Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

I have recently proclaimed myself an anthropologist. I am busy studying the mating rituals of the preschool set. Specifically, I am motivated by my five year old son, Jonah, who, for lack of a better cliché, likes the ladies.

There are several things I have noticed during my field study. First, chivalry is not dead. When Jonah’s guy pals scramble into our minivan for transport, he climbs into his booster and buckles himself with little fanfare. However, when it is a lady friend, he not only waits for her to get into the car first, but actually offers to buckle her in before he sits himself down. It has occurred to me that his father rarely if ever holds the car door open for me, and certainly never makes sure my seat belt is affixed. In fact, he has been known to barrel down the driveway at rapid speeds before any of us are safely restrained. So where did my five year old acquire his gentlemanly ways? I have begun to think perhaps it is nature, a pure instinct on the part of the human male to protect the more fragile human female. Maybe my husband was like that too, at age five, but society sedated his natural male proclivity.

Instinct in the human male can not be underrated. The drive to reproduce, for instance is clearly biological. About six months ago, Jonah, after bathing, pointed to his testicles and asked what they were. I responded by using the proper anatomical name, (although balls would have been easier for him to pronounce) and explained that when he was an adult and married, his testicles would help him and his wife make a baby. He seemed satisfied. I felt I had given an age appropriate answer, until the next day when a teacher at his preschool reported a conversation she heard him have with his girlfriend on the playground.

“**Olivia,” he said sidling up to the object of his affection, “When we grow up, my tentacles are going to help you make a baby.” I feel fortunate that they did not kick him out of preschool for lewd conduct, or that Olivia’s parents decided not to bring him up on sexual harassment charges. Perhaps what saved him was his faux pas with the use of the word “tentacles” for testicles. It occurred to me that what Jonah did, in a pre-kindergarten, but caveman sort of way, was mark his territory. He wanted to snuff out the competition and let all the other four and five year old little men on the playground know that Olivia was his.

Jonah has remained utterly devoted to Olivia since the romance blossomed a year and a half ago. This encourages me greatly. Perhaps those who say monogamy is unrealistic are wrong. If a small child with an attention span of about two minutes can manage not to stray, then there is hope for humankind to maintain life long commitments.

This doesn’t mean that Jonah can’t look. I think of the old adage “When the cat’s away, the mouse will play.” Mostly, the mouse plays doctor with a favorite gal pal when the cat is away. Being an adult female of the species, I know I need to protect not only the virtue of my little mouse’s patient, but his commitment to Olivia as well. So the rule for doctor is clothes remain on and the door remains open. Oh, and there was that time about a year and a half ago when he was playing “family” in my friend’s Volvo wagon with her daughter, and when we went to check on them they were both completely nude, Jonah at the wheel and my friend’s daughter in the passenger seat. Both buckled in. I guess the game was “naked family.”

But the mouse plays in other ways, too. Who knew a five year old could flirt? The other day, my daughter had a friend over. When the mother came to pick her up, she sent her younger daughter, a beautiful, blonde seven year old to the door to retrieve her older sister. Upon seeing this gorgeous creature, my son, looking real cool, cocked his head to the side, nodded in her direction and said, “How old are you? Are you six?” He must have realized he was out of his league and hence the ultra cool attitude.

“No, I am seven,” replied the girl, oblivious to his advances.

“What’s your shoe size?” Jonah asked. Not a suave move on his part, but my guess is he did what a lot of grown guys do when they try to win a lady’s attention: he blew it with a poor pick up line. In this way, he is not so different then his adult counterparts, except that I can hope because he is starting so young that he will master some more effective moves before he reaches maturation.

And finally, perhaps it is not instinct, but I have a noticed a pattern in the females to whom is attracted.  He has a clear and obvious preference for blondes. Olivia, blonde. The girl at the door, blonde. The gal he tried to impress during Friday night services last week by pretending to be a monkey, blonde. I am not a blonde, although his sister is, and I am left wondering if men really do have a stronger attraction to blondes, or if this is some early anti-Freudian rejection of anything that represents his mother. And speaking of Freud, I am actually looking forward to Jonah’s move into the latency period of development. While my anthropological studies of the preschool set have been fascinating, I will be happy to have a few years where I don’t have to worry about my son staring down the barrel of some over-protective father’s rifle. I figure we have about six years, seven if we are lucky, to beat most of the caveman out of him.

Discussion of tentacles bad! Holding car doors good! Naked in Volvos bad!

