“So what do you do?”
Hmmm… I think to myself. What do I do? Let’s see. I change diapers. I feed children. I clean food off faces, counters and floors. I sort, wash and fold laundry. I bathe and clothe little bodies. I organize toys. I straighten. I neaten. I sing songs and make faces that make children laugh. I read books and play silly games. I push strollers. I make meals. I hold babies and carry tired toddlers. I repeat these activities again and again like a 24/7 groundhog day. Is that the answer?
“I’m a stay-at-home mom.” Suddenly I feel like a 1950′s housewife. That statement alone feels like it’s pushing back the women’s movement. It sounds like, around 4 p.m., I should start preparing a pot roast and baked potatoes for my husband and the kids.
“I work full time at home, taking care of my children.” More accurate but sounds too defensive, as if I think I’m being judged. I do think I’m being judged.
“I’m an orthopedic surgeon.” Sounds better but it’s a lie.
“I take care of my kids full time and I’m a writer. I have a blog.” Doesn’t practically everyone fashion themselves a writer these days? Even my eccentric neighbor has a blog (written in the voice of his dog by the way). I’ve never read it. And now I have to explain that my own blog is sharper, wittier and more compelling (Oh god, I hope it is) than the ten million other blogs out there. So I’m back to being defensive.
“So what do you do?” Such an easy question before I decided to do what I never thought I’d do. So maybe forget what I do. And I’ll tell you who I am. I am a loving mother. I am a committed wife. I am a writer. I am funny (at times). I am neurotic (at times). I am compassionate (almost always). I am tired (almost always). And I am constantly figuring out who I am.
mama bird notes
Enough about girls on the mama bird diaries. Bring on the boys.
Many of us grew up listening to our purple “Free to Be You and Me” albums which challenged traditional gender roles and celebrated our individual selves. Laura Brownson, a contributing mama, remembers William had a doll. So of course, she bought her son Cade a doll to help him adjust to a new baby brother. But how come her sons only want to play with trucks? Laura is trying to understand why her boys just want to be “boys.” To read more, click on “contributing mamas” under the menu bar.
I feel like my 3 year-old Dylan suddenly grew up – all in one week. Preschool is now no problem. I stay a few minutes, she kisses me goodbye and then that’s it. No tears. Nothing. She even has a boyfriend. I picked her up yesterday and learned all about Andre (the name sounds so debonair). Not from her, of course. She was very discreet and never said a word. But her teachers were all a flutter at how Dylan and Andre were hugging all morning. At one point, as they embraced each other tightly, Andre apparently pulled back ever so slightly and asked, “what is your name, again?” Just like a guy.
This week, I took Dylan to the Empire State Building (inspirational idea from my city friend Laura). We left Summer at home with a sitter. No stroller. No diaper bag. No sippy cups. Just my purse, with a few snacks. I practically felt like I was day tripping with one of my girlfriends. Unfortunately (or fortunately), visibility from the 86th floor observation deck was practically zero. That meant no lines, no waits and well, no view. But we could see the miniature taxi cabs moving up and down the avenues and lots of foggy buildings and that was fine with us. Dylan’s favorite part? The pink tile in the landmark’s ladies’ bathroom.
And then last night, we converted Dylan’s crib into a toddler bed. As an incentive to get her to sleep in the big girl bed, I promised her baked ruffles as part of her breakfast in the morning (please no judgments). After much trepidation (the hall light on, the bedroom door open, sitting with her for quite a while), she went to sleep. But I didn’t feel joyful. I missed her crib. Or rather, I missed her in the crib. She always liked to sleep horizontally, across the short length of the mattress, with her feet sticking out through the crib slots. She could sleep like that all night. Now I miss those toddler legs dangling out like the wicked witch of the east (minus the house on top of her). Damn, I wish I had taken a picture.
I was catching up with my friend Mark the other day. Turns out his sister has six kids. That’s the Brady bunch without any help around the house from Alice. That’s 60 fingers smudging their way through your home. That’s six college tuition bills (ok, you understand). And apparently the mother of this brood might want more. These must be some amazing kids.
Every child is this incredible blessing and so often we don’t get to choose when or if we have a child. But if you could decide – what is your ideal number? Some prefer one kid – perhaps more like a fun, lively accessory rather than a lifestyle change. Although it’s still quite a change because I’ve never seen a bracelet or a purse tantrum like a 3 year-old. Others swear by two. The parents aren’t outnumbered. Others prefer three. It kind of feels like a big, boisterous family. I’m not sure how folks get to six. I guess, just one adorable baby at a time.
