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Mockery of Me

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 06/15/07 

I call Olivia and Hailey kiddos all the time, mostly not to confuse them and god forbid, accidentally call them by the wrong name. “How was school today kiddo?” or “Bed time kiddo, lights out.” or “Morning kiddo, how are ya?” you get the point. On Thursday’s the kiddos attend a half day at preschool, nine to three. Two months out of three, Olivia has swim lessons after preschool which takes place on the schools campus at an indoor pool. It’s nice because that gives Hailey and me some one-on-one time, we go to the park or play in the gymnasium at her school or go to the ice cream parlor for an hour before it is time to pick-up Olivia.

Hailey and I were picking up Olivia from swim class, we just had ice cream. We parked the car, traversed through the labyrinth of hallways at the main building of their school and waited for Olivia outside the women’s locker room, correction I waited outside the locker room and Hailey went in to tell her sister we were there to pick her up. As always, when Olivia and Hailey emerge from the locker room they competitively race through the building, ignore security door protocols, climb up two lengthy flights of stairs and zoom past the main entry membership check area, all of that, to be the first one to press the handicap door button which fascinates them. The door opens, must be magic.

Lately, they have been competing for everything, who can get into the car first, who can get dressed first, who can wash their hands before a meal first, who can push the button first, etc, etc etc. The winner gloats and the looser will either throw a fit or proclaim, “It is not a competition!” Good sportsmanship is a concept preached daily too them, yet to be learned.

Back to the story: The kiddos clambered into the car; I buckled Hailey in then walked to the other side of the Forester to strap Olivia in her seat. She reached into my front shirt pocket and seized my sunglasses. I let her play with ‘em, just a cheap pair. She slid my sunglasses on her face and in her deepest possible voice said “It’s dark out kiddos.” I couldn’t help from laughing hysterically. Olivia started cracking-up too and Hailey was a bit puzzled as to what was so funny. I asked Olivia to tell repeat what she had said for her sister and the cognation of laughter continued the whole drive home.

I had been mocked by my own daughter. It was creatively funny, she spontaneously crafted the phrase, however I have a bad feeling that my impromptu hysteria will only lead to further mockeries.

Work It Mommy

Kim cried the night before reclaiming her status of working mom. She wept for Elizabeth Rose; not leaving the baby for more than an hour in two months, the anticipation of a severed attachment caused deep emotional and physical pain. One may have thought by the amount of tear fall that it was more wrenching than Elizabeth’s forced removal via cesarean section.

Kim bellowed at the thought of going back to work after six months. A consistent employment she has maintained for over thirteen years. The company is one of the few fortune 500 companies in our city and there are many benefits for full time employees. The corporation itself is great however her old boss was someone that Kim could no longer work with. Luckily while Kim was away on her extended maternity leave the department she worked in jostled a few positions around and Kim was on the receiving end of a promotion and would be under new management. Had the position change not occurred this journal entry may have been about a new stay at home mom.

There were many other concerns Kim mulled over the night before returning to work. One of which, for monetary reasons, we had to adjust the amount of preschool our girls attend, from three full days and one half day to four half days, 9am to 3pm. This meant that on two of those days Kim would have to wake up at 4:30am so she could work an eight hour shift and then pick-up the children at two different preschools. Kim also worried that I would have problems juggling the morning routine solo and getting the kiddos at preschool on time. Rightfully so, as the first week’s adaptation to mommy morning absence resulted in missing the curb side drop off every single day. The following week I made the necessary modifications to get everyone to school on time; got out of bed a bit earlier, had breakfast waiting for the kiddos, had a bottle warmed for baby, woke the kiddos earlier and had their backpacks stocked and parked by the back door awaiting our departure.

Two weeks later, two working parents later, Kim’s tears have subsided, the bank account replenished (three of the six months that Kim was on maternity leave was unpaid) and the kiddos may even be happier spending less time at school and more time with mom and dad. Although I can’t speak for Elizabeth Rose. She seems to be doing well at day care. She eats the same, sleeps the same and poops the same, so it is hard to tell at this point whether she is innocuous to the change.

