The Funny Business of Parenting
It's therapy to laugh about it.

The Answer is in the Stars 

My 11-year-old girl, Sleeping Beauty, was sleeping every night in our bed. The 7-year-old boy, The Dawdle King, was making us late to school every morning. It was clear that I had become, once again, A Bad Parent.

So, I resorted to something I said I'd never do: Stars and bribes.

I hung a dry erase board on the wall and each day the kiddies could draw a star under their name if they earned it. The girl had to sleep in her own bed and the boy had to put his clothes on in the morning (and do his afternoon chores of homework and piano practice) without his mother getting on her hands and knees to beg. For every three stars they earned, they could pick out a prize from the goody bag.

Within a week, the girl was sleeping in her own bed and the boy was breaking world records in fast dressing.

Brilliant. Except that it was becoming a chore to keep the goody bag stocked. For the girl, this was easily remedied: she had been taking drum lessons and was finally rewarded with a drum set of her own. We negotiated on the price she would pay: 50 or so "unpaid" stars.

As for the boy, it's been taking him several days to earn each star, so his prize bag has been easy to keep stocked. Also, he still jumps for joy over things that cost next to nothing, which is a plus.

Meanwhile, Prince Charming and I are enjoying nights alone in our bed, sleeping soundly without a squirming child stealing our covers.

Funny, isn't it?

***

"I Love This"

We were knee-deep in mud, my boy and I.

The day had finally arrived - the day we would plant our first tree.

It was cold and rainy, but we didn't let that stop us.

The boy wanted a peach tree. So, after calling about a gazillion nurseries, I finally found the semi-dwarf variety we needed - just the right size for our yard.

We drove over to Lowe's to pick up our tree, then after some bodily fuel in the form of ice cream, we high-tailed it home to do some planting.

We took turns with the shovel and the spade, stopping periodically to lift a wriggling worm to safety. The boy marveled at the hole we were creating and from time to time, jumped into it, holding his gloved hands up in the air.

Then, it was quickly back to work, the cold wind whistling and mud flying everywhere as the hole deepened.

And as we dug, our clothes caked with dirt and our breaths quickening, the boy looked up and said, "Mom, I love this."

"Me too," I said, resolving to buy more trees soon - we agreed on apple, cherry, and pear. We would plant an orchard, by golly, and bake fruit pies in the fall. We would wait anxiously for the first fruit to appear and bite into it ceremoniously, in awe of the miracle.

But at that moment, on our front lawn, shovels poised above our first hole, we were knee-deep in mud, my boy and I. And there are very few places I'd rather be.

***

Itchy Infestation Hits Household

 

An uninvited guest recently showed up for dinner. What a louse. And I mean that quite literally.

 

We sat down to enjoy a nice family meal and there was my 7-year-old son, scratching his head with his fork. Since he normally uses a spoon for this endeavor (less abrasive,) I thought I’d take a look-see on his scalp.

 

Hello, Mr. Louse. So nice of you to join us…And you brought friends!

 

It was a dinner party. Our esteemed guests: a friendly family of  lice.

 

We didn’t mean to be un-hospitable. We hope they didn’t take offense. But dinner was quite abruptly over - we were too busy racing to the drugstore for some over-the-counter lice removal shampoo, to offer dessert.

 

An hour later, we sat around lamenting, our heads covered in a fragrant medicinal concoction, hoping for the best. Death, I’m afraid. We showed those varmints no mercy.

 

We spent the next few days feeling like bowls of chicken salad, with mayonnaise slathered through our hair (a notorious home remedy.) Howls could be heard from the house, as the vicious metal lice combs ripped through our hair.

 

And suddenly, our heads stopped itching. Apparently, our tiny friends had taken their leave.

 

A few weeks later, they were back. Two kids and one parent once again sporting lice in their well-coiffed tresses.


So we got out the big guns: coconut and tea tree conditioners (reportedly unappetizing to lice,) garbage bags to cover all of our pillows, enough laundry detergent to clean every piece of cloth that had been near our heads in the past year, and four bottles of the most vile-smelling prescription poison that would stop lice from ever seeing the light of day again.

 

Days later, I was still doing the laundry, combing out hair in search of any remaining wayward lice and nits (lice eggs) and quite frankly, praying for salvation from the most noxious plague to hit the house since that roving hamster my husband brought home for the kids.

 

And I’m almost afraid to say this. It’s not a nice thought to run through a mother’s head while hugging her child. I’m hoping it’s just a typical parenting post-traumatic stress symptom.

 

My head itches.

***

My Defender

The girl, 12 years old and exhibiting intermittent pseudo-hostility towards Mother (formerly Mommy or Mama - I'll consider the new title a promotion,) decided she wanted to draw a mustache on my face. And I let her. Because that's just the kind of crazy mom I am. Little did I know it would cause World War III. 

The boy, 8, my fierce and loyal ally, went into a frenzy. 

"You're being mean to my mama," he howled. "I don't want her to have a mustache and she doesn't want one either."

I have to admit: his anger was based on the truth. I really don't have any interest in acquiring a mustache. I've got enough hair-based issues to deal with already.

Meanwhile, with one arm around me and the other reaching out to punch his sister, the boy had tears streaming down his face. I knew he would be on the job until the mustache came off. I looked down at my defender, knowing that one day he would be saving me from more than just a mustache. I looked at my girl, knowing that we were going to have lots of laughs together for many years to come.

I admitted my poor judgement in agreeing to the new facial "hair," washed the marker off my face and gave them each a hug. So having nothing left to mock or defend, the two adversaries went off to build a pillow fort.

Am I lucky or what?


***
Fairy Tales
 
Is it wrong that I, the "Tooth Fairy," took $1 from my 8-year-old boy, who still believes in me?
 
