Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tessie and Shelby

Approximately 48 hours after we had Chippy Fight Fight home, we were informed that Beta Fish were boring. Then we received our caterpillars in the mail which were slightly more exciting as they can be carried all around the house by their proud master watching for all stages of the grand metamorphosis, a concept and a word Nate's been familiar with for a couple of years now. Somehow the discussions started pointing towards a more interactive, pettable pet and this morning when I got out of the shower a very excited five year old barged in on me and told me all about how we were getting a cat today. He didn't stop talking or jumping up and down about it for a good ten minutes. The next time I want something, I must remember to put Nathan on the job, because moments later Shaun joined the party and confirmed it was true; we were getting a cat today.

What? Just one? That's just not how we roll. Meet Tessie and Shelby, female littermates, seven months old. So far they seem easy going, tolerant and happy.

Granted, we are the adults and parents in this house and we make the decisions gosh darn it; but the fact remains we are both more dog than cat people and Nathan was quick to ask when we could take the kitties for a walk to Isaac's house. Also, when were we getting a dog to see how they all get along?

Yeah, I think I'll take the over on that one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Testing, testing...

"Mommy, I don't love you any more."

"You do too."

"No, I really don't."

"Oh, why do you suppose that is?"

"Because you broke my heart."

"Oh no, how did I do that?"

"Because I love you too much and it broke my heart."

At this I broke into the biggest, most dramatic sobbing I could muster and thankfully garnered laughter and assurances that he was kidding. Whew, that was close.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

It's been pretty clear there's a little boy in our midst lately. I've found rocks in my dryer, there's been chugging of milk right from the jug, earthworm collections, pet snails, thumbs smashed with hammers, exorbitant amounts of time spent in the bathroom and new notions of competition and speed.

He still has an answer for most things, like when he explained to me months ago why "there are no more fairies, none of any kind", it seems "they were from a long time ago and they got old and they died and that's it, there are no more and never will be." This even before the constant talk of death in our home...

If we give him a direct instruction, a global rule, such as, don't climb over the stair railing. He may or may not comply, but there will always be an entire explanation of precisely when that behavior might be necessary and acceptable. I know I'm in trouble when I hear, "Except when....there's a fire and I have to jump down to not get burned up and killed..."

He has a burgeoning sense of humor with the expected knock knock jokes that usually make no sense whatsoever. Though I did get a kick out of the first joke he told us last summer, where he learned it, I have no idea.

"Why did the chicken cross the playground?"

I surely didn't know.

"To get to the other slide!"

All hilarity breaks loose lately when he burps and I remind him, "What do you say after you burp?"

"I say...fuuuuuu-nnnnnnnnny!"

The bathroom humor can go as far as I'm concerned, but the smart humor, I'm convinced can take a person places. A couple of months ago, Jarrah spent the night and when I went in to shush them well after bedtime, Nathan informed me they would be "staying up all night long because we are nocturnal!"

Our little boy has also become quite the protector. He has offered to protect me more than once when I've expressed misgivings about doing something. We went to the holiday light extravaganza at the zoo and Nathan really wanted to try ice skating. Having never been on ice skates myself, I didn't feel competent enough to try it for the first time on my own with him and on some sort of pseudo plastic "ice" to boot. "Don't worry Mommy, I'll protect you, I'll help you." Oh, okay then! This actually gave me pause, why would he offer to protect me? Have I not made our roles clear and safe for him? Am I putting some weird emotional burden on my kid? I like to think not. I like to think he's sensitive and smart and wanted to go ice skating. Too bad for him, maybe next year.

Ah yes, sensitive Nathan. "Mommy, put Puff the Magic Dragon on the cd player. I will play this song for Grandma and Grandpa's dog. It is gentle, Chesty will like how it pets him."

And if you don't happen to have a beard, he may stroke your jaw or put his soft cheek against yours and tell you he loves your face, and guess what? He means it.