Elizabeth Rose and MeElizabeth Rose is doing great. She consistently sleeps through the night. Smiles when she sees familiar faces. Makes bubbles with her tongue and lips. Kicks and swings for dangling objects. The tumultuous four hour of colic a day has subsided to a mere fifteen minute 9pm fussy phase. She has added 2 pounds and 3 inches of size. Her back is strong and she holds her head high at great lengths while sitting up watching her big sisters or possibly watching out for them.

Upstaged

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 01/19/07 

For over a month Olivia’s preschool class practiced a skit that they performed during this years Hanukah party and every day Kim and I interrogated Olivia about the details of the skit. Kim would ask “Did your class rehearse today?” Then I would question, “What songs did you sing?” Then Kim would inquire, “Do you have any lines?” Then I would cross-examine, “Do you have a major part?” Kim would ask another and then I would ask another, etc… Olivia secretively dodged all our questions for the entire month. The more we questioned the less she talked. A few days before the play I was ready to fabricate a waterboard in the tub to get some answers out of her.
 
The day of the parties came. I say parties because Hailey who is still at the infant/toddler building on the community centers’ campus had a small informal music, crafts and snack get together in the morning before nap time. At the beginning of the predictable party, Hailey’s class, the green room, marched in single file out of their room and into the multi-purpose room where all the parents and special friends were waiting. It was a grand entrance and all of the green room children were wearing handmade Shamash hats. (The Shamash is the lead candle that lights the other candles on the menorah). Hailey placidly sat in my lap for the duration of the musical portion of the festivity proudly wearing the hat that she made. We joined the rest of her class inside the green room for snacks and a dreidel craft after the sing-along. Hailey shed a few tears when Kim, Zadie (my dad) and I had to leave, she didn’t want the party to end.
 
Six o’clock that same evening the preschooler’s party was held in the auditorium at the main building. Kim and I decided to pack a light picnic style dinner and eat with the girls in the cafeteria before heading into the assembly hall. It was a smart move considering when Olivia and Hailey get home from school they take off most of their clothing, demand juice and a movie, then comatosely melt into the couch until we drag them to the dinner table. Had we done the normal routine we would have never made it out of the house in time for the soiree.
 
As we entered the auditorium Roz (Olivia’s teacher) said “hello” and gave Olivia a handcrafted menorah hat that all the pumpkin room kids were wearing. Nine construction paper candles circled Olivia’s head and as she put it on Hailey demanded her Shamash hat. As I was getting the Shamash hat out of her backpack she also wanted her purple tinker bell sunglasses and I obliged her. Roz directed Olivia to the front of the auditorium where a two foot riser sat in front of the main stage. Then Roz asked Kim, Hailey and me to find a seat. The place was filling up quickly. We were lucky to find seats in the second row and saved one for my dad who showed up soon after we got there.
 
Olivia climbed onto the riser and was instantly pushed back behind the big five-year old kids from the bear room who were all wearing latke hats and then pushed even further back by the four-year old kids from the yellow room who were all wearing dreidel hats. A lot of the kids were jockeying for a front row position. Olivia listlessly hung in the shadows and I could barely see her behind everyone. Stage fright or intimidation? No wonder she was so reluctant to talk about the rehearsals. “How was your day honey?”
“Oh great dad, another day of getting pushed around by the big kids.”
 
The show begun as Jody (director of academia) lit the menorah and all the children sung the blessings. Then Jody started the skit with a short Q and A. “Who was Judah?” and all the children shouted, “Leader of the Maccabee’s!” She asked several more questions with prompt answers provided. Olivia didn’t say one word.
 
The musical portion of the play came next; Hailey rushed the stage and pulled herself onto the elevated platform. She found a little space front and center then joined in the singing. With her Shamash hat and tinker bell sunglasses on, she was waving to the crowd, singing as loud as she could and animating her body to the music. Everybody in the house cracked up at her loony antics. At one point some of the older kids shoved her into the back row but she tenaciously elbowed her way to the front again where she belted-out unrehearsed tunes. Olivia’s back was bashfully turned to the audience for the entire show, until the very end, when she glanced over her shoulder to see her little sister Hailey, the Shamash, leading the way and boldly stealing the show.
 
