Sunday, July 4, 2010

Having Your Ego Stroked...

...By a five year old, just doesn't happen. For proof, here are some quotes from the past week:

'Your stomach looks like you have a baby in it!' (It doesn't)

'Your new fringe looks nice mum! And now you can't see all those crinkles on your forehead.' (I had often thought I would never botox because I couldn't bear to lose my Angry Eyes - an important weapon in the arsenal would gone. I have been reconsidering that decision in light of recent happenings.)

And (my personal favourite - bear with me, this one takes some setting up)

Eva: 'We had a another teacher at school today and she was young.'
Me: 'Was she nice?'
Eva: 'Oh yes, she played with us. But she had big big, nostrils. Even bigger and rounder than yours.' (I have no hope, since ears and noses - cruelly - never stop growing.)

Sigh...As if getting older isn't already a drag, I now have constant reminders from a source other than the mirror.

Your favourite big-nostriled, pregnant looking blogger with the newly hidden wrinkled forehead

Monday, May 31, 2010

Let's Get Clinical...Or Not

True story #1: We’re on the way to ballet a couple of weeks ago, with a friend’s daughter, who I’ll refer to as Cate. As yet, Cate doesn’t have any brothers. One of my boys (being a boy) made a ‘willy’ joke – since in the Shaw household, we’re well and truly mired in the era of ‘It ain’t funny unless it’s toilet humour.’ Then Cate asked, ‘What’s a willy?’

Before I could complete my simple-yet-effective answer of ‘It’s how boys do pee,’ Eva launched into ‘Well, it’s got these two sorta BALL things underneath, with a big long TUBE on top and that’s got a HOLE on the end and – OH! THAT’S where the wee comes out!’ (So full of information are five year olds.) Obviously my description was severely lacking. After registering this information for a second, Cate says, ‘Oh! You mean a doodle!’ Luckily, I was driving and no one cared about my muffled laughter.

Now every parenting book or article I’ve read advises against this – using slang terms to refer to private parts. Among the slurry of advice we’re given, we as parents (more pressure) are encouraged to use the proper names for body parts from Day One.

Recently I stumbled upon a parenting magazine with a glibly titled article called ‘Private Schooling’ which discussed the importance of using ‘proper’ names to refer to these certain body parts. (I should mention that this article was alongside ‘Life After Purees!’ – which is to say that it is obviously geared to new, first-time mums who logically have high, unrealistic expectations, and who are still swearing they will do everything by the book, will never let the kids eat in the car or watch t.v. until they’re five. Ha.)

I understand the main argument behind this is that it’s a way of keeping children safe. However, if your child came to you and – God forbid – said so-and-so tried to touch his willy, I think you’d get the picture. So would a court of law. (She mentions these legal ramifications in part of her article: but, really, if it’s gotten to that point, don’t you have bigger worries than making sure your child uses the correct anatomical names for a jury?) By this extension, does this mean that we need to have one universal word for underwear (as opposed to knickers, undies, pants, panties, jocks) in order to keep our children ‘safer’?

Let’s dissect the rest of this advice, shall we? As the article begins, the writer says, ‘An arm is an arm and a leg is a leg, just as a penis is a penis.’ But don’t we often use words such as tummy for stomach and pointy for the index finger, doggy for dog, and the like? Yet that’s not seen as misleading or confusing. She goes on: ‘For boys, use the word “penis” initially and then add “scrotum” and “testicles” as they discover these parts.’ At 37, I feel I can admit to you all that I don’t think I’ve once used these words in an appropriate context. Ever. Nor have I ever heard a man (unless they’re a doctor) refer to said parts by these words either. Usually, when the latter are being mentioned, it’s in the heat of the moment as in ‘OWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! That hockey puck just hit me straight in the balls!!!’

For girls, the advice is even better: ‘“Vulva” is the correct term for the vaginal area [as] the vagina is located internally.’ Do they need to know that there is an internal area at age three? I understand the safety issue, but…well, see my above example. If so, then when do we introduce the clitoris and its primary function? (And while we’re on that subject, is it CLIT-oris or cli-TOR-is? No matter which way I say it, it sounds wrong. Perhaps that is a toe-MAY-to, toe-MAH-to argument.) All I could think of when this vulva bit was mentioned is the Seinfeld in which Jerry dates the girl whose name he forgets, but knows that her name rhymes with a female body part. ‘Mulva? Movary?’ George asks. Mitoris? Sounds like a Greek goddess. And what about the lowly bum? Is that to become buttocks? Glutes? Anus? Sphincter? More confusion.

I must again apply this same ‘principle’ to the fluids that come out of those said holes. Encrusted mucus to replace snot and boogie, or my personal favourite hybrid, snoog? Flatulence? Another word I’ve never used in its appropriate context. Does ‘Oh no Johnny! You’ve just peed on my handbag!’ now have to become ‘Oh no Johnny! You’ve just urinated on my handbag!’ What about cooing to your infant, ‘Did someone make some faeces in their nappy?!’ And the classic potty training books ‘Everybody Poops’ and ‘Once Upon a Potty’– should they be renamed ‘Everybody’s Anus Excretes’ and ‘Once Upon a Toilet’? Sorry, buy they just can’t muster the same bang.

