Archive for January, 2008

What Day Is It Again? Oh, Right: NOT FRIDAY.

January 31, 2008

I need a day off. I know, we all do, but I am special and especially tired, so could somebody please arrange for a holiday for me? One, preferably, where all I have to do is lay down and eat chocolate and watch bad television?

I would like that.

In the meantime, here is a half-assed summary of things that you should be considering as you go about your Thursday:

1) Do children have a right to be treated civilly? A few of the commenters to my last post don’t think so. I do. Discuss amongst yourselves.

2) Are you able to go more than a day or two without eating meat? I could, if I wasn’t pregnant, and if I hadn’t recently spent a few days in Montreal, where I was unable to go more than a few hours without eating poutine (fries and cheese curds drenched in a rich gravy that I’m pretty sure was once intimately acquainted with a cow.) I’m ordinarily pretty veggie, but hells if this fetus doesn’t like him some gravy with his bacon.

3) Will Mothergoosemouse have her baby today? All signs point to yes.

4) Why is the entertainment media so prone to evil? Why do I regress to my youthful – and more or less misguided – Marxism (capitalism has alienated us from our very souls; revolt, revolt) when I read stories about shit like THIS?

5) Is it worth getting stressed out over coffee when pregnant? Especially when, you know, there is so much else to get stressed out about? Like, say, whether you might die of a brain aneurysm in your sleep, or whether Katie Holmes might spawn again, or the fact that the new season of Paradise Hotel will not be airing in Canada? You know, important stuff.

Discuss.

Meanwhile, I must go find some chocolate, and dream of the day that I can finally get some sleep and stop worrying and learn to love the chaos, etc, etc.

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The Illuminated Crowd

January 29, 2008

Here’s something that I feel strongly about: the right of parents to take their children pretty much anywhere in the public sphere that they see fit. I also feel strongly that this is a right that carries with it considerable responsibility – as do most rights – but there it is: I believe that if a parent needs or wants to take their children to the theater, to nice hotels, to restaurants that don’t use vinyl tablecloths or distribute crayons with their menus, that’s their right. Any perceived right by other members of the public to move about in public without exposure to children is just that: perceived. There can be no such right in a liberal human society, because children are members of such societies. They are not pets – a comparison that I once saw in a letter to the editor of a newspaper – they are people. Little ones, and ones that sometimes wear diapers and are prone to outbursts, but still. Those descriptions fit many members of our society who we don’t leash up outside of cafes and put in the baggage hold of airplanes.

So there. If I want to dine four-star with my two-year old, I will.

I said that I believe that this right comes with responsibility. It does. My right – and my child’s right – to eat at a public establishment of my choice is limited by responsibility to ensure that my child does not wreak havoc in that public space (just as it is my responsibilty, with myself, to not become drunk and disorderly in public spaces. And yes, toddlers can sometimes behave like very small, drunk and disorderly vagrants. We know this.) So I’m not claiming some right to be able to eat at Balthazar during the 8pm rush with a shrieking pre-schooler. I am claiming that I should be able to do so under reasonable circumstances, i.e. if and when I have some reasonable expectation of my child’s decent behaviour and am willing to adapt and/or retreat if things begin to go badly.

I’ve been lucky, in that I’ve rarely confronted what a close friend once called ‘child-haters’ in public; you know, the people who give you the stink-eye when you push your stroller into a cafe or buckle your child into the airplane seat next to theirs (though I once endured the latter for the duration of a 45 minute flight, my heart breaking as Wonderbaby endeavoured gamefully to catch the eye of the evil bitch sitting – stiff and miserable and plainly hostile – next to us, refusing to return Wonderbaby’s smiles.) And I didn’t really encounter any hostility during our recent trip to Montreal – a city that is, in parts, decidedly child-unfriendly, notwithstanding its candy-distributing elderly and shops full of cute sock-monkey hats. Not really.

I did encounter fear, though. And it was almost as discomfiting. Maybe it was more discomfiting, because I didn’t know how to respond. It was more discomfiting.

