why you can never win a conversation with a four-year-old

I was getting my four-year old ready for her bath the other night. While I pulled off her leggings, she picked up a toilet paper tube and decided (naturellement) to interview me through it.

MAGGIE: MOMMY! What is your FAVORITE MOVIE?

ME: Ummm…. Rushmore.

Maggie puts the toilet paper roll aside.

MAGGIE: What?

ME: Rushmore.

MAGGIE: No, you can’t say that. Say a kid movie like Peter Pan.

ME: Okay.

Maggie picks up the toilet paper roll again.

MAGGIE: MOMMY! What is your FAVORITE MOVIE?

MOMMY: Peter Pan!

Maggie puts the toilet paper roll aside.

MAGGIE: No, you can’t say that.

MOMMY: Why?

MAGGIE: You can’t just say the SAME THING.

MOMMY: Okay.

Maggie picks up the toilet paper roll again.

MAGGIE: MOMMY! What is your FAVORITE MOVIE?

MOMMY: Tangled!

Maggie puts the toilet paper roll aside.

MAGGIE: Wait, I want to say that.

…As it turns out, my favorite movie is Dora Saves the Snow Princess. I’m so glad I know that now.

I want to give a shout out to a fabulous deal for a fabulous cause. My friend Jennifer Lee, photographer extraordinaire, is running a Portraits for Purpose promotion this month to raise money for Cycle for Survival. Make a $200 donation to cancer research, and she’ll give you a half-hour photo session for your child, plus $100 towards prints. Cycle for Survival (see my sidebar) raises money to research rare cancers at Sloan Kettering, and ALL monies raised go directly towards that research. Get new photos of your kids and fight cancer at the same time! What could be better? 

who has the hardest “hard”? Who cares?

You know how, once in a while, you read something and not only do you want to share it on Facebook, you want to staple it to your forehead and hand out copies to everyone you meet, thrusting it into their hands, saying, “This. THIS.” ? You know that feeling?

I’m feeling that after reading Your Hard is Hard on the blog The Extraordinary Ordinary. Heather is a nail-on-the-head writer pretty much all the time, but this. THIS. Heather talks about having once been a mother of one who complained of a sleepless night to two mothers of three, who rolled their eyes and laughed at her:

I got a message–they had it harder than I did–and in that moment I felt foolish for feeling tired or maybe even for having feelings…

I hesitate in venting because when I’m doing that it so often seems that other mothers assume I’m saying I win the Hardest Award, or that I’m wishing away my life. But I’m not. I’m just talking. I’m seeking validation and there is nothing more refreshing than another mother who simply sees me and acknowledges The Hard and nods and says, Yes, it’s so hard, isn’t it? The End.

But who hasn’t reached out to another mother seeking validation, and gotten a smack-down instead? Who hasn’t had that sanctimommy chuckling “You ain’t seen nothing yet” in her face? And how much does that suck?

Your hard is hard. Even when you’re sitting next to someone whose troubles make you feel guilty about ever complaining at all. And it’s so helpful when someone gives you permission to feel that way.

When I posted last week that I felt so stupid, crying over my son’s general anesthesia for oral surgery when other parents in that OR waiting room had children that were really ill, fellow blogger Alan at Always Jacked wrote back:

Never beat yourself up for being concerned about your kids. You were strong in front of him and crying away from him. So what WHAT it was for.

and I teared up all over again because I don’t even know this person in real life but he gave my feelings validation. He told me it was okay. Thank goodness for blogs and the people who read them.

It’s true that there are other parents with much, much harder rows to hoe than I do, and I am grateful for that daily. But my “hard” doesn’t take away from theirs. Or theirs from mine. My hard is hard, and I shouldn’t seek validation for that by making others feel like their problems are smaller than mine. As Liv at The Saturated Palette said in the comments on Heather’s post,

One child takes 100% of your time, 2 kids take 100% of your time, and three kids take 100% of your time.

All motherhood is hard. It’s great and it’s hard. Who has the hardest “hard”? Who cares? More Heather:

…when I set aside my insecurity and give myself the credit I deserve and the validation I’m seeking… it’s in there already. I don’t need to try to steal yours. This is what will make me into one of those refreshing mother-friends, one who says I see you and I hear you and this is hard and you are goodThe End.

I hope to go be one of those “refreshing mother-friends” today.

Who is that person for you?

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Auditions for Listen To Your Mother: NYC have just been announced for the end of February. Nine other cities are holding auditions next month as well.  If you write about motherhood, LTYM wants you! 

Mom needs some happy juice, stat

Last week, I faced down something which I truly dreaded: my child under general anesthesia.

In October we found out that our nine-year-old son Connor needed to have five baby teeth pulled, in addition to some “gum removal” (shudder). This was all because his grown-up teeth are sitting in his upper jaw, fully formed but refusing to descend. The reasons for this are complicated and genetically inherited (and COMPLETELY MY HUSBAND’S FAULT, by the way).

That day the doctor looked me square in the eye. “Putting him under for this,” he said, “is not the right decision for YOU, I know. But it is definitely the right decision for HIM. You don’t want your child to have to lie there and watch this happening.”

I don’t know any mother who wouldn’t hate the idea of her child being rendered unconscious. But I tried to tell myself it was completely everyday. Heck, my friend has had to sit in the OR waiting room five times in four years, thanks to her twins’ blocked tear ducts and propensity for broken bones in sticky spots. I could handle this. I would do a crossword, have a coffee, he would be in recovery.

I managed to tell myself this until we were in pre-op, and they handed me a hazmat suit to put on.