** All names, except for those of my own children have been changed to protect the innocent

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 1:54 am  Comments (1)  
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The Girl Who Cried Wolf

The Girl Who Cried Wolf

The Girl who cried wolf is my eight year old daughter, Julia. Except she is not crying wolf, she is crying broken ankle. It is my best estimate that she has hummed this tune no less than half a dozen times over the last year. It is true, that it is sometimes her wrist and not her ankle. But the story is always the same. Lots of moaning, lots of hopping. A trip to the doctor only to be told it was bruised and there was nothing to do but ice it, and use it.

So you can understand why Al and I snickered and rolled our eyes as she hobbled around the house and crawled out to the car this evening, complaining about a fall on the playground.  My neighbor picked her up at school and gave her a piggy back ride out to the car.

“Sucker!” I thought to myself. “She is playing you,” I whispered under my breath.

“I don’t know, she winced when I touched the ankle,” my neighbor replied. “Call me if you decide not to send her to Hebrew School, and I will drive the carpool”

I chuckled. I know my girl. She is a thespian. Her life is a performance. “Oh, she is going to Hebrew School. No matter what!”

Of course she had no sooner arrived at Hebrew School when my cell phone rang and I heard a voice addressing me in half English and half Hebrew. What I could gather from the voice was that someone named Aviva (Julia’s Hebrew name) was complaining about her ankle and they gave her ice. This person thought it looked a little swollen.

Not wanting to make a poor impression on this person, I checked my sarcasm, and spoke with all the medical authority I could muster, “I examined her about a half hour ago. The ankle was not swollen. If she is still complaining in an hour, please call me back and I will come get her.” I knew I would be unreachable in an hour, which is how sure I was that I would not be getting another phone call.

And I didn’t, and she even hopped through the art show at night at her school, where I got some friendly but candid advice from my friends.

“Uhh… don’t you think you need to take her to doctor? That is usually the procedure with a broken ankle.”

“You’re laughing, but we are going to read about it in your blog.”

“I promise, I will grovel in my blog if this is something to write about.” I laughed, certain that the wayward ankle would be a distant memory when it came time to go to the local carnival the next night.

But the moans and groans continued way past bed time. They seemed unstoppable. So, we did what all good parents do. We decided to call her bluff.

“Get dressed; Daddy is taking you to the hospital.” (Note: I did not volunteer myself for the trip, as the last two ER trips were all mine).

Julia looked shocked. “Why? Do you really think we need to go to the hospital?”

“If you are in that much pain, of course we do,” Al said. Translation: We need to go to shut you up. It’s almost our bedtime. Further, you need to hear from a medical professional that you are a hypochondriac, not a girl with a broken ankle.

The next I heard from either one of them was when Al IM’d me

Al: Just had X-Ray.

Me: X-Ray? Did they really think that was necessary??????

Al: Level Four sprain.

Me: What the Hell does that mean?

Al: Also known as bulging fracture. Crutches. Aircast. The whole thing.

And so I grovel. I endure the taunting of my friend who called at 10:15 PM after I dashed off a frantic e-mail. “You sent her to Hebrew School,” she quipped. “What is wrong with you?” She could really barely stop laughing and her husband felt compelled to get on the phone and make some sarcastic remark about my new career as a medical doctor. But I just laughed at myself. We deserve it. And so much more. Which is why I am being extra compassionate right now by indulging Julia when she should be fast asleep and letting her practice using her crutches which she is nervous about. And I will drive her to school every day and pick her up so she doesn’t have to negotiate the bus. And I just wrote the third e-mail to her teacher, at her request, voicing the many anxieties that Julia may feel being on crutches. And next time any of my kids has even so much as a hang nail, it’s off to the ER we go. The wolf is dead in this house. She is no more.

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm  Comments (3)  

The Answer to Toddler Tantrums?

Toddlers.  Irrational. Explosive. Highly energetic. And let us not forget dangerous.  They can be pure charm, and melt your heart as they pitter patter across the kitchen floor, lovey in hand and plant a wet kiss on your cheek. But the same little pitter patter can land at your feet in a thump as your precious pint sized friend hurls his body at the floor, and repeatedly slams his little fists down or grabs your leg rendering you immobile until you succumb to his unreasonable demand. What parent of a toddler has not feared a trip to the supermarket scheduled just a bit too close to nap time? Who among us has not ducked out of the way as some object that has no business flying is hurled in our direction?  I’m on my third toddler, and I seemed to have learned relatively no effective strategies for coping with the most difficult moments with these most difficult of God’s creatures.  But I do believe my sister in law, unwittingly, may have changed all that the other day, while playing with my young charge.