For me, I’ve always wanted (and hoped I would be blessed with) a big family. Maybe not 60 fingerprints but something that felt like a team. You know, so my family could kick your family’s ass in badminton. Or if a couple of the kids are in that difficult teen phase, there might be one willing to hang out with me and my husband from time to time.
A California friend is trying to decide whether to “hold” at two captivating and amazing children or press on. Since she always told me about the best sample sales when she lived in New York City (I don’t even know how she got all her industry insider information), I promised her mama bird readers would give her some guidance. So is 3 the new 2? Or should she skip the months of sleep deprivation, crankiness and pointless arguments with her husband at four in the morning and stick at two? Tell her what you think. And then we’ll make her follow our advice.
mama bird notes
In this week’s “beauty diary,” Alex talks about her favorite possession – a divine scent that makes her feel extra fabulous and dishy. Shouldn’t you feel that way about your perfume? No more spritzing until you click on “the beauty diary.”
“This is my tussy,” 3 year-old Dylan proclaims. I look at my daughter.
“That’s not your tussy, honey,” I explain, repeating the word for “rear end” my husband introduced to our family. “That’s your vagina.”
“No, it’s my tussy,” Dylan insists.
“Sweetheart, I promise you. That is definitely your vagina.”
But Dylan remains unconvinced. “It’s my tussy!” she hollers.
I give up. I mean, I’ve never heard of anyone growing up and being confused over the difference between their vagina and their bottom. This mix-up will definitely work itself out in time. No need to argue with a 3 year-old.
“I have a vagina,” she then proclaims. At least her facts are right this time, even if she can’t quite pin down the location.
“That’s right honey. You have a vagina. I have a vagina and Summer has a vagina. All girls have vaginas. ” At this point, I’m wondering if one should even discuss vaginas with their toddler. But I’ve gone too far to turn back. I’ll just stick with the facts (no goofy names for genitalia) and then I’ll suggest we go to the park or something. (By the way, that may be the first time I’ve every typed the word genitalia. Strange word.)
“And daddy has a vagina!” Dylan triumphantly concludes.
“No, honey. Daddy does not have a vagina,” I reply. For some reason, this all feels a bit inappropriate but I wager on. I don’t want to mislead her and I don’t want to tell her too much. I hope I’m not being recorded for some hidden camera mommy show. Highly unlikely.
“Yes, he has a vagina,” Dylan insists.
“No, sweetheart, daddy does not. He has a penis. Girls have vaginas and boys have penises. Daddy is a boy.” I explain. That’s simple enough. Right? This isn’t so bad. I am in control of this conversation.
“Daddy has peanuts!” Dylan exuberantly exclaims.
“Hmmm… I think he would probably prefer if you did not refer to his penis as ‘peanuts.’” OK, enough of this. “Do you want a mini-cupcake?” I ask. Suddenly, all talk of peanuts and other body parts are forgotten. Oh, the almighty cupcake.
mama bird notes
We have also have a piece today by contributing mama, Jordana Bales. She writes about one of her adventures as a mad mama scientist. If you’re hoping to get your child in a Halloween costume in a few weeks, this is expert advice on “what not to do.” I promise you’ll laugh or your money back. Oh wait, you didn’t pay any money. Seriously, you’ll laugh. Just click on “contributing mamas” under the menu bar on the right side of the screen.
I’m feeling some “mommy guilt.” It’s like those two words are destined to be together for all of eternity (and then maybe a little longer). Today I feel guilty about two things. First, someday my 9 month-old baby Summer will read this blog and think I didn’t write enough about her. Second, someday Summer will read this blog and think, “my name used to be Presley?” O.k., we will tell her. I promise.
These second babies just seem to get cheated a bit. Of course, I love her immensely. I adore smothering her soft baby skin with a trillion kisses. In the middle of the night, I must check that she is still breathing. I obsess over every one degree temperature change in her room – always certain that I’ve set the air conditioner too hot or too cold.
But still. Her naps are constantly cut short because we must pick up my 3 year-old Dylan from preschool. I’ve never even taken Summer to a “mommy and me” class. When Dylan was a baby, I brought her to infant massage class, baby yoga and other programs to engage her mind, strengthen her growing body and reinforce our mother/baby bond.
Because I have two kids, I’m just not able to focus on Summer with the same intensity. I can’t even remember exactly the last time I took a picture of her with those saucer eyes and easy grin. Isn’t that pathetic? With Dylan, we had entire baby albums documenting just a two week period of her life. And Dylan, even as a baby, had little interest in delivering the smiles for our photo shoots.
Of course, Summer has something Dylan did not. She has Dylan. And to see the two of them laughing and entertaining each other is… well, amazing. So to my Summer lovin’, you are not forgotten. You are treasured and we love you.