I felt so proud and happy for Hailey yet sad and compassionate for Olivia. However, they were indifferent, like nothing out of the ordinary happened. No feelings hurt, (not that I could tell), no joyous celebrations, (although Kim and I congratulated both of them). They went about their party business; diligently completing all the craft projects and devouring the sugar cookie snack. The only real problem was shlepping them home kicking and screaming. Both didn’t want the party to end.

Dirty Ending

Kim leaves for work early, typically before the rest of us wake up, therefore she tiptoes around all morning being as quiet as possible. She switches the alarm clock off before it sounds, starts the shower, rattles the curtains, drops the soap at least once, shuts the water off, the curtains jingle again, she drums the toilet paper spinning the roll quickly out, flushes the toilet, scrubs her teeth, swishes, spits, the hairdryer hums for at least fifteen minutes, the medicine cabinet opens with a squeak and shuts with a bang, her make-up-tackle-box has a similar creak and pop sound, the bathroom lights flood, the closet light shines, she slips into her carefully selected clothes, the grind and brew coffee maker takes off from the kitchen runway, the toaster oven bell dings, the fridge door slams clattering all the contents inside, then she sneaks into the bedroom one last time to breathe in my ear, “ok babe, I got to go.” Lying in bed half-sleeping I can’t help but hear and sense her actions. Really, she is highly stealthy getting ready for work and her hour long grooming is a time for me to mentally prepare for the day.

 

Within minutes of Kim’s departure, Hailey wakes from her slumber. Relentlessly she calls for me “Daddieeee” until I brightly enter her room.

“Did somebody wake-up?” Gambling that my cheerfulness will be reciprocated. “Hailey woke-up, yea. How is my little girl today?”

“Mommy up?” Every morning she inquires.

“Mommy’s at work sweetie.” I console.

“Sissy up?”

“Sissy is still sleeping.” I whisper.

“Mimi up?” She methodically interrogates. Mimi is our dog. We work though the cats, Haskle and Kyle. She may even through in Bubbie or Nana or a cousin.

At last she eagerly declares, “Daddy up!”

Once out of her crib, I swap her saturated diaper for a fresh pull-up with pit-crew quickness. Lately she has been requesting her “(r)obe,” must be because I have been wearing mine. We get her milk, turn-on Dora, settle into our armchair and I’ll comb and style her hair, usually into some kind of pony. We get a few minutes to snuggle before I go rouse Olivia.

“Is it a daddy day?” Olivia’s first of a thousand questions for the day.

“Today is a school day.” I try to sound upbeat. She is only three and already prefers not going to school. “You’re going to have so much fun with your friends today.” Desperate to get her energized. “Today you’re going swimming.” Or “You get to do music today.” I’ll try whatever is on her preschool activity list for the day. I want to say, “You get to drive daddy’s car today.”

“Hmf” she sighs and pulls the covers over herself. “Is three the new thirteen?”

“We do carpool today?” From under the covers comes the second of a thousand. (Carpool means it’s a half-day and I pick-up early).

“Today is Monday” or “Wednesday” or “Friday” The toughest deadline I cope with is getting the girls to preschool before the breakfast cut-off, eight forty-five. Since Tuesday is a ‘daddy day’ and Thursday is a half-day, those mornings are not so hectic. “C’mon sweetie let’s get some underwear on.” She’s not yet night trained.

“You get Cinderella’s (character underwear) for me my daddy?” She slithers into her undies, then we go lay on the couch where she has some juice and watches Diego. I comb her hair and fashion it into a twisted-dirty-bun or Pocahontas-braids.

After ten or fifteen minutes I’ll request that everyone go pick-out some clothes and get dressed for school. Before potty-training, before wardrobe independence, before Hailey’s favorite phrase, “no! I do it!” There was a time when it only took an average of forty-five minutes to ready both girls and get them to school. Now, we struggle for an hour and a half.

