Today’s snow day, you’ll be pleased to learn, was actually one of the good ones. The kids were cooperated and listened and played and were cute. This may be because I held TV over their heads, with a promise we could watch Thomas and George and Martha at 4:00 if they were good until then. Now threatening TV loss really fucks over one person: me. Because if they suck and lose TV, then I get sucky kids to whom I have to listen for an additional 45 minutes.
We planned a picnic on the TV room floor, with popcorn for Little Liebchen and me and Trader Joe’s cheesey sandwich crackers for Das Big Boy. But then at 4:00, as I was making the popcorn, Little Liebchen dropped and shattered her glass of milk (yes, I’m an idiot and I sometimes give her open glasses with which to walk around). So I shooed her away. Then Das Big boy came thundering into the room, pushing LL’s doll stroller. “Stay away from the play kitchen,” I told him. “There’s glass over there and you could get hurt.” He ignored me. “DBB, stay away. Be careful! Get away from there!” He backed up, then went for it full force. So I screamed at him to move away. Like, really screamed. I am a mom who yells sometimes, I admit it. But I am not a screamer.
And then he moved away, but started to have a meltdown. So I put him in a timeout (or maybe it was a time in, since I went with him), and explained to him that I had screamed not because I was mad, but because I was afraid he would get hurt. And that when it’s a matter of safety, he has to listen and can’t play around. And he stopped melting. And he listened. And we both apologized. Was that me and my kid?!
The miracle of it was that neither of us allowed it to be anything other than a blip in an otherwise delightful day. We still watched our TV (I didn’t hold the incident against him because a) he had made it to 4, and b) he calmed down so well. (And, ok, c) because I was excited for our cozy time.)
Then our cozy time was wonderful. We watched the shows we’d planned on. We snuggled and snacked. So there was a lesson here for me: That it’s so much better to let go of the tough moments and not let them define the day. Getting mad, or scared, or stressed doesn’t mean one has to stay that way. (Duh. But also difficult).
But let’s be honest: it’s impossible not to let the weather define the day. Seriously. Snow. What the fuck?! I’ve lived in New England for thirty-two of my thirty-seven years, including four years in New Hampshire. I have never seen anything like this. Here are some views from my house:
Today, I went out to shovel our walkway and a path to the car. I informed Das Big Boy of my intentions. “No,” he said, “Only Daddy shovels.” Groan. #failedfeminist. And then I did shovel. And I did a great job. So there. But not so great that I want school tomorrow. Not sure I want to dig out my car. And if the kiddos are such sweetpeas again, I’ll have fun being home with them. I give this a much lower likelihood than the survival of that garage.
And local friends, don’t look at the forecast.
PS: the title of this post has nothing to do with anything, really, except it’s Gordon’s catchphrase on Thomas and I’m obsessed.
Das Big Boy has just begun building with regular size Legos–with assistance, of course. Over the holidays, he built the race car carrying delivery truck that he received courtesy of the Huxtables, and the race car from Toy Story that Buzz and Woody use to catch the moving van at the end of the film. We’ve also been building with a gas station toy he got for his birthday, although with that one, we like to build random stuff like hovercrafts or elevators and then play with them.
The Legos have been getting lots of life as toys once they’re built, which is great because we get to work on frustration tolerance when they inevitably fall apart. Frankly, the only person who’s gotten frustrated at a deconstructed Lego project is me. I left Herr Husband in charge of Das Big Boy playing with the Lego truck at the breakfast table, knowing this was dangerous territory.
“Make sure he doesn’t drop it off the table,” I said, eager to enjoy the rare solo-bathroom trip that comes with having Herr Husband on staycation (who said romance is dead when you have small children?).
From the bathroom, I heard a crash.
“What happened?” I shouted!
“I went to check on Little Liebchen,” Herr Husband explained, “because she was too quiet.”
“And this was a problem because…” I snarked.
I emerged to find the Lego truck back into forty pieces, and had a mini wingding as I struggled to put it together. “We worked so hard on this!” I whined to Herr Husband. “I don’t know where anything goes and you threw out the directions! There goes my whole vacation!” And so on in embarrassing fashion that need not be detailed here.
Eventually, I calmed down and tried to turn it into a teachable moment. “I got frustrated about the Lego truck and I didn’t handle it well.” I told Das Big Boy. “I should have taken a break.”
But I digress. The nice thing about the Legos once they become toys is they are something the kids can play with together. The little people are cute and fun and accessible at the two-year-old and the four-year-old level. Except.
NONE of Das Big Boy’s sets come with even a single female character. Because apparently women don’t drive cars or trucks or pump gas.
I feel this sets a bad example (have I ever written about the time DBB and I had an actual fight about whether or not a girl figure could drive a toy bus? He kept insisting that the man had to drive, and I kept taking the man out and shoving the woman in and saying the lady could drive and we actually broke a piece of the bus but I think I finally won.).
