The Birthday Girl

Note: It’s been over a year since I introduced the Cast of Characters inhabiting this blog. I’m an at-home mom who works part-time as a writer, so my world is small: me; my son, Agent 006 (age 6); my daughter, the Birthday Girl (age 3); and my Husband. Here is my daughter.

Notice the defiant legs-wide-apart stance and the partial fist of the left hand...

Notice the defiant legs-wide-apart stance and the partial fist of the left hand…

My daughter turned three a few weeks ago, and she definitely got the memo.  Since my son was actually three for two years (skipped four and went straight to five), from an emotional perspective this is my third round of three. I have the battle scars to prove it. Continue reading

Two and the Double Negative

At Two, my daughter is queen and conqueror of the word “No,” but its repetition gets old pretty fast, even for her. At snack time yesterday:

Two: Me cack koos?

Me: You want some crackers?

Two: No cack koos.

Me: You don’t want crackers?

Two: No, cack koos!

Me: You do want some crackers.

Two: No cack koos!!

Me: Oh, I see, there are no crackers in the cup. Do you want some more crackers?

Two: No cack koos.

Me: That’s right, there are no cack koos, I mean, crackers, in the cup. (pause) Do you want some crackers?

Two: No cack koos.

Me: You don’t want crackers?

Two: No, cack koos.

Me: Do you, or don’t you want crackers?!

Two: No cack koos.

Me: Okay, you don’t want crackers.

Two: No, cack koos!!

Me: You do want crackers!

Two: NO! No cack koos!

Me: Ohhh! You want new crackers. We don’t have any new crackers. We have the old kind of crackers. Do you want some old crackers?

Two: No no cack koos?

Me: That’s right, there are no new crackers. Do-you-want-to-eat-some-crackers-yes-or-no?

Two: (definitively handing me the empty cracker cup) No, please. Thank you.

Me! Two!

I cannot see your face in the mirror.

Standing behind you at the porcelain sink,

I lean forward so my arms circle you.

Your hair tickles my collarbone.

The green stool is pushed too far under the basin’s edge—

your feet balance precariously on its very back, heels in the air.

But you pushed that stool into place yourself, so I say nothing.

I carefully watch the edges of your scrunched up sleeves as you stretch for the faucet’s stream of water to make sure the water doesn’t creep up your arms,

soak your cuffs. You probably wouldn’t care,

but I learned handwashing from your brother, who always did.

If I put my hands below yours under the water you don’t mind.

Otherwise you say “Me!” and push back against me with your shoulders.

I turn off the tap, give you your soap first.

Lavender fills the small room.

Dissatisfied with your lather

you present your hands to me, thrusting them forward into mine.

I hold your right hand in my right,

your left in my left.

Neither of us speaks.

No sound but the soap as it slips and pops and slows the circles of my thumbs—

mesmerizing circles.

I don’t think about teaching you the right way to wash your hands:

the number of seconds, the length of the ABC song,

sequence of fingernails and wrists.

I feel your small hands submitted to mine like an offering—

slices of mango laid reverently on an altar,

a candle lit beneath a photograph.

These small hands that came into the world curled up under your chin,

remained that way for months

before you reached out to the world,

before you learned to push a flat palm out to say Back!

Stop! Or with a slight flick,


Slow bubbles over your upturned palms

One fingernail cut crooked to leave a tiny triangle on one side

scratching at my skin as I massage the tips of your fingers the way I would knead your father’s scalp or rub my  mother’s feet

Thread my fingers gently between yours, softly separating them, not too far apart

Your head turns back and forth to watch my fingertips intently

palpate one hand, then the other.

Soap casts its spell over us both,

and for as long as you are willing

has the power to stop time,

here at two.

Rage, or the Distress Call of the Modern Mother

I write to remember what I know. Recently a mom in my Mother’s Club posted a distress call on our online chat board. After watching her two young children all week and through most of the weekend, she became inexplicably enraged at her husband, innocently returning from his relaxing three-hour Sunday workout. She abashedly described herself as screaming, name-calling, slamming things around and basically engaging in an entirely unprovoked adult temper tantrum.

Boy, did reading her post take me back to the days! The last one was about two weeks ago, in fact. Her question to us was: What to do? But I think the more important question is: Why? Continue reading