Monday, September 26, 2011

What To Say

A few months ago a friend of mine wrote a story about her daughter asking about death. She explained how difficult it was to discuss the topic with her then two year old. The subject came up because the little girl had asked about her grandpa and where he was if he wasn't here. My friend carefully explained that he was in another world. I remember feeling relieved that I didn't need to field such questions and that I probably had years before my daughter asked me. Oh how I was wrong.

When we were away last month at my parents house in the country we discovered a little frog. He was hanging around the front porch and seemed willing to have us look at him up close. We stayed out there with him for a while. The next day, much to our chagrin, he was still and clearly not alive. Just like that, the topic of death arrived on our doorstep. Thinking fast my husband and I decided to be honest. We explained that these things happen sometimes, and that he is resting now.

She asked a few questions and then the subject was pretty much dropped. I read recently that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is what looks to the future. It's the slowest part to develop and so when small children learn about death they can't fully understand that it is forever. They might seem to understand but secretly they believe it will change. We have all heard the stories of children losing a parent and for months afterward they wait in hopes they will come home. I've concluded from reading this that I must be slightly immature. When my Aunt got sick and everyone else knew she was dying I held out hope that in the eleventh hour something would save her. I did it with both grandparents, and I am doing it now with a friend who is sick.

Death is so difficult for me to comprehend how can I possibly expect my three year old to get it?  I just wonder if I am setting the tone correctly. When she drops something I hear her say "it's okay" to herself. She has clearly heard me say that to her when she falls or spills something. If she loses something we do our best to replace it, but maybe we shouldn't. We didn't pull off a sit-com ending with the frog and show up the next day with a new one. She learned the real lesson that day and maybe I try to sugar coat things more than I should. I don't always know what to say, but I do know that she has done okay so far with my responses to her questions. I think I will just keep up with the honesty and hope I don't have to explain anything epic anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Rat

Today Twig and I were walking at a local outdoor mall when we saw something black and furry scamper in front of us. We were walking down some outdoor steps to the main level when she spotted the little animal. With such excitement she shrieked, "A lizard!" It didn't take me long to realize it was a rat.

I have to admit this was not an easy sighting for me. Totally gross little creatures with long tails and beady eyes right in from of us, but I couldn't bare to take away her pleasure in that moment. I explained that it was either a mouse or a rat -- she decided it was a mouse. She said, "Mommy, how exciting -- a mouse!"

Everything is new to this kid. Even seeing a live mouse only feet in front of her is a thrill. I played along. After all, I did have pet mice when I was little. It was later, when I had a cat that brought me a dead mouse, that I stopped liking mice. When we got down the stairs, the mouse/rat ran in from of some tattooed Russian guy -- he jumped and freaked a little. I laughed (inside, because he was potentially scarier then the rat) at how that big grown-up was so afraid of what was such a sense of wonder for my little girl.

Twig is big on "why" these days, so when he jumped she questioned why. I made a quick decision to shrug off his jumpiness. There will be plenty of time in her life to take on other people's fear. For right now, I want to keep her wide-eyed innocence intact just a bit longer. I am all about honesty, but not at the cost of her imagination. A few weeks ago, she asked me when she was going to get a baby brother or sister. I told her a baby can take a long time to make. She paused to think and then asked, "Where do we make a baby? In the kitchen?"

I just smiled and replied that some people do. Some of us are more imaginative than others.

Friday, September 16, 2011


So the first day of school has passed, but Twig's dry face was short lived. The following days were harder, and she isn't exactly excited about her educational pursuits. Today she woke up with a fever, so she can play hooky, but I feel her ambivalence. This is such a crazy time of transition for her and for me. For the past few years I have really wanted some extra time here and there for myself, and now that I will have it a few days a week, I am struggling to figure out how best to use it. I have a list of work to be done, and yet if I run one errand it's seems to be time to pick her up already. For her, being on her own with new adults and new children around her is very different from what she has known her whole life. For some kids, it seems such an easy adjustment; but for her, she is truly overwhelmed.

I do wonder how much she picks up on from me, as well. I can't seem to get much past her these days. If I even try to spell something out to my husband, she asks what I am saying.  Although I never said anything to her about having been pregnant, she brings up wanting a baby a lot. The other day in Target, she said she wanted to buy some clothes -- something for her, and something for the baby. When I asked her what baby, she said, "The one you are going to have, mommy." I tried not to get upset and just explained that having a baby can take a long time. It was very strange though having her voice the exact same desire that I have been obsessing over, myself. She has just simplified it a million times more though.

My head spinning is a bit out of control these days, and she is probably just on to me. I want to have another baby, but I am terrified. Emotionally I don't know how I will rest easy until I get past the point where I miscarried last time. Physiclly, I don't know how I will endure weeks and weeks of vomiting again. I am hesitant and rightfully so. Recently when I explained to a friend that I was so nervous responded by saying, "Of course you are, you have every reason to be." It helped me realize I was "normal." Knowing I am normal though doesn't make it any better when you feel crazy.

I do know this: there are only certain things in my control. I can't control if and when I will get pregnant, how I will feel, what will happen, how my daughter feels at preschool, and I can't save her from her sadness. I can only do my best to be available to her, and be calm for us both. This isn't the easiest time for this family: I am looking for what is next and my daughter is looking for me. This isn't the hardest time either. We have an amazing life. We are healthy (despite my daughter's fever) and we have each other.

