Monday, April 26, 2010


It's been a week since I've written, which breaks my two-postings-a-week pledge, which matters to no one but me, but still rankles. At this point in my life, clean laundry, regularly vacuumed floors, and semi-regular blog postings are all I can point to as accomplishments, so they take on ridiculous importance.

I know, I know, it is waaaaaay past time to get a job, and I will get one just as soon as I can figure out what I'm good at.

So this morning, as I was about to drive Henry to school, he began to wail that he did not want to go with me, he wanted to go with Daddy. This is a simple request, no? Simon was gone all last week, so Henry wanted Daddy time. Also, Daddy drives a beat-up Mitsubishi truck that requires Henry to sit in the front seat, and that is way cooler than riding in the back of my tiny minivan. Of course a 4-year-old wants to go with Daddy in the truck. It is nothing personal.

And it absolutely slayed me. The ride to preschool three days a week is our time. We talk, we sing, we laugh. It is also one of the few times that I have a distinct destination and arrival time. Sure, we go to the park or the grocery store, but does it matter if we go at 10 am or 3 pm, on Tuesday or Thursday? No, it does not. Preschool drop-off is a rare anchor in my amorphous days.

But perhaps the real issue is the fact that Henry no longer needs me in the way he once did. His all-Mommy, all-the-time years are behind him. We are entering the era of Daddy, soon to be followed by the era of friends, and eventually the era of leaving home altogether except for the occasional 11 pm phone request for extra money.

I am done. Finished! I am Jennifer Aniston to Simon's Angelina Jolie (am I the only one who reads Us magazine?).

Holy crap, I need a job.

Monday, April 19, 2010

St. Teresa

Some days my inferiority complex is so fierce that seeing a cool hair cut on someone in line at Peet's can make me want to shave my messy, split-ended, thinning, graying hair and just give up on hair and the world all at once.

Today is one of those days. Henry got a CD from his friend Harper's birthday party yesterday (Harper is the 4 year old who can read and do math, so you can add that to the complex) with all of Harper's favorite songs. We listened to it in the car on the way to drop Henry off at preschool, and as Weezer blared, I was sick with the thought that my musical taste pales in comparison to this preschooler's, and that Henry's emotional growth would somehow be stunted from listening to Rihanna and Ludacris as a child instead of some soul-stirring indy group.

So after I dropped Henry off I started playing some iTunes to make myself feel better, and "St. Teresa" came on. It reminded me of one night in college, when I was living in the guest room at my aunt and uncle's house in New Jersey, and Joan Osborne was the musical guest on Letterman. I was lonely and depressed and empty, but it was spring, and there was a full moon out the window, and there was "St. Teresa," and I felt electric. Like I meant something. Like I was waiting to begin. I was lost, but I was new, and a blank future stretched ahead, vast and mysterious. I hear the song, and I remember having a burning faith in myself, and for a few minutes my grown-up prison fades, I see an empty road ahead, and I feel like moving forward.

Incidentally, I also feel better when I listen to Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama." His mama was a crack fiend, and he still appreciates her.

You know you suffer from a lack of self-esteem when "at least I'm not a crack fiend" is a pep-talk.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Great moments in parenting

1. Picking Henry up from school Wednesday. I walk in, excited to see him, to see the way he breaks into a smile and a run when he sees me. Instead he scowls and walks right past my open arms. "I want Grandma to pick me up," he grumbles.

"But I'm here!" I say.

"I don't want you," he says.

I smile and tell him he is welcome to stay at school until Friday, when Grandma will come pick him up.

2. Walking to the car after picking Henry up from school. We're headed down the street, and Henry sees a person walking toward us.

"Is that Daddy?" he asks.

"No," I say firmly.

"Yes it is! It's Daddy! That is Daddy!" says Henry. "Daddy! DADDY!"

"Ha, ha! You crazy nut!" I say, lightly, as the black woman Henry was referring to scowls at us. The child is clearly messing with my head.

3. Thursday afternoon, trying to clean the house. After an hour spent folding two loads of laundry, changing a dirty diaper, vacuuming, and cleaning the kitchen, I tell Henry to pick up the game pieces to Busytown.

"Aaaagh," he says. "Why do I have to do all the jobs around here?"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Potty training, completed

Although Henry has been potty trained for more than a year, he has still been wearing diapers at night. All the books I've read say that you'll know your child is ready to go diaper-free when he wakes up dry most mornings. Henry has never woken up dry in his life. I was starting to worry that his first sleepover would come along and he'd be bringing a size 11 Pampers with him.

