In Defense Of The Old Lady

I give “old ladies” a hard time because they give me a hard time. There is always some white haired grandma telling me to put socks on my baby (in July!) or that using a carrier will suffocate him. I’ve had a grandpa or two share words of wisdom, as well, but not as often as the female mitten police. Men prefer to tell me what not to do. “Oh, boys will be boys, you have to let them rough house.” I do let them rough house, I don’t let them rough house with forks in their hands. I’m over sensitive to stab wounds. Old ladies, though, they like to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and it is always something archaic or unimportant. It was a little chilly in the store the day that grandma told me my newborn needed socks but it was so hot and humid outside it was like walking through stew, I wasn’t going to bother digging socks that won’t stay on out of storage for 5 minutes in the store to grab bread. To me that is common sense, my favorite way to parent.

I was eavesdropping the other day at the mall play area. I never think to schedule a play date for these visits because they are often impromptu and generally when I have time to stop and play other moms are busy. Our schedule is hectic, to say the least. So, I eavesdrop and inject myself into other conversations to meet moms. If they think this is creepy they have never let on. Snarky McSnarkbritches and Dr. Google were talking to No Time On The Internet Mom about her many and various mistakes as a parent, from  juice to car seats to sleeping arrangements. I self consciously patted my hair, feeling for the few coarse gray hairs that have been popping in since Little S was born and bit my tongue to refrain from sounding like someone’s grandmother.

Having a 16 year age gap between children I have seen first hand the phenomenon my mother described to me when Goldilocks was a Golden Baby, still being put to sleep on her tummy as “current research” suggested. My mom pointed out how much “current research” had changed and cycled back to the same things over and over again just in the time since we were babies. Having a 16 year age gap between my oldest and youngest child I have now seen that research flux first hand and feel somewhat justified laughing at it.

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Shortly before Golden Baby was born it was still widely accepted to put juice in baby bottles. Can you imagine the scandal if you tried it today?

Other moms of young children that I talk to now about things I did in the past sometimes cluck their tongue and chalk my poor parenting choices up to being so young when the girls were little, but I was there and I can tell you, I was doing pretty damn good thanks to my awesome pediatrician and a healthy dose of common sense. I didn’t have the internet on my cell phone, I didn’t even have a cell phone. Goldy was born in 1994, when the internet was brand new, and parent shaming on a grand and global level was still on the horizon. I had to gather facts the old fashioned way. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on, listened to our doctors and then did what I thought was right.  I remember thinking the things my mother’s generation did were crazy and I’m sure Sharkboy’s generation will look back at us now and think how naive and uninformed we were. And we are. For everything we know there is so much we don’t know and may never know, which is why it would serve us well to sit down and shut up about the things we think we know.

This video clip was recorded a year before Goldilocks was born.

After you read this conduct your own experiment. This works best on Facebook or another social media site.  Ask your friends when a child should see the dentist for the first time. Don’t bother charting it out but find a rough percentage of how many people say they absolutely must go by the age of one. Then calculate about what percentage say that is completely and ridiculously unnecessary because their doctor said they could wait until their child was three. Add those two numbers together on a post it note and shred it in the garbage disposal. Only listen to and hang out with the remainder of the people that quietly told you their opinion without trying to impress upon you that it was the only right answer. Smile politely at everyone else.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visiting at the sign of their first tooth or by their first birthday.  Beauty and Goldy both went at age three as recommended at the time and they have nearly perfect teeth still today. Sharkboy went at 16 months, exactly one year from the date he got his first tooth and had a full set of teeth, all in great shape. Little S has 6 teeth and will probably go soon after turning one. My point isn’t that you’re doing it wrong. My point is that “current research” and “expert opinions” don’t even always agree, so it is unlikely that we will all make the same choices with our children, even if we all choose to follow the path of research and experts. And, if like me, you have seen all of that change and change back again, you might be inclined to smile politely or  laugh out loud at people who think they have it all figured out.

