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Note to self:

Remember that time your toddler put an entire roll of toilet paper down the sink and then turned the sink on and flooded the place until your housemate came upstairs to find out why it was raining in her bathroom? Remember how even while your mommy-brain was horrified and embarassed, your author-brain couldn’t help noticing how funny it was?

You, as author, would only include that scene once in the comic novel you like to pretend you are living. Your toddler, however, does not share your restraint.

Which is to say, Self, that you might consider putting the toilet paper out of reach from now on, since she obviously still thinks flooding the bathroom with soapy water and paper paste is funny.

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We put out compost, examined the soil and observed how it’s still all frozen, watched some birds flutter around the rooftop and call to each other. And we talked about the garden rails. Our garden is a couple of raised beds built probably a decade ago by the previous folks. The wood sides of the beds are rotting and falling apart. I mentioned to Rio that I would probably replace them with cinder blocks this summer, and she walked on one and knocked a few chunks of rotten wood off.

A few minutes later, while bird-watching, one of our cats came by and clawed at the wood, like cats do. And Rio said, “AHA! I see what is going on here! I get it now! A long time ago, before any humans lived in this part of the world, this wood was strong and whole. Then a swarm of cats came and scratched it all up and made it fall apart. I figured it out!”

the kids are playing house.

Rio: I want to be the Mama!

Her friend: I want to be the Mama!

Rio (agitated): No! I am the Mama!

Friend (more agitated): NO! I will only play if I can be the Mama!

Me: Hey! Remember how your friend C has two Mamas? You could both be the Mama.

Both girls: OK!

They ran off to play happily. This was roughly the parenting equivalent of sinking a basket from mid-court.

So Rio and her dad went to the kindergarten open house at our neighborhood school. I would have gone, but the baby fell asleep at an inconvenient time, and we are strict followers of the “Never Wake A Sleeping Baby” school of parenting.

Rio came home from the open house literally vibrating with excitement. “Mama! You are going to change your mind about me not going to that school when you see what they have there! They have music! And Reading! AND FIRST GRADE!”

I hugged her on my lap and helped her off with her boots while her dad came in. He looked sort of gray and shook his head firmly “no” while Rio was not looking. When I asked him later, he said that he found the prominently displayed flags and pledge of allegiance off-putting, and that he really could not see Rio thriving in an environment where she was expected to stay indoors, follow directions and sit still most of the day.

I tend to concur, but Rio made any negotiation about it unnecessary by declaring that kindergarten looked boring and she wishes to go directly to first grade. I told her they won’t let go to first grade until she’s six (which I assume is true, since she’s not reading yet), and that we can talk about it next year. At which point she asked if she could keep homeschooling instead of doing kindergarten and I readily agreed.

I’ve also stepped up the focus on getting her social needs met, since I think that was the primary factor in her wanting to check out school. Arranging playdates is hard, but worthwhile, and I’ve been having a little more success networking with other homeschooling families in Somerville.

I am very gradually learning that what I think of as weak spots in my personality, and especially in my parenting, are often perceived by others as strengths.

Today, for example, I was doing a messy science project with the kids, and the other mom present said, “Thank god you do this so I don’t have to!”, when my inside voice was fretting that she was going to be horrified at the messy chaos I make with the kids.

what’s even better than cloth diapering my toddler? not having to diaper her at all. not even at night.

I am not actually counting the days since she wore a diaper, and I don’t think I need to. Every day this feels less like a phase and more like a life change. My ‘baby’ wears panties. She can’t pull them up and down yet, and will cheerfully pee right through them. But only when she’s sitting on the potty.

Mostly, I leave her butt bare under dresses and put legwarmers on instead of pants. She’ll learn the clothing trick eventually. In the meantime, NO MORE DIAPERS!

Lately I’ve been pushing the clean-up thing pretty hard. I know there’s a whole school of thought that one should model cheerfully performing housework and never force children to do it, but I don’t have it in me. I resent spending hours every day picking up my kids’ toys and books and food and clothes (and that’s just clearing the floors, forget about doing any other chores…)

The other night, Rio and I were cleaning the schoolroom together. We’d gotten past the “ignoring me” phase, through the standard threats (mine: if you don’t pick up your toys, I am putting them all in the Hungry Bag until I find time to put them away myself, hers: I won’t be your daughter anymore! When I grow up, I will not even live with you! I am going to hit you with a basketball!”)

We reached the point where she was putting dolls away in a basket and complaining loudly while doing so, while I reshelved the entire bookcase worth of children’s books Serena had spread out on the floor.

“I hate this. You’re like Cinderella’s stepmother!”

“How am I like Cinderella’s stepmother?”

“Cinderella’s stepmother makes her do things she does not want to do, and she makes her clean up all the time when it isn’t fair. And that’s what you do to me. You make me clean up when I don’t want to clean up. I am like Cinderella, and you are like Cinderella’s stepmother!”

I confess that I was so thrilled at her ability to liken a fairy tale narrative to her life and break the story apart for meaning, I completely failed to chastise her for being rude and messy. Maybe not so much “forgot” as “gleefully neglected”.

Weather warm enough to ride,
brings Rio and I flying
on our shiny-not-shiny-now-its-muddy
three-wheeled bicycle-train

The sun is bright and she’s singing
A lot of people, people who don’t know us,
Stare like something unusual is happening
Like my whole life is not accompanied by her
Wild voice lifted up in song

“Little birds, come out of the trees
Come out to the air
Don’t say a word
Little birds”

This is her song today
Her creation and she’s belting it out
At the top of her lungs
Oblivious to stares

“Little birds, come out of the trees
Come out to the air
Don’t say a word
Little birds, did you know my toe hurts?”

And then in a spoken aside, voice low
conspiratorial, even,
“Mama, did you know that is actually true?
My toe does hurt.”

“Little birds, come out of the trees
Come out to the air
Don’t say a word
Little birds”

Lilting, laughing, almost tipping
Our bike wobbles through slushy side roads
Home, the song falls to speech,
Poetry gives way to prose.

“Mama, do you know what I am doing?
I am waking all the springtime animals up.
I am telling them, don’t be afraid
Come back!
Spring is almost here!”

“That’s nice,” I say, distracted
by the buckles on our helmets, the lock on the bike

“My song is floating away in little bubbles!
It’s going to other countries!”

“Little birds, come out of the trees
Come out to the air
Don’t say a word
Little birds”

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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