Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Boys vs. Tropes vs. Women

Overheard in my house today, in the general vicinity of the Wii:

Neighbor Boy: Wait, what? Where did that girl come from?
Isaac: Samus is a girl, dude.
Neighbor Boy: What? I'm not playing a girl. I'm picking someone else next round.
Isaac: Good. I'll put Samus on my team.
Neighbor Boy: You want Samus on your team?
Isaac: Yeah.
Neighbor Boy: [ . . . ]
Neighbor Boy: In that case, maybe I want Samus on my team, too.
Neighbor Boy: Yeah!

How do you know you have succeeded in teaching your son to respect women? When you see him teaching other boys.

(Tropes vs.Women)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keeping Google busy since 2004

Questions my kid has asked me so far today:

"When did people stop using their father's first name or their town as their last name, like 'Robert John's Son,' or 'Thomas of Bridge Town,' and start using the same last name as their whole family like we do now?"

"Can you visit the exact spot where Lewis and Clark first saw the Pacific Ocean?"

"Who was on the first American dollar?"

"Does the Earth's elliptical orbit make summer longer in the Southern Hemisphere?"

"Did George Washington ever watch fireworks on the Fourth of July?"

"Do lithium and beryllium bond together to make a new chemical?"

"Oxygen has a heavier atomic weight than nitrogen. Does that mean that nitrogen floats on oxygen? Is there a higher concentration of oxygen compared to nitrogen the closer you get to the surface of the Earth?"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Moment of Silence

“Pause your music,” I say.
He obeys, comprehending
not my words
but a quality of tone.

In the box the President
pauses, too; the First Lady,
the crowd crushed together,
the bells.

Later the day goes on as days do:
the child and his music
and me in the kitchen scrubbing
pans trying not to think
about the iron scent common
to steel and blood.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Keep in Reach

Spring blows on the wind, belying the February slant of the sun. Gusts buffet with hints of March's lion, threatening to tip over all our morning's work. But as the wind tries to snatch empty pots you catch them nimbly and right them in the tray.

Our fingers are dirty from pressing soil into pots and our clothes are dirty too, from soil blown out by the wind, and we laugh together when we pick up another package of potting soil and realize that it warns, primly, KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. Because in this moment no idea seems sillier to us than the idea of keeping children out of dirt.

And I want to tell you of doll villages built in the mud, and backyard digs for dinosaur bones. Of my grandmother's garden with tomatoes too large to hold in my hands and corn stalks waving against the sky. But I don't. I don't tell you, because when I try to remember those things I start too think too much about remembering and then this moment too seems like a not a living moment but instead another memory that I have to grab onto, quick, before it slips. I know something you don't yet, about time, and getting older. Februaries blur.

You laugh and I shove past laughter away and the future collapsing in on us, too. Snatch another pot back from the March winds blowing into February too soon.

Right now all I want to be is right here, now. Here now with your laughter and your quick, muddy fingers and the sunlight glinting on your copper hair.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Writes in Cursive

Isaac's mother always writes in print. Even in letters, even on envelopes, even on gift tags. She's left-handed, you see, and she had this handwriting teacher in fourth grade who reveled in squeezing students' hands into impossible contortions and marking points off for minute smudges in ink on the practice paper. This teacher declared on the first day of handwriting class that she had no idea how to teach a left-handed person to write proper cursive, (and wasn't, in fact, to be honest, sure it could be done -- such a shame that the early correction of wrong-handedness had gone out of style). So Isaac's mother swore that once she was allowed to stop writing in cursive she would never use cursive again. And she doesn't.

Santa writes gift tags and thank you notes for cookies in shimmering green ink and perfect Palmer script. (Without smudges.)

Isaac's father is one of those people who can write a complex computer program entirely in his head and save it in memory to type out later, but comes back from the grocery store without eggs, and accidentally puts his earbuds in the washing machine. It's understandable that Isaac's father sometimes forgets small things because Isaac's father has a Busy Job and a Mortgage and Many Important Things to Remember. More important things to remember than his earbuds in his pocket, or the toys featured in this month's Target catalog.

Santa will take notes on the precise model of Nerf dart gun mentioned in Isaac's letter (the Nerf N-Strike Nite Finder EX-3), systematically search three different toy stores for the correct item, and have it purchased and wrapped (with a cursive gift tag) three days before Christmas.

Isaac's mother and father worry about spoiling him on Christmas with too many gifts. They make a point of regularly reminding Isaac, in the middle of the toy aisle, that there are children without roofs over their heads in this world, and yet here he is with a room already overflowing with toys.

Santa goes ahead and buys the activity set Isaac didn't even ask for that goes with the book Isaac did. And then, for good measure, Santa goes and stuffs Isaac's stocking with more candy that a child his size could possibly eat in a month.

Isaac's mother cries, and curses loudly too, when the Christmas tree slips in the stand and falls over, after she's already put all the ornaments on it, and there are her broken glass memories all over the floor. Isaac's mother and father argue over whether Isaac's father listened to Isaac's mother about how to cut the bottom of the tree, and Isaac's mother finally declares that she won't put all the ornaments back on again, she just can't.

