One thing that astounds me about parenthood is how long you can go without knowing another mother’s name – a really ridiculous amount of time. Several months ago, I took my daughters on a play date to another mom’s apartment. I met the mom at a kids class and she was nice enough to invite us over on a crummy, rainy day. Her name? No clue. I kept meaning to ask and then it just seemed too late. During our play date, I scanned the apartment for a piece of mail, a personalized picture frame, anything that would hold the answer. But I saw nothing. I mean, I couldn’t dig through her drawers. Nice lady. Whatever her name is.
And it’s not just the names. You can know everything about a child and know almost nothing about the mom. Take my friend Julie. I have known Julie for three years. I can tell you endless facts about her daughter Ella. Ella is an extremely picky eater, loves lollipops, currently hates dresses (although her parents did manage to get her to wear one for her birthday), big telletubbies fan and has fabulous red hair. But Julie? One day I just happened to find out that this former prosecutor used to be a ballerina. Ooh la la. Then two days ago, I discover that she is fluent in French. How many other sophisticated secrets is Julie keeping? Now I’m not sure I’m even savvy enough to be her friend.
But sometimes it’s just not about the names or the professions or the past lives. It’s about having someone to talk to about pacifier addictions, toddler tantrums or preschool admissions stress. Of course, often there are husbands around. But most sweet hubbys want to stop talking and fix the problem – even if there isn’t an immediate solution. So a mama needs a few gals around.
Several weeks after I gave birth to Summer (the artist formerly known as Presley), another mom, whom I didn’t know, approached me at the playground and asked if I was ok. The truth? Not really. And I couldn’t fake it. I told her about my nauseating fatigue and horrible mastitis, a very painful infection from breastfeeding. A week later, I ran into her again. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you. How are you?” Thankfully, I was much better. I was truly touched that she cared enough to ask. On that day, our names didn’t matter at all.
Have you ever noticed that there are good compliments and not-so-good compliments?
The other day I went roller blading with my husband. As we sped along the Hudson River, I said to him, “Wow, do you remember how bad you used to be at roller blading? You were really bad.” I’ll admit it. This is not a great compliment.
Perhaps, “Wow, you are a kickin’ roller blader now. Look at the moves on you,” would have been a much nicer way to say it.
I really should know better. I was running around doing some errands this week and I bumped into an acquaintance who I usually only see at parties now and then. Apparently he is used to seeing me a little more polished and put together because on this particular day, he said, “you look so casual.” That was it. Not “casually beautiful” or “casually gorgeous” or “casual like a super model” – just casual. Hmm… What is the proper response to that? “Yes, you are right. I am casual in these yoga pants and sweatshirt. And you my friend, are so super fancy in your work clothes.” I didn’t say much of anything but casually hurried off to do my errands.
Today at my daughter’s preschool, one of the staff said, “we all here think you look like a prettier version of Meredith Grey from ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’” O.K., that seems like a real compliment. I’m not sure I look anything like her. Here you decide.
This is Meredith Grey. This is me.
I don’t see it. But I’ll take the compliment. Anytime someone says your “prettier” than someone else, well, that sure sounds good. Of course, it’s at the expense of someone else but I’m sure actress Ellen Pompeo can bounce back. If you see her, tell her how great she looks.
But the best compliment I got all week was from 3 year-old Dylan. We were walking down the street and she suddenly stopped, kissed my hand and said, “you are the best mommy in the entire world.” Now that girl knows how to give a compliment.
mama bird notes:
In our beauty diary this week, Alex, a self-described product junky, is mooching shampoo from her daughter Noa. To find out why, click on “the beauty diary” under the menu bar.
Along with some beauty product, who doesn’t love a new bag? If you subscribe to the mama bird diaries by the end of November, you will be entered to win this new, smart, stylin’ Hayden-Harnett bag. $300 value. Washed leather in a fab eggplant color, vintage look, too cool for school. Just enter your email address on the right hand side of the screen, under “subscribe to this feed” and follow the directions from there. It’s free and no email addresses are ever shared. Would I do that to you? Now for all you faithful readers, who are already subscribed, don’t worry, you are already entered. So good luck mama birds.
There was a time in my life when I never thought much about Spanx. Perhaps if I had a wedding, I might throw a pair on. But we were simply acquaintances. Then I had two children and well, Spanx became like a close friend. You know one of those people who makes you feel a little uncomfortable at times but you still go out with him or her practically every night anyway.
Here is the scenario. I’m going out to dinner with my husband or perhaps to a friend’s birthday party. First, I put on my outfit minus the Spanx. I feel comfortable. I feel good. I look in the mirror. Not so good. I look at my sagging, little belly. I sigh. I strip down, put on the Spanx and then get dressed again. My skin feels a little itchy under the tight nylon and spandex combo. The waistband is digging into my mid-section. But I look in the mirror. Ahh… that’s the girl I remember.
If I really had balls, I would take a picture of my tummy with and without the Spanx just to really show you the difference. But I just can’t do it.
