When I was eight months pregnant with Jocelyn, Khary said that he didn’t want to celebrate Father’s Day. Despite the fact that he had bought me my first Mother’s Day gift the month prior, he claimed that until he met our baby nose-to-nose, he wasn’t truly a dad. I didn’t argue and we were able to laugh about it [the word preemie remained outside of our realm of understanding for another year].
Now that he’s a dad of two, Khary got the royal treatment. That is, he mentioned that he wanted to take a series of golf lessons and I thought that would make a really nice gift. So I handed him the check to pay for it. I also chose the girls’ gift for him: two mini bottles of hot sauce because he likes things spicy. Nothing says love like habanero sauce. Next year I hope to set them free in a dollar store and see what they come up with on their own. I'm guessing it'll be something pink, with sparkles.
We celebrated by going to the zoo. This was actually our third choice. The A’s game was sold out (damn Giants fans) and the horses weren’t running. Jocelyn is at an age where she remembers most things that we tell her, and she was very excited to go see the horsies. A good substitute, in her book, will always be a giraffe.
I always knew that Khary would be a great dad. We have similar backgrounds—we were both raised by single mothers, and we talked often (before having children) about how we would raise them. But sometimes talk is just talk, and having children can change people. If it has changed Khary, it’s only for the better. Seeing him with the girls will always bring a smile to my face.
Words have not come easily for Aja. She communicates in shrieks and screams and gestures. We have a tendency to baby her at times because there’s a natural inclination to think that she doesn’t understand what is being said or asked of her. But she gets it. She knows what she can get away with and she’s milking it for all it’s worth.
I attended the first of a two-part language class for babies and toddlers that have language delays, thinking that this would help me help her. But much of what was discussed was about determining if there was comprehension happening, and we have that. We know when she wants more of something (scream A), when she wants a toy that Jocelyn has snatched from her hand (scream B), and when she is hungry/tired/pissed/uncooperative/has-a-stick-up-her-butt (high-pitched screech).
Then one day she answered YEAH to my question. And then NO. She said HI. And then she said MAMA. Clearly. Not the baby-mumble-rambling, but clear as day: MAMA. She continued to say it often, every day.
But I soon noticed something. There was a certain time of day when she said it more often than others—when Khary got home from work. He arrived home the other day and she bounced up out of her seat on the couch, running haphazardly around the corner and through the kitchen to get to him. She screamed at the top of her lungs, over and over: MAMA! MAMA!
It’s that time of year, when we celebrate hard work, determination and sleepless nights. Okay, so my girls are still in daycare. But they will soon be moving on to preschool, which is a graduation of-sorts, and momentous in its own right.
I have been to a few graduations and rarely do the speakers live up to their call of commencement duty. My friend graduated from Cal Poly and Ozzie Smith was the speaker. I think that the only reason the students listened to his speech was that they kept expecting him to amaze them with a back flip, despite the fact that he said upfront that he would not perform his famous stunt. The speaker at my own college graduation was flat and boring. At least that’s how I remember it. I went to Chico State, where your diploma is taken away if you do not show up at the bars at 6am the morning of graduation. At another, a local politician spoke and said he “knew how these things could be, so he’d keep it short.” He talked for almost a half an hour in 100 degree heat.
While my girls may not go to Dartmouth (we’ll talk college preferences at another time), they can still take Conan’s word to heart.
Okay, some of his words. Girls: ignore the part about snorting Adderall.
Rather, it’s trial and error. Or, a game of Connect Four where you plunk down three disks in a row, Bam Bam Bam, but keep getting blocked from winning, every time.
Jocelyn is not a morning person. This is something that I know well myself, but the soul of a toddler cannot be soothed with a brewing pot of coffee. If she wakes up on her own she is pleasant and cordial, like the dutiful daughter that exists in my dreams. This morning, Khary woke her up with a nudge, and she began screaming. Crying. But the kind of crying that involves more yelling and shrieking and sucking in air than actual tears.
Our reactions vary depending on the sun’s magnetic pull. The morning routine dictates that Khary dresses the girls while I get ready for work. Then we switch. Her tirade had yet to cease when I entered the lion's den, and I just didn’t feel like yelling.
I looked at her sprawled out on the living room floor. Her nose was scrunched like she had just sucked on a lemon and she squeezed her eyes, trying desperately to shoot tears directly towards me.
I was calm but firm.
“You can be happy or you can be quiet!”
I walked back into the kitchen.
She got quiet.
Could this be the miracle cure for toddler tantrums?
I can be sure that this won’t work tomorrow. If I wrote a parenting book it would be called: This Will Only Work Once. When All Else Fails, Go Back to Bed.
I’ve mentioned before that I'm skeptical of parenting books and parenting trends. There was an article on The Bump today about wacky parenting trends, like never saying no, or biting the baby back. I read them and laugh and, quite frankly, judge. To each his/her own, right? I often shrug and I want to ignore them all together. But it’s like a giant turd that I don’t want to look at, yet it’s my daughter’s first, so I want to take a picture. Motherlode is beginning a book club, of sorts, where the topic is parenting books. My first thought was, no thanks. And then she explained her first choice: “TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood,” an anthology of essays by 47 women exploring how they navigate the need to nurture and the need for work.
I’m a working mother. I nurture. But I don’t really feel conflict—not in the way that many parenting articles try to cure. I have had to adjust since returning to work full-time, and it has been hard, but it’s the small things that are hardest: going to the store, trying to run simple errands between leaving work and making the daycare cutoff. I miss the girls, and I occasionally stare at their pictures above my desk, but I know that they are cared for each day, and they are taught and inspired and encouraged. They bring their new vocabulary and their new ideas and new skills home, and I feel like it’s worth it. At times I wish that I had savored my part-time-work-at-home status a little longer—my ability to have a leisurely breakfast and then take the girls for a walk. But I’m not looking at it as a choice. I didn’t choose work over my children. I chose work AND my children.
It’s questionable whether I’ll even find the time to read TORN, but I will certainly follow the chain of comments on Motherlode to determine if it’s this modern take on motherhood is really modern or just a familiar story of biting babies back.
Do you read parenting books? If so, what do you feel you’re gaining as a parent? If not, why?