Namaste. She actually had my little guy- the tiny terror– doing yoga with her. Downward Dog, table top, child’s pose, Jesse was engaged in all. She even had him sitting cross legged (“criss cross apple sauce” she called it) doing the breathing with his small hands clasped together against his chest. It was quite impressive and adorable to see his two year old self, diaper peeking out from his jeans, contorted in my favorite yoga positions, and even cuter to watch him repeat the breaths and bow his head toward his Auntie.

So as I watched his happy face I had an epiphany. I do yoga for all the physical and emotional benefits it allows me. Those fifteen minutes after yoga class, nothing can bother me. House on Fire? Namaste. Babysitter cancelling for the big night out? Namaste. Snarky eight year old? Whiny five year old? Cranky two year old?  Grouchy husband who had to stay with kids while I went to yoga? Namaste, one and all! Now, if it has this effect on me, it should have the same effect on Jesse.

6 AM:

Jesse: Mommy, I want cookie.

Me: No, it’s too early for a cookie.

Jesse: (getting louder): But I want cookie! (This is his answer to everything- I want, therefore I should have- all very logical in his mind)

Me: Shhh, everyone is sleeping. (I point upstairs) You can’t have a cookie. (At this point I often consider breaking down- what’s a little early morning sugar compared to a full blown tantrum or my own nervous breakdown?)

Jesse: (runs over to the pantry to take cookie anyway)  Jesse get cookie!

Me: Namaste Jesse. Let’s do yoga underneath the rising sun! Quick grab your mat and let’s get outside. Breathe. Let’s get into child’s pose. Downward dog. Up into warrior one.

Jesse: Namaste

Early morning sugar fest crisis averted.

Sometime later that day when the silence is deafening…

Me: Jesse where are you? (I broke the simplest of all toddler rules—never let them out of your sight)

Jesse: I up here mommy. I in the bathroom.

Me: (breaking the sound barrier to get upstairs and being greeted by my son perched atop  the bathroom counter  with some sort of lotion spread all over his clothes and exposed extremities) Jesse you need to get you down from there. (I try to make sure my tone of voice is even and does not belie the five alarm fire bell going through my head. Did he swallow the lotion? Do I need to call poison control? How the hell did he manage to get up there in the first place?)

Jesse: But I don’t want to get down. (Translation: It took a lot for me to get up here, lady and if you think I am getting down because you asked, or you decided you are in charge, around here, forget it!)

Me: I understand you don’t want to get down, but it is dangerous to be up there. Jesse, Mommy is going to take you down, and we are going to take a bath. You need to get the lotion off.

Jesse: No! (A toddler’s favorite word, particularly if it is screeched) No Bath! I need lotion. Like Mommy. (So now it’s my fault. A little moisturizer to keep my wrinkles at bay, and he thinks he needs to adopt my beauty regimen, but with A&D ointment and Neosporin.)  I not come down! (Stomping feet has commenced as he gets dangerously close to the sink, where I imagine one wrong step and he will fall in, necessitating a trip to the emergency room)

Me: Namaste, Jesse. Come down and we will do our breathing, okay? (I approach gingerly, already taking breaths, and grab Jesse off of the countertop) Take child’s pose Jesse. Take a deep cleansing breath. Exhale. Good. When you are ready, we will meet in downward dog. Don’t forget to breathe, Jesse. Good. Wouldn’t it be nice to do your yoga in the bath, now?

Jesse: No! No bath! Jesse do yoga! Jesse breathe! Mommy breathe!

So if yoga is not the answer, what is? I have about eighteen months left in captivity of a toddler to figure it out. Maybe I should have just given him the cookie in the first place.

Published in: on May 8, 2009 at 9:13 pm  Comments (1)  
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In Theory

In Theory

In theory, I agree with all the American Pediatrician’s Association’s guidelines that television should be limited to no more than two hours a day for children over four, and that it should be nonexistent in children under two. In theory I agree that television, and other screens for that matter, make for obesity in children, stymie their imaginations, and limit opportunities for social interactions. In theory. But in reality, (my reality anyway) the television and I have a symbiotic relationship. We cannot survive without one another. True, if it weren’t for my three children the boob tube would rarely be turned on. I tune in only a few times a week to watch the two or three shows that I find entertaining. And, thanks to TiVo, weeks can go by without my trigger finger pressing the on button.