So for LL’s birthday, I got her some female Lego people. It’s not easy. I know that under duress, they made those scientist ladies that are impossible to get/wickedly expensive. If you want to buy Lego Mini-Figures, it’s a surprise which one you’re getting and only 20% seem to be women, and some of those are women doing silly (slash awesome) things like dressing like unicorns, which is cool and all but maybe not that empowering. And if you buy a building set with a woman, it’s one of those Lego Friends sets, which we’ve already discussed.
So I finally got to the Lego store, where I managed to make my own Lego women. With a crew of children in the five to seven year-old range, I crowded around the tubs and fished for female hair and faces (now of course women can have short hair, and the Lego people use lipstick to denote a female face, so really I’m just buying into gender roles, but let’s save Judith Butler for another day). I had my own little dish going, and kids kept coming up to paw through it. “Sorry, that’s mine,” I’d explain to them and their parents. Then, sensing that I needed to justify why a grown woman was elbowing small children out of the way at the build-you-own-Lego-people station, I explained myself: “I’m building female Lego people for my daughter because all the kits come with men.”
“Cool,” one said one dad, then, to his wife, “Let’s make sure Cam builds one woman. I want some diversity in his collection of Lego people.” Awesome. (NB: all of the Lego people are yellow, which suggests a lack of diversity, but I’m focused on the gender stuff today.)
And then, when I explained my goals to the cashier, he asked me to take a look at the Mini-Figures display. “I tagged some of them in back, so if there’s a female one you want, I can be sure you get her.” Yes, it destroys the element of surprise that I think is supposed to make Mini-Figures fun, but I selected a female paleontologist and added her to my collection. And I thought it was cool that instead of rolling their eyes at my Lego feminism, both the cashier and the dad agreed with me and supported my mission. Huzzah!
As you’ll recall, the Husband Hausfraus are not what one would call a “household of faith.” But we do like our holidays, and I like to make a tiny effort at educating the children in the ways of their Jewish ancestors. This year we had a mini-Seder at Passover, an offering of apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, no mention of Yom Kippur (oops–but atoning seems hard for wee ones), and an awesome Sukkot thanks to our neighbors. Every year we make a never-quite-enough effort at lighting the Hanukkah candles as I read transliterated prayers from my iPhone. Last year we may have managed four nights. So far this year we’re one for four.
We give some Hanukkah presents–this year mostly books about children of color (see my Ferguson post for why)–and tomorrow we’ll have latkes. But so far, here are my children’s impressions of Hanukkah:
Looks like I have some more teaching to do.
Now Herr Husband and I are going to watch Pee Wee’s Christmas Special, if we can find it. If you can find it anywhere you should watch it. It is nothing short of a hilarious and bizarre postmodern holiday wonder.
Hanukkah. We might be doing it wrong. But we’re celebrating the miracles of the season and our funny, happy little family, so we’re doing some stuff right, too.
A lot of parents hate bedtime. It’s odd how something that we so love and long for as adults, and so need as children, is pure anathema to the under-twelve set. But actually, my children, who stink at plenty of things–one won’t eat fruits or vegetables in solid form, the other would rather concuss herself than put on a jacket no matter the temperature–have historically been fairly agreeable at bedtime. Yes, in his early toddler days, Das Big Boy required lots of rocking and singing, and on most days Little Liebchen still weasels her way into our bed in the early morning. But they’re pretty good about the act of going to bed. After our bedtime routine (potty, jammies, teeth, books, “best part of the day,” songs), Herr Husband takes the recently nursed Little Liebchen to her crib, then returns so we can both say goodnight to Das Big Boy. And until recently, that was the end of the story. Yes, Das Big Boy would play in his bed for a while, but he’d stay there.
Then all of a sudden he had that realization that children have repeatedly until adulthood: adult authority is a myth if you don’t give a fuck. When I was a teacher, some colleagues would express bewilderment at students who didn’t come to school. Frankly, I was amazed that so many of them showed up. I mean, nerds like I was, yeah, of course they would come. But I was truly stunned that the bad ass kids who did drugs and got into fights and yelled at teachers came to school as often as they did. To this day I find it profoundly moving that they did so.
Anyway, bedtime is a social construct, and Das Big Boy suddenly wasn’t having it. I feel like a lot of kids go through this when they first move to big boy/girl beds, but he was quite good about staying in his bed unless he really, really needed something. He was still much more likely to holler for us.
And then suddenly, about two months ago: Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me. He was out of bed. He was playing with his toys. He was in our room. He was blaming his stuffed animals for the loud crashes we heard. I didn’t climb on the shelves to get the jellyfish; Clifford did it.
