Snow Delays with Aunt Flo

As if the 2 hour delay wasn’t bad enough, the school bus ran late. We sat in the car at the end of the street, sheltered from the cold and snow. Naturally, the kids take the opportunity to push buttons, turn dials, and rummage through all the car’s compartments.

“What’s this?” Luke asks holding up a tampon he retrieved from the glove box.

“Oh, that’s just something for mommy.”

I give him my standard response. Like all kids, Luke has been keenly curious about tampons forever. Mysterious dispensers in public restrooms and the sometimes colorfully wrapped objects in my purse have driven him crazy for years. He suspects it’s candy, and therefore unfair. I deflect and dismiss like a pro. But this time we were stuck in the car together with nothing to distract us.

“But what do you use it for?”

Sigh. I look for the bus. Nothing. I briefly explain the biology of a menstrual cycle. Both kids look appropriately appalled. Then the questions start.

“So I’m going to have a baby when I’m 12?” Sally asks.

“No! No. No. No. Um, no. Definitely not. No.” I stammer for awhile. “That’s just about when your body starts going through changes. Maybe you’ll be 11 or 14. It’s different for everyone. But you won’t have a baby then. Nope. No. No.”

“Am I going to need to wear one of those things you wear?” she asks while holding her hands in front of her chest mimicking imaginary, gigantic, future breasts.

“A bra? Yes.”

“But why? What’s it for?” Luke asks.

Sally jumps in, “It’s to hold them up so they don’t pull you down and knock you over. But then you’d fall on them and they’d bounce you back up.”

“Really?” Luke asks me.

“Well, not exactly. They don’t knock you over or anything. And they couldn’t bounce you back up.” I lose a moment wistfully remembering my pre-kids breasts. Or could they? “But it does sort of hold them up and keep them in place.”

“That’s super weird.”

“Yeah, it is isn’t it?” I look for the bus.

“Why do you keep this in the car though?” Back to the tampon.

“In case I need it. I keep all sorts of things in the car like band-aids, tissues, jumper cables.”

“So you could be driving and all of a sudden…”

He mimes a flood erupting from his loins. I look for the bus. I explain more about menstruation. I look for the bus. They both become pensive.

“You have a thousand eggs? So a woman could have a thousand babies? ”

“Yes. No. I mean women have a lot of eggs but a woman could not have a thousand babies. Woman can have many babies though. More babies than most women end up having.”

“You should have another baby! I want a cute little baby!”

“Babies are cute. But you wouldn’t like it when I’m super tired and grumpy and yell at you two for being too noisy and don’t have time to pay attention to you because all my attention is on the baby.”

“But you already are grumpy and yell at us.” Touché.

“It would be worse.” I look for the bus.

“Can you just decide to have a baby one month instead of a period?”

“Well, not exactly. Remember when we talked about this? That it takes both a mommy and a daddy to make a baby?”

“Yeah, but you and daddy already did that.”

WHERE IS THE FREAKING BUS?

“Well, um, we’d have to do it again.”

“Oh.”

“The bus sure is running late!”

“You’re going to bleed out of your penis!” Sally expertly tells Luke.

“No I’m not! It’s just for girls. You’re going to lay an egg every month! Ha ha!”

“She will not LAY an egg! Well, yeah, I guess she sort of will.”

Two sets of eyes grow huge with fear and disbelief.

“They’re tiny though. Don’t worry about it. And, Luke, your body will do weird things too. Where is the bus?”

“Like what?”

I think of all the weird things it will do. I say, “Your voice will change.”

“Yeah, well that’s not nearly as bad as bleeding out of your vagina and laying eggs.”

Yeah, tell me about it. You also will get more handsome as you age and you’ll be paid more. I’m peppered with a few more questions as we wait out the last of the 25 minutes for the late bus. As the bus finally pulls up I realize that I’m sending my kids off to school full of strange new information and ideas with which they can embarrass teachers and horrify friends. Essentially they’re fully loaded, ticking mis-information bombs. I quickly remind them that they can come to me with any questions but should not talk about this at school with friends and teachers. They assure me they won’t and they’re off for a very abbreviated school day.

Parenthood involves so many strange and uncomfortable conversations, and there’s nothing like being trapped in a confined space to inspire kids’ curiosity. Certainly, I’d prefer them get their facts from us rather than their friends. But is it too much to ask that next time it’s Tim not me?

Snow Delays with Aunt Flo

My Days are Numbered

My kids are getting bigger. Soon I’ll enter the Chauffeur Years, when mothers become a barely tolerated presence in kids’ lives, good only for food, cash, and transport. With that in mind, I’m trying like hell to enjoy the time I’ve got left in the Little Kid Years.

And I do enjoy a lot of it. I love that my kids still rely on goodnight hugs and kisses and stories read aloud in order to fall asleep. I do. It’s too bad that this special time always comes at the end of the day when my nerves are frayed and my wine is downstairs waiting for me with the promise of peace and quiet.

I love that my kids still crave my approval and I know I’ll miss it when they no longer need or want my attention. But really, I just can’t feign interest in what you built in Minecraft and that song you’re singing was cute, an hour ago.

