Firsts.

With an only (or an oldest) child, the first few years are a barrage of “firsts”, which is both exciting and exhausting at the same time. First solid food? Fun. First immunizations? Stressful. First fever? Horrifying.

Last night marked the beginning of The Who’s first stomach bug (and I am really hoping that tonight marks the end of it.) But, despite how much experience I’ve had caring for children, some things still catch me off-guard. Puking is one of them. It’s not that I’m particularly grossed out by it or that I am afraid it’s a symptom of something worse, but it just sort of — halts me. Yesterday, when The Who chucked it up all over m* as she lifted him from his crib, I walked down the hall, back to his bedroom, back down the hall, and back down to his bedroom before saying, meekly, “I don’t know what to do.” M* told me to get some towels and a bucket and then I was able to snap back into action as the competent adult that I am.

And then when it came time to decide whether to send him to daycare this morning or not, I felt a similar sense of complete befuddlement. Instinct, instinct, I reminded myself. Trust your instinct. And so I looked at him and he was happily drinking his cocoa and playing and chatting and I thought — well, ok. Clearly he’s ok. But then — he wasn’t and so, in the end, we kept him home. (And I’m keeping him home tomorrow, too, for the record because although it seems the gastro distress is over, he was still a warm, droopy rag at bedtime tonight.)

Sometimes this parenting thing feels like a piece of cake. Most of the time, actually. Sure, it’s exhausting and frustrating, but it doesn’t feel actually hard for the most part. We make it through most days without much actual strife. But some of these firsts really throw me for a loop.

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Cooking.

I can’t cook. I mean, I can, I guess. But it’s not easy and I don’t like it and I know it’s my cross to bear, but ugh.

Tonight, I made chili after agonizing all day long about what to make. Chili. That’s what I came up with after hours of brainstorming and so much avoidance that I actually fell asleep for a few minutes while I was thinking about it. Now, ok. Chili’s not gourmet, but it’s not a horrible meal. I added chips and guacamole and shredded cheese, but as it turned out, the chili was terrible. Too salty. I didn’t plan ahead and so I didn’t have a spice packet on hand and I had to quick-Google a recipe for seasoning and then rush to get it done and I didn’t have seasoned salt and so I just used salt, but clearly too much and it was just yucky.

Anyway, the point here is not how disappointing my dinner was tonight; the point is how much I just generally suck at dinner and how I’d really rather feed my family take-out every single night. Except, of course I wouldn’t. Because I want The Who to develop healthy eating and because m* deserves decent meals after her 12-hour days and because it’s the gig I signed up for. But it stresses me out and bums me out and I hate it.

I always feel so inadequate when I cook or think about cooking or plan meals. I have one friend who loves cooking. (I mean, I’m sure I have many friends who love cooking, but I am talking about one specific one here.) Her husband comes home from work at 4pm and so she generally gets time alone in the kitchen to prepare a fresh dinner every night. She always has produce to feed an army and makes things like sesame-crusted tofu and — get this — her family eats it! Do you know what would happen if I put that down in front of my family? The Who would be delighted at the sight of it and then say, “I don’t want sesame tofu. I want mac-n-cheese.” And I’d say, “We’re not having mac-n-cheese tonight. We’re having tofu.” And he’d eat none of it and eventually I would offer him some jello and that would be that. M* would eat it and smile, but she wouldn’t be happy. Tofu is no kind of meal for a meat-n-potatoes eater.

I am lucky, though. M* is always so appreciative of the effort I put into cooking (when I put the effort in) and her clear support has rubbed off on The Who, who often says, on his own, “Thanks for cooking dinner, Mama! Delicious dinner, Mama!” I know I’m lucky. I know I’m lucky because I really don’t deserve that kind of praise for a job that is rarely well-done and always done begrudgingly. I gotta step it up. I gotta find a way to like it more. I have a lot of meals ahead of me.

Goo-un.

It’s happened. Despite my best efforts, my son has a local accent. He says “wooder” for water, “oo-un” for on, and “goo-un” for gone. And, oh, it hurts me.

I mean, it’s not the prettiest accent in the world, but that is not the problem. The problem is that I now need to come to terms with his separateness. Don’t get me wrong: this is a good thing. He is his own person and the sooner I really integrate that knowledge, the better for the both of us, but I can’t pretend it’s not kind of painful.

I’m a Red Sox fan. A Pats fan. I say “wicked awesome” and although I have mostly lost my hardcore Boston accent, I can pull it out with ease. I can spot a bad one (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, anyone?) and an authentic one (Marky Mark in The Fighter.) And even though I have lived here in Philly for seven years, I have Boston in my bones. But…my kid doesn’t. I was born and bred in Boston, but my kid wasn’t.

His Sox cap still fits this year, so I am spared a complete surrender, but next summer, I think he’ll be sporting red on his head.

 

What Are You Doing?

Some kids ask “why?” incessantly. My friend’s four-year-old is one of those kids. And I know it’s a pain in the ass; I really do. But lately, I’ve been wishing that that’s what my kid would be asking. At least then I’d get to dream up some creative answers. Exercise my brain. But The Who doesn’t have a sense of “why” yet. In fact, when I ask him “why” something, he just answers yes or no. “Are you sad?” “Yeah.” “Why are you sad?” “Yeah.” It’s as if he doesn’t register the “why” part of the question. For all of the ease of communication we have with our very verbal 2-year-old, the “why” is completely lost on him and makes trying to parse crying jags all that much more difficult. He’ll get there, I’m sure. And when he does, I will probably want to open a vein, much like my friend with the 4-year-old inquisitor.

