Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Super Genderbender

Check out this story from the Advocate about a transgendered pregnant male!

And I thought having my kids call me 'Baba' was radical! One of the things I love about this whole transformative process in our society is how we are creating language to deal with it. For example, he calls himself his own surrogate!

Can you imagine how brave he has to be?

He closes with this: . . . our situation ultimately will ask everyone to embrace the gamut of human possibility and to define for themselves what is normal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Petite Curies?: A Feminist Critique of the Little Einsteins

So Big and I don't spend a lot of time watching television, but we do enjoy catching an episode of Little Einsteins here and there.

I suppose we've watched 20 or so episodes over the course of the last year and, as far as television goes, I think they are fairly enjoyable and at least somewhat educational (although if the one study I read that showed that the Baby Einsteins videos were shown to have had absolutely no cognitive effect on child outcomes, its older sibling has likely even less merit).

If you don't know the gist of the show, it goes like this. There are four kids (Leo, Annie, Quincy and June who are miniature editions of the Today Show cast in terms of sex, race and ethnicity) riding around in a rocket ship going on various adventures. Each episode features some particular work of art, as well as (usually) classical music, by well-known composers. Also, the missions often take the cabal to famous locations all over the world. The music and inspiration of the characters (not least of whom, "Rocket") usually gets Big and I hopping around the room.

However, I have become increasingly agitated by the, as far as I can tell, absolute lack of inclusion of women artists or composers.

An empiricist at heart, I did a brief statistical analysis in an attempt to verify my conjecture.

At the time of this writing, there are 54 unique "regular" episodes of the Little Einsteins, 2 "specials" (one for Halloween and one for Christmas) and two full-length movies.

Out of the 54 regular episodes there are 58 unique artworks featured. Of those there are 13 unknown artists. These 'unknown-author' works fall under the category of "ancient" or possibly "multiple authored" or even under a category that could simply be considered a "cultural artifact." These thirteen works include the following: "Egyptian Heiroglyphics", "Navajo Baskets", "Ancient Greek and Roman Mosaics", "Australian Aboriginal Art", "Pacific Northwest Totem Poles", "German Folk Art", "Chinese Paper Art", "African Masks", "Ice Stones", "Ancient Egyptian Sculpture", "Luxembourg City Scapes" and "Kuna Molas."

As far as I can tell, the only two possible cases in which these unknown artists could be women is in the Kuna Molas and the Navajo Baskets.

That is less than four percent of all of the artists on all of the episodes. And neither of those cases are definitively art produced by women. Certainly not art by a single woman. And most certainly not art that was sold in the market for art, by a single woman.

On the music side, the situation is even worse. Not a single composer is female. You've got several appearances by the usual suspects: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Bizet, Grieg, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky and sure, the music is great and highly recognizable, but don't women make music? And hasn't anyone made music since the early 1900s?

As an aside, the art is also heavily weighted toward the pre-modern era (despite appearances by Warhol, Kandinsky and Lichtenstein). Leaving behind the feminist issue for a moment, wouldn't you like to see the Einsteins tackle a contemporary artist like Tino Sehgal? Could June roll around the floor, or jump up and down while Annie sings "This is propaganda/you know/you know!" Or could Quincy and June (or even better Leo!) leap into an embrace resembling the kiss on the beach in From Here to Eternity?

After each show I feel compelled to whisk Big off to the Walker Art Center to show him that women do make art (at the very least that they have and continue to direct the entire center!), and that not all composers are dead white guys.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Year of Dog: Posessing the Best Traits of Human Nature

Subtitle: Not the Year of the Rat: "People born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm and attraction for the opposite sex."

Eight and I are reading Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin.

We got hooked by her books a few years ago. BioMom bought me a few of the board books (for readers 4-6) for Father's Day because the father in the stories is called Baba. After that, we've just loved the stories and only recently found these two newer books for older readers (Year of the Dog and the Year of the Rat). Once we even took the book Dim Sum for Everyone to a dim sum restaurant to make sure that we were trying all of the kinds of dim sum that we had been reading about!

Year of the Dog is really an interesting read. It is about a young girl (I suppose she is around 10) whose parents were born in Taiwan. She has decided that, being the year of the dog, that she will 'find herself' -- or at least discover her talents, maybe what she wants to be when she grows up. The chapters are peppered with her Mom's great little stories about growing up in Taiwan.

