in case you thought I was making things up

Anyone who thinks the whole getting-your- kid-into-kindergarten saga in New York City is a tad overblown should check out “Kindergarten Crop” in this week’s New York magazine.

After repeating the oft-cited statistic that the population of children under five in Manhattan has grown by 25% since 2000, the article tells horror stories of children who have nowhere to go to kindergarten this fall. Then it tells the harrowing tale of how the public school system decided to shift its gifted and talented acceptance date until May, so many more families may be shut out at that point, but won’t know until then.

It will all make you very glad not to live in New York City. Unless you’re me and your kids’ school goes from nursery through 8th grade. Score! You don’t want to be me when Cooper is 13… but until then, I’m golden.

Thanks to momsquawk.com for this link to a Parents magazine segment on Today, listing nine common products that “are supposed to protect children but can actually put them at risk.” You know those plastic outlet covers? Kids can choke on them. You know those mirrors that let you see your baby while you’re driving? In an accident, those can become deadly projectiles.

I think some of this is a little silly. It reminds me of that “Consumer Probe” sketch on Saturday Night Live many moons ago– the one with Dan Ackroyd as a deadly toy manufacturer, and Candice Bergen as a consumer reporter:

Consumer Reporter: We’d like to show you another one of Mr. Mainway’s products. It retails for $1.98, and it’s called Bag O’ Glass. Mr. Mainway, this is simply a bag of jagged, dangerous, glass bits.

Irwin Mainway: Yeah, right, it’s you know, it’s glass, it’s broken glass, you know? It sells very well, as a matter of fact, you know? It’s just broken glass, you know?

Consumer Reporter: I don’t understand. I mean, children could seriously cut themselves on any one of these pieces!

Irwin Mainway: Yeah, well, look – you know, the average kid, he picks up, you know, broken glass anywhere, you know? The beach, the street, garbage cans, parking lots, all over the place in any big city. We’re just packaging what the kids want! I mean, it’s a creative toy, you know? If you hold this up, you know, you see colors, every color of the rainbow! I mean, it teaches him about light refraction, you know? Prisms, and that stuff! You know what I mean?

Candice Bergen’s character goes on to point out that while his toys are clearly hazardous, other toys are clearly safe:

Consumer Reporter: Well, I just don’t understand why you can’t make harmless toys like these alphabet blocks.

Irwin Mainway: C’mon, this is harmless? Alright, okay, you call this harmless? I mean… [ He plays with block and fakes injury ] Aagghh!! I got a splinter in here, look at that! This is wood! This is unsanded wood, it’s rough!

Consumer Reporter: Alright, that’s enough of this ridiculous display. [ holds toy phone ] Here is another creative toy, safe enough for a baby!

Irwin Mainway: [ grabs phone ] You say it’s safe, I mean, look at this cord…the kid is on the phone – “Hello? Hello?” – then.. [ twists cord around his neck, screams, and falls backward in chair ] You know what I mean? It’s an example! You see my point, a dangerous toy like that?

In other words, everything can be dangerous. If you’re silly enough to buy a wipe warmer, you’re also probably silly enough to leave it plugged in 24/7 and start a fire, so maybe you should just skip the wipe warmer in the first place. Don’t buy the sleep positioner! The wipe warmer! The plastic outlet covers! You want to keep your kids safe? Stop spending money on stupid stuff! Now THAT’S something we parents should be hearing from consumer reporters. Don’t hold your breath, though.

(Thanks to snltranscripts.jt.org for the transcript of the above sketch, from 1976. Now that’s dedication.)

stop staring at my bras

David’s parents are visiting us this week, and it’s great because they always jump in with their sleeves rolled up and get right to work with the young ones. Last night they were attending Cooper in the bathtub, while I was dressing Maddie in the next room. It was her bedtime and she was in Full Fussy Mode.

“Your sister is a bugger,” my mother-in-law said as she rinsed Cooper’s hair. “Why won’t she suck her thumb, or take a paci?”

“She doesn’t like those things,” Cooper replied. “She only likes to suck on bras.”

Both my mother-in-law, and I, in the next room, did a double take.

“She likes what?” my mother-in-law said.

“Bras,” Cooper repeated. “She likes to suck milk out of Mommy’s bras.”

It took me a moment to realize he actually meant my “breasts” and not my actual, ratty, dingy nursing brassieres (yick). Then, avoiding eye contact with my father-in-law, who was standing right there, I wondered why Cooper didn’t know the word “breast.” Then I realized, it’s because I never say it.

Mind you, I’m not into “wee wee” or “dinky” or any of that stuff. If you read the post below about Fergus teaching his friend Benny an anatomy lesson, you already know that. I just call things what they are, and encourage the kids to do so also. “Penis” and “vagina” veritably trip off the tongue in my house. We do say “hiney,” but I’m not sure what the grown-up word for your derriere even is. Is there one? Gluteus maximus? Oy, that’s six syllables, I can’t be bothered.

And so I would never call my breasts “boobies,” or “bazooms,” or whatever. (I can’t even bring myself to say the “T” word.) It’s the nicknames I find distasteful; the real words seem fine to me. Except “breasts.” That one, I must admit, I avoid saying. I kind of don’t call them anything.