But, for the last eight years, it is more than just me I have to think about. It is the well-being of my most cherished gifts Julia, Jonah, and Jesse.And Julia, Jonah and Jesse have to eat. And in order to eat, “Hannah Montana” or “Zach and Cody” need to light up the little screen so I can prepare a meal. I am not of the multi-taskers, so holding the baby in one arm while chopping up carrots with a large kitchen knife in my free hand won’t work. I am sure the APA would recommend setting my kids up with a puzzle (they hate puzzles) or an art project (then I have a dual clean up) while I cook. Good ideas, but they result in more work for Mommy, which is not something I need at 6 PM at night with bedtimes and school lunches, e-mails and homework to contend with after the dishes are put away.

And while “Hannah Montana” and “Zach and Cody” keep my older children nourished, Diego keeps my toddler alive. That’s right; he is not only an animal rescuer, but a baby rescuer as well. In fact, Diego is the first word I hear upon entering Jesse’s room at 5:30 or 6 AM each day. (Well that and chocolate milk) And so, Jesse and I head downstairs, fill a sippy with chocolate milk and sink into the couch to watch the baby jaguar reunite with his mother. Diego buys me another half an hour of snoozing, the sounds of “click, take a pic…” echoing through my mind as I drift into a half sleep. Of course, Jesse and his mother should enjoy each other’s company at this quiet hour of the morning, before his siblings require my attention to get them ready for school. But Jesse does not need to feel the wrath of my crankiness, forced to function before the sun is up.

Then there are the times when I loathe the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Take now, for instance. The older kids have been up for three hours. They haven’t asked for breakfast, and they haven’t spoken a word to either my husband or me. They sit, staring at the screen, oblivious to the fact that the day is passing them by. Don’t they want to play a game? Practice violin? Go outside to ride their bikes? I am creating children who don’t know what it is to entertain themselves or each other.

And the horror of hearing my toddler point to a teenage girl and say “I Carly.” He didn’t know who Elmo was until six months ago, but he can identify a tween icon. And what kind of trauma did I cause when he woke up screaming the other night about a certain map of Dora the Explorer’s who was chasing him around the house? Equally horrifying was a recent trip to the supermarket when my five year old barreled out of the store with an unopened bottle of soda.

“What are you doing, Jonah?”

“Shoplifting!” was his reply.

Am I happy that my five year old has such a good vocabulary, or terrified that the Bedford police could pull up at any moment, ask for my booster seat and haul my boy into the precinct? Julia, my eight year old, interrupted the scene playing out in my mind.

“Uh… sorry mom, that is my fault. We were watching a cartoon where the kid shoplifted something. I should have told you, so that Jonah could have left the room.”

Deep sigh. “It’s not your fault, it’s mine, Julia. I should have been aware that you were watching a show that was inappropriate for Jonah.”

I am not so naïve as to think that any cartoon is okay for my five year old to watch. It’s just that I am often too busy to peek in and see what it is they are watching. If I hear the familiar voice of Miley Cyrus, or the unmistakable sounds of a cartoon crooning from the television, I go about my business, happy that they are not watching rockets explode on CNN, or half naked bodies intertwined on “Gossip Girl.” And, I know the television is “sibling bonding time.” They want to watch together, much the way my sister and I used to spend 5-6 PM watching Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch so my mother could cook dinner. But the “Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island” are bygones, relics of a cleaner, simpler time, when children’s programming didn’t have such an edge. Recently, they have added the new “Electric Company” to their repertoire, which is in my opinion, completely guilt free TV. However, it is only on once a week, which makes my Friday evening dinner preparation very easy, but leaves me in the lurch the rest of the week.

So, Sunday through Thursday, my children have to compromise. If they want to watch together, they have to settle for “Hannah Montana,” “Corey in the House,” or “Zach and Cody” (admittedly not the ideal choice for Jonah, but better than “Sponge Bob” or “Fairly Odd Parents”). And while these conversations often prompt arguments between the two older kids, I have never seen either one stomp off in frustration and refuse to watch the chosen program. I console myself with the thought that their negotiation skills can only benefit them later on in life. Some day, in the distant future when “Hannah Montana” is only in re-runs, and there is no one bickering while I prepare dinner, I will thank the boob tube for my children’s social skills. There are no other kids so adept at art of compromise!

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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