Which brings me to the old ladies and their constant advice.  Granny was probably chilly in the air conditioning. She saw bare toes and thought, “That baby needs socks.” And it’s very likely she chuckled at me when I told her, “He’s fine, thanks.” Because we both thought we had it all figured out. Even common sense can take us down varying paths.

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Let’s Go To The Mall

I took the kids to the mall last night. It was an accident. Beauty wanted to meet some friends there and Sharkboy needed a haircut and I needed to pick some things up on that side of town, so, I temporarily lost my sensibility and got excited about a trip to the mall. The Barkeep and I take the boys to “our mall” a lot. Our mall is on this side of town and hosts several inexpensive children’s clothing stores, as well as Target, which is where most of my money goes. There are 3 malls within 15 minutes of my house in any direction, but this mall is almost 30 minutes away in the subbiest of suburbs, our old stomping grounds, where their dad still lives and they still go to school. It’s new and big and shiny and it’s where all the cool kids hang out. There are two Abercrombie stores. I think they are designed to suck people in with their giant half naked men posters and perfumed, controlled temperature air but it does not have that effect on me. I actually repel just a little from the doorway. It’s that kind of mall and I’m not that kind of mom.

www.bodybuilding.com

Exactly what item of Abercrombie are these models showing off? The perfumed air? The guy you can get if you wear their jeans?

Plans got rearranged before the boys and I made it to that side of town and somehow I ended up picking Goldy up at her dad’s house and leaving Beauty. We drove by our old neighborhood to pick up diaper pail liners I had bought from a friend online but she wasn’t home yet so the four of us headed to the mall to get Sharkboy a haircut and shop for things I don’t need. Even though I attempted to leave immediately after work at 5:30 it was 6:45 by the time we actually walked into the salon. (Remember, when travelling with rockstars, one can never just walk out the door empty handed.) There was only one person working and she said it would be 30 minutes, around 7:30. I didn’t bother to correct her math. Maybe she lives on bar time.

We shopped at Crazy 8, where Gymboree clothes meet Target prices and rode the big, glass elevator. I managed to avoid the play area by buying a ride on the mechanical fire truck and we walked back into the salon at 7:25, just in time to hear her tell a woman at the counter she could get her in next. I, being naïve and ridiculous, really thought she meant after us, but no, the woman was seated immediately. Again, naïve and ridiculous, I think, “this will be quick, the boys will be fine.”

I know, at least half of you snorted at my silliness or let out an audible, “ha” at that.  My kids are reasonably well behaved in public but even in the best of circumstances most kids do not behave the way most people without kids would like them to. This was not the best of circumstances. The waiting area was tiny and there was already a rather snooty looking, terribly dressed woman with a well dressed, unattractive teenage(?) boy. He may have been in his twenties but I think he was with his mom. It was an odd pair and their behavior was similar. Odd. There were four of us and Little S was in a stroller, at least it was his umbrella stroller, though. I gave him a wonderful book to read, Baby Mix Me A Drink, and he immediately threw it on the floor, starting a fun game with Goldy where she would pick up the book and he would throw it again. Good times. Sharkboy was hanging out under the chairs, which I would normally discourage in an area that small but I honestly just wanted to keep it peaceful as long as possible. Little S threw his book near Mean Boy’s feet and Mean Boy kindly picked it up for him, or so I thought, but instead he gave me a disgusted look and stuck it in our diaper bag, thus beginning our fued. I get it, not everyone is a fan of “Drop The Book” but it wasn’t hurting anyone and it was keeping the baby quiet and happy. Why be a fun hater?

I’m not making this up.

I wish I could have recorded the tongue lashing that baby gave him. He furrowed his little brow and let loose with an angry string of babble that any sailor would be proud of. High five, Little S. Goldy and I both laughed inappropriately and she offered to take him for a walk around the mall while we waited. Sharkboy’s behavior deteriorated quickly after that and he mostly laid on the floor saying it was cold or stood next to a rack of things I told him not to touch, just barely not touching it. Mean Pair sighed a lot and acted irritated but I could see that Snooty Mom was mildly amused.

