Ornamental Saga

Three years ago, my mother-in-law Kathy brought over a couple of ornaments for us.  One of them was a little mouse sitting on a candy cane.  Wildling loved it.  Each year, when we decorated the tree, she got so excited to find the little mouse and hang it up.

This year was no different.

Wildling pulled out the mouse ornament and exclaimed “I remember this one! It’s my favorite!” Of course, that meant Mellow, who is suffering from a terrible case of the terrible twos, wanted it very badly.  So Wildling very carefully hung the ornament high on the tree “so Mellow can’t break it!”

This led to Mellow throwing a massive tantrum, which involved hiding behind the tree and screaming, a scene that she will gleefully reenact if you ask her (“I behind tree screaming.  Me screamed like this ‘wah wah wah'”).

But we didn’t give in to the tantrum, and the mouse remained safely out of Mellow’s reach.

Until two days later when she asked me for it, and I figured what harm can she do?  And of course, she broke the mouse off the candy cane.  “Mama, this broken.  Papa need glue this.”

“Oh no, that’s Wildling’s favorite ornament!” I said.  She looked at me solemnly.

“Wildling be so mad at me.”

And Wildling was upset, but that night Will glued the mouse back to the candy cane, and all was well…or should have been.

The next day, the repaired mouse ornament was sitting on the table, when I set my water bottle down next to it – and my bottle fell over, crashed into the damn mouse, and knocked it off the candy cane.

That evening, when Wildling was already in a fragile meltdown state, not only did Will foolishly surprise her with the knowledge that her favorite ornament was once again broken, he also revealed that one of it’s paws was missing.

The desperate search for the paw (which, incidentally, revealed how many small white objects are on our tile floor) was set to a soundtrack of screaming, because Wildling just couldn’t handle it.

The search was fruitless, and we needed to put an end to the madness. Fortunately, I have mad google skills, and a copyright Hallmark 1981 was imprinted on the side of the candy cane. Within a few minutes, I had found several available ornaments (and discovered it originally came with a bell), and bought one for $10 on Ebay.

Not five minutes later, I walked into the kitchen, and there on the ground in plain sight was the damn mouse paw.



Talking to children about marriage equality

I have been gratified to see my facebook news feed full of celebratory responses to today’s Supreme Court decision which finally granted marriage equality throughout all fifty states. With a few specific and expected exceptions, my friends and family are excited and proud of today’s decision. Perhaps I just hide in my little corner of the internet with like-minded people, but the only negative responses I’ve seen (other than my two fundamentalist relatives who I only keep on my newsfeed because their political conspiracy theories greatly amuse me) have cited the bible rather than the Constitution, and have only appeared in my view because I have friends arguing with the original posters.

In those few negative anti-equality postings, the concern that people keep repeating is ‘what about the children?’ and ‘now will schools have to teach about gay marriage?’ and the apparent fear that, if exposed to an openly gay person, the gay virus will spread and contaminate previously heterosexual children.  That last one, obviously, is too stupid to waste time addressing.

However, we do need to think about the children.  As parents right now, in this historic moment, we do have the responsibility to tell our children what is happening and what it means for them.  We are the only generation of parents who will have to do so – our children’s children will grow up in a world where marriage between two people who love each other regardless of their respective genitalia will be normal.  Our children’s children will look back on the marriage equality issue with the same ‘oh how quaint and outdated’ attitude that we look back on the ban on interracial marriage before Loving v. Virginia.

So we have this responsibility, and we need to take it seriously.  I’ve already had the talk with Wildling.  It went like this:

Me: So there was some big exciting news this morning.

Wildling: What? Is it something for me?

Me: No, news from the Supreme Court.  You know what the court is, right? [she’s been to the courthouse with me numerous times so she vaguely understands the concept] Well, there’s a really important court that decides the major issues for everyone in our country.  And they decided to allow marriage equality.  That means in all the states, if a boy wants to marry a boy, he can, and if a girl wants to marry a girl, she can, and if a boy and a girl want to marry each other, they can.

Wildling: That’s good. I’m probably going to marry Helena.

