Friday, June 19, 2009

The Dad From "Uncle"

In honor of Father's Day this weekend, here's one from the "Men are From Mars" files, and one of my favorite true stories. (Hi Wendy and Brian!)

Wendy and Brian recently had their first child, and as Wendy closed in on her due date, Brian was going through the motions of first-time fatherhood. He reminded Wendy to keep her phone handy. Then he had another idea. "I know," said Brian, "let's have a code word so that if you go into labor and need a ride to the hospital, you can text me with it." In fact, he thought Wendy should keep the code word in her outbox so that she could dash it off with one keystroke when the big moment came. "When you need to go to the hospital," he explained, "text me the word 'uncle.'"

Wendy asked the same thing I would have, which was, "Why don't I just type 'I need to go to the hospital?'" It's been a few months since then; Mom and baby are doing fine, and Brian is currently learning the police and fire phonetic alphabets.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You've Waited Too Long to Potty Train When...

After April's breastfeeding frenzy post, "You Know You've Been Breastfeeding too Long When..." the clamoring for more of my child-rearing advice has reached new (and totally fictional) highs. Today, a loyal reader in Fort Lee, New Jersey asks, "My three-year old son is still happy to wear diapers, and shows no interest in potty training. When is it time to lay down the loo law?"
Poopy Pants McGee

Dear Poopy,
First off, only you can decide when it's time to take a more aggressive approach in persuading your little bundle of joy to stop hauling around his own little bundles. Ask your pediatrician when it's developmentally appropriate, given your son's history and temperament. And, I've put together a set of guiding principles to help you and other parents decide when enough is enough.
  • When you send the kid out to buy a package of his own diapers--along with some milk and eggs--you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When he tells you he's had an accident, and it's necessary to clarify whether he's talking about his pants or his car, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When your daughter complains about the lack of thong-style diapers on the market that match her Hooters uniform, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • If your precious one is audited by the IRS for claiming Huggies as an expense, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When your son is forced to leave basketball practice because his cup runneth over, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When you decide to switch from wet wipes to Swiffer Wet Jet pads, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When you offer to read to your daughter while she sits on the potty, and she suggests a Danielle Steele novel, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • After offering to show your son a movie about potty training, and he asks if it's called Two Girls, One Cup, seek professional help. And also, you've waited too long to potty train.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Mom Felony Prevention

I'll never forget the days and months when nap time was THE most important time of the day. And even though we lived then on a dirt road in a tiny mountain town, a solicitor or delivery person of some kind would find us, and knock on the door. This meant tears for everyone, as the dogs would bark wildly, waking up little Sophie, who would, upon noticing that she had been tricked into falling asleep DURING THE DAY, scream and cry and wreak havoc on my plans to shower or use the bathroom by myself. I would fling open the front door, in tears myself, and wreak havoc on the young salesperson's plans to keep breathing.

After a few of these episodes, I posted a note on the door that said simply, "No solicitors." But here's the thing about solicitors: Much like a lot of us, they're in denial about who and what they are. After scolding one such well-meaning boy holding a container of dish detergent, he explained, "I'm not a 'solicitor,'" going so far as to bend his fingers into quotation marks on either side of his head. "I'm spreading Joy." I wondered if a judge would believe me if I said, "I didn't staple a 'no solicitors' note to his head, Your Honor. I was simply spreading the word."

No matter. I went back to the drawing board and soon after and invented a sign that worked so well that I made several copies and handed them out to all my new mom friends who bemoaned the same problem. Now, thanks to the Interwebszs, you can use it too, in the hopes that it leads you not into the temptation to spread the word with your red Swingline stapler.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Forty Five Minutes

A month after Sophie was born, I made arrangements for her to stay home with Alex for an hour so that I could go someplace and write. I'll never forget how he looked holding her tiny, sleeping body as I closed the door: Scared to death. And because Sophie and I hadn't been away from each other longer than the length of time it took me to use the bathroom, I made skid marks in the driveway taking off.

By the time I got to the coffee shop, ordered my drink, sat down, and booted up my computer, I only had 45 minutes left to get back into a habit I had effectively abandoned for several months. So when the guy near me pointed to my laptop and asked, "Is that Windows or Linux you're running?" I said, "I have 45 minutes."

This is what happens with the anxiety and the sleep deprivation and the fear that you will mess everything up: You become a better steward of the things that are most important to you. Because in between the diapers, and the baths, and the feedings and the feedings and the feedings, all I could ask myself was: Will all the good stuff I used to love be there, waiting for me, when I'm me again?