Along with my collection of Spanx, I’m always on the look out for a good “poochie” top. I think my friend Julie came up with this term. A poochie top is a shirt that doesn’t cling too much to the stomach. But it’s a delicate balance because it can’t be too free-flowing either or it will make a girl look pregnant (when she’s not). Basically, a good top will hide the pooch but still look sleek and cute. It’s tough to find and sometimes I feel like I’m on a post pregnancy scavenger hunt. My old body-hugging t-shirts and blouses just sit there, neatly folded, mocking me from the closet. They are so very cruel.
I did just order a Pilates core work-out DVD. Do you think 3 year-old Dylan would be interested in watching that instead of Elmo? Probably not. Maybe I’ll pop it in after the kids are in bed. Or maybe I’ll just put on my Spanx, sit on the couch and drink a glass of Shiraz.
mama bird notes
Contributing mama Daphne Biener has successfully battled the princesses in her home. But there is a new nemesis lurking out there. Can her girls be saved? Click on “contributing mamas” under the menu bar. Daphne’s in trouble and you smart mamas are her only hope.
By Daphne Biener
Hello. My name is Daphne and I am a hypocrite.
It’s not what you’re thinking. We decided long ago to be open and honest with our kids when it came time to talk about drugs and sex. We haven’t gotten there yet. No, my problem is, well, my daughter Kira. This brilliant, talented, amazing kid wants to be a cheerleader. The princesses were one thing, but this? I don’t think I can handle this one.
Once upon a time I considered myself the epitome of liberal thought and open-mindedness. My enlightened children would be anything they wanted to be. So what that society insists girls play Barbie and boys build trucks? I, for one, would not let gender-bias limit the dreams and talents of my girls. Race car drivers? Astronauts? My girls would buck all stereotypes, leaving doubters behind to eat their race car dust.
I was never a girly-girl. To this day I shop only under duress and live contentedly in my well-worn jeans. The girls’ propensity for pink must come from their father’s DNA. Our house is full of this crap. Silky gowns, purple high heels, bejeweled crowns – it’s everywhere. The fluffier the tulle the better. Sparkles, glitter, and pink, pink, pink. A few years ago, following a particularly wonderful check-up, my pediatrician asked if I had any questions. Childhood ailments and anything serious safely off the table, I mustered up enough humility to ask about the fever – the princess fever. The doctor laughed, and promised me they’d outgrow it.
And they did. They are far too busy these days with monkey bars and jump-ropes to be slowed down by plastic pumps. But now the Cinderella gown, abandoned in a glittery heap in the corner, looks positively innocuous compared to the real life horror that looms before us: pre-pre-prepubescent cheerleaders.
I have a ugly little secret. It was long ago, but ok, I admit it. I was a cheerleader. But I can be honest. I was a cheerleader to get boys. To get attention. And yes, I wanted to shake it, shake it, shake it, in an inappropriately short skirt so that everyone would turn and look at me. I’m not saying I’m particularly proud of this, I’m just telling it like it is.
So maybe now you understand my dilemma? Now you can see why I am mortified by the mere idea of my sweet 7 year-old as a cheerleader. But what’s a mother to do? Must I tell her the truth? Please say that I can I keep my past a secret. No, never mind. Just forget it. I’m going back to bed. Wake me when it’s time to talk about smoking.
You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.
Once upon a time, there was a 30-something gal (yeah, that would be me) who lived in Manhattan’s west village with her husband and two girls. They lived on a sleepy, cobble stone street where kids loved to zip down the sidewalks on their scooters and skateboards. Each night, the sun set on the Hudson River, cascading golden rays of light across the water and off the buildings. Life was nice. And quiet.
Then one day, the building next door was knocked down to make way for a new luxury apartment building. Then shortly after, the building across the street was also razed and new construction began. Next, the electricians came with their backhoes and ripped up the cobble stones. 3 year-old Dylan began to plug her ears each time we made our way down West 12th. There is presently so much construction on our little block, the street is officially closed to everyone except residents. And then today, the couple across the hall began redoing their hard wood floors – a process that is quite loud and very dusty. It’s the first time I’ve really thought about a quieter life in the suburbs.
I truly love New York City. I adore walking a few blocks with Dylan to our neighborhood coffee shop. We rarely get into a car and can stroll to amazing playgrounds and kids’ activities. The restaurants are incredible. We are always running into friends. On Saturday mornings, we, as a family, head to our favorite 24-hour kitschy diner and enjoy breakfast, while we watch some of the folks who are still out from the night before. Each year, we take Dylan and Summer to see Santa Claus – at the Marc Jacobs store on Bleeker Street. When we hit the playgrounds, I hear French, Spanish and a zillion other languages. You’ve never felt so dumb as when a 3 year-old speaks to you in French and you have no idea what she is saying… but it’s wonderful. The city is constantly exploding with culture and life.
I guess that’s why it’s so damn noisy. And crowded. We went to a Halloween celebration over the weekend and it was a maddening obstacle course of children, strollers and lines. Yes, they gave out free chicken hot dogs with whole wheat buns and sweet, pink cotton candy but the line was a 1/2 hour long. I’d rather pay for my cotton candy. And maybe live somewhere calmer and quieter. Maybe.