Last night though, one of the chapters tackled the issue of race in America in such a subtle and expert way that I forgot I was reading a children's book.

In the chapter the girl is excited about trying out for Dorothy in her school's upcoming production of the Wizard of Oz.

She is so excited about the tryout that she practices "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" day and night and thinks about the production constantly.

At one point a friend of hers says incredulously: "YOU are trying out for Dorothy?" and then follows up with "Dorothy is not Chinese!!"

Our protagonist doesn't question her friend, does not end up trying out, and, ultimately, plays the part of a dwarf (were THEY Chinese???). She asks her Mom that night why Chinese people aren't important, explaining that she doesn't see Chinese people as the main players in any movies, books, or television shows.

I literally teach this (as it pertains to women and/or people of color in the labor market and/or women in economics), or attempt to, in my Gender and Economics class. But I should give up, because I can't do the subject an ounce of the justice that Grace Lin did in that one, short (3 page?) chapter.

Eight and I started discussing what that would feel like, to be Chinese, or African American, or some other minority and to not see yourself on television, or in the movies or whatever.

Then, I asked, not so subtly, if she ever felt like that because she had two moms.

Me: How does that make you feel?

She: I guess I feel like it makes me unique. We're different, and I like that.

I let it sit a bit.

She: Can I tell you something that happened?

Me: Sure!

Aside: this is the largest (and only) piece of parenting advice that I can give someone. If you give them the space, they MIGHT talk. Without it, they WON'T.

She: [Snotty, OVERderprivileged girl at school with a cell phone and divorced parents in Second Grade*] said '[a]re [Eight's] moms LESBIANS??????'

My heart skipped a beat in the way that it used to when I was in high school and heard that word and just KNEW that it wasn't about something or someone good.

Then it resumed. We have started using the words 'gay' and 'lesbian' with Eight, in a fairly natural way. As in, "Ellen is a lesbian like your mom and I. You know, she dates women, instead of men. . . . Isn't she cool???"

Me: Oh. . . And what happened? How did that make you feel?

She: And another time, I overheard [another girl] saying something to someone like '[d]on't be so gay!' and I said to her '[girl], you know I have two moms. . . Why would you say that?'

Me (beaming inside): Wow. . . ! I'm proud of you for standing up for yourself! Did you ever say anything to [first girl]?

She: No, a friend of mine told me she said that about me, so I couldn't talk to her without hurting my friend.

Me: Well, I want you to know that I've known about myself for a really long time. Maybe since I was 11 or 12 years old. . . And I am comfortable being a lesbian. . . I am proud of who I am.

She: . . .

Me: You might hear people using terms like 'gay' or 'lesbian' to be mean to other kids. . . . I guess what I'm saying is that you don't need to protect us. . . Okay? We love you and want you to be happy and comfortable.

She: I know. . . I know. . .

*I wasn't judgmental about this girl, well not THIS judgmental, until I heard this story. Now all hell's broke loose.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Minnesota Winter: Bookmarked By Two Holidays

If Minnesota had another Six-Word-Biography* it would be:
Snow on Thanksgiving, snow on Easter.

*See this for an excellent review of Not Quite What I Was Planning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Could Be Converted. . .

To an Obama fan.

Check out this exerpt on his speech on race:

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

Read the entire text at Huffington.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Gender Police. . . Literally

This is a real live story of gender police that cornered and interrogated a friend of mine and her son.

I've told you about these friends of mine on this blog before, but I took the entry down because it was a low-moment of processing out loud on my behalf, so I'll introduce them again.

We (us four and their four) met at a GLBT ECFE class a bit over a year ago. Our girls were 3 and 6 respectively, and our boys were about 18 months and 13 months respectively . Over the course of the past year and a half or so we've spent some time together and gotten to know each other, our kids get along well, as do the adults and I've been following one of the adult's experience while being "on the market" in academia--a long and arduous process that takes a toll on the best of us.

Anyway, their son, I'll call him "The Prescient One" or "TPO" for short, has always seemed, at least to me, well beyond his age in awareness. So much so that when we met I literally could not even comprehend that a child could be that aware at that age. Even now, I am often astounded at his composure (particularly relative to Big) in certain situations. They are able to do things and take him to places (at two-and-a-half) that I wouldn't dream of taking Big.