Me: I thought she hadn’t been being nice to you lately.  You can only marry her if she’s nice to you and is a good partner for you.

Wildling: Yeah, ok, I’m probably going to marry a boy instead.  I’m going to marry Cortez.

Me: You can only marry Cortez if he’s nice to you and is a good partner for you.

Wildling: I know! You already said that!

Me: Sorry.  But it’s good that everybody can marry the person they want, if that person is a good partner for them, right? So today is a good day.

Wildling: Everybody is going to be so happy today!

Me: Well, not everyone, but we’re not going to worry about those people.

Wildling says…

Some recent quotes from my Wildling:

Wildling: Papa, Mellow hit me!
Will: If she hit you, it’s because she learned it from you.
Wildling: NO SHE DIDN’T! I was kicking her!

Wildling: I don’t want to invite Carson to my birthday party [in September!] because HE HAS A FRICKIN’ DOG!
Me: I don’t think he’d bring his dog to the party.
Wildling: Yes he would! That’s what people with dogs do. And I don’t want him to bring his frickin’ dog!

Wildling: I’m making this book for Great-grandma Rose.
Me: That’s nice.
Wildling: Yeah, I’m making it for her because I love her, and I want her to love me more than I love her.

Wildling, while looking through a He-Man comic from the early ’80’s: I have a new game that I got from from this page. Let’s play Teela throws a large heavy object at Beastman’s head. I’m Teela. Papa, you’re Beastman.

Some reasons to cry

One of the interesting things about Wildling’s crying skills is that she can go from perfectly calm and happy to screaming hysteria and then back again in a very short time period with no lasting signs of it.  Seriously, she can be happily playing, something will set her off and she’ll be red faced and screaming with tears running down her cheeks and then fifteen seconds later her face is perfectly normal and there is no evidence anything was wrong at all.

I witnessed this several times this morning.  Here are the reasons why Wildling cried this morning between 7:30-8:30 am:

1. She didn’t want to wake up.

2. It was too cold.

3. I didn’t tie a blanket around her shoulders properly.

4. There was a pair of pants in her long-sleeve shirt drawer and she doesn’t like pants.

5. Mellow pointed at her and laughed AND IT’S JUST NOT FUNNY MELLOW!!!

6. The blender was too loud.

7. She spilled her breakfast shake and it splashed on her tights.

8. It took me too long to clean up the spilled shake.

9.  When she was brushing her teeth, she dripped toothpaste on her shirt.

10. I wouldn’t let her wear the shirt with toothpaste on it, even though she claims it was fine because she cleaned it by licking it off.

11.  None of her other long-sleeved shirts were ‘stretchy out’ material.

12.  I had to take her to school in the car rather than by bike because her screaming fits delayed us.

All those short screaming meltdowns, but I dropped off a cheerful, sunny little girl at 8:30 this morning.  I don’t know how she bounces back so quickly (and how she doesn’t give herself a massive headache!).

Wildling’s beauty

Sometimes I look at Wildling, and I cannot believe how amazingly terrifyingly beautiful she is.  I can’t believe that two people as average as Will and myself were able to create a child of such heart-stopping beauty.  Her perfect face, the shape, the angles of it, the perfect symmetry.  Her big blue eyes rimmed with such thick dark lashes.  Her skin, so smooth, so perfect. I cannot count how many times have strangers stopped me to comment on her perfect face, her porcelain skin, ‘like a little doll, a perfect porcelain doll’ they say. I both want and fear that she will keep this great beauty; I want her to stay beautiful because it will make her life easier, but I fear it because she is so much more than her looks and that is all people will see, all people will think of, and I want her to be more than just a pretty face.

I look at her, and I think about her scary near-perfection, and she will look at me, and smile lazily, and put a finger in her nose, pull out a booger, and eat it.

Yes, that’s my daughter.

Tights are Leverage

Wildling has a new fashion obsession: She only likes to wear tights.  She even screamed at me this morning, when I made the mistake of suggesting leggings “No! I only ever like to wear things with feet attached, and those are called tights!”  She was properly enraged, because I told her she could not wear just tights and a long shirt, and had to wear a skirt or shorts, when she thought the long shirt was sufficient.