We tried putting desirable toys “to bed” by hiding them under blankets. We taped down the light switch and told him the light was sleeping. On one particularly ugly evening that I caught him making book towers, I told him that if he did it one more time I would take every single book out of his room. And then when he did so, I had to honor my promise, practically spitting with rage as I dragged probably two-hundred books out from every corner of his room. It was not my proudest parenting moment.
But I think we’ve finally hit on something that works. His current nightlight is very dim, such that he wants us to leave the door open so he can see his books (yes, I let him take books to bed. I was a sneak-reader and I feel like there are worse things to be) by the hall light. The deal is, if he gets out of bed, even once, the hall light goes off.
This leads to some squeals of, “Help me! Mom, I can’t reach it!” as he tries to keep his feet on the bed while reaching for a book and gets trapped in a sort of wheelbarrow pose, but the stakes seem just high enough to keep him where he belongs.
Until he realizes, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” and starts turning his own light on again, probably so he can do things like remove all of the clothes from his drawers or color on the walls.
It’s bound to happen.
Edit: Just read that the grand jury decided not to press charges against Darren Wilson (ugh), which makes my use of “Killing in the Name of” for my suburban mom blog seem a bit too cute for tonight. Apologies for that.
Today is World Prematurity Day. Obviously, I’m acutely aware of prematurity, and chances are, if you follow this blog at all, you’re aware of prematurity, too.
I have to be honest. I always have a bit of a squeamish reaction to prematurity awareness. That’s because one of the main goals of the day is to reduce prematurity. Now obviously, I’m all for reducing, nay, eliminating, prematurity! But to suggest that it can be done feels like suggesting that Das Big Boy’s premature birth was somehow preventable if I had done something differently. Prematurity prevention often talks about getting mothers prenatal care, and of stopping pregnant women from smoking and/or using cocaine. I’m here to tell you that I had topflight prenatal care, and that I didn’t have so much as an Advil before I was admitted to the hospital with PPROM. I took my bedrest extremely seriously, both at home and in the hospital. I only ate pasteurized cheese. I didn’t touch soft serve or smoothies. Or penne a la vodka. I didn’t clean a litterbox between 2010 and 2014. I was ridiculously, overly careful. And I still had a preemie and a baby who I managed to get to 36 weeks and 3 days which felt like an elephantine effort for not only me, Herr Husband, and Das Big Boy, but also my parents and Nanny Sunshine, not to mention a cadre of talented medical personnel. So preventing prematurity isn’t always possible, no matter how hard we try. And sometimes suggesting that it is fires up that tiny voice that wonders if I could have done something differently.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t love the March of Dimes and give them money in Das Big Boy’s honor. Please feel free! They’re the ones who helped get the surfactant developed which enabled him to breathe. They conducted the research into the betamethasone that grew him the paltry lungs he had at birth so he could survive. And they fund research into PPROM’s causes, and many other issues associated with prematurity that could have helped me, Das Big Boy, and our many preemie pals.
But rather than talking about preventing prematurity, I want to think about how we can respond to it. The doctors and the organizations like MoD have the medical research and stuff covered. So we can think about the personal responses. And this is really my advice for how to support anyone going though a stressful situation: preemie, sick kid, sick parent, illness, what-have-you:
Be present. Give presents.
Call to check in even if you think the person wants some space. Send texts. Emails. Leave voicemails. Don’t expect to hear back, but be there. If you talk to the person, listen. Offer empathy. Hope, but not false hope. Support. Tell the person how awesome they’re doing (but don’t say you don’t know how they do it. They don’t have a choice. They just do), and ask what you can do. We loved when people visited the NICU (as long as they were healthy!). Our people treated Das Big Boy like a person who mattered to them, which helped him feel like part of our lives even when he was stuck in the hospital. Finally, don’t hide from even the scariest or saddest situations. I know my friends who’ve lost children love the opportunity to talk about those children, to be reminded that they existed for everyone, not just for their families.
And send something, if you can. I’ve written about this before, but people sent us stuff for Das Big Boy even before we knew if he would survive until birth. That meant more than I can express to this day. That people believed in him enough to send him a little outfit (Thank you still, A and M!) still brings tears to my eyes. When something is so uncertain, tiny tangible things mean so much. It’s why we took multiple photos of him every day that he was in the NICU. It was, I think, our way of proving that he was there, that he existed.
Friends also sent stuff to support us and keep our spirits up. Cupcakes delivered to the NICU. Gift cards for grocery delivery. A couples massage. Having our team care for us enabled us to care for our little dude. And it reminded us that we were part of a larger world that loved us.
Prematurity isn’t all tragedy. We loved Das Big Boy more than we thought possible. We celebrated his milestones (His first ccs of breastmilk! The first time we held him! His attempts at nursing! When we had to change his incubator because he had such an explosive poop!). We held him, cuddled him, read to him, and sang to him for up to fourteen hours a day. We befriended our nurses, doctors, and staffers, and of course the other families (and we celebrated their babies’ milestones, too!). The NICU became our community. Our home.