But then she vacuums up the last of the glass and broken branches and gets up early the next morning and puts every single surviving ornament back on anyway. Because, Isaac says, what would Santa think?

What would Santa think, indeed.

Santa cannot, obviously, provide this level of service to billions of children worldwide all by himself. So Santa recruits helpers (though sadly, Santa never does seem to have enough of them).

When Isaac's father is asked by Santa to find a present for a little boy in foster care, he doesn't just buy one present -- he buys three. Because that's what Santa would do.

When Isaac's mother wraps the presents Isaac's father bought, she decides that a plain red gift bag from the store just won't do, and this green one won't do either. Santa does not, Isaac's mother thinks, prefer to wrap presents in boring bags. Instead, finally, Isaac's mother goes to the closet and pulls out the beautiful, glittery, hand-painted gift bag that Santa brought Isaac's first Christmas present in, the one she's been saving ever since to give again to someone special.

And Isaac's mother breaks her own rule, and writes the gift tag in cursive.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the last slice of pumpkin pie
that was in 
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving for tomorrow's lunch 

Forgive me
I felt a little guilty when I took it actually, but
I cooked for eight hours straight on Thanksgiving 
by myself
while I had a migraine

in our outdated kitchen which is roughly the size of a walk-in closet
and feels like an oven itself when the oven is on
and I roasted a whole turkey for you even though I'm a vegetarian
while you mostly watched the Macy's Parade*

I'm pretty damned sure I was fully entitled to that last piece of pie

*(Because even though 
you're a self-styled feminist
your mother, a traditionalist
expecting you would one day expect a wife to cook for you
never taught you how to make anything more complicated than macaroni and cheese
and you've tried valiantly to learn since then
but frankly we both know 
that I'm the better chef

Don't feel too bad about it though
my dad never taught me how to change the brakes on the car
and I'm really glad you know how to do that)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When You Have to Be THAT Mom

I am that mom who bakes cupcakes, from scratch, for the entire class.

I am that mom who brings candy for every holiday party, and stays to walk the class through the holiday craft.

I am that mom who volunteers on every field trip. The one who volunteers at the school library two or three days a week. The one who goes to every school assembly. The one who shows up, early, to every parent-teacher conference meeting.

I am that mom that students greet as if she were a teacher. I am that mom who knows the name of every other parent. I am that mom who knows the name of every last staff member at the school.

I am that mom who goes along with my son to every single classmate's or neighbor kids's or friend's birthday party, and offers to help set up beforehand, and offers to bring food.

I am that mom who almost never takes her kid to fast-food restaurants, or orders takeout.

I am that mom who regularly cooks meals from scratch.

I am that mom who goes to every single doctor's appointment, asks questions, and takes notes.

I am that mom who brings to said appointments a binder full of medical records in color-coded archival sheaths.

I am that mom who plans elaborate playdates at my house.

I am that mom who never just drops my kid off at your house for a playdate, but sticks around, just at the margins, to keep an eye on things.

I am that mom who almost never uses a babysitter, and if I do leave my son in someone else's care, I am that mom who offers that person a printed list of phone numbers and instructions.

I am that mom who can count on one hand the times she has left her child with someone else overnight.

I am that mom and at least three times a day I find myself wishing I weren't.

I am that mom and it is exhausting.

I am that mom and I do work, actually -- I have three part-time jobs that I juggle, poorly, around school volunteer gigs and field trips and parties and doctors' visits and cooking. I am that mom and there are plenty of days when I stay up until 1 a.m. working and then get up at 6 a.m. to volunteer again for eight hours at my child's school.

I am that mom and I have a college degree I finished in four years while working two jobs. I have that degree, and some pleasant, fleeting memories of feeling just on the cusp of serious success as a writer, and some fading dreams of graduate school, and a thousands unfinished work projects and ambitions of a novel or five growing dusty together on a high shelf.

I am sick of seven years of strangers assuming, when I tell them I'm a work-from-home mother, that I must not be an educated or ambitious person.

My mother often worked full-time outside the home when I was a kid and I thought that once my kid was in school I would, too. I think it's good for kids to have time away from their parents, and good for parents to have time away from their kids. I swore when I was pregnant that I would go back to work after one year. I swore that I'd raise an self-sufficient adventurer. I swore I wouldn't hover.

But I am the mother of a child with a sensory disorder, a motor skills delay and an anaphylactic peanut allergy.

I am that mom of a seven-year-old who understands beginning algebra and reads college biology textbooks for fun and can add four digit numbers in his head but can barely zip a jacket or tie his own shoes and sometimes hums and mutters to himself strangely in public to drown out the world's constant noise.

I am that mom who tells her son to face the world proudly, anyway.

I am THAT mom of a child with a food allergy -- a mom who knows that every time her son walks out the door to go to school or to a birthday party or to a holiday dinner, he's risking his life.

I am that mom who lets him walk out the door anyway.

But I'm not the mom who is ready to stop following him (at a distance) just yet.

I'm just not.