So, while I would not describe TPO as being particularly feminine in how we usually understand the term, he's got two things going for him that make the casual observer interpret him as being a girl: 1. he enjoys wearing dresses and pink clothing, usually associated with girls of his age and 2. his parents are observing the Jewish tradition of "Upsherin." Meaning "cutting off", it is a haircutting ceremony (Kabbalistic in origin), held when a Jewish boy is three years old*. So, his hair is getting quite long and, again, such a length is usually associated with little girls of his age, despite the fact that longish hair is now "in" for boys.

Now, on to the story, retold by me. So the other day, somehow, the kids broke the the Stay-At-Home-Mom's (SAHM) glasses. Because they are so requisite to her daily living, she added the chore of going out to the MOA to some hour-eyes joint to replace her glasses quickly.

I couldn't dream of taking Big within a half-block of a glasses store, that is, unless I wanted to go into debt from having him break most of the merchandise in the store. Big is the etymology of the saying "bull in a china shop".

So, they went to the store, TPO in tow as she had an eye exam and chose a pair of glasses. Being two, he got bored at some point, and she (being the very present mom that she is) paused her agenda to play with him and refocus his attention to another matter while she finished up her business.

While waiting for the glasses to be created in the promised one-hour, she had planned on passing time riding the rides with TPO and maybe getting a snack or something. They headed out of the shop and asked the three mall police approaching them where the nearest elevator was.

Curiously, one of the three police then started asking her questions.

Why did you come out to the Mall today, Ma'am?

She explained, though it must have been obvious, with her beducktaped glasses, and their proximity to the glasses store, that they were there to buy glasses, ride some rides, spend some greenbacks and be on their way.

They pursued their questioning.

We noticed that you keep referring to your daughter as a 'boy'. . . .

She insisted on his sex, and at some point even offered, to their dismay, to prove it to them.

At that point they backed down.

I'm not sure exactly what followed or how they all moved on with their business, but they eventually did.

I wondered what TPO felt about this interrogation, but my fellow SAHM assured me that he was focused on the rides. The damage was felt, certainly, by her, at least. This just goes to show you how deep our expectations about gender go. We're not exactly sure of their motives, but those police were seemingly checking her out regarding her sanity and, possibly even for some child abuse or neglect. I mean how awful a parent she must be, referring to her girl as though she were boy! Thank God it wasn't the other way around! They'd have had to call Child Protective Services and cart her off to the nearest detention facility!

Horrifying. When are we going to let our boxes go? Does TPO have to wait until he gets into Barnard College to be free to be himself anywhere outside of his own home?

*The irony here is that this tradition has historically been one of inculcating gender into the child's ideology. According to Yoram Bilu (a professor of anthropology and psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), "As in the rite of circumcision, and even more so, the ideal of gender differentiation prevails in the ritual haircut. At age three, after the biological, mother-supervised functions of weaning and sphincter control have been achieved, the child is appropriated from the female world and placed in the center of male territory. ... the first haircut at age three is a powerful social statement that the permissive nongendered, undersocialized period of early childhood, under the protective cover of the mother, is over. The first haircut is viewed as the beginning of the child's education, the first step in the all-encompassing, primarily male world of the commandments and Torah" (italics, mine).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gender Nonconformance on College Campuses

Alissa Quart's article "When Girls Will Be Boys" in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine discusses how college campuses -- particularly wommen's colleges -- are dealing with gender, its fluidity, and when college kids transition from one sex to another within their single-sex institutions.

There is a "growing population of transgender students at the nation's colleges and universities."

Today a larger percentage of transitions occur in adolescence or young adulthood. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that between a quarter of a percent and 1 percent of the U.S. population is transgender — up to three million Americans — though other estimates are lower and precise figures are difficult to come by.

The author suspects that this may be due to parents who, as opposed to those of a previous generation, "now allow their kids to choose whether they are referred to as 'he' or 'she' and whether to wear boys' or girls' clothing."

Additionally 147 colleges and universities now include "gender identity and expression" in their nondiscrimination policies.

The conventional thinking is that trans people feel they are 'born in the wrong body.' But today many students who identify as trans are seeking not simply to change their sex but to create an identity outside or between established genders — they may refuse to use any gender pronouns whatsoever or take a gender-neutral name but never modify their bodies chemically or surgically. These students are also considered part of the trans community, though they are known as either gender nonconforming or genderqueer rather than transmen or transmale.

