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.
The Chicken Chronicles. By Jordana Bales
When I was 6 years old, I performed an experiment on the genetic effects of allergies. This brilliant feat of science was accomplished by rubbing poison ivy on my 4 year-old brother’s arm. I knew I was immune to the itchy rash – was my baby brother? A definite no, I recorded in my scientific journal (aka: a spiral notebook). The ensuing rash on his arm resulted in a spanking from my dad.
Even today, my husband occasionally lets me indulge my scientific curiosity and experimental nature on our almost 2 year-old daughter, Ava (our “labrababy”, as my father coined her after watching me gage her reactions to different foods). Our latest experiment comes from a concept I teach in my AP Psychology class – “systematic desensitization.” This technique is simple. Behavior therapists use it to help a patient overcome a phobia. Let’s say Mary is afraid of spiders. A therapist would slowly have Mary imagine a spider. Once that no longer caused Mary anxiety, the therapist would show her a picture of a spider. When Mary could handle a picture, the therapist would bring her an actual spider and slowly bring it closer until voila – Mary is a spider aficionado. I figured this would be the perfect technique to convince Ava to wear “the chicken costume.”
My girlfriend, Robin, let me borrow a magnificent chicken costume for Halloween. It is a beauty of an outfit, resplendent with feathers, a beak and a long tail. When I first put it on Ava she immediately hated it, screaming and crying and struggling to pull it off. Since then, my husband Michael and I have slowly been getting her used to it. She now allows us to put the head piece on our own heads and she will go so far as touching the costume. My husband, by far the more patient of our duo, has been implementing most of her training. He reports his progress daily and I, the lead scientist, have been pleased with the results.
Last night, I wanted Ava to try on a beautiful party dress that I was hoping she would wear this weekend to a bat mitzvah. As I put it on her, I (and she perhaps) had chicken costume flashbacks – she cried, kicked and hollered until I took it off her trembling little body. This morning, Michael reported that Ava’s reaction to the chicken costume had taken several steps backwards. She would not touch it and did not even allow him to put the head on. All of his painstaking hard work wiped out by one frilly dress. Perhaps Ava has some type of post-traumatic chicken disorder that I stirred up with the party dress. Perhaps in the womb she felt confined and will always shun any tight-fitting garb. Or maybe she’s just exerting her strong, passionate will. Further scientific studies will be needed to answer these questions. In the meantime, I’ve requested that my laboratory assistant Michael begin searching for other, less traumatic but just as cute Halloween costumes.
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.
Just about everyone I know is having a meltdown over birthday parties. Oh, definitely not the kids. It’s the parents.
At first glance, birthday parties seem so innocent. You send out a few invites, pick up a cake, light some candles and do a little singing. Oh, I wish this was the case. Let me briefly take you through the agony.
The Invite List: I haven’t been this stressed out since I put together my wedding invite list and discovered that my husband wanted to invite about 75 of his parent’s closest friends. When I begged for a small, intimate wedding, he explained that all of these friends had attended his bar mitzvah 20 years earlier. I couldn’t really argue with that. So I bid adieu to an intimate affair and started planning a big, festive wedding.
Same invite stress with your kid. Everyone will tell you to keep a toddler’s birthday party small. But no one tells you how to do it. The list grows and grows. There’s the children from your neighborhood, the ones from preschool, your family, your friends from your life before kids (can you remember that far back?). Don’t start hyperventilating yet because you haven’t even found a location.
Location: I have this vision of the suburbs where everyone is having these great birthday parties in their perfectly manicured backyards or in their sleek, ultra-cool refurbished basements. I have no idea if this is true. I do know that in the city, there is hardly enough room in your apartment for you, your spouse and your kid(s) all at the same time. There is definitely not enough room to throw a kid-friendly bash, especially if you like your couches chocolate icing free and you don’t enjoy scraping hardened pizza cheese from your counters.
So you must search for that perfect kid spot where a) you haven’t already attended 10 other birthday parties, b) doesn’t cost you two months salary and c) isn’t already booked.
The Party (yes, I’ll cry if i want to): Finally, the party is here. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. Guaranteed, there are tears. Thankfully, it’s only an hour and a half. Now if only your child was old enough to write all those thank you notes himself.
mama bird notes:
Speaking of birthday parties, I just wrote a piece called “Kids Going Green” for a stylish, very cool event planning site called Notes on a Party. Check out my tips for turning your child’s birthday party into an eco-friendly celebration. What more could a mama want than making children happy while saving the earth?!
This week in “the beauty diary”, Alex introduces us to a gorgeous product for fall. It’s sexy. It’s gold. It’s lipstick. I think I’m in love. Click on “the beauty diary” on the menu bar to read more. Also, post your comments and questions for Alex, our mama bird beauty consultant.