Sunday, August 31, 2008

With a little help from my friends (and also random strangers)

Nothing says “single mother” quite like this scene: a sleepy child in a stroller sitting atop a pile of canned goods, maztoh meal, olive oil and all sorts of sauces. A woman is pushing the stroller with her left hand. With her right, she’s pulling an urban shopping cart piled high with bags of beans, couscous, sun-dried fruits, enough tea for a year, and, at the bottom, a bottle of bourbon.

On top of the cart is a plastic bag, tied to the handle, with the overflow of spices and extracts. It’s nearly 9 pm. The woman is walking with a purpose, and fast (or as fast as she can carrying about 200 lbs for 25 minutes across the city).

My dear friend, the center of my social life (let’s face it, my entire social life), the one who’s apartment we often crash at Friday nights when we don’t feel like making the trek home, then returning for morning services next day—she’s moving.

We’re “doing her a favor” by shopping in her kitchen. With all the love in my heart, I must add that, though my kitchen will now be overflowing with her goodness for the next year, and everything we cook or bake will be seasoned with her spices and love, not to mention her impulses, her pulses and her grains, we haven’t made a dent in her kitchen goods.

I know it takes a village and all that, and I don’t have any family near, but I really wish I had something to offer in return to all the kindnesses. So many people have helped me out lately, and I’m still behind in cleaning, laundry, course prep, my own research. I don’t think I brushed my hair today.

My instinct is not to accept this help. But then I’m doing my child a disservice, because I’d be even more frantic than I currently am.

Sure, I’m taking care of everyone when I take care of myself. When I don’t take care of me, I don’t take very good care of her. This week, too tired to function, I let my girl walk with me home from shopping instead of making her ride in the ergo, except for intersections. Then I carried her on my shoulder to minimize her indignant yelps. Half way across the intersection, she threw herself off my shoulders.

If she’d been a football, it would have been a completed pass—she didn’t touch the ground, though she flipped in the air. I caught her with one arm, my foot caught our cart and the fall snapped it in half, and the elbow of my free hand broke the fall.

Luckily, elbow is a funny word, so saying “Ima got a boo boo on her elbow” eventually made her laugh. The strangers who saw the fall helped squeeze the cart into something pullable, collected my purse, steadied me to stand. They were kind and didn’t yell at me for risking anyone’s life.

So I started classes with a nasty, swollen, green and purple elbow, topped off with a big, dark scab. Of course, it was too tender to wear anything to cover the elbows. I guess students intelligently assume there are certain things you don’t really want to know about the people who give you grades.

I am thinking about what kind of volunteer work I can do for an hour or two the days I have off. Something I can take my daughter to, that requires no advanced planning. But maybe I should just bake someone a pie, write a card, bring someone flowers, talk to someone having a hard time. Something to make me feel better about all this kindness I can’t possibly repay

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oh Snap!

Dear Baby Clothes Designers,

First and foremost thanks for making all the cute clothes. Seriously, you guys must have a lot of creative minds working there. Bear feet? Genius. Matching puppy hats to puppy shoes? Wow. And who knew dump trucks would make such appealing infant gear themes?

And also, really really appreciate the safety features you have installed in all your clothing. No toxic chemicals? Thanks! Flame retardant? That could come in handy one day.

My biggest issue with your products is not so much the look or the quality, it’s the application method.

You might not realize this because you spend your days thinking of fun and innovative ways to incorporate zebras into sleepwear, but Mommies are busy busy people. All Mommies want are ways to save time. Microwave bottle sterilization? Good. Hands free pumping mechanisms? Great! Soup On The Go? The perfect lunch. Taking 45 minutes just to get your son’s sleeper attached at the crotch? Not cool, dudes.

