Tag Archives: family

Swimming in Ridiculousness

baby swimming with pacifierA good friend who lives in chichi Northern Virginia described how parents jockey for their children’s position in educational institutions, taking a comprehensive assessment approach. They quizzed instructors, toured facilities, reviewed budgets of these organizations, and commiserated with parents of alumni, all before the enrollment advocacy began. As these things go, there are only so many available spaces, and many, many applicants.

Kindergarten is rough on parents.

To me, this was lunacy. Our friend weighed what seemed like perverse, contradictory goals: push for my child to go to the “best” primary school in the district, thus entering combat with other parental units who would fight to blood to get their kid in the most special kindergarten in Arlington, or opting  for what was considered a “less than” school where some of the pressure to excel would be removed. Certainly parents are told to push for only the best options when it comes to their offspring, but then shouldn’t we question what “best” means? And many a successful adult has come out of a mediocre school and/or rough childhood. Looking only for the highest ranked education and the most resource-laden home misses the point that often, people rise above their histories. People are more than the cumulative effect of tick marks on some bucket list of success.

Yes, I have my opinions. And to put things in context, this Virginia friend, the one who sent her daughter to the less desirable school? That school handed out iPads to every student. Such is life in the wealthy counties of the state. Read More…

Mission Extremely Challenging, If Not Impossible

cramped hotel room as exemplified by squished catFive days we’re here in Portland, ostensibly for Susanne’s participation in a work conference, but I managed to finagle a reading on our last day, so both of us have a career moment or two while we’re in town. The rest of our visit we get to see friends and some family, and take in the riches of urban life. While there are several nice upsides to living in Walla Walla, like no traffic or smog, cheap rent, and gorgeous sunny skies on most days, we’ve discovered we need frequent small breaks to nearby cities. Portland is three-and-a-half hours away by car, most of the drive along the picturesque Columbia River, the gem blue water reflecting the rusty, hard etched hills until the Cascade Mountains take over and pepper the terrain with thousands of evergreens. Leaving southeast Washington is a joy when the weather is agreeable.

On the downside, all three of us are crammed into a decidedly not large hotel room, and nowhere in the complimentary Book of Mormon is there any advice on sudden downsizing of life and provisions with baby. I’ve looked. Read More…

My Kid and His Invisible Chrysalis

The baby has made it clear he’s in a new growth spurt. Far from having an amazing lexicon or masterful charades skills, he just screams and eats a lot, and then one of the parents in the room will run to the interwebs and look up the under-12-months milestones for development. Not the sitting up, rolling over, crawling development, but the non-cognitive stuff like tooth appearance and those aforementioned spurts. Emile’s week 6 and month 3 spurts came a little early, so it’s not surprising we’d see the sixth month dash at 5.5 months. It has me wondering if he’ll grow into an impatient pain in the ass, but then I remind myself that it’s just too soon to tell.

I picked him up yesterday morning and had the sensation that someone had photoshopped my live child to make him 3 percent larger than the night before. His head, hands, shoulders, all of him seemed to take up more space and weigh more. I remembered that the further we are from the core of the planet, the less gravity pulls on us, so I briefly considered taking him to the top of Mt. McKinley and hoping he’d be easier to hold there. Probably the pool at the local YMCA was an easier way to get to the same outcome, however. He’s still about a month away from being allowed into the baby swim class. Read More…

Our Nefarious Sleep Routine

My brother-in-law owns an extremely expensive camera with some sort of whatsafiggy that lets him take time-lapse video. He’s also a fan of nature, so he plans to trek up to Alaska and do some time-lapse filming on the side of a glacier wall. I’m sure the final film will be visually fascinating and pensive. He’ll probably win an award.

But I think it would be much more amusing to set the camera up in our house and film how many times Susanne and I get up out of bed though the course of the night to deal with one baby issue or another.

Yes, I wait for the Wee One’s cues: yawning, a hand reaching up to slowly rub an eye, that stern expression that tells me he’s starting to fight his tiredness. Finally, after roughly five months, he is getting closer to a schedule. I do have quiet concerns that we’ll never really be on an actual schedule, kind of like those graphs in calculus where one is only ever approaching but never reaching infinity. Read More…

How to Test Nipple Sensitivity the Painful Way

Setting: Pajama party, 1985, East Windsor, New Jersey, in the suburbs. About six or seven teenage girls are hanging out in a family room, watching racy movies and nibbling at chocolate chip cookies and potato chips. It is something like 1AM. The movie ends and conversation starts up, mostly about who’s dating whom, which teachers at school are the worst, nothing terribly unexpected as topics go. And then someone arrives at the bright idea of playing truth or dare. Dares are written down on scraps of paper and tossed into a hat, should a game participant select dare over truth for their turn. Dares seem to be winning out as the choice of the night, and quickly all of the dares are exhausted.