It was at breakfast, at the continental breakfast served, gratis, to hotel guests in the Hotel le Germain’s fine dining establishment. Wonderbaby and I were such guests, and we were determined to avail ourselves of the pain du chocolate and crepes and espresso drinks on offer. I knew, given the style of the hotel – this a hotel so hip that I mistook the bellhops, trendily scruffy and clad in black and leather, for members of my husband’s TV production crew – that we would encounter a dirty look or two from disgruntled patrons expecting to have their peaceful breakfast ruined by a manic toddler. But I didn’t care. Wonderbaby and I had every right to our breakfast, and were determined to have it. And I had every expectation of Wonderbaby’s good behaviour: she loves restaurants, and cafes, and is usually so pleased to be ‘having coffee like Mommy’ that she can be expected to sit, working, very seriously, a tiny espresso cup full of milk and a cookie or croissant, for extraordinary lengths of time.

But my confidence in her good behaviour did not change the fact that what the hostess saw, when we walked in the restaurant, was a three-foot tall potential menace, clutching a soft, odd-shaped lovey.

She was unflaggingly polite, I’ll give her that. But the fear coming off of her was palpable. Was this creature going to hurl croissant everywhere? Would it emit loud noises and pour milk on the floor? Did she, the hostess, have time to put away all the china before the creature moved into the room? I half-expected her to ask whether we wouldn’t prefer to eat in our room. And the truth of it was, I was so thrown by the look of panic on her face, felt so badly for her obvious terror, that had she indeed asked us that question, I very probably would have retreated. I recovered quickly enough, though, and took charge of getting ourselves seated and escorting Wonderbaby to the spread of food to select something more substantive and healthy than the pats of butter that she had expressed interest in having for breakfast, with a side of milk and sugar cubes. And as I did, I got angry. and frustrated, because the hostess’s fear had made me feel ashamed in way that no child-hater’s hostility ever could. I could feel her wide, worried eyes on our backs as we toted our latte and milk and croissant – Wonderbaby carrying the spoons – back to our table, and felt self-conscious in a way that I almost never, ever do with Wonderbaby. I could feel the weight of her expectation that some disaster was imminent; I could feel it outweighing my expectation that the worst that could happen was a little spilled milk, and was keenly and shamefully aware that her definition of disaster might very well include spilled milk.

I wanted to feel angry, but I was having trouble faulting her. She was, after all, remaining polite and helpful and as superficially welcoming as she could be under the circumstances. I can’t demand that someone be happy and comfortable in the presence of a toddler, any more than I could demand that others be happy and comfortable in the presence of any person who is different – less attractive, less able, less youthful – from themselves. I might wish it were so – I do wish it were so, in that optimistic, eutopian corner of my heart – but I can’t make anyone feel differently than they do. All that I can expect is that is they behave tolerantly. And on that front, she was impeccable. It was just, you know, the fear in her eyes.

How can one get angry about the look in someone’s eyes?

That experience stayed with me for the rest of the trip – even after a few more breakfasts in the dining room with charming waitstaff who cooed over Wonderbaby and who held not the slightest trace of fear in their eyes when she insisted upon carrying her own plate of croissant to the table. It stayed with me as we explored the city, causing me to hesitate in the doorways of art galleries and to avoid entering the swankier boutiques. And I hated that. I hated that I had absorbed some of that young woman’s fear, some of the belief that children can be fearsome (they can, of course. But only their parents truly understand the parameters of this fear, and know that whatever fear they can inspire should have very little bearing on the carrying forward of our lives and life in general, including life in nice shops and restaurants.) I hated that I was feeling – if only a very little bit – ashamed of my insistence upon bringing my toddler everywhere with me.

Wonderbaby can be a handful – she can be an army of handfuls – but she is, to put it politically incorrectly, a good girl. Not all children are this, I understand, but I choose to believe that most are. And I choose to believe that most parents are skilled at managing their children, and prudent enough to make wise decisions about how and when to escort them in the public spaces that – here’s the political philosopher in me – they need to participate in if they are to grow up with the social skills that underline good citizenship. They can’t learn how to behave in public – how to be meaningfully and positively social – if they are confined to daycares and playcentres and the company of other children exclusively. They need to spend time in the public sphere – in as many corners of it as possible – if they are to learn how to flourish there.