Also, parents are tired. Nodding off in the middle of your third cup of coffee, tired. Wishing your last name was Van Winkle, sleepy. Accidentally falling asleep while cleaning up toys on the floor because you are too close to horizontal, exhausted. We wake up at weird times of the night and want to get back into sleep mode as quickly as possible. This means that at 2am when you realize you need to change your child’s sleeper because he drenched it as he drooled milk down his chin for 10 minutes straight, (which you failed to realize because you fell asleep the instant the nipple was inserted in his mouth) you don’t want to spend half an hour snapping and unsnapping things attempting to get them lined up.

The snap thing is just not working for me. Half the time he ends up looking less like he’s in jammies and more like he’s in a fuzzy snowflake covered flannel loincloth.

Have you considered color-coding the snaps? Or perhaps simplifying things by creating three large snaps down in the bottom area-one for each leg and a separate specialty crotch snap?

And what about zippers? They glide up and down with such grace and ease. I get why zippers are not always the way to go, but would you consider just producing more of those?

And what about Velcro?

I really do appreciate all you do to help me clothe my child. It really helps all that mommying when your child is dressed head to toe in coordinating polka dots. And if I didn’t have you he would be wearing hand-sewn garments of shame that surely wouldn’t have bear feet. But there has to be a better, less mind numbing, annoying, make me want to rip my hair out just to focus harder, wishing I had a graduate degree in Clothing Afixment solution.

Thank you for your attention,
Mahotma Mama

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a Potty!

This week my little girl got a little blue potty.
She loves her potty.
She talks about what she has to do on the potty.
She sits on her potty for long periods of time,
“book” she says, and she retrieves them,
one after the other, reading each aloud
in her own language, while sitting on the potty.

Then every day this week she stands up and pees on the floor.
Or worse. On the floor.

So I guess she’s got the general concept:
you can do this without a diaper.
You know when you have to do it.
It involves a potty.

She’s just not connected the dots.

She's 19 months old. I didn’t really expect we’d pick up this skill from one day to the next.
Though, now that I think about it, she’s figured out how to work the CD player from one day to the next.

And she figured out the telephone (and had a 20 minute conversation with her grandmother
without me touching the phone once).

And she’s figured out how lights work and how to take off her shoes, how to climb in and out of her high chair and booster seat, what Ima keeps in her purse, that credit cards and money are fun to have.

The potty is far less abstract. It doesn’t involve computer chips or electricity, or nebulous concepts of supply and demand, interest rates, globalization, inflation and government subsidies.

Maybe the potty is simply too beautiful and glamorous to be utilitarian?
Like a dress I recently bought at an extremely discounted price?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Old Clothes

If you ever need a reminder of how quickly your kids will grow up and leave you, try going through a box of your child's baby clothes. My daughter is only 18 months (still a baby really!) but it made me incredibly nostalgic to see and touch and smell her 3-6 month wardrobe. The green and white flowered dress. The pink denim overalls. The red velore jumpsuit. I could go on and on.

What happened to my little girl? I can only imagine how it will feel to try this exercise when she, God willing, is actually an adult! (or at least out of diapers.) The next day, I tried to pay special attention to the feel and smell of her 18 month body, face, smile, outfit - as if it were the future and I were given a precious opportunity to go back in time.

A friend of mine recently had an upshirin for her son. She told me how hard it was to cut the hair that he had had since birth and that the haircut was somehow a mark of separation. I understand that feeling completely. Just thinking that my little girl is actually too big for those old clothes makes me a little teary-eyed, as silly as this may sound.

Next time I find myself a little over-eager to move on to the next phase, I will go back to that box of old clothes and hopefully slow down a little.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard

Moo, moo moo. Moooooo. Moo moo moo? Mooooo! Moo moo moooooooooo, moo, moo moo, mooooo. Moo mooooooooo, mooo moooo moo moooo.

Wait. I am not actually a cow. I just FEEL like one. And not because I look good in black and white. Not because I have 15 pounds of baby weight to go. And not because I would make fabulous patent leather pumps.

