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!

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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.

Mom

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I found this photo of my mom that I took on the day we moved from our old house on Brookhaven Drive to our new house (well, new to us but 100 years old) on East 8th street. I was in the 7th grade. All I cared about was meticulously transferring my Paula Abdul posters in a Trapper Keeper to my new closet door in my new room, and confirming multiple times that the Nintendo would work in our new house. I did not care that my parents had done all the tireless work required to find a family of four a new house to live in. I didn’t care, because I just didn’t know. They made it seem so easy. Look at my mom right here, so deep into the moving process that she’s up to the part where you pack the food. She probably even reminded my dad to drink that last sip of orange juice in the fridge because she knew he would be annoyed if she poured it out. She definitely rolled her eyes while doing so. She had probably just days before done something like allowed 9 prepubescent girls to sleep over and scream at the top of their (our) lungs until 5 am, then after 1 hour of sleep made everyone breakfast. Or finished sewing my sister and I some kind of amazing couture outfits out of any fabric we wanted from the sewing department of Wal-Mart (it was spelled with a dash back then, I wonder why they changed it). She never said a curse word, and barely ever raised her voice. She’s so full of love. She will probably make a snarky remark or point out one of my grammatical mistakes in response to this, because she never wants to admit to her amazingness. But all I know is that any of the patience I have with my own kids today comes from her. So a million times, thank you mom.

Momspreading

 

momspreading

mom·spread·ing
ˈmomˌsprediNG/
noun, informal
The practice whereby a mom, especially one traveling on public transportation, adopts a sitting position in which her children take up multiple seats while looking out the window, asking for snacks, demanding you play “I spy” while you are looking for said snacks, fight over who gets to swing around the subway pole similar to children who ride in cars calling “shotgun,” ask you what character you would be if you were in the film Moana and getting frustrated at you for not answering right away because you were chasing your stroller that has practically rolled out the door as you forgot to apply the break while trying to stop your youngest child from smearing chewed up granola bar residue on a lady’s nice jacket, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats. The offending mom might even feel a small shred of remorse for momspreading everywhere if she ever had a chance to stop for 2 seconds and realize what exactly is going on once in a while.

 

 

M. Night Shyamalan Ate My Daughter

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My 5 year-old has been working on a play for about the past 3 months called “Walking In Fear.” She’s always adding bits and pieces to the story, sometimes as we’re on the train ride back from school, then when we get home she sketches the newly added chapter on a loose sheet of typing paper. Yesterday she asked me to make a list of the characters so she can keep track of all of them.

“Mommy, write down all these names for Walking In Fear. Sara the Mouse, The Flower Girl, King, Queen, Zombie, Alien, Ghost, Candy Girl, O’nay, Kana, Little Girl Named Lisa, Big Donut, and The Baby. WAIT!! No. No no no, I totally forgot, The King, Queen, Zombie, Big Donut and Little Girl Named Lisa are actually from a different story called The Runaway Queen. That one is a movie and also a book, but Walking In Fear is a play. It’s a musical. The Runaway Queen is not a musical.”

“Ok, I’ll write all those down. This is the first I’ve heard of The Runaway Queen, what happens in that story?”

“So, the Queen and the Little Girl Named Lisa got captured by the Zombie. Then they both woke up and realized it was actually a dream. But after that, a few days later it came true and they really DID get captured by the zombie. Also what you don’t know until the end is that the big donut is really the zombie. Everyone realizes that the zombie had been under a spell the whole time that made him want to be a donut, and he had on a donut costume.”

“Cool! So do you want me to make this a separate list from the characters in Walking In Fear?”

“Mom. It’s the SAME STORY. That’s what nobody realizes until the end too, Walking In Fear and The Runaway Queen turn into the same thing and it’s all a play, a movie, AND a book. Oh, and I play Candy Girl. Because she likes candy a lot.”