Tooth Fairy, I believe; help thou my unbelief

Setting: last week. After school. The back seat of a crosstown taxi, sitting next to my first grader.

SEAMUS: Mom? Why do some kids say the tooth fairy is really your parents?

ME: (stalling) Hm? Huh? Who says that?

SEAMUS: Lots of kids.

ME: Uh–

SEAMUS: So is it? Is it really you?

ME: …what do you think Seamus?

SEAMUS: I’m not sure.

Mom isn’t too sure either. The cab driver looks at me in the rear view mirror, eyebrows raised.

ME: Seamus, you’ve only lost two teeth, so… I think you should keep believing in the Tooth Fairy for a while.

SEAMUS: (teary) I want the Tooth Fairy to come.

ME: She will! She will!

SEAMUS: But I just need you to tell me. Tell me the truth. TELL ME, Mom. Is it really you?

Pause.

ME: Okay. Yes. Yes, the tooth fairy is really me and Dad. Me or Dad.

Seamus nods, looking out the window.

ME: But even though you know now, when you lose your teeth, we’ll still give you money under your pillow. Okay?

Seamus breaks down sobbing.

SEAMUS: No! I don’t want you to do that. You can’t do that!

MOM: Why, buddy?

SEAMUS: Because what if the real Tooth Fairy is looking in the window and sees you doing that, and then leaves? Then how will we EVER know she’s real?

The cab driver looks at me in the mirror again. He smiles. I smile back, ruefully. How bad did I just screw that up? 

It is remarkable how, even in this hurry-to-grow-up world, a child can still find a scrap of innocence to cling to, a small piece of driftwood in a vast ocean of too much, too soon. I thought my son wanted me to help him grow up a little. But what he was really saying was I believe; help thou my unbelief. 

I’m so glad he showed me how to help him stay little just a little longer.

Has your child ever asked for the truth, but not really wanted it?

 

tooth fairy photo from forbes.com

she’s just not that into me

I just finished reading Bossypants. Devoured, I should say; I have no idea what took me so long. Why, Tina Fey and I have a ton in common! We live in the same neighborhood, on the same street, we’re both moms in New York City, we both got our start in improv and sketch comedy, we both have worked hard to be perceived as “funny” (period) and not just “funny (for a chick).”

We both have dark hair that’s just ehh. Um, and I know her manager.

Sure, there are a half dozen Golden Globes and Emmys that we don’t have in common, but after reading her book I’m more certain than ever that we’d be best friends. If, that is, we only actually knew each other. I passed Tina and her daughter on the street a couple years ago (this was back when she still wore glasses all the time, but she wasn’t on the street. Only I saw through her Clark-Kent-in-reverse disguise.) It took every ounce of resolve I had not to turn and chase her and say “Here’s my number! We’re seriously EXACTLY ALIKE! Uh ha ha ha!” But deep down I know: She’s got plenty-a mom stalkers. She’d just not be that into me.

Right now one of my friends has an eleven-year-old daughter already learning the heartbreak of an unrequited female crush. “I watched her trailing up the block after these two girls,” my friend said (mad enough to spit nails), “these two little… JERKS… who have no time for my daughter, and it kills her. And I want to say, ‘You have terrible taste in friends! They don’t like you, and GREAT! Who cares!’ But since everything I say these days is suddenly wrong…” My friend’s voice trailed off here. She shook her head. The only way for her daughter to learn that lesson is the hard way.

Admittedly, Tina Fey’s cutting rejection of me is entirely in my head, but there is this one mom at my kids’ school that just… doesn’t like me. Actually, I think she might be sitting home making voodoo dolls of me, based on the looks she casts my way at dropoff. This particular mom is very attractive, very put together at all times, but she’s still always sizing everyone else up, making sure she’s the fairest 1st grade mom of all.

And I mean, she IS. All of us would readily cede the crown to her. Her hair is ironed; her JEANS are ironed. But there’s something about me she doesn’t like. I can tell.  Why should I care? I’ve done nothing. Everyone knows she’s not the friendliest. But when I say “hi” and smile my warmest smile and she just looks back at me with her dead eyes, like I don’t make SENSE, like I’m a poster on the subway platform for a movie that came out eighteen months ago, it’s just- weird! It’s freaking weird. And it ruins many a walk home for me, I’m a little freaked out, and obsessed with WHY she’s just not that into me, and then obsessed by why I CARE so much about why she’s not that into me… you see how it goes.

So I wonder: in a hallway full of nice, upfront, friendly women, why is my attention magnetized to the single person who isn’t? Why do we, as women, give other women that power? Is there a woman like this in your life? How do you make yourself stop chasing the woman who’s just not that into  you?

Also, if you know Tina Fey, tell her I totally said hi.

 

how do you stop the whole world?

Maggie asked me that last week: Mommy, how do you stop the whole world?

And I thought: kid, if I knew, I’d have done it already.

I’m in the soup right now. Parenting is tough right now. I’m not ready to make it funny yet. I’m not even ready to not be funny about it yet. But if I could press a big pause button, I would, and not to melt with you or anything. Just to stop and take a breath.

And then yesterday we had our first rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother. And the world stopped.

I am so excited, so humbled, so honored to be creating this show with this group of women (and one man, speaking truth). I was so happy to have had this time yesterday to laugh and cry and celebrate motherhood.

Tickets are on sale soon. If you’re in the NYC area I hope you can come. It will make your spirit soar.

Today, fresh from the high of new friends who Get It, I have renewed energy to climb my motherhood mountain of the moment. It’s a steep climb. And there’s some stuff in my backpack I really don’t need.  So I’m taking all that stuff out and leaving it at the bottom.

Pilates mat class, body issues, snacktime guilt? No. See you next year.