Men, you may want to avert your eyes because welcome to the milky milky cocoa puff blog.

With my daughter the boob department shut down at an early date. I have to say I made a valiant effort, but between her prematureness and my really not so insanely caring about how much formula she got, it didn’t really happen.

I KNOW breast milk is best. I get it. I’m just not opposed to a modern technology that developed formula that my husband was given. That I was given. That a billion babies every year are given and they turn out just peaches.

And yes there was a certain air of superiority from a lot of mommies I know who were able to breastfeed. Some claimed that I had it easier. Some were sure I wouldn’t bond with my baby. Some even went as far to imply that I was going to cause my child disease and give her a big case of stupid. And sure I felt guilty…but seriously the second I decided to step away from the whole breastfeeding process was the second I felt like I had control over my body again.

And you know what? We bonded just fine. Better than fine. And her Daddy loved being an equal opportunity bonder. And I didn’t have to worry about sneaking into undisclosed locations at inopportune times to try and feed her. And poo poo poo knock on wood, she is healthy healthy healthy and smart beyond reason. And I was sane and happy. And no boob juice in the world can possibly be better for a baby than a sane and happy Mommy.

So I was all prepared this time around to step away entirely from a boob to mouth relationship with the Prince. I told the nurse straight up I had no interest in breastfeeding.

But I did tell her I would try and pump and see what would happen.

Well Lord have mercy, because those things just turned on like, well imagine if the Little Dutch Boy took his finger out of the hole.

It’s like they sensed that Little Boy Blue was teeny weeny and needed extra help to get his barely there tushy out of the hospital. So they slapped on their super boober capes and goggles with their mission to deliver nutrients to the child in a single bound.

So I pump pump pump. And I don’t mind. Because now not only is he getting the manna from my booby heaven but we can have all those great nonbreast feeding benefits. Because you know what, I don’t care how “natural” and “beautiful” it is to feed our young from our teats, I do not think that the stock boy at Stop and Shop gets to see my tatas. Regardless of what is attached to them.

But yes, the pumping makes me feel like a cow. There is a big machine up in my son’s beautiful fishy themed nursery. I suction things to me for 12 minutes at a time, several times a day. And I just sit there and stare out the window, oddly soothed by the rhythmic pump pump pumping sound, resisting the urge to chew my cud.

And then I pour Mahotma Milk into containers with expiration dates.


So I am a cow, but a hard working one. A happy one (so you know I’ll make the best cheese). And one with freakin awesome cleavage.

And would I change any of it?

Aw hell to the Moo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

66 Percent

Another blog post from another tired Ima.

Yesterday I was at work for 12 hours. In a row. I don't think I've worked that hard since labor.

This new job has brought out something new in me--a work ethic.

I suspect it's mostly brought on by a healthy dose of terror--the festival will begin on September 14th whether I'm ready for it or not. But, motivation aside, I am truly shocked to find myself in the office at 8am day after day, skipping lunch, eschewing personal email. It's not a me that I know well.

The ugly truth is that, throughout my professional life thus far I've done good work instead of great work--under-delivery masked as good delivery. My 66% can pass for 100% percent if you don't know what I'm capable of.

But here I am working my tuchus off. And though my work is taking me away from my Chamudi more than I would like, it feels good to know that I'm giving him a positive example of hard work and its rewards--a lesson that was easier learned by the generations that pulled themselves up by their bootstraps than by those of us raised in a comfy world of middle-class entitlement.

As I watch Chamudi work to master each new step towards independence, I pray that he'll always have the desire to realize his highest potential. To be a self-made man.

Meanwhile, I'll put another pot of coffee up and get to know my inner workaholic.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wrong Side of the Bed all Week

I’m fantasizing-about-shooting-out-the-new-security-lamp-that-blares-light-into-my-
bedroom-window-all-night tired. (After all, handguns are now legal in DC!)

