Can I Get in Your Belly?

Trigger warning for anyone who thinks babies should stop nursing when they’re still, well, babies, or when their speech is so sophisticated that they can have extremely in-depth discussions about breastfeeding, or for anyone who thinks the lady on this magazine cover was at all unusual –

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You guys should probably stop reading now. Ok. Now for the rest of you, check out these cuckoo conversations I have with my 3 year-old son about breastfeeding.

For example, the other day I went into the bathroom and sat down to pee. Within seconds he was standing next to me and asked,
“Can I have a little boob on the toilet?”
“I don’t think so. No toilet boob.”
“Yes toilet boob!”
“Please give me some privacy. Mommy needs privacy.”
“Mommy if I give you privacy THEN can I have toilet boob?”
“No sweetie. There is no such thing as toilet boob.”
“But you let me yesterday!”
“That was a really long time ago when your teeth were coming in. How do you even remember that?”
(If you’re wondering, no, our bathroom door doesn’t lock. I really don’t know why we haven’t done anything about it).

When he was little he would always say he wanted the “Big ‘un boob.” Practically since birth he’s really only wanted to nurse on the left side, so that one has always been bigger since they normally produce the amount of milk your child wants to drink. Bodies are so cool! Anyway, one night before bed he took his favorite boob out of my big, drapey t-shirt, the style I have been obligated to wear for the past few years just for this reason, and said, “Mommy, is this the big boob?”
“Yes, that is the slightly bigger one.”
“Can you make it bigger?”
“No.”
“How do you make it bigger?”
“It is what it is! Don’t you want to go get in your bed by yourself now? You don’t need boob!”
“Yes boob.”
Then after nursing for a minute he said, “I want to try the small boob. I want to put the big boob away.”
“Really?? Do they taste different?”
“Yes.”
“What does the big one taste like?”
“Chocolate milk.”
“What does the small one taste like?”
“Almond milk.”
“Just go to sleep. Come on, I’ll carry you to your room.”
“But I DIDN’T FINISH MY SIP!!”
This is also what he says on the rare occasion he still wants to nurse when we’re out, like if he’s just had a shot or doesn’t feel well. I’ve started venturing out not wearing my signature huge, drapey shirt, so I try to make it fast since it’s become rather awkward. But you know what’s even more awkward? When he suddenly screams, “I DIDN’T FINISH MY SIP! LET ME FINISH MY SIP!!” And offering him Starbursts instead has actually stopped working, so I’m a little trapped.

When I’m wearing said huge, drapey t-shirt, he’s recently started to ask, “Can I get in your belly?” Then he crawls completely inside my shirt. It is so, so sweet. He actually falls asleep much better like that, so sometimes when it’s 10 pm and he’s not tired yet I get desperate and ask, “Want to get in mommy’s belly?” thinking the darkness under my shirt might lull him to sleep. But he sees through my trick and replies, “No no, just regular in belly.” “Regular in belly” means he only wants to lift my shirt up but not get all the way inside my shirt.

Perhaps the strangest thing he does is sometimes with a mischievous look in his eyes he’ll say, “Mommyyyyyyy, this will be so funnyyyyyy.” Then he waits for my approval, because I know exactly what he’s about to do. If I smile back and ask, “What’s so funny?” he counts, “1…2…3…” then grabs one of my boobs and squeezes the milk out, sometimes spraying his face or my face, and we both erupt into fits of laughter.

By the way, I have historically never been a very self-aware person, always being the one to have a friend comment something like, “Ashley you’re wearing socks with sandals, I love this new anti-fashion thing you’re doing!” and then have to pretend that I knew that was considered the wrong thing to do. So if these stories are too weird to talk about, I apologize (not really, this is just a segue). And to be honest, I’d do anything to get this kid off the boob, but I know it won’t last much longer. I also really want my children to know that life is SO MUCH easier when you own your weirdness.