 

Hailey is so picky about her clothes, she is a t-shirt and shorts kind of girl and if there is no clean yellow shirt for her to wear I am in for an ear-full. A major firestorm occurred a few weeks ago over switching from shorts to pants. Hailey was thrashing with rage at the mention of stretchy-pants on that first cold autumn morning. I attempted to coax her into the pants for a half hour, she kept refusing, we had to get going and I practically sat on top of her while wrestling the pants on. I felt like a fashion-goon.

Once the girls have chosen their apparel and have dressed themselves, taking approximately twenty to thirty minutes, its time to brush teeth and wash faces. They both have to do it all unaided, squeeze the paste out, brush, rinse, and return the brushes to the holder. Then, dampen their face-cloths, ring them out, pretend the wash-cloth is a hat and as I supervise, they must be reminded of every facial feature to cleanse. This is a twenty minute procedure.

Their self-sufficiency continues as it is time to get shoes and socks on. I would like to personally thank the inventor of Velcro strap shoes. Olivia is rather good now only taking five minutes to get her shoes and socks on, but Hailey strains with her socks refusing any assistance finally giving up asking for help only after her sister has both shoes and socks on. If I loosen the straps without her noticing prior to her attempts she can get the shoes on herself rather quickly.

“Time to line-up.” We are almost out the door when Olivia decides she has to go potty and of course Hailey follows suit. Oh and then they have to fish through the craft tub to obtain stickers for their friends at school. At last we are ready and getting into the car only takes another ten minutes. They both must climb in the Forester and into their child-safety-seats themselves too.

 

Every morning I do my best not to rush them. Try my hardest not to get upset with all the set-backs, accidents and procrastination. I remember to praise their successes, congratulating them for cooperation and helpful compliance. I realize that expending the time and effort of teaching self-reliance in the present will be beneficial in the near future, in spite of that, the concept of “we are running late!” only concerns me.

 

The drive to preschool is short; we live a couple miles away. Most mornings I will call Kim and put the cell phone on speaker mode so the girls can chitchat. As we pull into the parking lot we discus any problems that need addressing, for instance, “Hailey I would like for you to keep your clothes on all day today, ok sweetie.”

Fortunately both girls are beyond separation anxiety so drop-off usually goes well. Hailey is hungry by the time we get to her class room, she drops her back pack and jacket in front of her locker, I have to ask her to put her things where they belong and she tells me “daddy do it” then without any further ado she says her goodbyes and heads to the breakfast table.

 

Olivia has particular superstitious ‘drop-off’ rituals that if broken lead to ‘make-dad-feel-awful-for-leaving-me-here’ melt-downs. Her class room is located in another building on the schools’ campus so we have to walk over to the ‘big building’. We acquire a secure-card from the admin assistant’s desk, leaving my keys as collateral. Olivia must carry the ‘blue card’ to the other building and perform the magic of unlocking the outside door by gliding the security-card in front of the black sensor box. Once inside, there is a small vestibule and another set of doors with a ten-key-pad security lock to enter the building, she must be the one to press the correct combination of keys to unlock the door. “Maxwell Smart in training” Most mornings she shyly enters the class room behind me, sometimes attached to my leg. I promptly sign her in and remind her to put her back-pack and jacket in her locker. I can’t leave yet. I have to stay while she washes her hands and shows me how she gets her own breakfast put together. She scoops the cereal out of a gallon-sized plastic zip-lock bag into a foam bowl, pours the milk from a two quart measuring cup, spoons caned mixed fruit onto a six inch styrofoam plate, carefully carrying the bowl of cereal she finds the preschooler-sized-seat with her name on the back and makes a couple trips to the prep-table for her fruit and drink. Then she needs a big ‘pick me up and hold me for a couple minutes’ hug before she excuses me.

 

Leaving my baby girls for the day is psychologically muddy, slowly walking back to my car, involuntarily fumbling around in my pockets for keys which I have left on the admin assistant’s desk, I feel exhausted from another frenzied morning, relief that we got to school on time and liberated from parental duty yet sorrowful and empty; a part of me is left behind.

 

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 10/05/06

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