I’m wanting-to-hold-crying-baby-out-of-the-window-over-the-truckbed-of-the-truck-
4-in-the-morning-and-yell-“see-what-you’ve-done!” tired.

I’m I-think-my-baby-is-having-nightmares-because-she-screams-bloody-murder-in-
intervals-of-15-minutes-for-a-couple-of-hours-each-night tired. (I really wish some Shabbat guests last year hadn’t been so specific about the ways in which the house I see through our bedroom window is haunted). I already did my time with colic. This isn’t fair!!

I’m we-must-squeeze-40-hours-in-the-office-into-4-long-days-so-our-fabulous-
midnight-every-night tired.

I’m my-baby-gets-up-at-6am-no-matter-what-time-she-goes-down tired.

I-feel-too-guilty-to-hire-a-babysitter-for-fun-or-for-napping tired.

I’m a terrible, awful, irritable person without sleep. I did okay the first 8 or 9 months of my daughter’s life. I knew the sleeplessness was temporary….but shouldn’t temporary mean it ends at some point?

The sleeping woes are paralleled by an amazing string of financial weirdness. In the span of 6 months (and I love Israel, but) I’ve:

1. been withheld pay at the Israel university for 3 extra months since “because of the strike” they enter the names in payroll “according to alphabetical order,” not according to which semesters you actually teach. My question is: do they use left-handed scribes and do it by hand?

2. once that was straightened out, I was only paid half my salary (how did they do that?) I’m still waiting...

3. been overcharged by 30% on my Israel apartment; it was corrected slowly over the course of the rental by bizarre accounting that made me suspect someone was cooking the books. I mean, even I, with my unique-and-one-of-a-kind-crazy-method of algebra couldn’t dream up accounting like that.

4. The last three times I’ve been to the grocery store the bill is wrong. You feel really petty making the cashier give you back $2.36 or something, but if this happens to you once a week….well, YOU do the math. I used to take a casual glance at the receipt…now I really look.

I hate math. I hate it. In high school physics I used to do the problems correctly and come up with the wrong answers because I’D PUNCHED THE WRONG NUMBERS ON THE CALCULATOR…..

5. Finally, one learns that the City Bank Visa makes it extremely difficult to investigate fraudulent charges on one’s credit card when one is in Israel… Also, one discovers that all their telephone support is snippy and unhelpful, and their online bill site was down for three months.

Worse than the sleep deprivation is having to stop being the impractical sort-of-flighty person I sometimes was in the past. It makes me so alarmed I’m going to lose all of my soul and funk (oh, I also got a horrible haircut this week….took off about 8 inches, and I only wanted a trim, and now it’s short, which means it’s poofy!!!). There was nothing to do but eat cookie-dough ice cream and cherries for supper. This grown up stuff is waaaaaaaay overrated.

When Grandparents Don't Meet Your Expectations

So... my son does not have stellar grandparents.

Set #1 are busy, involved professionals at the top of their field. So that means every encounter with my boy wonder is accompanied by their Crackberries. Even on Shabbat, because they're not observant. And because they're not observant, they make treife lamb chops on Shabbat afternoon, and then wonder aloud why I am making cottage cheese for dinner. Their children were raised by a nanny so they have no memories of how difficult it is to be 3 and why 3 year old boys seem to wet their pants all the darn time. They adore him, but it is as if from a distance. Think Michaelangelo's David. You rock (and are rock). But I worship you from behind a velvet rope.

Set #2 are just clueless. Poor judgement and all of that good stuff. Grandpa is too distant to engage, and Grandma actually once pinched my son back after he was gently pinching the loose skin on the back of her hands. Yes, pinched. HARD. He cried. Luckily, they live too far away to do real damage.

I find it difficult--downright challenging, infuriating and exhausting--to manage the expectations that I had about my son's grandparents. I wanted them to have toyboxes at their houses, give teeny tiny presents even when it's not a birthday (but only every once in a while), and to be able to babysit even overnight every once in a while. Now, at every step along the way, I am overwhelmed with a kind of sadness when we spend time with them, because none of them are the kinds of grandparents I wanted them to be. Or that I wanted for my son.

