“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.
By Laura Brownson
I won’t lie. From the get-go, I’ve been boy crazy. I was daddy’s girl. Then around sixth grade, I fell madly for David Wright who rode me around on the handle-bars of his BMX bike. But we fell apart the following year when I met Rex Hancock who was the only boy who could beat me in a running race. Rex lost out to Casey Frye who could break-dance like nobody’s business. Serial monogamy personified. So, the fact that I have two sons should seem like a natural progression for me. In fact, one could argue that I’ve been practicing for this role my entire life. Yet, I am constantly struggling with the basics of boy behavior and ever-confounded by what is ‘boy behavior’ versus what is just ‘MY boys’ behavior.’
When I set out on this journey of motherhood, I REALLY, TRULY believed that we should NEVER put our kids in categories. I thought the whole girl versus boy thing was a myth. I believed girls would like trucks as much as boys would like dolls, if only given the chance to discover the alternate side of their personalities. And that was my job, of course, to be the all-wise, uber-sensitive, completely open-minded mother. I would encourage my boys to discover their full selves, never allowing them to be limited by society and it’s gender-based restrictions.
Then I had Cade. Cade is all boy. He exhibits every stereotypically male behavior – short of leaving the toilet seat up and scratching his private parts – and he has since the day he was born. He never wanted to snuggle. As soon as he gained a semblance of interest in this world, he (now almost 3) loved all things mechanical with a particular penchant for cranes. He had the equivalent of a baby-orgasm the day that he discovered a crane outside the window of our
When I introduced a doll into our house hoping to soften the blow of the new baby’s arrival, his favorite game was to throw the doll on the ground and say, “baby got a boo boo.” He loves tools, cars and his favorite color is blue for god’s sake.
When my second son, Cooper, was born, I saw a very different child. Cooper’s temperament is far more even-keeled. For a long, luscious time, he loved to cuddle with me. But as Cooper has grown, the ‘boy’ is emerging. No longer does my 9 month-old cuddle or EVER sit still. His absolute favorite activity is wrestling with his brother. He climbs on top, no matter how scary the potential consequence, and grabs Cade’s hair, pulling with every fiber of his baby muscles. No matter how many times his brother pushes him down, Cooper gets up and goes back for more. It terrifies me. Where’s the tenderness? The gentleness? The softness?
I hate labels more than anything. I am loathe to say that my experience shows that boys tend to be more aggressive while girls tend to be more passive. It kills me. Actually, it embarrasses me. I know there are many exceptions, but at least in my household, my guys are ‘guys.’ Raising boys has given me a whole new perspective on men – something that I never learned from David, Rex, Casey or even my husband Scott. Something about the force of masculinity. It is powerful and at times, difficult stuff. It gives me greater insight into why the world is the way that it is. Good, bad or indifferent, a world run by men is very different than a world run by women or a combination of the sexes.
Now none of this may be revolutionary. For me, it’s a simple ‘ah-ha.’ And it still may be possible that it’s MY boys, rather than MOST boys. Either way, as long as I’m around, you can bet that I’ll be working overtime to teach my guys how to find alternative voices, how to negotiate the world in a non-violent fashion, how to tune in to their emotional lives, and yes, god willing, how to love the color pink.
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.