His speech is punctuated with more "guess whats?" and "except whens" than even the "Actuallys..." lately. His vocabulary is vast and he doesn't hesitate to stop all conversation or story telling to ask "What means that?" and if he doesn't understand your explanation, he will barrage you with questions until his understanding is complete. Most assuredly he will utilize that new word at the next opportunity to do so. Also, he spells the answers to the simplest questions lately. I'm ready for the novelty to wear off of this one sooner than later, though I'm pretty damn happy to get a response once in awhile.

It's no surprise that his teacher refers to him as a reader, nor that the first words he learned to write on his own after mastering his own name were I love you. His fine motor skills are getting where we want them to be for kindergarten next year and he is now enjoying writing, coloring and drawing way more than ever before. The occupational therapist Nathan saw for torticollis when he was a baby pointed out what now seems obvious, that babies or kids (all of us?) simply don't do what is difficult. There are some things that I thought weren't of much interest to Nathan, such as coloring or riding his tricycle, I'm learning those may have been some of the things that were simply difficult in terms of his unique development.

Nathan remains enthralled with all babies and requests me to have many more on a regular basis. With his recent study of birds, amphibians and reptiles he seems to have forgotten our Its Not The Stork book and discussions for the moment. A couple of days ago he told me he wanted me to lay another baby.

And the music, holy cow, it never ends. Now, with his current teacher he still sings constantly, but the songs are educational and fun. I've learned about the layers of the earth, the continents and so much more. Mostly the songs he comes home with are a peek into what goes on during his days at school, and that, I cherish.

As gentle and kind as he can be, I am pleased to see indications of boundaries put in place. He doesn't try to impress me by copying my tastes. In fact, if I say I don't care for something, he will tell me he doesn't like it either, actually, he loves it! Once I told him the cool way to wear a shirt and he promptly told me he didn't care about the "cool" way, he wanted to wear it the "Nathan" way.

Emotions are running rampant for him the beginning of this sixth year, and man oh man do they swing from one extreme to the other. The rumblings are pretty obvious before he blows, but the challenge remains how to negotiate that fine line between providing a safe place to let go and disciplining unacceptable behavior, and oh yeah, not losing it myself...there's that.

Slowly, I'm learning the peace in accepting the paradoxes in life and in parenting. Sometimes it feels entirely odd and perfect that my child should be so responsible for bringing many of my life's lessons out of the dark caverns of my head and into the reality of our days. I suppose the simple notion that with parenting comes deliberate action is bound to nudge lots of stuff into the light.

I'm reminded of the night after Nathan's birth. He was about sixteen hours old, it was the middle of the night and he lay in a roll away bassinet next to my hospital bed. Shaun was in the bed across the room. Our new baby cried. Shaun slept. The birth had not been easy on either of us. I was severely limited in my physical movements, so I reached out and put my whole hand firmly across his tiny body. In the same moment I felt a fool for thinking such a simple act would be of any comfort and knowing without question it would. It was that moment that I became a mother, and then, we slept.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


A few years ago I had a discussion with a friend about how to present religion and/or spirituality to our young children. Neither of us was raised with any particular religious doctrines, but both in families that imparted strong morals. This conversation barely nibbled at the surface of what I consider to be intensely important stuff to define for myself and in turn present to my child, but that is not the topic of this post. At a minimum we agreed that exposure to the different religions of the world was a positive thing. Indeed, this practice would give our children the tools with which to make their own decisions and it would foster tolerance and open mindedness.

