By Rick Folbaum (our contributing papa)
We got our three year-old Dylan a Razor. No, not that kind of razor. That could be dangerous. The Razor I’m talking about is that skate board with handle bars you’ve probably seen around. Dylan’s is pink, looks very non-threatening and like a gazillion other things we’ve bought since we started having children, comes with printed instructions and oddly-shaped tools.
Now, no one is ever going to confuse me with one of those dads who builds his kids’ cribs from scratch or climbs up a 50 foot oak tree in the front yard to hang one of those cool swings. But I think I’m doing OK in the assembling department. I’ve put together multiple strollers – one of them multiple times, after being informed that the stroller I’d just spent an hour building was not the “gray model with a black border” that we’d ordered, but in fact the “black model with a gray border” that we absolutely did not want. I’ve also dabbled in excersaucers, high chairs, activity tables, gliders, bouncy seats and indoor swings – both full and travel size.
Everything comes with instructions, though none tells you to hold off on the booze until you’re almost done putting the goddamn thing together, which as far as I’m concerned should be instruction numero uno. I’ve learned that one the hard way (please don’t ever ask me about the rocker I tried to assemble during the third quarter of Super Bowl XLI). So, I’m not above fessing up to not being the handiest guy around, but I’m certainly not an idiot. The Razor people, however, aren’t so sure. This is what it says under step one of their assembly instructions:
WARNING: Failure to to properly install and tighten the handlebar may cause the rider to lose control and fall. Assembly must be performed by an adult with mechanical experience. If you do not understand these instructions or the concept of “tighten securely” seek the assistance of a qualified mechanic.
They’re worried I might not “understand the concept” of screwing something on tightly? Are they kidding me? If that’s a concept I can’t quite wrap my head around, then I probably can’t even read their instructions, right? How dumb do they think we are? Also, what do they mean by “qualified mechanic?” Do they want me to drive my daughter’s toy up to the guy who fixes our car on 11th Avenue? I can just see Al’s weathered face and his grease-blackened finger nails, taking Dylan’s Razor from me and asking, “You want me to tighten what?” Do you think he’d give me one of those free car air fresheners he’s always handing out? We could dangle it from the center of the handlebar he tightens for me.
Look, I’m not breaking any news here when I say dads are not perfect. And I’m man enough to admit there are times when we’re possibly, make that sometimes, OK occasionally not even the brightest member of the household. But I, for one, think if toy manufacturers spent more time worrying about lead levels, and less time coming up with snarky, condescending instructi
WARNING: If you do not understand this blog post, or the concept of dads not appreciating being made to feel like imbeciles, seek the assistance of a trained professional.
This morning, I was paying for my large skim cafe mocha, when the entire contents of my wallet fell on the floor of the coffee shop. Lots of change, credit cards, receipts, business cards and old photos were scattered amongst everyone’s feet. As I scrambled to pick up the mess, a guy bent down to help me and said, “It’s so embarrassing, right?”
Inconvenient? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Embarrassing? Not really. That’s when I realized that my definition of “embarrassment” has really changed. Something about the experience of walking down the street, with a screaming, tantruming toddler, while trying to look like you are still a good mother, tends to make one a little tougher in that department.
The last time I was really embarrassed was when I was in my late 20s and dating a much younger guy (eight years younger, ok? He was really hot.) and after an evening of youthful romance, I had a umm… how should I say it… a huge hickey. On my neck. My girlfriends thought it was hilarious. I did not. Especially because I had to go to work the next day as a TV reporter and no amount of foundation was going to cover that thing up. So I ran out and bought several sleeveless mock turtlenecks (since it was the middle of summer) and wore them until my not-so-little love blemish eventually faded.
As a kid, I remember being embarrassed a lot – mostly by my parents. My dad had very big, very curly hair, an Art Garfunkel doo that made me cringe. And I thought my mother danced funny. I would get so embarrassed when she pulled out her best moves. For the record, I’m sure her moves were pretty normal.
So I wonder how long until I hear those words, “mom, you’re embarrassing me” from Dylan or Summer. Obviously, it’s extremely difficult to imagine because Rick and I are so cool. Yeah, right.
It definitely takes a certain boldness to change your child’s name at eight months-old. It makes for great cocktail conversation I can tell you that. We attended a few parties this weekend and ran into some acquaintances and old friends. Nothing makes an ordinary, “how are the kids?” conversation take a fun turn than telling someone that your daughter “Presley” is now “Summer.”
It’s been an interesting progression since we nicknamed her Summer two months ago. Many people were surprised and fascinated by the development (meaning, they thought we were a little crazy). For a while, no one felt comfortable calling her anything so I heard a lot of “the baby.” But the more we called her Summer, the more others gave it a try. I applaud our friends and family for making the switch. It’s not easy. We know that. My husband Rick is still referred to as “Ricky” by anyone who knew him in high school or his early years. Our 3 year-old Dylan still refers to Summer as Presley but I’m guessing as time goes by, that will fade.