True story #2: Another friend has the smartest child I have ever encountered. (Knew colours at 18 months, for a start, without any coaching.) One day I said to her, ‘Oh, hello Lilly,’ to which she replied ‘I have a vagina.’ ‘Yes, you do, you’re a girl,’ I said. It was funny and we all laughed and the discussion was over. But it came from Lilly, who clearly is the type of kid for whom the answer ‘It’s a hoo-hoo’ just wouldn’t suffice. Some kids are ready for that information at age two. But I don’t think most are. I have to admit that often when I hear a two-year old using clinical words, I cringe. I find it almost disconcerting, for lack of a better word.

And once again, I’m left unconvinced by the ‘expert’ advice as to the actual advantage of inflicting adult vocabulary into their worlds from the start. We complain about them growing up too fast. Why can’t we let their childhood extend into their terminology, even if it’s just for a little while? Let our kids be kids.

When more questions start, I’m prepared to answer. But for now, I’m sticking with what works. And it ain’t va-jay-jay…Oh, there I go again…

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Great Black Hole of Kindergarten

Although my brain still says Groundhog Day and Black History Month, here in the southern hemisphere February means back to school time. And this year, we hit the big time: big school. Full. Day. Kindergarten. And can I just say ‘WOOOOOOO-HOOOOOO!’? I no longer have three at home. I made it. I survived.

Let me tell you, it has been no small feat having full-time responsibility for a diva, as any of Naomi Cambell’s handlers will gladly confirm. Eva was and continues to be the most work of my three children. This had been something I thought would subside as she aged and matured (read = ‘mellowed’); but this is not to be. This past year in the run up to school has been a lot about my acceptance of who she is – I was reluctant to realise that some of the traits she has I cannot punish, beat or time-out out of her. She is her own woman already. So the give and take continues.

The first day of school was a day that seemed to forever loom large and far away and I was as keenly aware of it as a man on death row is of his doomsday. However, unlike that man on death row, my counting down was in no way melancholy, or full of sorrow, regret, or any of those other therapy-inducing emotions. Oh no. Mine was pure excited anticipation, as was hers. I was ready and more importantly, so was she.

I remember my own first day of kindergarten. I had no nerves and was excited. When I got there and I saw kids screaming, clutching mom’s legs, my antennae went up: what did they know that I didn’t? Why the tears? And for Eva and I, it wasn’t nearly as emotional as it is for some. In the lead up and even on the actual day, I kept waiting to feel wistful or have that ‘It’s the end of an era’ feeling wash over me. But it didn’t. In fact it was so easy that I almost started to feel a little guilty that I wasn’t sad or it wasn’t more difficult for one of us to let go. But all I felt was relief – and no one had prepared me for that.

Now, three weeks in, I realise that I also wasn’t prepared for how shut out I am from her secret school life – and maybe that’s why I didn’t know to be sad. Without going all cheeseball Hallmark card, it really is the first letting go milestone. And as I’ve quickly discovered, I also cannot be there to solve every problem, fight every battle, supply every answer.

With preschool, although I wasn’t there, I would come at the end of the day and have a look in the giant book the teachers had pieced together during the day: ‘Today we discussed fairies. We drew pictures of fairy homes. Sally asked, “What do fairies like to eat?”’ etc. Plenty of material there. I had inroads. I had discussion starters.

Now? Well, now I got nothin’. All that’s in my arsenal of questions is ‘How was school today?’ You can guess the answer to that one. My other question is, ‘What did you do in school today?’ Here are some actual discussions (or not) about the goings-on from our first few weeks.

Day One
Me: How was it?! Was it fun?
Eva: It was the best day EVER!
(We have nowhere to go but down…)

Day Two

Me: How was it?! Was it fun? How’s your teacher?
Eva: She’s nice. Her name is MRS. Lawlor. Mum, mum, you CAN’T just call her ‘LAWLOR’, okay?!? It’s MRS. LAWLOR.
Me: Yes, because I often make a habit of calling people solely by their last names. A hangover from my years as an Army staff sergeant. Thanks for bringing that to my attention before I embarrassed myself. How did I ever get on in life without your sage instruction?

Day Three
Me: How was your day?
Ted: We had a doughnut!
Me: Oh for God’s sake! It’s not a pony we’re talking about. (Note to self – do not mention any ‘fun’ activities from our secret life.)

Day Five
Me: So…How was it? What did you do today?
Eva: I played with the Play-dough.
Me: For six hours?
Eva: No…and the tea set!
Me: And what about the other 5 hours and 22 minutes of the day?

Day Nine
Me: So…what did you do today? Did you do any of your letters?
Eva: No. I don’t know. We just did some numbers, OKAY? (In that perfected, 15-year-old, ‘I’m just telling you this to shut you up’ tone of voice)

Day Twelve

Me: So, how was your day?!
Eva: [Exasperated] I don’t want to talk about it. (With the snippy disappointment in her voice to indicate that she was actually talking about blowing her call-back audition for the starring role in the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical)

I’m stonewalled. And fascinated. How do they actually teach them to read or add or anything else for that matter? And, for the sake of pure curiosity, how does one even manage to keep 27 five-year olds entertained for six whole hours? It’s all shrouded in mystery.