I had 3 wonderful grandparents, at least 3 who were wonderful when I was a kid. One grandma got bitter and angry in my adolescence, and my beloved grandpa who always called me sweetie pie and gave very wet kisses died in 2000 (my son is named for him). My other grandma is to this day the kind of grandma every human being would want...warm, wonderful, the most loving person on the planet. We talk weekly and she often speaks to my son on the phone and they have the funniest conversations: "Grandma, I like mango ice cream best." "Mango ice cream? I never heard of that. Don't you like chocolate?" "No, mango. You should try some."

Did I just not see the ways in which they were not meeting the expectations of my parents? They babysat when they could (only one lived close by), always brought a little treat or sent funny cards, called all the time, and always seemed like my personal ally in the constant war against my parents, yet I have a sneaking suspicion that they annoyed the crap out of my parents just like my parents do for me.

Because the fight that I'm thinking of is not a productive one, or one that can actually solve any problem I'm willing to talk about, I'm going to have to manage this shortfall in expectations myself. My husband and I talk about it all the time. I want to shield my son from it, but don't know how to hold in my skepticism that they won't actually get him hurt or god forbid worse when they're alone with him.

Maybe that's because I recently discovered that diet Pepsi is a favorite of my son's...introduced by his grandfather. That was to accompany a lunch made of.......sheet cake. Mmmmm. Eaten while he sat in wet pants for a few hours. No biggie.

Perhaps meditation will work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

T Minus 24 Hours

  • Have baby with sacred male genitalia-check
  • Date and time-check
  • Location-check
  • Oddly worded “Let’s Try and Not Make the Jews Look Too Insane” invite to non-Jewish friends and coworkers -check
  • Caterer- check
  • Figuring out how many people will actually wake up at the butt crack of dawn to attend so we can figure out how much lox and bagels to procure from said caterer-check
  • Gentle letting down of local caterer/grandmother to the Princess’ friend from school, but she really had much higher prices than the other guy -check
  • Hearing crazy "Woopsy, The Clamp Slipped" and "He Had to Go Get Plastic Surgery On That Thing 18 years Later" horror stories from a randomly high number of people-check
  • Mohel travel arrangements made-check
  • Decision on which cutting method should be used-don’t know, don’t wanna know, so we’ll hope that Mahotma Daddy figured that one out on his own, check
  • Obligatory argument over whose father should get to hold the child during the snipping process-check
  • Other Random Honorees selected-check
  • Figuring out how to explain what the heck is going on to Princess Peanut-no check
  • Using every friend for their hotel/ airport shuttling services who we will owe favors for the next 10 years- check
  • Name selected-no check
  • Perfect outfit in a size -4 weeks old- no check
  • Perfect outfit that is sure to receive at least one required “I can’t believe you just had a baby 2 weeks ago!” compliment-check
  • Purchase of industrial strength Spanx to fit in “I can’t believe you just had a baby 2 weeks ago!” outfit-check
  • Colors, theme, sick amount of money spent on balloons and paper tablecloths-check
  • Event planner hired to avoid nervous breakdown-check
  • Putting up of yellow caution tape to ensure that I never have to do this again-check. check. check.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

E=MC Chamud

The other day Chamudi looked up from his lunch and started babbling incoherently. Slowly we started to make out what he was saying...okay, letters...wait...the letters of his name!

He pointed to the alphabet blocks on the piano that spell out his name and once again "read" them aloud. We brought the letters down from the piano and he put them in order just about perfectly.

Did my 21 month old just spell his name? For real?

Abba and I wondered--like so many other first-time parents--whether maybe just maybe our Chamudi is a genius. "I'd rather not know if he is a genius," I said. "I'm afraid I would treat him differently." Become that mom who denies her gifted child the carefree joys of being a little kid.