Volunteer opportunities and board meetings and make these 30 calls by tomorrow? No. Sorry, I’m not available.

Brand-growing, Klout scores, writing assignments, paperwork? No. Parked in the inbox for a while.

Mommy, can you read just one more story?

Mommy, can you stop the whole world?

Yes. Yes I can.

the pitfalls of artistic collaboration

Show business is buzzing this week about Broadway director Julie Taymor suing the producers of Spiderman for conspiring to take the show away from her behind her back, throwing her out on her ear, and then continuing to use her work without paying her. This is news because the lawsuit has the potential to stop the show should Taymor’s side prevail.  Even so, I’m Team Taymor based on what I’ve heard so far– fire her, fine, but pay her for her work.

Bleedingcool.com has a link to the lawsuit in its entirety, which should be splendid reading for a theater geek like me. For non-theater-geeks, the juiciest detail is that the show’s composer, better known as Bono, showed up really late to one meeting “drunk on beer” and accompanied by several supermodels. Way to live the dream, Bono, though I’ve come to expect more from a humanitarian rock star.

Still, anytime two artistic geniuses that large are in the same room, there’s going to be friction, and I should know, because yesterday morning’s 7:40 a.m. performance of “A Really Good Show Mom” in my very own living room was closed on opening night morning, before curtain time, when the show’s stars and co-writers came to blows over whether the post-show “backstage tour” would take place in Seamus’s bedroom, or in Maggie’s.

Here, the artistic collaborators in happier times. Their visual arts presentations, as you can see, hum with mutual admiration, cooperation, and goodwill towards all. (They are seen here posing with their sculpture “Empire State Building,” gift from private collection, Magna-Tiles, 2012).

I hope my children/artistic geniuses can patch up their differences and get back together, because my kids’ theatrical collaborations can be magical, as anyone who saw the one-matinee-only engagement of Underwater All The Animals At The Circus Show can attest. (Thank goodness we have Aunt Mollie’s review as keepsake.)

But right now, my kids are in a Taymor/Bono détente, and there’s the only thing they can agree on:  “Turn Off the Dark” is the stupidest subtitle for anything ever. (Seamus: “It’s dumb because all that means is ‘Turn On the Light,’ and you don’t need Spiderman to do that.”

What has been your children’s most memorable artistic collaboration?

is La Leche League really the bad guy?

This week over on the “Verdicts” blog for Commonweal Magazine there’s a very interesting post written by Mollie Wilson O’Reilly– writer, breastfeeding mother, and my sister– called  “The Womanly Art of Arguing About Breastfeeding.”

In it, Mollie responds to a recent essay in the latest issue of Harper’s Magazine, The tyranny of breast-feeding: New mothers vs. La Leche League, by Elisabeth Badinter. Badinter is the author of the book The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, which is heading Stateside this spring after apparently tearing up the European best-seller charts.

Badinter thinks modern mothers have a real problem, and that problem is

liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is “natural” … tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s.

And in her excerpt published in Harpers, Badinter goes after a primary target: the La Leche League, for making breastfeeding-in-lockstep the only acceptable modern means of feeding your child, no matter what the cost, for the last 55 years.

Okay. Let’s start from the beginning. Here’s two things everyone in the world should be able to agree on:

  1. if you can breastfeed your baby, you should, because the health benefits for your baby are clear and undeniable.
  2. at the same time, breastfeeding can be hard, and nigh-approaching impossible, without patience and support and more than a dash of luck.

It’s been three and a half years since I’ve had the pleasure, but here’s how my sister Mollie (currently a nursing mother as well as a working mother) puts it:

 

Experts agree it’s best for baby to drink the milk specifically manufactured for that baby, but it’s not so easy to achieve, at least not if you, as a mother, intend to do anything else during those six months… I’m here to tell you that keeping [my son] nourished and happy is wonderful and rewarding and exhausting and hard.

Yes, exactly. And when so many new mothers (like me) get less than no useful information at the hospital, and have no close relatives who breastfed to rely on, but still want to nurse their children, the La Leche League and other breastfeeding support groups become an invaluable resource. According to Badinter as told by O’Reilly, however, that’s when their evil work begins:

Badinter finds a couple good examples of breastfeeding advocacy that cross the line into mania, though she’s very sketchy with her sources. Her quote from “the league” about how parents who don’t breastfeed should be made to feel no less guilty than parents who don’t use a car seat—that’s the kind of thing that makes this whole subject such an argument-starter in parenting circles. But she doesn’t stick to examples of over-the-top breastfeeding militancy. In her telling, everything about La Leche League is sinister. 

And I have to say, I think that’s ridiculous.

Sure, I met some intractable nipple-confusion-is-the-worst-thing-that-could-ever-happen-to-your-tiny-baby kooks in my new-to-nursing life. I have even poked fun at a few for fun and profit. But I made sure to say then, and I’m going to say now, that I also met wonderful women who gave generously of their time to new mothers just because they knew it was important. Because they knew breastfeeding WAS hard, not because they wanted to convince us all that it wasn’t.

If the La Leche League really thought breastfeeding was a walk in the park, they wouldn’t have created a national organization to support it. They’re not out to brainwash anyone that it’s easier than bottle-feeding. I don’t really think they’re out to make anyone feel bad, either. They’re just out to help mothers who are overwhelmed and not sure their baby is getting any nourishment at all and are about to give up– and who, with five minutes’ coaching, MIGHT learn something that will enable them to nurse their baby happily, and have that amazing experience. Because it can be that as well.

What do you think? Do you think La Leche League and other breastfeeding “support” make it harder for new mothers by forcing this difficult ideal upon us all? Do you think they make it better for new mothers every day? Or is it, in your experience, a little bit of both?