Perhaps it is good and normal that I do not directly discuss my breasts with my two sons. Even so, my breasts, and their natural functions, are inescapable in our house. They see me nurse Maddie while dishing out their pasta, reading them stories, coaxing them to poop on the potty, you name it. I’m no exhibitionist, but I’m not going to whip out a Hooter Hider, either. “Hooter,” eww. There’s another word I would NEVER say.

(By the way, I truly can’t reconcile in my mind that the same person who invented this Tent of Shame, thinking that breasts are gross and dirty, is at the same time comfortable throwing the word “hooter” around.)

I tell my boys that Maddie is having her milk, and leave it at that. If they show any interest, I still feel a little uncomfortable. But that’s my problem, not theirs. I think our children are all going to be a lot more cool about breasts than we are. For the Formula Generation, breastfeeding, no matter how often we see it, still seems weird. For our kids, most of whom were either breastfed themselves, or who see nursing mothers at every playground, maybe breasts will be no big deal. Not sexy, not gross. Kind of like ears.

I’d like to think my boys will be better young men for having breasts demystified to them. Perhaps they will be less obsessed than their forebears, and wouldn’t that be nice? I mean, come on. They’re just bras.

names have been changed to protect the innocent

Hello readers. I have made a recent realization, in this age of the Internet in which we live, that it is less than wise to have my children’s actual names as part of my blog.

I mean, they’ll be applying for jobs someday, and I don’t want their poop habits writ large for all their prospective employers.

So, to save them future embarrassment, they will henceforth be known as Cooper, Fergus, and Maddie. Close enough to their real names that, if you know them in real life, they can still be a little embarrassed. I mean, come on, that’s healthy.

mommy and me yoga

Yesterday Maddie and I went to our first Mommy and Me Yoga Class. Actually, it was our first Mommy and Me anything. Usually, our “Mommy and Me” time is “Mommy desperately typing and making ten phone calls while Me screams instead of napping.”

To give full disclosure, it was Maddie’s first baby yoga class, but hardly mine. By the time Maddie’s oldest brother was four months old, he and I had attended infant massage, music for babies, breastfeeding support groups, new mom support groups, Strollercize, AND mommy and me yoga, as often as possible. We got around. When you’re home with your first baby, it’s all about having somewhere to go, something to build your day around. Once you have three kids, you have plenty of places to go. When you actually get to be with just your baby, you’re thrilled, because that means you can stay home for a change.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day yesterday, and feeling a little guilty that Maddie never really goes anywhere, off we went to Mommy and Me Yoga. (OK, maybe a little of my motivation was that I prepaid for eight classes before she was born– what was I thinking??– and have six weeks left to use them.) And having returned to the Mommy and Me world, let me just say: you cannot go home again. Mommy and Me Yoga is the world of the first-time mother.

Why do I say that? Because I showed up with my purse, my stroller, and her. OK maybe a diaper. But that was it. These other mothers arrived with multiple blankets (do NOT let your baby lie on the actual blankets provided by the yoga studio!), jangly toys, Marimekko changing pads, monogrammed burp cloths, Pee Pee Tee Pees, the whole wazoo. Maddie looked like a pauper, lying there with nothing to chew on but my iPhone.

Then, as I was setting up my mat, this conversation happened on either side of me:

SAMSON’S MOMMY: I’m so ready for it to be spring.

DESMOND’S MOMMY: I know, me too. The only thing is the subway.

SAMSON’S MOMMY: What do you mean?

DESMOND’S MOMMY: Well you know how you have to go down the steps? And I have Desmond in the Bjorn, so I have to hold on to the railing, but that’s so disgusting. But at least in the winter you have gloves on.

SAMSON’S MOMMY: I see what you mean.

DESMOND’S MOMMY: But what do you do when the weather gets warmer? I guess I could go down without holding the railing.

SAMSON’S MOMMY: (unsure about that) Yeah, maybe.

DESMOND’S MOMMY: Or I could get some, you know, latex gloves.

I’m sitting there, not sure if I should speak up in case I’m being Punk’d or something. Finally, another mother pipes in:

ZAID’S MOMMY: You know what you could do?

I’m thinking she’s going to say “Relax.” Or maybe just, “Get a babysitter and go to yoga without him.” But instead, Zaid’s mommy offers this:

ZAID’S MOMMY: You could get fingerless gloves for the warm weather. And then hold on to the railing like this. (She demonstrates how to palm a railing without using your fingers.)

SAMSON’S MOMMY: Oh my gosh, yes!

DESMOND’S MOMMY: I’ll do that. Thanks.

At this point, I was very glad I’d kept my mouth shut. I’d brought Maddie there on the BUS. They might have called Protective Services on me.

Yes, this was an actual conversation. And yes, those were their kids’ real names. The moms’ names? Who knows? Who cares? They are in that special time of their lives when they have set sail from the Island of Reason, not to return for nigh on a year. I could have told them that. But, I think, that’s something you’re better off figuring out yourself.