We debated what it means to be a genius. Abba suggested that maybe, IQ-test-wise, he himself could qualify. Me--I'm not really interested in IQ tests. I'm looking for a different level of genius--Rambam, Einstein, Aristotle. Break a paradigm. Create a new world order. Then maybe we can talk genius.

But all of the sudden the whole conversation felt like a huge ayin harah. Chamudi's only 21 months, countless children older than him have suddenly halted normal development and receded into themselves and all this genius talk is just so...presumptive...dangerous.

So I put an end to all this talk of genius. "I just want him to be happy, healthy, and normal," I said.

And I meant it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Toddler Tisha B'Av

If mourning is stepping out of community, separating oneself from life for a while, so that slowly, gradually, you are able to reintegrate yourself, diminished from your loss, back into community and into life, then it is very difficult to mourn when you have a small child.

During Tisha B’ Av there is a strange sense of being both integrated in a communal mourning, and isolated in grief. Both at the same time. We do not greet one another, and we separate ourselves from the pleasure of company (at least I do, since I’m am a cranky and irritable faster). But we aren’t alone in our mourning. Everyone else is doing it too.

But this year was so…incongruous. Like most baby/toddlers, mine is happy happy happy all the time. And she insists that, when I am around her, I be happy, too. When I'm not she really loses it. She's fine when I take away dangerous toys, or say "no" to unhealthy but delicious food. She doesn't throw fits when she doesn't get her way. But she does throw fits when I'm not engaged in her good humor. And anyway, I can't stand greeting her little jokes and tricks with a heavy heart.

So while everyone else was commemorating the sacking of Jerusalem—and I’m always stuck on the image in Lamentations of the mothers and their dead infants–the destruction of the temple that has deprived us of a home for most of our history, I was swinging and sliding and climbing in the park.

I longed to be able to join in mourning, but my daughter is too young to understand.

Of course, I unplugged the CD player that she recently learned to operate, as I do on Shabbat. And, of course, I didn’t join her at mealtime. But otherwise, her day was no different than any other, since she doesn’t care what shoes I wear or if I put on makeup.

In the coolness of the afternoon, we walked through the community garden, and a nice woman who used to live in Egypt gave my girl all the raspberries she could pluck from the bush. She also snagged herself a few choice cherry tomatoes from another friendly gardener.

I don’t know if it’s because she and I have only one another, with my family far away, the fact I still breastfeed, or if all babies are almost telepathically in tune with their parents' moods.

I guess I just told myself that my mourning was physical, if not completely mental and spiritual—the lack of food and water creates a weird feeling. The senses shut down, my body feels fragile. And at the same time, I am so very grateful for this little life beside me, grateful that she is safe and alive, without a care in the world. This isn’t really what Tisha B’Av is for—developing a sense of gratitude, but maybe we’ll do better next year.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is That A Penis Next To Your Umbilical Cord, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

I take the round about way of things. If I have a grocery list with 3 things on it, it still takes me at least an hour and $100 to get through the store. My husband who does everything from painting my toenails to buying me stockings hates going to the mall with me because I can’t bring myself to go in any sort of logical order as I sort through the clothes.

I might be part German….but I seem to lack that German efficiency. Well at least I thought that until I met my uterus.

When my daughter was born 5 weeks early I was told it was a “fluke.” That it would probably never happen again. Apparently though, the uterus is not so flukey. It is efficient. And tends to spit out babies when they are *just* cooked enough.

I was home on bed rest. Everything was cool. I had the occasional contraction. And to be honest, I was sort of starting to enjoy the being forced to relax in bed when at 12:50am on Wednesday contractions started every minute. That’s right. Every single minute = big bad contraction.

By the time Mahotma Friends (who are awesome) made it to the house to be with Mahotma Princess and we were on our way it was 1:20am.We checked in to the hospital at 1:55am and despite some annoying emergency room receptionist who tried to get me to fill out papers when I was screaming in agony, I had Mahotma Prince at 2:07am.