I wonder if this is one logical conclusion of choice feminism in conjunction with the breakdown of traditional gender roles. People can be free to 'perform' any gender that suits them.

'I think gender is a spectrum — gender is more complicated than sex,' Rey continued. He sees everyone, and not just transmen, as having 'their own gender,' just as they might have their own personality or temperament. Rey’s point isn’t merely academic. A good number of gender nonconforming students I spoke to at women’s colleges agreed with him. Most did not have operations but rather defined gender simply by how they experienced it, seeing themselves as existing on a 'gender continuum' with their more conventionally feminine college friends. I met with one such student, Jordan Akerley, a 22-year-old senior at Wellesley. As we sat in the student-run on-campus cafe where Akerley works, Akerely explained what it is like to live out a theory of identity that doesn’t exactly conform to one gender or the other.

I applaud these new freedoms, but worry about what will replace the social shortcut that gender roles allowed for us in the past. Sure, gender is confining, but it also had meaning and served as a discourse and bargaining shortcut. As people become more comfortable with gender fluidity, does that mean that gender roles disappear or will they just morph into something else?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Night of a Single Time-Out and an Early Bed-Time

So Big and Eight delivered a one-two punch to us over the course of last couple of nights.

As you know, we broke down and got Eight a Kit American Girl Doll for her birthday.

As an aside, I have turned into a big fan of the whole thing (as opposed to my earlier entry). Last summer, after a bout of some sassy 'tween lingo sprouting from then-Seven's mouth, we cut out most television, but particularly those shows that portray sarcasm, put downs and other such behavior as 'funny' (particularly Hanna Montana and the Suite Life). Since then and coupled with Eight asking for and getting a doll with all of her (paperback) accoutrements, we feel like we've staved off teen hood for at least a bit, despite popular and media pressures for kids to grow up a bit faster.

We did not, however, anticipate the short-term problems that the gift might employ on our little nuclear structure.

Despite being one of those babies that slept through the night at four months, Eight, over the past three years or so, has worsened her sleeping habits. We're not sure if she is simply a morning person living in a land of night-owls or if she is just a light sleeper, or what, but she generally wakes up in the five o-clock hour. Now we've let go of the identification and simply consider her a nocturnal entity, but on the other-end of the day's rotation from ourselves, i.e. the morning.

We used to spend much energy trying to change this, or at least attempting to measure correlations with her wake up time: bed time, sugar input, allowance of television on weekend mornings, the effect of having to go to school, not having to go to school, sunlight, temperature, daylight savings time etc. etc. etc. I got so obsessive about it that I would freak out if we had people over that stayed past 9 p.m. in anticipation of what we lovingly have termed the "bezatch factor" that we would expect to deal with the next day.

Finally, and particularly after she moved into her own room on a different floor of the house in which her nocturnal antics could be enjoyed privately, that is without any externality on other members of the household (before moving downstairs, she would come into our room -- often when it was still dark -- flash on the lights, make herself comfortable on the chair next to my side, pick up a book, and end up gently tap-tap-tapping my bed as she rocked and read. . . At FIVE a.m.).

Anyway. Since getting Kit and her 'book set' (last friday), she has, we suspect begin waking in the FOUR o'clock hour to read (Eight reported today that she had finished the sixth and last book of the series. BioMom back-of-the-enveloped that since she and Eight had STARTED with the first chapter of book five the night before, and then calculated the time necessary to have finished that and the last book at some assumed rate of reading on behalf of Eight).

It's gonna be a rough night.

Overheard often at our house are the following two phrases:
"Please don't talk to us like that" and "Ugh! She must be exhausted."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Night of Ten Thousand Time Outs

So Big and I had a show-down the other night.

All signs were beginning to point in that direction, but it happened on a night that BioMom "wasn't sure" about how long drinkie-poos would last with a friend of hers.

It could just as easily have been on a night on which my patience could have been likened to a full-bladdered puppy upon seeing his adult-companion drive up after a long-day's work, or say, a seven-year-old, two days before her birthday, knowing she's getting the American girl doll, "Kit" (read: little or no sleep). But it wasn't. I was as patient as the spring is in taking a hold of Minnesota this year.