And, I suppose, they need to learn how to cope with the fears and intolerances of others. Wonderbaby seems to be doing better on this count than I am.

(Apropos of absolutely nothing that I’ve said here, except for, maybe issues concerning justice and mealtimes: have you seen what we’re up to over at the League of Maternal Justice this week? It’s meaty. Check it out.)

Ce N’est Pas Des Vacances

January 27, 2008

Edited below: sock monkey hat source!


I’m not sure why I thought that chasing the hyper-toddler up and down the icy streets of Montreal was a better option than wrangling her at home, solo, while the husband was in this fair and freezing city on business, but I did.

I forget why, exactly.


I mean, is it really more interesting to holler WATCH OUT FOR THE BABY! in French, as she barrels toward francophone elderly, as opposed to shrieking it in English at anglophone elderly? Only marginally.


That said, the francophone elderly do give her candy. Although I think that’s more about the sock-monkey hat that we bought here, than it is about any greater inherent generosity on the part of old Montrealers. And, end of the day, the random pieces of maple syrup candies (which don’t exactly, you know, calm the child down or anything) don’t quite balance out the exhaustion that comes from chasing – while near-on six months pregnant – the maple-syrup-jacked creature across sheets of ice and mounds of packed snow. I am, after all, not the one being offered the candy.

That said, though…


… there is the whole business about having club sandwiches (avec frites) and a trio of creme brulees delivered to your room, whenever you want.


And a bathtub the size of a swimming pool. With a viewing window. So that you can watch the SAG Awards dubbed into French while you wash bits of syrup candy out of the child’s hair, or your husband can take pictures of you, whichever seems more amusing at the time.


And then there’s that sock-monkey hat.

Maybe this a vacation, after all. Of a sort.

Edited to add… I purchased the sock monkey hat HERE. They have an online shop. Direct source can be found HERE. Note that they do MUPPET MITTENS, too. And for Canadians: Mr. Dress-up FINNEGAN mittens. No Casey, but still: AWESOME.

The Princess, The Cowboy and The Narrative of Footprints

January 24, 2008

When Princess Diana died, I was bothered by the fawning coverage of what seemed to me to be the excessive displays of public grief. This was at the tail end of my undergraduate years – I was working on my honour`s thesis, about the post-modern politics of community storytelling – and I was as pious a Marxist-feminist as you could hope to find, anywhere. The collective global wailing and rending of garments and tearing of hair was, I thought, an overwrought symptom of the cultural opiation of the masses. She was just one woman, I thought. Why did her death matter more than the death of any other human being? Why had the world gone into deep mourning for one woman – however kind, however pretty – when millions of people died every day? Wasn’t there so much greater tragedy in the world, more deserving of mourning?

I thought it all disturbing. Still, I watched the funeral on the television. One has to keep up with popular culture, you know. I was prepared to be outraged. Instead, I cried. Just for a moment – and it was just one moment that provoked the tears – but it was, for me, a revealing moment.

You know the moment that I’m talking about: Prince Harry, then just a little red-headed boy, fists clenched in grief, placed a card on his mother’s casket. The cameras zoomed in: the envelope read, simply, Mummy.

I cried, and I got it. I wasn’t crying for Diana, or even for little Harry – I was crying about the idea of her death, and the idea of the loss suffered by her family, especially her children. How terrible to lose one’s mother. How terrible to be torn away from one’s children. How terrible to have one’s life, one’s future, one’s participation in the futures of their loved ones, torn away.

I no more identified with Diana that I identified with the middle-aged Italian cheese merchant down the street. But I knew Diana’s story, I was familiar with the story of her life, and with the story of her children’s lives, and so I could experience some visceral grief at the tragic turn that the story had taken. So it was that when I saw the image of little Harry’s attempt to reach out to his deceased mother, my gut was wrenched much more intensely than it was during any Foster Parents Program commercial.