I don’t like these morning battles, but I have to admit that I like how picky she is about her clothes and how insistent she is on wearing specific things.  It’s the first time in four and a half years that we’ve actually had leverage on her.  We can actually get her to do things now.  She even cleaned up the entire playroom to earn a pair of black tights that she clearly desperately wanted.

I remember trying (and failing) to discipline her when she was younger.  On one particularly horrendous day, I had threatened to take away her favorite toy if she didn’t do what she was supposed to do.  Not only did she refuse, but she started adding stuff to the pile of what I was taking away.  She started bringing over more and more toys, and finally I had to cart it all out to the shed and wonder where I had gone wrong (incidentally, that was the inspiration to our eventual massive toy reduction).  Taking away toys never worked.  She wasn’t attached enough to them.

It feels a little strange to gloat that we have leverage over a child.  But it’s so nice!! We don’t use the power abusively, but it helps when we’re trying to get Mellow to sleep and Wildling is jumping on the bed and shouting song lyrics about how Saturn’s party is Saturday and she won’t lay down and she won’t be quiet and she won’t listen to us, and we can just say “Wildling! Lay down and be quiet or you won’t get to wear tights tomorrow!” and magically she drops to the mattress, closes her eyes, and is asleep within minutes.

I hope tights stay in style for a long time.

Wasting Stickers

If you give Wildling a pack of stickers, within moments there will be stickers everywhere. She especially likes to put them on the tile floor, but she is willing to also cover windows, countertops, and her little sister.

If you give Wildling a bag of candy, like the kind parents give out at birthday parties, she will immediately devour as much as possible before I take it away.

Wildling will wear new clothing the second she gets home, or sometimes sooner. I’ve had to let her change at the store before because she just couldn’t wait.

These are things I admire about her.

When I was a child, if you gave me stickers, I would save them. I didn’t want to use them up, didn’t want to ‘waste’ them. I enjoyed the act of possessing them, but couldn’t bring myself to use them, because then they would be gone and I would have nothing. I was the kid who saved my Valentine’s chocolate until it went bad, because I wanted to save it for a special occasion. I had a pencil collection once, and it sat in a box for years. Occasionally I would take a pencil out and admire it, or line them all up to look at the pretty colors and designs, but then I’d put them back. I donated that collection years ago, without ever having used a single pencil – without ever having had the enjoyment, the experience of using a single one of those fancy pencils.

I wish I could have been more like Wildling.

I try to let it go. I try to use things as I get them, rather than hanging on for some future potential occasion. But it’s hard for me to do.

I sometimes cringe when Wildling puts an entire sheet of stickers on the floor (or on Mellow’s back!) because all I can think is how wasteful it is, how now those stickers are used up. But they aren’t. She got satisfaction out of the act of using them, and she is not burdened by having to find a place to store stickers she will never use. She will not have to hold on to them and worry if the time is ever right, if she is ever comfortable enough to use them.

Wildling is confident. She knows there will always be more stickers. She has the freedom of knowing that if she puts stickers on the floor, and they are cleaned up and thrown away, someday she will get new stickers. She does not have to be a slave to her possessions, holding on to them tightly for fear of using and wasting them. She is not afraid.

Monkey Windows and other mis-named things

When Wildling was a baby, Will and I agreed that we were going to teach her the real names for things, not made up words or baby-talk. For example, she has always known that she has a vagina, not a hoo-ha or whatever other silly words people use.  Part of the reason we do this is because when I was a child, my parents liked to use substitute words, and I often ended up embarrassed by it.  Sometimes it was over something really silly – like hairbands.  Seriously.  You know those elastic bands that people use to put their hair in a ponytail? My mom taught me that they were called ‘bingers.’  It’s embarrassing to ask someone if you can borrow a binger, and they have no idea what you’re talking about, and then, of course, because kids are kids, they make fun of you for it.  As another example, I don’t think I heard the word ‘fart’ until elementary school, because my parents called them ‘ducks.’ I never knew that ‘ducks’ weren’t the universal term.