Between around 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. depending on timing and length of his nap, Big begins to transform into a werewolf, irrespective of the waxing or waning of the moon.

Of course, this transmogrification correlates with lots of other transitions: Seven coming home from school, me (sometimes) coming home from school, Big coming home from Mother-of-Four's, dinner needing to get on the table, BioMom heading home, piano practice needing to get done, baths needing to get taken and all other sorts of requisite happenstances du jour occuring in the average American household during the gloaming.

He doesn't melt down, exactly. Rarely is there a tantrum. He doesn't pick on Seven or vice versa, so, infrequent is the sibling rivalry (yet. . . . I know we're not free and clear of that).

He takes, instead, to what I've now labeled: "dumping".

Big had dumped my glass of water with ice, dumped his dinner, dumped the collective bowl of sugar snap peas, and gone on to dump his bucket of cars under the table, as well as the box of Girl Scout Samoas that waited for us on the counter (yeah, they all broke as a result, too).

But it was the cat food that broke my camel's back.
I didn't freak. I just decided that enough was enough. I had gotten to THAT point. You know the point I'm talking about. The point where you look at yourself in the mirror and instead of your face you see a scratchy mat with the word "Welcome" on it and you know something or someone's about to change.

He was going to a) help me pick it up and b) not do it again. Ever.

We parents get tricked by this whole development thing. First they're babies, then toddlers, then kids and there are all these gray areas in-between the stages. Gray areas in which we aren't sure if they exactly know what they're doing. Areas in which we cannot ascribe purposefulness or intent.

He's in the "thinking" stage now (18 months to 3 years)-- exploring cause and effect. At first, I think he delighted in the fact of gravity.

If I lift up this bowl of cat food and turn it over, its contents will fall to the ground at some rate, he might suspect, related to the density of the object and the distance to the ground. . . Will it happen again if I turn over the bowl again? Will the food fall as fast or spill as broadly onto the floor? Into the hallway? Down the stairs, perhaps?

But his "thinking" about cause and effect has seemingly moved from gravity to parental response.

Oh! Look! When I lift up this bowl of cat food, Baba looks over at me. No. Clarification: she looks over at me abruptly. Yeah. That's right. Now, what will happen if I start to turn it over? She RUNS toward me! Wow! Look at that! I got her up off her ass and on her feet! Damn! That was easy! Now, what happens to her if the cat food spills all over the floor? What will happen if I start throwing the dumped cat food all around the kitchen?. . . Yeah! Like that song: All around the kitchen cockadoodledoodledoo! I finally get the MEANING of that stupid song!!!

So yeah, that shit-eating grin he gets on his face has enabled me to attribute actual MOTIVE to your actions!

So that night, I decided I had picked up one too many cat morsels.

Alfie Kohn sat on my shoulder judging the whole process. He is generally against the use of time outs in favor of "nonpunative strategies". His argument is that time-outs end up feeling like a withdrawal of the parent's love rather than a way to support your child in an obviously difficult moment.

Instead of a time out, he suggests that we should "offer a child the choice of retreating to a comfortable and comforting place when he's going berserk" or to "gently remove him from the situation and the place where the problem is happening--but not from you."

I tried a hybrid-parenting technique: timeouts in comfort, with my full attention. Kohn reminds us to "attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts".

I watched Big dump the cat food, and then after I had cleaned it up, dump it again. Motive? Not malicious to be sure. But at that point, motive didn't really matter. Outcome mattered.

Essentially I took him to our comfy chair where we usually cuddle together in the morning, and told him that he was in a 'time out' for a bit and that after he had calmed down, that we would, together, clean up the cat food.

At first he thought it was quite a little joke. He would come out and try to simply get on with his evening. When I insisted that it was time to clean up the cat food, he would refuse. So, back to the chair we went.

This went on and on.

And on and on.

At one point he came out and we had about half of the cat food picked up when he dumped it again.

After about a half hour of this pattern, after hearing Eight splashing in the bath tub, he relented.

We picked up the cat food together, hugged, and headed down to meet her.

Kohn concludes that:

"[S]ome new research demonstrates that 'the terrible twos' transition is not universal'; its existence seems to depend on how much 'parents attempt to assert their authority' and perhaps, on what their ultimate goals are for their children."