A similar thing happened while I was reviewing (for my paid gigs, of course) the coverage of Heath Ledger’s recent death. I am, in my dotage, much more sympathetic to public grief over the deaths of celebrities than I was as a callow and ideological youth, but I still tend to remain detached from the collective gasping and hand-wringing. So while I was unsettled by the sudden and unexplained death of the actor, I wasn’t shedding a lot of tears.

Until, that is, I saw this:


It’s a little family memorial that Heath made for his daughter, Matilda, who is two years old (only a month older than Wonderbaby). It’s her footprints, pressed into concrete, alongside her name, which Heath scrawled in the pavement outside their home in Brooklyn. It was a special secret between father and daughter, something that they created together, said a neighbour. There are now, apparently, bouquets of flowers, wrapped in plastic, piled upon the concrete over Matilda’s footprint. The memorial created by father for daughter is now, simply, a memorial for the father.

It made me cry because it reminded me, sharply – more than could any picture of Heath and Matilda together – that he was a dad who loved his daughter, and that Matilda is a daughter who has lost her dad, and that whatever future they had together – whatever adventures lay ahead of them, whatever sidewalks they might have lovingly defaced – is now gone. Whatever story was unfolding for them – a story that you and I only knew from a distance – has ended, tragically, and what remains is just that poor little girl and her loss.

Children lose parents every day, and – worse – parents lose children. But we don’t know most of their stories, and so those losses remain abstract, statistical, at a remove from our own stories. And that’s a shame – that we are so removed from each other’s stories, that the more distant those stories the less they are able to move us. And maybe it’s a shame that we are more likely to be moved by the story of a death of a celebrity than we are by the deaths of 54,000 Congolese every month – it is certainly a shame – but it is, for better or worse, understandable. Heath Ledger, and Princess Di, and Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears and all the other denizens of Celebrityland are much closer to us, or at least appear to be, because we follow their stories and compare our own against them. We trace the narratives of their lives and look for some traces of ourselves – as parents, as citizens, as dreamers – within those narratives. And so when those narratives, those stories, come to a sudden, tragic close, we are affected. Perhaps to an extent disproportionate to the actual events, given our very real distance from those events and the people involved, but still. We are moved.

End of the day, if even one story can move us to hug our children, or our parents, a little tighter, or maybe work a little harder to ensure that we are weaving beautiful stories for our own families, leaving our own footprints in our own sidewalks, that’s a good thing.

Now excuse me while I close my computer to go carve my daughter’s initials in the tree outside our home.

The Sun Will Come Out

January 23, 2008

It always does. Even when it’s been totally, star-obscuringly dark, it always comes out, the sun, and it shines. Not every day, not even every week – and sometimes it can feel like whole lifetimes go by without the sun – but it does come, eventually. Maybe only for a day, or a few hours, or just one brilliant minute as it peeks from behind the clouds – it always finds a way through. It always, always does.

So although it may be the tritest of trite things to say to someone for whom it seems the sun has been hiding its rays, it must be said: the sun will come out, if not today, then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then some day after that, and when it does, it will. feel. glorious.

Send a little sunshine Whymommy’s way. She went into surgery today, and surgery for cancer – for anything – is a dark thing. So send some rays – a little comment, a little post in her honor, a few good wishes. Whatever you’ve got. Let it pierce the clouds, and let it be warm and bright.

Warmest, sunniest wishes to you, lady. Be well.

Snakes And Snails And Puppy Dog’s Tails

January 21, 2008

Wonderbaby is fiercely independent and extremely strong-willed. This will, no doubt, come as no surprise to anyone who has followed my stories about her exploits, but, oddly enough, it comes as a fresh daily surprise to me, the person who spends most time with her, that she has the will and demeanour of a hyperintelligent adolescent jacked up on Twinkies. Or a rabid anthropomorphic badger, the kind that a crack-addled Disney might imagination, the kind that has the determination and the ability to lift your keys and steal your car, if there happens to be something down the road that it wants. Take your pick. I’m never quite sure, myself, what life-form she most resembles. Toddler, I suppose.

