Saturday, September 13, 2014

Needs Improvement

"We need to talk," R. said to me upon his arrival home from work last night.

Never good words.

He swallowed hard, heaved a put upon sigh. "We need to figure out a way to get through the morning shuffle without behaving like we belong on the Jerry Springer show."

I nodded.

"I'm embarrassed to see the neighbors," he said. "Maybe we should go around and apologize."

I shook my head doubtfully. "An apology includes an implicit suggestion that it won't happen again."

I think at this point he walked upstairs to change.

"We could send everyone booze at the holidays," I yelled upstairs hopefully. "Or something from Harry and  David."

"If you can't get this under control, we are going to have to move to the suburbs."

Of course his complaint has merit.

First, I'd like to take this moment to apologize publicly to any mothers with whom I worked in an office during my single days.

I had no idea. I am so sorry for ever rolling my eyes or wondering what the big deal was with getting a five-year-old dressed, fed, teeth brushed, shoes on, and out the door at some appointed time. Or wondering why you showed up with wet hair or looking hung over, when you weren't going out and tying one on after work.

The Grape is just like his mom in three ways: he has what one might politely call a Latin temperament, he slumps in the afternoon and gets a maddening second wind at bedtime, and he likes to lounge in the mornings.

In his perfect world, he'd play with Legos for an hour, take another forty-five minutes to an hour to eat, and then get on with the day.

In my perfect world, I'd let him do that, and spend the time reading and sucking down coffee. In a perfect world, he'd go to bed before 7:30.

In the real world, I can put him in bed by then, but he won't fall asleep before nine anyway.

In the real world, we also need to leave for the school bus stop by 7:45 a.m.

(Aside: Why is school so damned early? Because the issue isn't going to school. The Grape LOVES school. The issue is the start time.)

Every morning this week, I dragged the Grape's reluctant, bawling, sobbing, begging, protesting form down from the top bunk by 7:15, my chest heavy with mom guilt because my kid wasn't sleeping enough. I couldn't bring myself to rouse him earlier, but a half hour pushes our luck in terms of leaving the house with any semblance of order or calm.

Every morning this week, I pleaded, begged, bribed, cajoled, threatened and ultimately yelled like an escapee from a lunatic asylum, about every step. Take off pajamas. Put on clothes. Eat. Eat. Eat. Please, for the love of God, eat one bite of Cheerios. Good. Now eat another. Please. Please. You will lose your Legos and/or play dates for the week if you don't eat another bite right now. I mean it. Right now. Brush teeth. Brush hair. Repeat threats in shriller voice. Find shoes. Put on shoes.

The Grape yells right back. I'll say this for him, the kid has a will of steel and he can give as good as he gets.

Thursday and Friday mornings were extra special.

We left the house at a jog at 7:48, the Grape wailing in such a way that might provoke a new neighbor to call the police, and screaming that I was hurting his arm by pulling him along, me in tears because I was "that mom" who sends her child to school on an empty stomach, and Lila the Dog straining on her leash, doing her canine best to pretend not to know us.

This needs improvement.

Monday, September 8, 2014


I've taken to telling my close girlfriends that I almost wish I could've frozen the Grape at age 4 1/2.

Because while he's a happy five-year-old, his Mamma is feeling the first stirrings of alarm.

Over the past few weeks, he's started his slow but steady march away from me.

Which I understand is healthy, for him at least.

He wakes up in the morning and no longer wants to clamber into bed next to me. Please note that this doesn't mean R. and I get to sleep more. The Grape always announces—loud and clear—that he's awake before proceeding to play quietly with Legos in his room. At which point, I'm up for the day.

Then there's this whole Kindergarten business. It's sweet and play based, but somehow still feels like "real" school. He still wants to hug and kiss me goodbye, but some of his classmates already shrug their moms away in embarrassment, and I know we're within ten years of the phase when the fact of having parents at all will be a source of tremendous mortification. (I.e. "Can you drop me off a block away from the movie theater?")

Here he is, getting on the school bus for the first time ever. Note that he's visibly worried that the bus might leave him behind while Mamma fumbles, thumb less, with the camera:

Yes, thumb less. I crashed a bike on a rocky downhill slope on Block Island. Among various injuries which consisted mainly of losing much of the skin on my left side extremities,  I tore the ligament in my thumb. Of course the right thumb. Of course I'm right handed.

The thumb is NOT an over-rated appendage. Among the things I can't do: wield a knife or a pen. Typing is awkward. Personal grooming a challenge.

I didn't fully appreciate the magnitude of the problem until the end of the trip, when we stopped taking every meal in restaurants or from sandwich counters.

I have a surgical consult scheduled this week. Good times.

But I digress.

The Grape announced, out of nowhere, on the eve of his fifth birthday, "Mamma, I'm growing up."

As if to underscore his point, a bunk bed arrived two weeks later.

While R. dismantled the crib-turned-toddler bed, the Grape informed me, "Now that I have a big boy bed, a baby sister will grow in your belly."

"That's not exactly how it works," I said. (Though I know where he got this idea: from a Berenstain Bears book, circa 1983, he found lying around my mom's house.)

"You never know," the Grape shrugged.

I felt pangs of guilt over my lonely only, because he often asks for a little sister. Always a sister. As if he's processed that a child of the same sex would constitute unwelcome competition. Of course he has no idea how much any infant would constitute a reduction in services as far as the Grape is concerned. This is a kid who still prefers that his mother help him put on his pants.

I don't want another one. I had a horrendous pregnancy, and wouldn't repeat the experience for anything, even if I weren't too old. Which I think I am.

Perhaps more importantly, I'm content.

I don't have that baby twinge for another newborn experienced by so many of my friends. A newborn takes a family back to start, and I love that with one, we're fairly nimble; we can once again undertake last minute trips, such as the aforementioned mini-break to Block Island (so worth it despite my unfortunate injury).

We can go somewhere for the day without paying the consequences of the blown off nap. With the Grape in school, I can work without paying for child care.

But there's no escaping the fact that he is indeed growing up. Which makes me wonder how much longer I should keep writing about him. I feel like ridiculous baby and toddler incidents (such as Bye, bye vacation, hello trip or Winter wonderland or Baking with a toddler )are fair game. For the most part, those posts are about me and my naive expectations of how things should run. The goofy challenges of parenting small children, such as taking forty-five minutes to exit the house, are in many ways universal.

Now that the Grape is making memories he is likely to remember, is it fair to use him as material?