We have no regrets. She is completely Summer. We will likely legally change her name before her 1st birthday rolls around. She, of course, will get older and someday (as hard as it is to imagine right now), she and her friends will talk about their names. You know the, “If I was a boy, my name would have been Finn” or “I always wanted my name to be Jennifer” conversations. And I guarantee you, Summer will have one of the best stories to tell. It will definitely be a good one for cocktail parties.
mama bird notes
Our contributing mama, Jordana Bales, is an accomplished, highly skilled professional who feels good about her day job. It’s only when she gets home that she starts to feel a bit incompetent. Girl, we can all relate. To read more, click on “contributing mamas” under the menu bar.
By Jordana Bales
In my job as a teacher and program chair, I’m sometimes asked to do things I find unpleasant. I’ve had students I would not particularly recommend ask me for letters of recommendation. I’ve had to do meaningless, brain numbing data entry because no one else wants to do it. I’ve had to speak to other teachers, who I consider friends, about mistakes they’ve made. And I have had to complete tasks without any training or guidance.
Yet, because I am bright and competent – and know how to ask for help – I’ve always managed to figure out what I needed to do. Sometimes it’s not always accomplished in the most elegant of ways. Sometimes I look back on what I did and realize I could have done it better. But it has never, ever made me cry or question my self-worth.
Enter the latest task on my home front – the dealing with tantrums. My almost two year-old daughter has been throwing the most horrific tantrums. From a completely objective perspective they are magnificent. They last for what seems like days (although at most, I think they are about an hour) and involve screaming, kicking, hair pulling and jumping up and down in an almost dance-like maneuver. What amazes me most is her utter lack of fatigue or embarrassment. I wish I could say the same for me.
I do what I was told to do – I ignore it. In theory, I guess, a good idea; in practice, not too effective. Strangers stare at me with a mix of pity and compassion. Some kind-hearted mothers smile knowingly. Today one woman told me, “Try not to hold it against them. Believe it or not, they grow up to be nice people.” I appreciated her advice and hope to God she’s right.
I just feel so utterly incompetent and incapable of being a good mother. I know that Ava is not permanently damaged by these episodes – as soon as they are over she’s smiling and laughing and giving me “pat pat.” Why is it that I never doubt my professional capabilities and yet often doubt my mothering skills? Maybe it’s because I’ve been at my job for 11 years and have been a mom for less than two. Maybe it’s because I know in my heart of hearts that the worst that happens at work is that I teach something wrong or screw up a kid’s schedule, while here the stakes are much more important. I guess when all is said and done, I’d rather waste my tears of frustration crying over Ava then some other kid who wants to get into Cornell.
I was always nervous about having a little girl. My mother and I are not the Gilmore girls. As much as we love each other, we are not best friends who talk every other minute. We have always been very different women.
As a teenager, I loved to shop, experiment with make-up and do aerobics. My mother loved to meditate, read and ride horses. I like to follow style trends, television and pop culture. My mother only watches PBS and considers herself a Buddhist. She spent this past weekend listening to the Dali Lama. As you probably know, I’m more apt to listen to Justin Timberlake. I am a stickler for neatness and details. My mother is far stronger at seeing the big picture.
I respect and admire my mother enormously. I can easily say that I have never known a kinder, more sensitive and more compassionate individual. But we are, at our core, very different souls. It has been challenging at times to find a place in the middle to connect. It can be sad but it’s true. So I was worried about having a daughter and finding a way to connect with her. So, of course, I ended up with two. And I’m glad I did. Just this past week, I had an experience with my 3 year-old Dylan that helped ease my anxiety enormously.
My mother stopped by my apartment after the Dali Lama. I asked her to watch the girls so I could run out and get a much needed pedicure. Chipped toenails make me crazy (see, it’s always the details for me). But Dylan wanted to come. I’m so glad I said “yes.” She, in her pink sweater and tutu, sat in my lap during the pedicure and we read People magazine. She is shocked about Britany’s behavior. No, we actually read “Curious George” and “Pinkalicious.” After the pedicure, Dylan picked out a polish and they painted her nails too. The experience just felt so girly, so sweet and so lovely. I thought, “I can definitely do this girl thing.”
My mother and I will keep on working to find a place in the middle to connect. It’s not always easy but it is always worth the effort when we find it. On my mother’s answering machine at home, her outgoing message ends with, “smile, breathe and don’t forget you’re loved.” I can guarantee you this warm (yet a bit unusual) sentiment will never be on my voice mail message. It’s just not my thing. But I take the words seriously. And in a different way, in a different style, I will send the same message to my girls. So to my mother Susan, thank you for your words and thank you for meeting me in the middle.