WITHOUT an epidural.

I don’t cook shabbos without an epidural.

But I did it (even though I squeezed a nurse’s hand so hard she needed stitches…hey, you try going from 2cm to 10cm in an hour, push a living thing out of your hoo ha in 5 minutes and see what you break) and because he was 6 weeks early he’s teeny tiny but perfect and beautiful.

My husband looked at him and he counted-10 perfect toes, 10 perfect fingers and 2 perfect testicles.

I am so pleased to have the “complete set.” So pleased to have had a handsome boy that looks just like his Daddy. So pleased that even though my little man has to stay in the hospital a bit longer to help him grow up a bit from his 4lb 15oz, that he is healthy and strong.

Not so pleased about having to deal with the man parts.

The nurses tried to explain pointing the peanut down in the diaper. My friend got me a very fancy set of adorable fleece covered “pee pee tee pees.” I even have some of the washing and rinsing down because I have been able to help with his baths. Squishy.

So in theory I should be good to go when I have to deal with the wee willy winky on a daily basis.

But I am sorry. It is weird to have to deal with body parts that I haven’t had to deal with before. It’s a whole new ball of…balls. And we haven’t even gotten to bris care yet.

In the meantime I have yet to eat a baby carrot or a pilaf from my rice. I have a bad case of peanut on the brain. But let him grow strong and be healthy and I’m sure somehow between worshipping my Queen and new King, peanuts and cracker jacks will be the last thing on my mind.

Monday, August 04, 2008

My Daughter's Grandmother

“I thought this trip would be our birthday present to you,” my mother told me yesterday, after a five and a half day visit at my parents’. “What do you mean?” I asked, a dreadful realization that she might really meant the cost of feeding my daughter and me for a week. “Oh, you know, all of this,” she answered, with a vague wave of the hand.

Before I could stop myself, I answered, “you mean the flight I paid for?” “I’m sorry, did you want something else?” She answered. “Well,” I said as tactfully as possible, “it is nice to have something on one’s birthday, just to know you’ve been thought of. Like how I brought you and Daddy something from Israel for Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and your anniversary….” “Now I feel bad,” she answered. And I paused, fighting mightily between “honor your father and mother” and wanting to say, “GOOD!” I said nothing. My daughter broke the silence, thereby changing the subject.

And now I feel really guilty for writing bad things about my mother on this blog, and for feeling like a spoiled brat. [not to mention presents during the three weeks]. I don’t want to give presents because I want something back. I want to give them to make the receiver feel loved and appreciated, and also because I want my daughter to come from a family that gives modest, but thoughtful gifts, when appropriate, like normal people, darn it! Selflessly. Obviously, I’ve got some issues to deal with before I can finish this lesson.

Because Really:

My mother is quite a good grandmother, and my daughter had a marvelous time. My parents own a lot of land that is farmed, so my 19 month-old lived out any toddler’s dream of tearing paper by picking all the cotton bolls, right from the plants, that she wanted, for hours. She pulled so much of it she held the overflow under her neck and arms, yelling in protest if I tried to help her, and only surrendering that soft, gorgeous-smelling stuff to her Grandpa’s big bucket. She played in an auger-cart full of corn kernels (dry, of course). She played in sand piles. She took several baths a day, most of them outside.

And wow, did she love the enormous house and the 11 other cousins who stopped by during the week, and all of them at once on Sunday. And the kittens and birds and flowers.

What I guess I’m struggling with right now is the transition from daughter to mother. (Though one would hope that being a mother does not mean one must forgo presents for the rest of one’s life). What I mean is, I’ll be a lot happier if I think of my mother as my daughter’s grandmother, because she’s really, really good at being a grandmother. And isn’t that really the best present of all? Seeing the strengths in the person you love, and overlooking the weaknesses?