He's not too terrible of a two, I guess I'm just hoping that means that I'm not too much of a fascist.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Jumping Into Bed: I'm not ready for this sort of thing

So tonight BioMom was in charge of putting kids to bed as I met my brother for coffee at the airport during his layover.

As an aside, I think he's turning into our dad. Our actual live conversation in scheduling this little tet a tet, went something like this:

Me, picking up my ringing cell phone: Hello?

Him: [Blogauthor]?

Not -- Hi [Blogauthor]! How are you?

Not -- Hi [Blogauthor]! I'm going to be in town on Sunday, can you make some time for me?

Me: Um. Pat? . . .[My twin brothers sound EXACTLY alike. Often I need context to tell them apart]. Yeah. It's me. You called my cell phone. . . .

Him (sounding not unlike Tarzan): I'm going to that Jesuit college in Milwaukee and flying through Minneapolis. Can you meet me? Have present for [Eight]. Call Saturday. We set up time. We meet at airport. Grunt. Grunt Grunt. Don't want to carry bag for nuthin'

So BioMom was in charge. In charge at night. In charge, at night during the witching hour. In charge, at night, during the witching our, after a time-change, and at the culmination of birthday extravaganza weekend.

You can see why I love this woman. All I had to do was leave, chat with my brother, and then return home to a quiet house and my gal doin' the dishes.

I should have come of age in the '50s... Well, without the sexism, racism, and violence. But yeah. The 50s....

She reported that she had read Big some stories while Eight (!) relaxed in her (relatively newly acquired) own room. When the books were over Big rushed into his room (he rushes everywhere. Sauntering is not in his repertoire.). He beat her to his crib and by the time she got there, she had only time to witness him effectuating the Fosbury Flop.

Unfortunately, as we all know, what goes up, must come down: if he can get in, I'm sure he's only days away from getting out.

On to the next stage!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Eight Ball!

Happy Birthday Seven.... No... EIGHT!!!

It's your golden birthday, eight on the eighth in two-thousand-EIGHT!!!

Oh, and, as usual, on your birthday, it is International Women's Day!

Since many of these blog-stories revolve around bits and pieces of you and me and our struggle together in growing up (both as parent and child), I don't have monthly newsletters devoted to your development, so how can I summarize a year? How do I measure a year in a life?

"How about . . . lo-ove?"

Not unlike the past three, four, maybe five years, this one felt like another pendulum swing toward a low at the half-year and then back up as we have approached the whole.

Lets just say that you and I have explored our differences this year.

Last week in ECFE though, I had an epiphany that has, in all seriousness, changed the way I see you on a daily basis. The teacher reminded us that we could choose WHO to be as parents and suggested identifying our goal -- WHO we want to be in any given situation, and then using that goal to ground our actions.

I decided I wanted to ground myself as a loving parent and it has made all the difference.

Imagine how doing so changes your daily actions. "Loving" rather than "rushed" or "busy" or "exhausted" or "stretched to the limit"?

In the words of Alfie Kohn: "Therefore, give them affection (which they need) without limit, without reservations, and without excuse. Pay as much attention to them as you can, regardless of mood or circumstance. Let them know you're delighted to be with them, that you care about them no matter what happens."

In learning to stand as a loving person, I've taken to taking you for who you are and asking questions to clarify your actions and intentions. What has been fascinating to me is how I would never have known what you meant most of the time, and therefore who you ARE. Who you are becoming.

Eight: I am delighted in you. Happy birthday, Sweetie. We love you SO much.

Here are a few ghosts of birthdays past, including a video that highlights the OCD in BioMom:

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Irregular Monthly Newsletter: Nearly 27 Months

Hey Big --

I'm writing this early in anticipation of being overwhelmed by your sister's upcoming birthday extravaganza which falls a day before you turn, exactly 27 months. And having skipped last month, there's a lot to report. You've really become a full-fledged little boy now. At once loving, sweet, open and caring, and at another moment wild, violent, loud and rude.

According to the What to Expect: The Toddler Years book, you're doing just fine: using 50+ words, combining words, following a two-step command, etc. etc.

What they DON'T give much advice about are those things we know that you know (that we know that you know) how to do, but refuse. Sure you can "wash and dry hands" and "brush teeth, with help" but will you?