Whatever it is, and for whatever reason, it’s a constant source of surprise to me. Why I keep waking up each morning expecting to find a child that can be defined in terms of sugar and spice and everything nice, I don’t know. But I do. And so I’m always taken just a little bit off guard when I get smacked by a puppy dog’s tail. Or by a diaper full of fresh toddler shit, removed by said toddler and not-so-neatly carted around until she can find something that looks like a trash-bucket in which to discard it (perhaps the laundry basket, or the oven-cupboard of her toy cook-stove/kitchen), so that she might go on the toilet – the real toilet, mind, and not the potty, which is FOR BABIES – and finish the job, ALONE. (MY DO IT! NO HELP, MOMMY! NO HELP!)

She is all movement and noise, starting the day at a brisk trot-and-bounce and finishing it at full-tilt run-and-leap, with no deceleration in-between. She will brook no quiet time, unless it is spent in some sort of moving vehicle, in which case she will holler, repeatedly, FASTER GO FASTER! LET’S GO HILL! UP! DOWN! FASTER! And if we do attempt to force some quiet time, either by buckling her into some sort of toddler containment facility or such whatnot, she will break free and – woe betide you if you are not hot on her trail – seize the opportunity for a fast game of public hide’n’seek or scaling walls or breaking into cupboards and stealing chocolate or busting into bathroom cabinets and finding potions to pour into the sink or, maybe, just going to the bathroom unsupervised where one can experiment with defecation and disposal techniques uninterrupted.


So although she is the darlingest thing, and is certainly as sweet as pie in most respects – she will always say please and thank you and excuse me, as she rushes past you to grab your handbag in her search for candy or car keys, and will always insist upon cleaning up the poo she has inexpertly deposited in exactly the wrong location (CLEAN UP! CLEAN UP!) – there is nothing sugar and spice about her.

What, then, am I supposed to do if I produce a male version of this child? What if her little brother is everything that she is, but with a urine-spraying penis-thingie, too? Won’t that be, like, Wonderbaby armed?

I’m so thrilled to be having a boy, I really, really am, but that thrilledness carries with it the distinct vibrations of fear. Real fear. Palpable fear. The fear, I think, that only a mother who has had the experience of feeling totally under siege by her children can know.

There are going to be two of them, soon, and one of them is going to have a built-in spray hose. I should just go ahead and wave the white flag right now, shouldn’t I?

For Julie, who will be under spray months before I am, and so who will, I hope, pass on some good sources of peenie umbrellas to me. (Part of the not-so-golden shower hosted by Kristen and Cathy)

Cry Baby, Redux

January 18, 2008

Sometimes, you write something, and believe it to be, like, one-hundred and ten percent true – like, say, I cry so much because I am hormonal, and happy – and then, just hours later, you find yourself standing in the kitchenwares aisle at Zellers sobbing and whimpering, to no-one in particular, I am crying because I CANNOT HANDLE THIS SHIT, I CANNOT HANDLE THIS SHIT, I CANNOT DO THIS, as your toddler disappears around another corner with a fistful of lifted lollipops in her tiny hands, cackling with the maniacal glee that only a shoplifting toddler can summon.

And you seriously consider going home and deleting every reference to happiness from your blog and very possibly removing every single happiness signifier in your household – beginning with that stupid grin on that stupid stuffed Dora doll that Wonderbaby received for Christmas, which, you think, could be quite effectively dealt with by means of black Sharpie – because how can one be happy when one simply cannot cope with the quotidien requirements of being a mother while also being pregnant and having run out of chocolate?

And although you don’t make the tempting deletions, and you resist defacing the nauseatingly cheerful Dora doll with a Sharpie pen, and you do, thankfully, wake up the next day feeling a little more balanced, you decide that you need to be a lot more careful about your declarations about happiness, because the gods are bitches, and they will fuck with you if you get cocky.

And then you go buy more chocolate.