What I do have, though, if not a “why?” asker, is a “what are you doing?” asker. Always. Constantly. Multiple times in the same 5-minute span like a brain injured patient whose memory resets every 30 seconds. He also emphasizes the “you” so it almost sounds like Joey Tribbiani hitting on someone and I might be inclined to laugh if it weren’t so effing annoying.

What are YOU doing?
I’m changing your diaper.
What are YOU doing?
I’m putting your jacket on.
What are YOU doing?
I’m going potty.
What are YOU doing?
I’m doing the dishes.
What are YOU doing?
I’m starting the car.
What are YOU doing?
I’m driving to school.

You get the picture. Usually I answer as straightforwardly as possible, over and over and over until he seems satisfied. Sometimes he switches it up and asks me what he is doing. Just now, in fact, we had this exchange:

What are ME doing?
What ARE you doing?
I’m reaching my foot. What are ME doing?
You’re reaching your foot.
Yeah. What are YOU doing?

Help.

Lent.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about giving things up for Lent, which is, y’know, weird. Because of the whole being Jewish thing. But still, this week feels like a good week to reevaluate my life and make some changes and it just so happens to coincide with a time that lots of Christians are doing the same thing. The reality is, of course, that I’m taking stock of what I have, what I need, what I want, and how to get it. Because of my grandmother.

I think I mentioned last week that my grandmother passed away and we all packed up and moved operations to Boston for five days in order to attend the funeral and the days of shiva that followed. The trip was uneventful in all the ways in which traveling with a toddler could potentially be eventful. Bungee-cording the car seat to the stroller was a genius idea (thanks, Nicole!) and we breezed through the short flights to and fro with little more than a scant moment of whining when Elmo got turned off for a failure to keep hands off the laptop. Naps were taken wherever the pack-n-play was set up and, for the most part, we all slept through the nights. And The Who, despite his previous terror when faced with bearded men, even found himself cuddling into my dad’s lap of his own free will. It was kind of miraculous.

I, along with my cousin and father, eulogized my grandmother at the funeral and the picture painted of her from the amalgamation of our words has profoundly affected me. I want to be like she was. Not necessarily to honor her (although if that’s what it does, then I am glad for that) but because I don’t want to get to be 94 (should I be so lucky) and look back on my life, wishing I had been nicer to people. Wishing I had been more genuine with myself. Wishing I had been less judgmental, less angry, less short-tempered, less forgiving. I don’t even want to get to be 37 (which is what I will be next month) and look back and wish those things. I want to honor myself and honor the people I love by being real. And tolerant. And loving. I want to take a page out of my grandmother’s book and live by it.

Over the course of the last five days, I have realized that I can choose to incorporate the wisdom my grandmother has imparted or I can choose not to. I can choose to accept people just as they are or I can choose to be petty and unforgiving and angry. I can choose to love the things about myself that are wonderful or focus on the things about myself that might not be.

I have, especially recently, felt imprisoned by circumstance. But it became clear to me as we celebrated my grandmother’s extraordinary life, that I am imprisoned by myself. And so that’s what I’m giving up for Lent. And beyond.

omg shoes.

My grandmother died this morning (more on that when we get back from the funeral trip) and I suddenly decided that The Who needed a button-down shirt to go under one of his sweater vests for shiva. He has button-downs. A few, even. But they are corduroy or plaid or orange checked and they just don’t go. (Plus, they’re either shrinking madly or he’s growing at warp speed. Suddenly his wrists are showing in all of his 2T shirts.) And then while I was getting a new shirt, I thought, well, he needs new shoes, too. Not fancy Stride Rites or anything. Just a pair from Target or Marshall’s or something. All he has are hand-me-down, scuffed sneakers, which are fine for every day, but I pictured him in his pinstripe pants, his new button-down, a sweater vest, and…ratty old sneakers. Oh, no. No no no.

Listen, I won’t be offended if you write this little spree off to the My-Grandmother-Just-Died crazies. I think I was afflicted with them all day, barely able to write a sentence, eating only a bowl of soup, and having the sudden, nearly uncontrollable urge to go get acrylic nails put on (what?) but whatever you call it, there I was in Marshall’s, just trying to get my kid some shoes.

Do you know how hard it is to find a boy some shoes when spring and summer are approaching? There were three aisles of what they called “Toddler Dress and Play” shoes and, oh, maybe eight pairs of them were either “boy” or neutrally gendered. Of those eight, two were sandals, six were definite sneakers, and one was 80% sneaker, 20% hideous. The rest of the three rows? Probably 40 pairs of “girl” shoes. I wish I were exaggerating. Silver lamé sandals, white sandals, brown sandals with pink flowers. Chunky flip-flops, strappy gladiator sandals, white slip-on sneakers. Bedazzled Chuck Taylor-styled sneakers, white patent leather party shoes, and espadrilles. Espadrilles. I shit you not. Teeny, tiny espadrilles.

It’s a good thing they didn’t really have anything because as it was, I came home with two shirts, a pair of pants, and a t-shirt (plus two new books for the trip) and I absolutely did not need to spend any more money. But, still. I need to live somewhere where they value the metrosexual toddler. Just because my kid’s got boy-parts doesn’t mean he doesn’t want some awesome kicks. I mean, really.