These little kid years are fleeting and all the magic that comes with them is but a moment in our children’s lives. As parents we know this so we try to drink up all the magic, and create even more by putting our children in situations where there will be more and more and more magic. Our little kids’ wonder is our drug.

We bring our children to Disney World so we can see that look on their faces – the one of pure wonder and joy that only little kids have. And we get it. We get that moment and our hearts fill, our cups runneth over, and we gain the emotional fortitude it takes not to strangle them when they’re falling apart a few minutes later, throwing epic fits born of overstimulation, exhaustion, and too much GD Florida sunshine. We bring our children to the beach and are justly rewarded with peals of laughter in the waves, tongues held out between teeth in extreme sand castle concentration, and boundless energy for chasing down seagulls, flying kites, and catching crabs in tide pools. We get our fill of the magic, and we don’t commit murder when they cry from hunger, freak out from sand in shoes, and complain the entire car ride home.

As with so many of the lovely things in life, little-kidhood is a two-sided coin. One side is full of giggles, cuddles, and wonder. It’s all enthusiasm. It’s witnessing a person encounter a firefly for the first time, a shooting star. It’s understanding that there is no greater thing than s’mores, a snow day, a rainbow. The other side is quite the opposite. If a day can be the “best day ever!” because of a lollipop, likewise, it can be the worst because of peas touching potatoes. A sibling can be a best friend, and a mortal enemy vying for the love of the people who should only have eyes for you.

This tricky coin flips easily and many times per day. Anything can flip it. There are known triggers that we parents work hard to mitigate: hunger, fatigue, overstimulation, errands, lines, frustration, transition, waiting 5 more minutes for anything, but especially dinner. It can flip back just as easily. Generally bodily functions related to digestion are the most efficient means of doing this. We parents live our lives by this fickle coin.

I’m trying hard to relish the waning years of little-kidness remaining to me. I marinate in morning snuggles and sweetness, which helps me manage later-morning attitude. I exalt moments of sibling playfulness, full of princess dresses, spy gear, and astonishing imagination, which helps me through sibling fights full of yelling, hitting, and inevitable crying. I cherish childish mispronunciations and misunderstandings, which helps me bear their diminishing number. Mostly, I have to be actively mindful of my limited time in this space. My kids are getting bigger. I have to get all the cuddles now.

My Days are Numbered



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Good Parent, Stupid Kids?

We’ve been talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. in our house lately, and it reminded me of this post from 2012 when I tried to teach my kids about race while they were hungry. Always a mistake. In honor of MLK day, I once again give you The Story of the Eggs:

In my house hard-boiled eggs are made by at least the half-dozen. Each kid would eat boiled eggs until explosion or yolk-asphyxiation occurs, so I have to cut them off at three each. This morning I had a mix of white and brown eggs. As I put them in the pot, the fighting started.

“I want just white ones!”

“Me too!”

“Actually, I want brown ones.”

“Me too!”

(I know this sounds like agreement, but trust me, it’s fight seeds.)

I decide this is a good time for a lesson. A friend of mine did this with her kids, and from her story it was a meaningful revelation for all short people involved. I was about to embark on an early morning good parenting moment. Go me!

Once the eggs had boiled and cooled a bit in ice water, I began my fantastic parenting, holding a brown egg in one hand an a white one in the other:

“Are these the same or different?”

“Different!”

“How are they different?”

“They’re different colors.”

“Right. The shells are different colors. This shell is white, and this shell is brown. Are people sometimes different colors too?”

“No!”

“Uh, really? Aren’t they sometimes different colors?”

“No!”

“Um, for this to work, I need you to think about all the people you know. Do they all look the same?”

“No!”

“Right, people come in different colors like these eggs, right?”

“Right!”

“Whew. OK. So, do you think these eggs are the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“The same!”

“I want the brown one!”

“No I want the brown one!”

“Just wait. We’re learning something first! Let’s see if these eggs are different or the same on the inside.”

I crack and peel the eggs. The kids are fighting over which color they want. I hold up two peeled, perfectly white eggs:

“So, are these the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“I want the brown one!”

“Can I have some salt?”

“PAY ATTENTION! We’re learning here! Do these eggs look the same or different?”

The kids have no freaking idea what I want from them. They just want to give me an answer that would make me shut up and hand over the eggs.

“The same?”

“Yes! They are exactly the same on the inside even though one was white and one was brown on the outside. So, what does that tell us? Did we learn anything?”

“Can I have salt, Mama?”

“NO! You won’t get anything until you learn this lesson! Does the fact that this brown egg and this white egg look exactly the same on the inside tell us anything about people?”

“No!”

URG! Remember, one was white?? And one was brown??! And people are different colors too!? But on the inside the eggs are the same??? What do you think different color people are like on the inside?”

“Yucky!”

“Bloody!”

“They have hearts!”

“They have poop!”

The kids are now in hysterics. I’ve lost my audience, which I never really had to begin with. Fuck it. Just eat your eggs, kids. Thanks for the learning moment.

Good Parent, Stupid Kids