing of school lunches, the dressing of children, the sorting of school gear while my husband races out the door early for work.  The bribing of children into music practice.

Like everyone else, our morning routine is harried, but we manage.  In fact, I like to think we have it down to a science.

But then this morning happens and you are reminded that you really don’t have anything under control.  That where children—where life—is concerned, control is something we talk ourselves into believing we have to make ourselves feel better.  And, if we are very, very lucky, the fates allow us to retain the illusion for a little while. Continue reading