Of course, now I know the good news. Yes, the best stuff--the stuff that fills me up and puts me in touch with who I really am--is still around. And the "bad news." I'll never be "me" again. As someone who has spent too much time trying to go back home, that so-called bad news has dogged me. I'm working on it; peeling back the layers of my identity, bemoaning each one, hoping it's the last I'll have to surrender. (Of course it never is.) Lately, I've been grieving the fact that I may never have an actual social life ever again. I know, it sounds silly, but as I watched youngsters gather for bloodies last Sunday, I wept like a pageant queen stripped of her title. I feared I may never drink my breakfast in this town again.

There is one bit of comfort in all of this, which is this: The things I've been forced to abandon during the course of motherhood were never that good for me in the first place. I may actually be a better, more deliberate person today, and wouldn't that be something? The things I still insist on doing are the really important things, because it's too exhausting, too much of a fight clinging to the things that don't. There's no glamour, no sex appeal in that philosophy, I know, but I'm counting on it. Because someday, Sophie's going to renege on her insistence that she and I to to college together, and here I'll be, with my laptop. With so much longer than 45 minutes on the clock.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Adult's Guide to Children's Entertainment

One of the most overwhelming parts of parenting or babysitting a youngster is choosing from the vast array of materials that have been created for consumers under the age of 18. Without discussing the quality of these offerings--*cough*Hanna Montana*cough*--Disney alone is responsible for an astounding number of movies, shows, and CDs that exist today, and that's only one very fertile fish in the proverbial sea.

So as a companion and/or refresher to what many new parents and caregivers may consider a difficult time in navigating children's literature, movies, and music, I've summarized in a more adult fashion some of the old and new offerings available today.

In books:
Green Eggs and Ham--a commodities trader learns that the only way to overcome impossible quotas is to harass his prospects with rhyming sales propositions until they agree to try his unique product line. In an attempt to pitch Sam, his targeted potential customer, a variety of settings, including certain modes of transportation, were exploited to bend the consumer's will. What we learn here is that you can get people to do just about anything--even eat green meat--if you ask them over and over. (See also: my husband.)

In movies:
The Little Mermaid--our heroine, in the throes of lust, fails to retain legal counsel prior to signing certain iron-clad agreements with other mythical human/fish hybrid creatures. Let this be a lesson to fathers of young celebs everywhere: Had King Triton put a promise ring on Ariel's finger, instead of assigning a flamboyant crab to escort her into dodgy situations away from home, she would have simply been married, divorced, and dating Tony Romo by now.

Cinderella--a young woman enters the high-caliber dating scene and learns under high-pressure circumstances that part of getting the guy is hanging out with girls who are significantly less hot than you are. Also, everyone loves clear shoes. What I'll never understand is why the fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a carriage for sending Cinderella to a ball, instead of turning a zucchini into a cell phone for calling social services on the wicked stepmother. Whatever.

Sleeping Beauty--either invite everyone you know, or don't let anyone crash your daughter's christening: That's what we learn from this tale of a young princess, Aurora, whose Sleep Number is changed from 45 to infinity the day she turns 16. This narcoleptic curse is exacted by Malifico, and becomes manifest when Aurora pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Not only did the debacle ruin the entire spinning wheel industry, but sources close to the family reveal that Aurora and Malifico orchestrated the disagreement as a way to distract TMZ from covering Aurora's leaked sex tape with Prince Phillip.

In music:
"Little Bunny Foo Foo"--The People's Republic of Field Mice hires a mercenary with a heart of gold, the Good Fairy, to launch a counterstrike against The Foo's endless reign of terrorist tactics of frequent head-bopping, and perhaps, according to NPR, covert waterboarding.

In music/TV:
The Wiggles--Four dudes from Australia don a creepy sort of Star Trek system of color-coded outfit, to boldly go where maybe a few men have gone before, if you know what I mean. Most mothers agree that the television show is fine as a distraction while they're trying to prepare dinner or make out with the FedEx guy on the front porch, but listening to The Wiggles in the car is proven to cause severe suicidal tendencies, resulting in the urge to either drive your family off the nearest cliff, or park the car in a closed garage with the engine running.

Since this is just a sampler of the kinds of awesome entertainment available to kids today, look for future installments of An Adult's Guide to Children's Entertainment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fictional Ad Campaigns: Metamucil

Dear Metamucil,
Please call me regarding a new ad campaign I have in mind, the focus of which is targeted toward the aging Generation X population and its collective love of the Young Guns trilogy. I have it on good authority that Emilio Estevez, a huge fan of the Berry Burst flavor in your product line, is excited about the opportunity to step in as Metamucil's new spokesperson; further, Jon Bon Jovi has expressed an interest in writing and performing your next jingle, in the tradition of his contribution to the Young Guns II soundtrack, "Blaze of Glory."

In furtherance of providing an example of our totally fictional campaign strategy based on the imagined relationship opportunity that exists between you and a sizable segment of what journos everywhere are calling The Next Best Generation, I'm sending you this poster to present at your next marketing confab. Until then, stay gold loose, Pony Boy.