Speaking of ‘ducks,’ or ‘farts’ as the rest of the English speaking population would say, yy mother was actually horribly offended when we used the word ‘fart’ in front of toddler Wildling.  She insisted we call them ‘puffy pooters’ instead, because that is so much less offensive and feminine for our delicate little girl.  We laughed and ignored her, of course. She brought it up a few times, but … no.  They are farts, or, sometimes, ‘stinky butts,’ as in “Mama, did you hear that? I made a stinky butt!”

Puffy pooters weren’t the main point of contention, though.  My father goes by the name of Bubba to his grandkids, because that’s how my oldest nephew pronounced ‘grandpa’ when he was about fifteen months old.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with nicknames.  However, I personally, hate the name Bubba (no offense to my southern readers), and I really don’t like the idea that a mispronunciation of a word by a very small child dictates what everyone else has to use forever.  I didn’t want my children calling their grandfather Bubba.  We eventually compromised with ‘Grandpa Bubba,’ which makes me cringe, but at least I can tolerate it.

We did allow an alternate word for one body part. When Wildling was learning to talk, one of her favorite books was the Belly Button Book, which is a simple little childrens book about hippos and their belly buttons.  The baby hippo calls belly buttons “bee-bo,” which Wildling thought was cute and repeated.  She knew the word belly button, but she also used bee-bo.  Of course, she did this in front of my parents, who were, as usual, quick to point out my perceived hypocrisy. “I thought you were teaching her the real words, but she just said bee-bo.  What happened to your grand plans?”

We have held to goal of teaching her real words, and if she chooses to use an alternative word while knowing the real one, we’re ok with that.  And it’s good that we’re ok with that, because omigod she calls peace signs ‘monkey windows’ and it is just too adorable to correct.  Monkey windows! She loves monkey windows.  She’ll point them out when she sees them. Best of all, my mother signs every card she sends with what she thinks of as a peace sign, but her beloved granddaughter perceives it as a monkey window.

Raising Wildling

Parenting Wildling is, as anyone who has read more than one post on this blog can guess, very difficult. She is a high needs highly sensitive yet utterly brilliant individual, with a stubborn argumentative streak. On good days (or really, good moments, we don’t have full days) we are overjoyed and impressed with our amazing child. On the not-so-good moments and days and weeks, we are overwhelmed.

We put so much of our effort into her, because we want to do this right. We want our brilliant amazing daughter to grow into a brilliant amazing adult. And I think I know what will happen if we screw this up. I think I have met her potential future.

Anyone who has ever looked at Wildling can tell I made zero genetic contribution to her. If I hadn’t known (and had photographic proof) that she came out of my body, I may have assumed she was some female clone of Will that was somehow lab-produced and dropped into our lives. So it is no surprise that some (most) of her personality traits were handed down from that side of the family as well.

Will’s father has a younger sister named Mona. Based on every story I have ever heard about Mona as a child, I think she had a temperament identical to Wildling. Mona was headstrong. Mona made startlingly witty observations about the world around her, even as a toddler. Mona refused to sleep as a baby. Mona threw massive tantrums. Mona could scream for hours. Mona talked early and could argue semantics when most children her age could barely form sentences. Mona was sensitive to everything Wildling is sensitive to.

And where is Mona now? Where is this woman who came from a child with so much fragility and brilliant potential? She’s a dysfunctional alcoholic that does nothing but chain-smoke. She has made nothing out of her life. Nothing. I look at her and I see Wildling’s future if we screw up. I feel that burden weighing me down. Will and I have an opportunity to set the course for Wildling, to guide her into a healthy and productive life.

Raymond (Will’s dad) was over for Thanksgiving, and at some point the talk turned to spanking kids. Will and I do not spank our children. Studies have shown that it is an ineffective method of discipline (full disclosure: I spanked Wildling twice, both times because she bit two-month old Mellow hard enough to leave long term bruises. It did not work, and I did not like doing it. Making her bite soap did work. But that’s a story for another time). I never wanted to be a spanking parent, and neither did Will. Raymond didn’t agree with our parenting choices and told us that with Mona, spanking was the only thing that worked. Except, not actually spanking. Hitting. Hitting was the only thing that worked.