Cry, Baby

January 16, 2008

Why is it, that on top of all the other discomforts and inconveniences of pregnancy – the heartburn, the back-ache, the farting (it’s not just me, is it? It can’t be), the disrupted sleep (what agent of Satan decided that pregnant women could not sleep on their backs? Side-sleeping is an unholy torture when the combination of belly weight and gravity constantly conspire to tip you over), the nauseau (more or less recovered from, but I still can’t face a weird smell – and here I do not refer to my pregnancy farts, which are more noisy than smelly, but rather to things like, oh, say, peanut butter – without retching) – the forces of universe decided that one of the symptoms of hormonal unrest due to pregnancy should be extreme moodiness?

I don’t want to cry about the fact that the cats scratched my brand-new rug, again, or about the play of light through my kitchen window, or about Ella Fitzgerald singing How High The Moon, or because I couldn’t get the espresso machine to make me a decaf non-fat latte just by standing in front of it and yelling or because Britney Spear just keeps making things worse for herself. I don’t want to cry, period. Crying gives me headaches, and if I get another headache right now it will probably just, you know, make me cry.

I also don’t like being Her Bad Jekyll and Mother Hyde with my husband: I’ve been known, over recent days, to suddenly snap at him for, say, looking at me the wrong way or insisting upon making the gravy for the mashed potatoes or making puns that I don’t get (although to be fair, I did laugh once I got it, like, two minutes later). He tolerates it, which only makes it worse, because his unquestioning acceptance of my psychotic condition just makes cry.

Feeling really fat while eating all the chocolates that a dear friend sent me also makes me cry (which, yes, I insist is a hormonal thing and not self-loathing, because most of the time I don’t mind so much feeling fat, only, sometimes, when I’m eating handfuls of chocolates and getting a stomach-ache) but I keep doing it, because otherwise HBF would eat them and I would snap at him and then I would cry anyway, so I might as well skip the middleman and get the pleasure of the chocolate before I get weepy.

But the biggest headf*ck of all is that it’s being really happy – which I am, these days – that has got me most constantly on the verge of tears. Feel Sprout kick? Eyes get wet. Listen to Wonderbaby sing ABC? Throat closes up. Watch HBF and Wonderbaby count the stars – which we can now see in abundance, outside the city – through her bedroom window? Choke back tears. Reflect upon my lovely family and my lovely life and the bright horizon that is constantly unfolding before us?

Sob. And smile.

Why I Love My Husband But Have Been Known To Roll My Eyes At Him, Dramatically, Part XXVI

January 14, 2008

Dinner chez HBM, last night:

Wonderbaby (pointing, with frown, to suspicious orange lump on plate): Whassat?

HBM: Sweet potato.

Wonderbaby: NO LIKE TAY-TOE.

HBM: Fine. It’s a yam.

Wonderbaby: HAM?

HBM: YAM.

HBF (helpfully): It’s a tuber.

Wonderbaby: TOOBER?

HBF: Tuber.

Wonderbaby: NO LIKE TOOBER.

(Tuber/yam/sweetpotato flies by HBM’s head, very narrowly missing her nose, and lands, with a splat, on the dining room wall, where it clings for a sticky moment before sliding, tuberously, to the freshly-cleaned floor.)

HBF: Ah.

HBM: WHAT?

HBF: Tuber-too-close-is. Be glad you didn’t catch that.

(ba-DUM-DUM)

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Pregnant Beholder

January 12, 2008

You know how it goes. You have a prenatal appointment, they do an ultrasound, they let you see your baby, and you’re just filled – suffused – with the joy of seeing your beautiful baby boy right there on the screen, every healthy – healthy! – bouncing inch of him, little legs bending and kicking (oooh, my goodness, you have a little active one! says the radiologist), little hand shoved in little mouth, and you think, that’s my baby, that’s my beautiful baby.


And the radiologist says, I just need to get a look face-on, and pushes and prods at your belly with the ultrasound stick, and then exclaims, oh, look, there’s the little face!


And you think, oh, my. SKELETOR.

But he’s still the most beautiful boy that you’ve ever seen.