The answer: only if I tie you down in a straight jacket and endure screams and tears.

I exaggerate.

But seriously, what's with these questions from parents in that book? What were they expecting? A trained monkey? Here's one: "As if the accidental spills weren't bad enough, lately my son has decided it's great fun to spill his drinks intentionally--on the floor, the table, himself. I don't know whether to laugh or cry."

Dude. The other day after you had taken a bowl full of black beans and tipped it over your head, played air hockey (fairly unsuccessfully) with carrot sticks on the table, and used Jello as if it were finger paint on the walls (all in those nano-seconds it takes for me to go to the bathroom, pick up after the previous fiasco, or just wipe your nose) you reached across the table, a finger stretching toward my (glass) glass of ice water and, with a shit-eating grin on your face, tapped it ever-so-slightly so that it would, fall over the edge in slow motion while my "NOOOOOOOOOO!" echoed throughout the house.

I didn't know you had slow-motion powers!

We got you this little bike without pedals (the "Skuut" which you pronounce "sooc!"). When it arrived, you could tell immediately, by the pictures on the box what it was and began searching the house for "scissors" so that you could get to the business of opening the box. BioMom was home for lunch that day and we sat down to our salads only to hear you pushing and grunting the box into the kitchen: "Here you go, Baba! Baba! Here you go! I get scissors. Here you go!!!" I waited for your nap to put it together and when you woke up, I felt like I was watching some Disney production proclaiming love at first sight. At night now, your routine isn't complete without giving "Sooc!" a hug and a kiss.

In the above picture, this was the response to my prompting "look up!" Taking me absolutely literally, you looked up. Not at me.

You've started playing make believe, to BioMom and I's surprise. I remember when Seven started playing make-believe with dolls and, really, anything within reach (sometimes salt and pepper shakers or forks and knives while at restaurants). She was around three (we think) and so when you started having your trucks and cars take naps, it seemed a bit unusual. You now often report that one train hit another, or that one car gave another a hug ("hugs!") or some other anthropomorphism. Often cars are found at the dinner table participating in our nightly eating ritual.

Recently, while reading books, you pretend to do things with some of the pictures you see. For example, just tonight when we got to the end of Go dog! Go!, when all the dogs climb the tree to a dog party, you pretended to pick up the cake and eat it, once in a while pinching a piece for me. Then we moved into this more extravagant game of picking up the presents, unwrapping them and declaring what was inside. At one point you pretended to open up a ball, and then proceeded to throw the imaginary ball, expecting me to retrieve it all over the room. Well, I got tired of pretending to get up and get it after you had thrown it from one corner to the other of the room, so I then pretended to intercept your throws! Your last throw got by me and headed toward the television in our room, ultimately smashing the screen. You weren't too upset.

You, however, don't eat much. Still. What is surprising is how you maintain your, (ahem) figure. Recently at gym class, someone went to pick you up and was astonished at how "sturdy" you were! If I give you a decent breakfast, you might not eat another bite the entire day. And you still hate meat. I think in your life, you've eaten about five bites of meat. And that includes the broth in our alphabet noodle chicken soup.

I'm increasing my vegetarian repertoire in your honor.

Here's another subheading from the What To Expect book: "What is important for your toddler to know: What's a Mommy? A Daddy? Sorting through gender roles."

To be fair, despite the unambiguous title of the section, the authors acknowledge all types of families including having two moms or two dads. . . "Yet, although many of the sterotypes that were popular in the sitcoms of the fifties and the sixties have been shattered, teh remnants linger in many homes. While Mom may work as many hours as Dad outside of the home, she may still do the Mrs. Cleaver's-share of the housework."

The other day Seven was off of school and we had had a playdate with a couple of girls in her class whose parents are divorced. On the way home she asked why she couldn't stay longer and we said that they were going over to their Dad's house. A few minutes later we heard big say "Baba is Dad." It wasn't entirely clear as his enunciation isn't exactly stellar yet, but BioMom was fairly sure that's what he said. I responded, "yeah! I guess that's right!" Your pronouncement, Big, was really evolved I think. Not only are you starting to get gender roles, but you're able to distinguish between the roles we play as his parents and the roles we play around the house. I'm mostly at home with you (BioMom's mostly at work) yet I'm more of the "dad" and she's more the "mom".

I love you so much, sweetie.