And during our 114 days in the NICU, Herr Husband and I also had a lot of laughs. We wrote songs like “Could be Gas, Could be Sepsis” (ok, it was a whole musical called NICU, the Musical), perfected our imitations of some of the NICUs characters and acted out scenes with them, and played a weird version of “chuck, fuck, marry,” in which we had to select a staff member to hurl from the window, one to bring to Boston, and one to leave at CHONY. We imagined setting up nurses with our friends and decided whom we would want to go for a drink with or invite to a party. Even when you’re miserable, misery doesn’t define you. You be you.
The last thing I think we can all do for World Prematurity Day is something to thank the best humans on the planet, NICU nurses. If you’re a NICU parent, you can do something to thank those nurses. Send them a treat. Donate something to the NICU that they can share with their patients. Write them a letter with a picture of your kid. And if you’re not a NICU alum, and you want to do something, you can still donate something to your local NICU. Or to the next best people: teachers or therapists or doctors who work with NICU alums. Looking for a new charity? You can give money to the Center for Healthy Infant Lung Development (CHILD) Clinic, or the Home Oxygen Parent Exchange (HOPE) program, both at Children’s Hospital Boston. These are the places in which Dr. Larry Rhein works his magic, helping preemies learn to breathe, and even more sweetly, to play. The HOPE Program is Larry’s passion project, where babies who are on germ isolation can take a music class safely without worrying about the common colds that could send them to the hospital. And where their parents can make pals with other folks who’ve had this strange introduction to parenting: (blue babies, plugged in babies, boob-to-pump-to-pump-to-belly, etc.)
So Happy World Prematurity Day, or something like that. Thanks, as always, for following our journey. Prematurity doesn’t define it anymore, but I do appreciate the opportunity to remember and reflect. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.
It was a lovely day for the Husband Hausfraus, or at least for the Hipster and her offspring. Herr Husband was at work. But we three walked to Trader Joe’s, had lunch at Sweet Corner, made a UPS truck out of an Amazon box (that had ironically arrived via Fed Ex), and capped it off with a delightful wine-fueled play date with ‘Burban Bestie and her babes.
But the day was not without a teachable moment, which I feel duty bound to share.
Sometimes, when Hipster Hausfrau is walking around her idyllic suburb, she starts to feel a little boss. It began at TJs, where they were playing “Tell Me Something Good.”
Who doesn’t want to dance when they hear that song? And one great thing about children is that they totally legitimize singing and dancing in the grocery store. What a great mom, people think, totally unafraid to make an ass of herself in order to keep those babies happy. To be fair, what I really wanted to do was cut loose with some hair swinging, getting low, grinding it out stripper dancing, but I held back. Almost entirely. And then my smugsbyness continued on the walk to lunch; this may have been related to my outfit choice which involved skinny jeans, legwarmers, and some gray go-go type boots with little heels. I confess that I may have been checking myself out in store windows.
After lunch, at which the children earned accolades for their behavior, I was basically feeling like hot shit as I strolled home.
And then the weight of the food I had purchased to feed my family outweighed my children, thereby causing the stroller to tip back in middle of the street, such that my children and groceries were flat on their backs and I was flat on my face. Yup. I totally bit it. Blame the heels on the boots.
But anyway, the kids were totally fine, the groceries were totally fine, and I was totally fine. Not even embarrassed because when I’m in a good mood, things like this immediately strike me as hilarious. But oddly, the woman who had pulled up as I was crossing the street just sat there. She, her daughter (about my age), and two grandchildren (about my kids’ ages) waited patiently as I checked on my kids, adjusted my groceries, and dusted myself off. I waved an apology, and she nodded.
But then she drove off. Didn’t roll down her window to ask if I needed help or even if the kids and I were ok.
What the fuck is up with that?
I would have gotten out of the car to make sure the mom was ok. Isn’t that what friendly, busybody-small-town living is all about?
Asshole, I muttered. And not that quietly. It’s a word I know Das Big Boy already has access to, because I am usually careful about my swearing until I’m not, and he once informed me that a truck was fixing some assholes in the street.
But then I realized this was a teachable moment.
“What do you think that lady should have said to us?” I asked DBB.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“When she saw that we had fallen, I think she should have asked us…” I looked at him expectantly.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
“Exactly.” I told him. “Are you ok? Do you need help?”
So that’s my lesson people. I guess it’s two lessons. If you think you’re hot stuff, the universe will remind you to take it down a level. But also, if you see your fellow man (or mom) in trouble, help a sister out. Don’t ignore her because you’re worried she might be embarrassed or you’re in some all-fired hurry.
Check on people.
Make sure they’re ok.
Show a little love.
Tell me something good.