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The Simple Life

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Don’t get me wrong, I love where I’m at in life right now and all that, but it was SUPER hard not to long for simpler times this morning when I glanced down at an old, partly used sketchbook from college I dug out of a closet for my daughter when she asked for bigger paper to draw on, and noticed where sometime in the year 2000 I had written, “last day = May 17.” Then it hit me that the only information I needed to remember during this time in my life was when the last day of school was, and scribbling dates on the front of my sketchbook was a perfectly acceptable replacement for a real calendar.

This is 3

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This boy experiences unfiltered ecstatic joy simply from discovering how the numbers pop up on the digital scale at the doctor’s office. He feels devastating sorrow when we are at the bank together and he asks for a purple lollipop, I hand him a purple lollipop, and he angrily explains that he wanted “new purple.” I have been trying to figure out what “new purple” means for months to no avail. Sometimes he randomly stops what he’s doing, and with a grin on his face says, “Mommy? Nationwide is on your side!” just like in the commercial, then throws his head back and laughs and laughs and laughs, because he thinks that slogan is totally hilarious. He can make ANYTHING hilarious. He loves striped shirts, and also plaid shirts, but will not wear shirts with cartoon characters on them. The first time he ever had a real tantrum it was because we were out for a walk and he noticed a loose thread on his pants, but I didn’t have any scissors to cut it off. Every night as he’s going to sleep I say, “Oscar, you make mommy so happy.” And each time he replies, “Mommy makes Oscar so happy too.” He is 3 today, and I hope he always feels all his feelings, laughs hearty laughs, follows whatever fashion rules make him happy, and has the courage to never give up on his dreams. Even if his dream is to find the color “new purple” that doesn’t seem to exist. If his life’s work is the search for “new purple” and it truly makes him happy, then I hope he never stops. Because happy Oscar is the very best Oscar. Happy Oscar is the very best of everything.

Dad

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My dad pretty much personifies that cheesy motivational poster you always see that says, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” because he always does whatever he wants, and makes it work. He never hides his emotions, always gives great big hugs, and isn’t afraid to wear neon orange sneakers (or to take over half the house with his extensive shoe collection of something like 500 pairs). He doesn’t let anyone tell him what to do, except for my mom. He ignores the rules when they’re silly. He’s always doing stuff like feeding pigeons and getting his own water at restaurants if the service is too slow. It’s SO EMBARRASSING but also cool that he knows that the rules are irrelevant sometimes. He also respects the status quo when it’s important. If any of his grandchildren do anything remotely dangerous in his presence it’s…just not worth talking about. When my sister and I were kids he totally got our sense of humor, and made us laugh nonstop. To this day I think the greatest gift you can give a child is permission to laugh at anything they think is funny, and to laugh along with them. That stereotype of the father that didn’t express his love enough never existed in my world as a child. He always told us he loved us multiple times a day, and now that we’re grownups he still tells us. With emojis. Happy Father’s Day dad! I love you!

The Doughnut Story

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When I’m putting my son to sleep, sometimes he asks to hear “The Doughnut Story,” a tale I made up once on the spot for lack of remembering any non-predatory classic bedtime stories from my childhood. I mean, The Three Little Pigs? Little Red Riding Hood? Goldilocks and the Three Bears? What is this, a right-wing conspiracy to make kids think that someone, somewhere is always out to get them? So as my son was fighting sleep one night he started talking about doughnuts. We have this tradition of going to get doughnuts every Wednesday while his older sister is at dance class, so it makes sense. What can I say, there is a fine line between bribery and fun childhood traditions. It made me suddenly remember a parenting article I read years ago about “fun ways to engage your kids creatively” or some other hippie sounding thing, where they recommended making up a story starring your child as the hero, and using a non-scary villain for them to fight. I think the illustration was even a big doughnut! So in a soothing voice I said:

Speaking of doughnuts, do you want to hear The Doughnut Story? Once upon a time, there was a superhero named Oscar Man. Early one morning the baker at the bakery called him and said, “Oscar Man! We need your help! I put too much dough in the doughnuts and now they are so big they’re rolling down the street and hurting people! They’re running over cars! They’re making people fall down on their way to work! Please, please help us!” So Oscar Man put on his big, awesome cape and called his friend Super Sage to help him. Together they swooped down over Graham Avenue (this is where we have our weekly doughnut date) wearing their big, awesome capes and caught all of the rolling doughnuts in their super, strong arms with their big strong muscles! Then they threw them like frisbees all the way into the East River and all the fish and the sharks said, “Thank you Oscar Man and Super Sage! We love doughnuts! Yummy in our fish tummies!”