“Mother learned really quickly that when Mona was having a fit, you couldn’t calm her down. You had to beat her first, because that was the only way to make her calm down and listen to you.”

“Mona would never back down from an argument, even if she knew she was wrong. The only way to win an argument with her was to hit her. You just had to pop her a good one first, and then she’d stop arguing.”

There were other comments as well, other quotes that I’m not including here that all came down to the same thing: the only way to control Mona was through physical violence. This is why I am not surprised that she grew up to be a dysfunctional alcoholic, nor that her first marriage was to someone who beat her as well.

I know I can do better than that for my child. I know that with patience and understanding and a great deal of tolerance for screaming, Will and I can do better than his grandmother. If we work hard, Will and I can guide and shape Wildling’s future and give her the happy and healthy life she deserves.

Quiz: Are you Wildling?

Are you Wildling? Take this quiz and find out.

1) Your mother is taking you and your little sister Mellow out to the car.  She puts your sister down in the carport, approximately 40 feet from the quiet, dead end street. You immediately:

a) Do nothing.  Mellow is obviously safe.
b) Scream hysterically that “She’s going to run into the street!”
c) Grab Mellow by the neck and knock her to the ground even though she isn’t actually running toward the street nor is she making any indication that she may do so in the future.
d) Both B and C

2) It is lunch time at school.  Your lunch contains all of your favorite foods. You:

a) Eat it all, because it is seriously all of your favorite foods
b) Touch nothing in your lunch and complain later that it ‘just doesn’t taste good.’

3) You love your sister, so you hug her very tightly.  She starts screaming and struggling to get away.  Your mother tells you to let her go.  You:

a) Let her go.  After all, you always listen to your mother.
b) Let her go AND apologize for making her cry.
c) Don’t let her go until you’ve been told fifteen times, because fifteen is some magical number and you can’t possibly obey any commands issued fewer times than that.

4) You get out of the bath and immediately feel cold. To warm up you:

a) Dry off with a towel
b) Put on your nice warm bathrobe that your mother special ordered so you’d have something with your name on it
c) Run screaming out of the bathroom because you just noticed your bathrobe has a tag saying it is size 3T, and since you are 4, you can’t possibly wear it.

5) It is time to get ready for bed.  You put on your pajama pants but cannot find the matching shirt.  Your papa (foolishly) suggests you wear a different shirt.  You must:

a) Put on a different shirt
b) Change into entirely different pajamas
c) Scream hysterically for ten minutes and then put on different pajamas

6) It is nighttime.  You are in bed, wearing pajamas.  You get cold. You immediately:

a) Get under the covers
b) Crawl into bed with your parents
c) Take your pants off and put the lower half of your body into a pillowcase and fall asleep with the pillow on your legs.

7) You have a bad dream and wake up thinking that there might be monsters in the room. It is 2:00am. Your best course of action is to:

a) Realize there are no monsters and go back to sleep.
b) Cry a little bit, but allow your exhausted parents to comfort you and go back to sleep.
c) Scream hysterically for twenty minutes but refuse to tell anyone why you are suddenly screaming.
d) C, AND make sure to wake your sister up as well because she needs to be alerted to the possible threat of monsters.

8) Your family wants to go for a walk. You insist that you want to walk/run/fly. You are told there is no stroller for you. You assure everyone that you don’t needs a stroller. How long can you actually walk?

a) Almost to the end of the street
b) Until the halfway point of your walk
c) Until you realize your sister is riding in a stroller, and decide that it is inherently unfair
d) All of the above occur simultaneously

9) You are four years old. This means you can brush your teeth:

a) Anytime you want.
b) Every morning and every evening
c) Only if you are in a good mood. Otherwise your teeth must be brushed to your specifications by someone else.

10) True or False: It is possible to drink milk without a straw.

1) D; 2) B; 3) C; 4) C; 5) C; 6) C; 7) D; 8) D; 9) C; 10) False

If you answered every question correctly, then you must be Wildling (or a similar four-year-old). Also, if you are, why are you up reading this? GET BACK IN BED!