And if that is all we ever have, we still have a lot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The month of September will never come around again without thoughts of 9/11. Here we are again -- it certainly doesn't feel like it has been ten years. Everyone can remember where they were, and how they heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center. That Tuesday morning will forever remain the day that changed the sense of security we feel in this country.

Having grown up in NYC, I remember feeling very stranded out here in Los Angeles. All my friends and family were still in NY. When I heard the news I immediately went through all of my friends who worked near the area. I started to make calls but no one was answering. Then I thought of my dad, who sometimes purchased merchandise downtown near the towers, and I kept calling and calling. The circuits were busy. It would be hours until I heard that he, and everyone else I had concerns about, was safe.

My friend Melissa comes from a long line of firefighters in her family. It wasn't until a few weeks after 9/11 that I got a call from my mother telling me that Jonathan had been killed. Her brother, Jonathan, was all I could think about when I was sixteen. I had a crazy crush on him and spent all my free time at their house hanging out with Melissa in hopes that he would notice me. When I learned that he got his seventeen year old girlfriend pregnant, I knew he was out of my league. He and his girlfriend expanded their family and went on to have two sons -- all before he was 30. On September 11th, along with his Squad 288, Jonathan entered the World Trade Center, and never came out.

From the moment I learned he died, September 11th became personal, and will remain about Jonathan for me. A lot of people probably questioned him and his girlfriend having children so young, but now I think it was meant to be that way. Albeit briefly, he got to know his children and that is gift that some people don't ever get. In order to really see that ten full years have past I need only to look at the children now that are 11 years old, and talking about the parents they never got to meet. Jonathan's younger son was probably too young to really remember him, but his family has done so much to keep the memory of him strong. Now that I have a child of my own I look at that day so differently. If it were to happen now, there isn't anything I wouldn't do to protect my child.

Although there were so many heroes of that day, and we saw real human kindness towards one another, the event itself shows that unfortunately, not all of humanity feels that way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day Hooray!

She did it! Like a trooper my little Twig went off to school with a hug and a kiss and no tears. Wow!

I went to the DMV to renew my drivers license. Her new teacher told me to make sure she knew I wasn't doing anything fun when I dropped her off. Just to stay true to my word I chose the most boring errand I could. Then I went to Target where it got a little more exciting. I tried to enjoy this new found freedom but I really did wonder if she was okay. I had the number to the school in my phone but I was going to be strong, and not call to check in. I don't want to be known as "That mom"

It probably didn't help that the things I was shopping for at Target were for an emergency kit they require you to pack for your kid. Should there be a natural disaster while she is at school she will have snacks, a flashlight, drinks, tissues and band aids. That way she should be all set EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT I WON'T BE WITH HER. My mind should be at peace though that she will have extra granola bars. Forty five dollars later, my time was up and I had to go pick her up. I planned on coming in a little early and when I got there Twig was coming back from the bathroom when she locked eyes with mine. She looked startled to see me and then burst out crying. She ran over saying "Mommy!"

This wasn't exactly what I expected at pick up time. I understood if she was afraid to say goodbye but I was coming to get her. The teachers explained that I had just walked in at a sensitive moment because she was washing her hands and the bathroom suddenly got too crowded with other kids. When she tried to say exude me to the others they didn't understand her and she got frustrated. Then I walked in. So I didn't have the best timing today but other than that she had a good day, and thankfully no earthquakes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Preschool Payback

I caused my parents some real angst when I was growing up. I was a needy little kid. I had terrible nerves and took separation anxiety to a whole other level. I had the worst gag reflex and if I was nervous, it pretty much meant I was going to throw up. In preschool, some girl named Naomi held my hand, but it felt a little wet so I threw up. I remember seeing it on the ground, so I threw up again. Strong was not a word anyone used to describe my personality as a child. Or my stomach.

Back then, I worried a lot too. I didn't want to be left without my parents when I went to school. Since my brother and sister were older and got to go to school together, I felt left out, all alone at preschool. I remember being in trouble for drawing on something I shouldn't have done, and was resultingly put in the corner. I suppose it's only recently that it got a nicer name: a time out. In the corner I stared at the tiny bubbles in the paint and imagined I could see my dad's face in them. I would then have an imaginary conversation with him and ask him if he could pick me up and take me home. I realized pretty quickly that the wall wasn't magic and eventually I just began to attempt escape. I would come up with runaway plans but I would just get in more trouble.

This week my child starts preschool. The real deal. I have been so focused on her feelings, that when a friend asked me today how I feel about her going, I didn't know what to say. It has been a crazy summer and I feel like she is ready to be with someone other than me all day long. But how do I feel? I started to really think about it and got a little sick to my stomach. Will I be a little sentimental? Of course. Is my girl getting bigger and more independent? Yes. Am I afraid she will be a little like me and cry? You bet I am. She cried everyday I dropped her off at the pre-preschool summer program I enrolled her in back in July. She did great but everyday on the way begged me to stay with her. When I started telling her about starting school soon she said, "Mommy, I don't want to go. I want to be with you all the time."

When my husband wants to piss me off, he will say something like, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." There may be some truth in that, but I think it falls far enough. If I have learned anything from my childhood, it's that it wasn't worth all the worry. When I allowed myself to chill out, I figured out how to enjoy things. I did make my parents job very difficult and am aware of the possibility that my daughter has that potential to do that to me in the next few days, weeks, and OMG years. I'm just trying to do a kick ass job of pretending that there is nothing to be afraid of, and that she buys my front because payback isn't pretty.