The first time I told this story, my son was so excited about it that he told his big sister the next day. Then she asked me to draw it. Then she drew her own version of it, then the next day she drew a slightly different version of it. As you can see, it’s become an ongoing art series at our house.

Brave

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On Saturday at dress rehearsal, my daughter was the only one who refused to even participate. It was her first real recital on a big stage in a big auditorium. She felt nervous and unprepared, since her best friend and dance partner had hurt her arm and couldn’t perform with her. My heart sank as she peeked out from behind the curtain, watching the rest of her class perform their ballet number to John Lennon’s “Imagine” they had worked on for months. At home that night, we talked to her about being brave, and the importance of facing your fears so you can overcome them and never be afraid of them again. Then about how she looks just like Merida on the Disney movie Brave. Then about how she could get ice cream if she just went on the stage with the rest of her class tomorrow. And how she can not get ice cream if she doesn’t go on stage, sorry. Nope. No ice cream if you don’t dance. What can I say, it was not our finest moment. It started out pretty good, and devolved quickly into bribery and talking about cartoons. Then we talked to each other about not being disappointed if she wasn’t dancing with the rest of the class tomorrow. Yes, even after we make Grandma and Grandpa sit in traffic for 2 hours just to see her. I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she just wasn’t ready. She didn’t seem ready. Then I started to feel like kind of a jerk for caring so much. What was I, some kind of deranged stage mom? On the day of the performance as I sent her back to line up with the rest of her class, she had tears in her eyes. So did I. I hugged her as hard as I could and told her that she would be awesome no matter what. Watching the other classes before hers in the dark middle school auditorium, I finally began to relax and knew that no matter how it turned out, in a few years she would have brand new interests that may or may not include dance class, and will have completely forgotten about this. Just kidding, I mentally played out the extensive shame cycle of disappointment she would experience if she didn’t dance with the rest of her class today and how it would negatively affect her life choices from now until approximately age 38. Normal mom stuff. It was time for her class to go on. I realized I hadn’t breathed in a couple of hours. The curtain inched open, and there she was. Smiling! Dancing! The song ended, and we all rushed backstage to congratulate her. She was so proud, and so happy. And I suddenly knew with all my heart that I was not a deranged stage mom. The look of victory on her face told me why I cared so much.

I’ve Lost It

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You know that rule about how when you have children you’re not supposed to “lose yourself?” Well, I’ve broken it. Hard. Like, obliterated it with a sledgehammer, sawed up the bigger pieces with a chainsaw and set it on fire. The person I am has been permanently altered, and there is no going back. In my spare time I research art projects for my kids and browse the $7 rack in the children’s section at H&M. I spend an unreasonable amount of time thinking about snacks to buy for them. Sometimes those snacks are dinner, but what my kids don’t know is that before they came into my life I would wander into work half an hour late for no good reason, sometimes spend 7 hours in a row watching television, and always ate snacks for dinner. I wasn’t prepared for all this work. How can you be? How do your children not become your entire life? I eat, sleep and breathe my kids. Literally, when they talk to me I lean in as close as I can to smell their little breath. I want to inhale their entire bodies. It’s probably creepy. I can’t help it. I cry every time I see a sleeping baby in public now. I’ve googled every combination of the words “mother, emotional, tired, and normal” humanly possible. Oh, and bedtime. Bedtime is so hard. And so loud. Then as soon as it’s quiet I think for a minute, “What if my apartment was this quiet all the time?” Then I decide I REALLY want that. Then after about 10 minutes, I decide I am extremely uncomfortable with quiet and never ever want a quiet house again. The thought of a quiet house makes me so, so sad. Then I hear my daughter calling me for another sip of water, and all I want in the world is a quiet moment to myself. Rinse, repeat, goodnight kiss.