Encouraged by a girl in his class who corresponds regularly with her own goddess of teeth, he's decided to write me every night. Last night, he thanked me for my "loyalty" by leaving a dollar with his letter. I wrote back to tell him that I would use it to buy a seed for my garden and share what I've grown with others. I may have taken the cash, but at least I didn't lie - I do need a few more seeds for our garden.
 
"Isn't he too old to believe in the Tooth Fairy?" my mother asks, worriedly. "Won't he be upset when he figures out it's all a big lie?"
 
I can't say for sure, but I don't think so. By the time he figures it out, he'll have moved on anyway. (Meanwhile, thankfully, his 12-year-old sister is my ally and won't spill the beans.) 
 
And I think these love letters to each other will be something he'll always remember. Another store in his memory bank proving how much he is loved and admired.
 
So for now, I think how could something that makes him so happy, be wrong? I watch him read every word carefully, as he underlines with his finger, and when he's done, he looks up at me with a sudden smile of pure joy.
 
May the Tooth Fairy live on, for hers is a fleeting presence. Like diapers, she won't be around when he's all grown up.
 

***
 

A New Mother’s Mother’s Day

For a new mom, Mother’s Day takes on a whole new meaning

 

As I was giving birth on Wednesday, May 7, 1997, former President William J. Clinton was signing the annual White House Mother’s Day proclamation – making the day official - in his comfortable oval office.

 

Four days later, it was Mother’s Day.

 

As I stretched out on our living room couch, bemoaning my ravaged body, it struck me that I was a mother on Mother’s day for the first time.

 

“My baby had a baby,” was my mother’s mantra.

 

But I was not a baby anymore and now, I wasn’t even supposed to act like one. I was a mother - I had joined the ranks with the best of them. I had created life, walked the walk, endured the pain.

 

It was scary, exhilarating, fascinating, surreal.

 

To mark the day, my parents had brought over all of my favorite treats from the best Miami, Florida, deli around – noodle kugel, sliced turkey, rainbow cookies (chocolate-covered, almond-infused tri-color cakes layered with raspberry and apricot preserves - almost good enough to trade in a baby for a lifetime supply.)

 

My mother had asked me what I wanted for our Mother’s Day brunch and when I mentioned the cookies, I knew she would drive across town for them. It might sometimes be hard to tell, but my mother would likely throw herself in front of a bullet if she saw it racing toward me. Just as soon as she’d bring me rainbow cookies if she thought I needed them.

 

But for probably the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like eating. Here was my own mother, still trying to feed me – her baby - but in just a few moments, I’d be feeding my own. My mother was mothering me, but now, it was my turn: I’d have to mother.

 

I sat up to open the Mother’s Day gift my parents had brought for me and as I tore at the wrapping paper, I was grateful, but it felt like an act of redundancy: I had already received my gift. Her name was Cara.

 

Cara - the child who had just entered the world through me, screaming and kicking - was a few feet away in her bassinet, breathing softly, readying herself to wake and once again, make a fuss (she was a perpetually loud gift.)

 

Meanwhile, my parents and husband were sitting around the dining room table, laughing over their difficulties in bathing Cara and re-hashing the birth.

 

I remembered the scene, a few hours after being wheeled into the recovery room, in which my mother paraded up and down the hospital hallway, holding Cara high and telling everyone she could find to “look at the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen in your life and I’m not just saying that because I’m her grandmother.”

 

And she was the most beautiful baby in the world, to us at least. Her perfect little button nose, long eyelashes, round cheeks and toenails like tiny, smooth ivory shells. Cara was perfect. She would always be perfect, no matter what.

 

I took a small bite of rainbow cookie, a shred of hunger finally back, and of course, my perfect, tiny baby chose that moment to begin to cry. I went to her and reached into the bassinet to gently pick her up. For a fleeting moment, I could still taste the sweet cookie on my tongue.

 

***
 
Taking a walk
 
My boy wanted to take a walk around the neighborhood with me. Oh, joy. My boy likes me. So what if he was probably just trying to avoid doing his homework. I don't care. We walked, we held hands, we looked into a nearby creek, we trudged up a hill, we trudged down a hill, we talked. I loved every minute of it.
***
 
 A Bribe, A Dare & Some Indian Food
 
Determined to find at least one family member who'd enjoy Indian food with me (i.e. the husband and the girl won't even set foot in an Indian restaurant), I bribed the boy to go to an Indian restaurant with me. I bought him an extra-large chocolate bar the other day, in exchange for our Indian food "date." You may be judging me right now, thinking, on your high parental horse that bribing your child is not setting a good example. What you fail to realize is that bribery is never wrong if it involves the noble purpose of dining on Indian food.
 
We decided to get the buffet so the boy could try an assortment of Indian treats. Today, we are "professional diners," I said. He followed my lead by putting his napkin on his lap and rubbing his hands together with hand cleaner. I tried each food first to make sure it wasn't too hot and spicy and my "picky eater" got into the spirit of it, gingerly putting tiny pieces of everything on his fork to try. In the end, he only liked the naan bread, rice pudding and tamarind sauce. But still, I considered the meal a success.
 
While we were eating, he suddenly started dancing in his seat to the Indian music playing in the restaurant, twisting his arms around over his head, eyes half closed. He asked to play "truth or dare" and we asked each other our secrets. He would rather be stranded on a desert island than go to the movies with a girl. I have a crush on a movie star. He asked for a dare and I told him to stand up and dance next to our table. He did it with glee.
 
He's my fellow exhibitionist and now, Indian food partner. He said he'd try another Indian restaurant with me downtown. Like me, he'll do anything for chocolate.