This photo does not show the part where all of a sudden I’m sobbing like a fool, trying not to let my son see me, because even though the doctor is engaging Connor in witty New York Giants banter I can see his leg shaking.

“How about some happy juice?” the doctor said. “It’ll make you a little sleepy, and relaxed. Just so you won’t feel nervous. Just if you think you need it.”

“Yes, please,” Connor said, a little too quickly.

“Do you have some for Mom too?” I said, way too quickly, because I gulped some air down the wrong pipe and then started choking and the 20-something anesthesiologist had to go get me a Dixie cup of water and I’m sure he was thinking, Geez, lady, get a grip.

Connor had the happy juice. Five minutes later, he told me, “It’s funny, because I was nervous, and now I’m not nervous at all.”

“That’s great, honey,” I said, glad I was standing behind him so he couldn’t see my face.

They let me stay until the very moment he slipped into unconsciousness, then whisked me out of the room like I was Typhoid Mary.

I sat in the waiting room and cried for a while, then I went to get some coffee from the snack bar, hoping to kill a bit of time. When I returned, the doctor was already behind the reception desk, dialing my cell phone. “He did very well,” the doctor said. And I burst into tears again, embarrassed to be so emotional, but so relieved I didn’t care.

Connor’s fine. Recovering slowly. Nothing a few more milkshakes won’t cure. But I’m still going back to that waiting room in my mind ten times a day. There were parents there with babies far younger than mine, with conditions far graver than mine. I can’t imagine living at the hospital for months, sleeping in the chair, watching my child go through dozens of procedures. I was a baby about tooth-pulling, for Pete’s sake. It’s them I can’t stop thinking about, and I am newly, deeply grateful for each new day that my children are healthy.

To that end, I want to plug something I’m doing on Feb 12th. (as if the giant button on my sidebar wasn’t enough…) I’m taking part in an indoor cycling event called Cycle for Survival — I’m on Team Perry, supporting our friends’ 11-year-old daughter who is now fighting cancer for the third time. Perry is kicking cancer’s butt, by the way, but it’s been one lousy year for her. Cycle for Survival is an amazing charity because 100% of monies raised go directly to support research of rare cancers like the one Perry has now. If you’d like to support Perry’s recovery through supporting my ride, we would both be so grateful. And if you’d like to know more about Perry’s remarkable story, you can read it here. Thanks for listening.

 

 

 

announcing LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: NYC

One of the first in-real-life friends I made through blogging was Ann Imig of Ann’s Rants. (She’s hilarious and you should be reading her if you don’t already.) She is also brilliant, and two years ago, when she launched Listen To Your Mother, I was left in awe of what a wonderful idea it was.

Listen to Your Mother is a national series of live readings by local writers in honor of Mother’s Day. Each show is directed, produced, and cast locally. It’s “giving Mother’s Day a microphone,” and in its third year, LTYM has become something of a national phenomenon. It features some of the best “mom bloggers” out there, but is by no means limited to that talent pool, or that audience.

Listen to Your Mother is going to be in ten cities nationwide this May: Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Austin, NW Indiana, NW Arkansas, Madison, and Spokane.

Oh yeah– I forgot one: Listen to Your Mother NYC!

You heard right. LTYM is coming to the Big Apple this Mother’s Day, and I’m thrilled to say that I’m the director, working with producers Varda Steinhardt (@squashedmom), Holly Rosen Fink (@theculturemom), and Julie Nemitz (@stage_mama). Our audition announcement is coming soon, but I am so excited about this project that I wanted to get the word out right away.

If you live in the New York City area, or in any of the cities where Listen to Your Mother is happening this spring, I hope you’ll consider auditioning. The show features people reading their own writings about motherhood. You don’t have to be a mom, or a professional actor, or a professional writer.  No previous experience is necessary but an experience of motherhood– the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested– that you’ve written about. (Something that would take about five minutes to read.) If you enjoy reading blogs like this one, you know exactly what we will be looking for.

I hope to see some of you at auditions, or at the show on May 6th! Stay tuned for details.

do you give your kids an allowance?

I mentioned last week that I was upping my kids’ chores for 2012, cause if I’m going to get anything done this year, someone else is going to have to line up the 25 pairs of shoes under the bench in the front hall every afternoon.

So far, it’s going pretty well. My kids are still finding some pride and novelty in loading the dishwasher and setting the table. But by February 1, I’m expecting that it will require 5 minutes of mom-wheedling for every fifteen seconds of kid labor, which is not really an equation I can live with. If I want the kids to keep pulling their weight without complaining, I’m probably going to have to use a little bit of green motivation.

Yesterday, Connor asked me when he would be getting his allowance for services rendered.

“Kids in my class get like twenty dollars a week,” he said.

I demurred.

“Well, I think some of them get something like that,” he hedged.

The photo at left– not of my child– shows a child holding a fistful of Benjamin Franklins.  Let’s start by assuming 1) this is not a kid from Connor’s class and 2) no prepubescent gets $500 a week.

But I have no idea what a reasonable allowance is for primary schoolers. Fifty cents a day? That seemed good to me, but the boys were insulted by that offer. “I do all that for FIFTY CENTS A DAY?” Seamus screamed. But then I think, seriously, what do they need any money for? They each just received about 14,000 Christmas presents, half of which are still in their sealed packaging. Their room and board is included in their Standard Child Package. They can’t go anywhere without me, and whenever we do go anywhere, I pay. I’d take that whole deal and make $3.50 a week, seems fair to me.

Do you give your kids an allowance? How old are they, how much do you give them, and what do you expect in return?