My friend thoughtfully followed this discussion up with the gift of a children's Bible, My First Read and Learn Bible, it is a board book designed for very young children. I appreciated it very much and certainly I must have read it many times to Nathan as a baby and young toddler. I admit, I often pay no attention whatsoever to what I am reading in those last minutes of parental duty at the end of the day. The book remains on Nathan's shelf and he chose it for the first time in a long while recently. This time I was paying attention, and my education commenced. We read the story of creation and then about Noah and all was well, even I knew these tales. And then came the story of Moses. Disney taught me to be wary of death and destruction designed for babes, so why I was aghast at this Babies Bible, I'm not entirely sure. I read a little ahead and changed the words a bit to be...what? More palatable? With less murder and abandonment? In my disbelief I didn't do a very effective job distracting him and he didn't stand for me simply turning the page in response to his questions about why Moses' mother would put him in a basket and send him down the river. Oh, because otherwise, he would have been killed...Seriously. The best I could come up with was she couldn't take care of him any more so she sent him to this other mommy who could take very good care of him. Huh? Nathan doesn't take the brush off very well and proceeded to turn the page back several times to more fully analyze the pictures that went along with the sorry job I did of changing the story. "And why in this picture the Mommy is crying and the baby is sleeping and happy when she pushes him away, and over here the baby is crying and the new mommy is so happy?" And who is the woman hiding in the bushes in both pictures stalking everyone?? Good lord, I knew I was disrespecting a lot of people's beliefs when I quelled his concerns by telling him, don't worry this is just a story, it's not true, and in any case I don't think it's a good story for kids.

He insisted we finish the book, and since my insecurities told me I was being ridiculous, I forged onward to David and Goliath. Excellent lessons to teach our children, fighting and killing in the name of god is well and good--brave even. Oh, but the coup de gras, the icing on top of the king's cake was the story of Daniel and the Lions. Are you familiar? Surely I must have skipped these pages in prior readings; how is this book still in my home? Censorship? I'm thinkin' yes; for now anyway. May I quote? Don't mind if I do. "The jealous men wanted to get rid of Daniel. They made him go into a pit with hungry lions." Seriously. I am not making this up. And the best part--I was so relieved; Daniel was spared by the hungry lions, and the wise among you know, it was his faith in God that saved him! Yes! These are just the lessons I want to indoctrinate my child with.

I find it disconcerting that the most inappropriate, violent book on my child's shelf is a Bible, a Baby Board Book Bible no less.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit we may be a slightly hypersensitive. Shaun and I like to believe our sensitivities are in response to what is appropriate for our particular child, but we are open to the consideration that we may be a little nuts. Really though, do you know the opening line of Charlotte's Web is "Where's Papa going with that ax?" And even Beatrix Potter weaves a story around skinned and beheaded Flopsy Bunnies--it's downright disturbing I say.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Le Bavardage

"Mommy, I love you, but I'm running away. Actually, I'm walking, I'm walking to France to find Grandma."

"Pinky Promise?"

"Mommy, if you don't let me watch tv, I think you're going to have very bad luck."

Le Poisson

After a fair amount of discussion and one in particular in which I let Nathan know that the progress of his grief over the loss of Jake was not in fact, the deciding factor as to how quickly we would acquire a new pet, (I dread the day I cannot see through his manipulations.) we are the proud new owners of a turquoise beta fighting fish.

Meet Chip Fishy Fish, sometimes known as Chippy Fish Fish. Shaun wondered if the name was chosen with Fish and Chips in, Nathan happened to have been eating a tortilla chip during the naming process is all. Chip's name could have just as easily been yogurt or tomato or quesadilla. We're a creative bunch.

Chip is finally getting accustomed to his new bowl, or cage, as Nathan likes to call it, after having been sloshed around in the take home tupperware-like container for the first few hours as Nathan carried him around wherever he went. Little Chippy didn't come with any care instructions, but Nathan is creating his own manual and posting it page by page all in the vicinity of the Chipster's bowl, lest we forget vital tips like he prefers it quiet or that people food is detrimental to his well being. He is also concerned about the fish's emotional needs and has provided a frog for friendship and written him a love note. He's also a little concerned about gender identity and the possibilities therein.

"Mommy, if Chip Fishy Fish is actually a gwirl and she lays eggs, will she fight with her baby fish till they're all dead?"