I figure that we’ve gone through the worst of them, so when it’s my turn, I pick dare and consider myself the cleverest person of the evening. It only takes about five seconds to reconsider handing over my mantle.

“Put this chip clip on your boob.” She held it out to me. It was all bright yellow and innocent-looking. Read More…

One-Sided Conversations with Baby

Emile sleepingOn any given day, I need to get a lot of stuff done. Most of us do, after all. I’m living off from my to do list at the moment, because I tend to lose lists these days, what with half of my consciousness preoccupied with WHERE IS BABY IS BABY OKAY kinds of questions.

Also affecting my ability to get all of my stuff done is the baby himself. Emile is omnipresent in the house, mostly due to the fact that this winter, he does not prefer alone time. So he comes around with us as we operate in each room of the house. Yes, this slows down progress–for instance, I am making it through this blog post one sentence an hour.

To further entertain him but also to increase the odds that I can get stuff done, I talk to him, explaining whatever is going on around us. It’s banal for the most part, and when I do it while cooking I feel a bit like a chubby, trans Rachel Ray. But sometimes I surprise myself with the things that come out of my mouth. Read More…

Advice for Young Writers

Holed up in the Ozarks for Thanksgiving this week, I had occasion to meet a new step-niece from my brother’s recent marriage. She is engaging, geeky, obsessed with the Potterverse, and drawn to but nervous about writing. From the other side of my mother’s house, I could hear a whispered conversation between my sister-in-law and the young writer: Show him your story. No, no, I can’t. Come on, he can give you pointers. He’ll laugh at me, she said, the common worry of all writers who haven’t reached a minimum threshold of confidence in their craft. Then her mother’s reassurance, and a grudging, I’ll let him look at it tomorrow, from the girl.

Fifteen minutes before they left to go home after the holiday, her mother brought in her notebook computer to my room, and quietly asked if I’d read it. It was the kind of exchange more often reserved for clandestine deals in an urban alley. I squinted at the tiny screen and scrolled through the prose in a few minutes. Read More…

All About Poop

stack of diapersBefore Emile was born, I made promises to myself about what kind of limits I’d put on conversation topics that I’d heard from other parents over the years–things I never wanted to be caught saying in public. These included both specific statements and more general categories. Roughly, my list of verboten discussion areas included:

  • Insisting my child was a prodigy of anything–music, verbal or written ability, athletic prowress
  • Commenting on how my child would someday be a heartbreaker because he or she was extremely attractive or charming
  • Talking about my child’s genome (hey, I’ve seen this parent) as evidence of future greatness
  • Doling out details about my child’s defecation

I’m sure there are more things on the list, but it’s 4 in the morning and he’s just fallen back asleep. Read More…

Baby Baby Garbledygook

crying baby cartoonBaby experts and many parents have mentioned to us that Week 6 of babyhood is something of a nadir for new parents. The child’s night sleeping might be awful, dovetailing horribly with what is at that point moderate-term sleep loss for the caretakers. But bedrock being what it is, it’s also a sign that stress will soon lessen, life will feel somewhat easier, and soon enough, the baby will respond to coaching on sleep cycles and training.

Here is where I should mention that we have just entered Week 5. We’ve descended past chaos and stress and entered the realm of second guessing, especially now that we’re chronic participants in sleep loss. Whereas last week it was my foot-eye coordination, now some of my higher faculties are involved; I can’t do long division in my head right now, and yes, I double back on what I’ve learned about the baby thus far.

In some ways, this makes parenting more entertaining. Read More…

Raising Che

che guevara onesieA scant two weeks ago, my partner brought our little boy into the world. I was shocked—not only was the baby not the dragon we’d seen on the ultrasound, but I really anticipated we’d be having a girl. I don’t have a good reason why, save to say that confirmation bias may have had something to do with it. I was more than willing to disregard any old wives’ tale that indicated boyhood, and focused instead on the ones predicting for a girl. And I promise, I didn’t and don’t have a personal preference; I’m astounded and thrilled to be a parent, at long last. I have already parented a collection of cats, hundreds of stuffed animals, my own parents at times, previous partners (never Susanne), and assorted coworkers (not the majority of you, certainly).

It could have something to do with my own frame of reference for childhood, but I think the more likely culprit is that I know the narratives I want to relay to my girl child. They’re all about empowerment, finding her voice, locating her strengths and meting those out wisely. I’d even borrow a little from the Girl Power folks, at least, I was ready to. I had braced myself for conversations about Bratz Dolls, Disney princesses, and the omnipresent pipeline of Pink Things.

As a freely bleeding heart liberal who’s been described by some as “left of Mao,” I am all ready to raise a girl in the entropy of 21st Century Earth, in the still-richest country on said planet. Read More…

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