When my kids were all babies together and I was bleary-eyed with cracked nipples, there were always those completely insensitive but well-intentioned older ladies (who had clearly romanced their early years) who would say things like, ‘Don’t wish it away – these are the best years of your life!’ Three kids shitting in nappies who fight and bite, va-jayjay farts during my weekly yoga and preparing three dinners a night and this is the best I have to look forward to in my life? This would usually make me want to reach for my sharpened dagger and commit hara-kiri on the spot: this is as good as it’s ever going to get? People said that about high school too. And while I enjoyed high school, I wouldn’t say it’s ‘the best’ and I don’t want to go back. (Except maybe to be the-cool-chic-in-a-John-Hughes-film sorta way.)

And now, for all my anticipation – poof – it’s gone. For 30 hours a week she is someone else’s responsibility entirely. When you consider that there are 164 hours in a week, roughly half of which are spent asleep when you’re five, our time together has nearly been cut in half. And five has been a magic age. I feel like I just got her nice and it’s time to send her off into the world – a preview for the teen years, no doubt. So maybe when my next one goes off, I will be sad. I’ll let you know in two years, but in the meantime, I have go and set my countdown clock…

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Graveyard of Old Bibs

Anyone have any clever uses for old bibs? (I feel obliged to mention that I am in no way crafty.) I don't use them that often anymore, and have roughly 122. I'm thinking of sewing them together into a quilt. I should have it completed before I'm 60.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Dog

I would consider getting a dog simply for having someone to suck up the crumbs after every meal. Although our in-house ants do a wonderful job, it takes all day.

Seriously, who carpets under a kitchen table?

Monday, December 14, 2009

An Ode to David Letterman via Oprah

In my latest bid at shameless self-promotion, I decided to try and go straight to the top: Oprah. There was a recent ‘Be on the Show’ topic that asked for you to create a video of your ‘mom moments’. I can do this – I thought – boy, do I have plenty of fodder! And while I’m not really all that keen on the idea of seeing myself on television, I would like an hour with those hair and make-up people she employs.

Among others, one of the questions asked was what was something you wished you knew before having children?

So here is my Top Ten List, an Ode to Dave Letterman and of course, you too Oprah.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having Children, or Things I Now Know For Sure, in no particular order:

10. The hours from 5-7pm are the equivalent of six normal daytime hours; conversely, the hours from their bedtime to yours are the equivalent of 15 minutes, during which time you have to email, read your book, have sex, and watch everything you’ve tivo-ed

9. If you can look in on them at night while they're sleeping and not still want to kill them, you're doing okay

8. Unless you move to a deserted tropical island where fig leaves or total nakedness is acceptable, you will never be caught up on your laundry again. Ever. (Except maybe with a full-time nanny, and then, only maybe.)

7. As soon as you pick up a telephone, your children (who have spent all day ignoring you) will begin fashioning crude weaponry out of things from the utensils drawer, helping themselves to ice cream, chips or other ‘sometimes’ food and /or simultaneously start demanding your undivided attention with that puzzle or craft they haven’t looked at in weeks

6. The contents of your vacuum cleaner bag will be thus: 90% dust, dirt and fluff; 10% cheerios, Barbie shoes and legos

5. You will have to renegotiate every major relationship in your life, no matter how stable: with your husband, your boss, your mother, your friends

4. Going to the bathroom for any reason (from peeing to tamponing to showering) will become a 'teachable moment'

3. Your outdoor voice becomes your indoor voice for large portions of the day

2. Expect your favourite clothes to become napkins, tissues, and on the odd occassion, even toilet paper - a sponge for any and all bodily fluids. (I'm still waiting for a fashionable clothing range from Bounty)

1. If you do it right, it's the hardest job ever; if you don't do it right, it's even harder

And, as every mum knows, everything tastes better with ketchup.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Stationary Bike for Oompa Loompas

Ok, I usually don't just 'blog' and write little blurbs about (inane) things I have observed during my day, but today I just can't resist.

I saw for the first time ever today a pint-sized exercise bike. Yep. You heard me. A STATIONARY bike. For children. I thought exercising with a Wii was a bit disheartening, but woefully accepted it as a sign of the times.

But a kid's stationary bike? And it was not just a smaller version of an adult bike, but crafted out of bright, 'fun' primary colours and looked like it could only hold a child less than 8 years old.

I wonder if Junior is supposed to get on it so he can multi-task: say, to read the Wall Street Journal and catch up on his stock porfolio? Perhaps he can scarf down a sleeve of Oreos while pedaling away: try doing that on a ten-speed. Or perhaps it is for those days when he just can't bear to miss Diego. But then, isn't that what tivo is for?

The only obvious conclusion is that Oompa Loompas do, indeed, exist. It also explains their thighs of steel.