And then Monday night he simply decided he was done. He refused to put the diaper on, and I said fine, expecting a long night of changing sheets. Instead, I woke him up once at 12:30 to pee, and he stayed dry the entire night.

Last night was the same, except that I didn't wake up at 12:30, I woke up at 4:30. I debated, and decided to take him to the bathroom anyway, for fear that he'd wet the bed at 5:30 and then be up for the day. He peed, but he wouldn't go back to sleep. I had, it seemed, made a horrible miscalculation. After 20 minutes, he was pleading to get up, I was pleading for him to go back to sleep, and he asked for Daddy instead. Simon sat with him calmly until he drifted off again, this time until 8 am. Still dry.

Tonight I'll just let the poor child sleep and let the pee fall where it may.

But there you go. For all the books, videos, and consultants related to potty training, they just kind of figure it out for themselves.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Talking to my 3-year-old about death

I was dreading having to tell Henry that his Great-Grandpa had died. I remembered the fly funeral we had a few weeks back. Henry had been inconsolable then. What would happen now that a person he loved was gone?

I called him into the kitchen, then I crouched down and put my hands on his shoulders.

"I have some very sad news," I said. "Honey, Great-Grandpa died."

Henry stared around the room for a minute, then asked, "When will Granny get a new Great-Grandpa?"

"She's not going to get a new Great-Grandpa," I said, gently. "You only get one."

"Will I die?" Henry asked.

"Not for a very, very, very long time," I told him. "So long you can't even imagine it." God willing, I added in my head.

Then Henry placed his hands on my shoulders, rested his forehead on mine, and looked into my eyes. "Mommy," he asked. "Can I play a video game?"

Thus ended our first brush with death in the family. I managed to eke out a 5-minute memorial by setting up a laptop slide show of some photos I had of Philip, but though I was misty eyed, Henry just said, "NOW can I play a video game?"

It was, apparently, less traumatic than I had expected.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lost and found

On Wednesday I lost Henry at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

I was doing my best to keep track of both of my super-mobile children in the midst of approximately a million other kids who were taking advantage of spring break plus Free Wednesday. And by "doing my best" I mean that I scanned the play area or room we were in every couple of minutes to locate one or both of them, then I turned back to my adult friends.

This strategy worked until we hit the train-table building. I saw Henry run in. Then I talked to my friend Nancy, made sure Amelia didn't get run over by the movable crane, scanned around for Henry, helped Amelia secure a train car, talked to my friend Jennifer, scanned around for Henry, talked to Nate and Nancy and Jennifer. About 15 minutes later, it occurred to me that I hadn't actually seen Henry since we entered.

I searched the building, searched the tunnel, the bridge of the play boat, the funny mirror room (I'm not trying to make myself look better, but you see why it took me so long to realize he was gone. Incidentally, this is exactly how I lost my pet toad in the backyard 30 years ago.). I organized a search party of two 4-year-olds to crawl into the tunnel to look for him.
Finally I grabbed Amelia and left the building. I scanned the writhing walkways and play areas, quickly realizing that unless Henry had found a flare gun, I had no chance of finding him in the crowd. It was exactly at that moment that I heard a blond woman asking the picnic area if anyone was looking for a boy named Henry.

"Me!" I said. "I'm looking for a boy named Henry!"

The blond woman was all smiles, and I felt relieved. As we walked to meet Henry, we ran into another employee of the museum who said, "Yeah, we've had him for a long time," and I felt like a slug.

But then Henry was there, running to me, hugging me, kissing me, and things were fine. I am officially out of the running for mother-of-the-year, but things were fine.

I am still a basket case, but I have not yelled at my kids since my last yelling-at-my-kids entry. Except for the time Henry was simultaneously kicking Amelia and poking her with a chopstick, and even I refuse to feel bad about that one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

PF Harris turns the page

This is great-grandpa Philip F. Harris, walking with the kids to Thanksgiving dinner last year. He died this afternoon (afternoon in England, morning here). He was 92.

You'd think that would soften the blow. I mean, at 92, it's not an untimely death.

But death is always surprising to me. It's like those bookshelves in the old Scooby Doo cartoons, the ones that spin the character into a secret passage while everyone else is looking the other way. Suddenly I'm looking around the room, and everyone else is still here, and I'm thinking, "Where the hell is Philip?" My concept of life is that it's a closed room. And of course it's not. There are any number of exits that someone can slip out of at any moment.
At his birthday party last year, Philip gave a toast. He said the secret to a long life was to know when it is time to turn the page on some phase of life, and not to regret it, but to enjoy the next chapter.

Enjoy the next chapter, Philip. It has been my privilege to know you.