I know what you’re thinking. We should have left, and we should have. But you should also know two important things about me. I can be extremely lazy and highly vindictive. I was angry that Hairdresser let someone go ahead of us and I was pleased that our presence rattled her and I didn’t mind the side effect of making the Mean Pair uncomfortable. Also, there was nowhere else in the mall I was willing to pay for a 2 year old’s haircut and we were there and he had clean hair, which only lasts so long with a little boy who loves the sandbox. So, we waited.

Hairdresser did a great job on Sharkboy’s hair but she could not get him to cooperate. He would not look anywhere she told him to look, which is odd because he usually loves hair cuts and does what he is asked, but it had been a long night. I got him to cooperate by holding a hand mirror where she wanted him to look. This is why she cuts hair and I watch kids. There’s nothing wrong with that. I still tipped her.

“I’m so ready to go home.” I know you know exactly what I mean. Goal, accomplished. Feet, ache. Mood, shot. But I had this idea of a night at the mall with my kids, ya know, and it involved the play place and a pretzel and lemonade and good times, maybe even some new shoes. Sharkboy found the play place with his sense of hearing, because in this kind of mall there are only two noise centers, the play place for preschoolers and the food court, where the teenagers hang out. These teenagers are not the mallrats of our generation, though. If your children are still young you may not have noticed this. The kids hanging out at the mall now actually shop there. They wear Hollister and jewelry I can’t afford. Even in the mall in our own neighborhood the kids can outspend me. Where are they getting this money?

I didn’t expect the play place to be too crowded on a Monday at 8pm, especially since it’s huge, but it was surprisingly chaotic still. Little S was satisfied crawling in and out of log tunnels like he was doing laps and Sharkboy just wanted to climb so they were mostly safe from the inevitable game of murder-death-kill-tag being played by unattended kids, many much too big to be in there. There were at least 20 kids, two other parents and one grandma that was sound asleep. This is always the situation in mall play places unless you are able to go during the day. (I desperately miss being mobile during the day.) During the day there are usually tons of adorable toddlers and preschool kids with a rational amount of parents and plenty of awkward encounters when one kid hits another or knocks a baby over. Parents gasp and feel terrible, other parents brush it off. Kids, ya know. This is not like that. These are unsupervised, unruly kids. It’s a play place, though, you’re going to have that. I don’t worry much about Sharkboy, if he gets knocked down he just gets back up again and if kids try to bully him… it’s the only time I’m pleased with his self defense skills. Go ahead, back my kid into a corner, I dare you. We don’t call him Sharkboy for nothin’. Goldy and I switched on and off following the boys this way and that, attempting to keep them alive. It’s like a life size video game.

Buried With Children

I stole this photo from a cute blog about making friends at the play area. She is nicer than me. http://www.buriedwithchildren.com/how-to-make-friends-at-the-mall-play-area/

Then I saw Goldy talking to an old friend and overheard bits and pieces of her conversation. By old friend maybe I mean frienemy, I can’t be sure. She’s a girl I remember from junior high because her mother was unable to drive and I was more than happy to give her rides home, rides to hang out, rides wherever and she thanked me by telling me my car was a piece of junk. Not in those exact words, hers were actually worse. She said, “this reminds me of those cars that you see squeaking and bumping down the street to a stop sign and wonder if the owner is embarrassed.” It wasn’t the first time she had a made a remark but it was the last. I offered to let her out if she was uncomfortable being seen in my car and let her know that generally a simple “thank you” was all that was required when given a ride. That was junior high, though, most girls are a little snotty in junior high. Last night I heard Goldy telling her about the boys, she pointed out her brothers and you could see she was having fun playing with them. (And thank goodness for that because I needed the help.) They talked a few more minutes and then she was gone. Goldy rolled her eyes at me and shook her head. Apparantly after she told her what she was doing in the play place her friend sneered and said, “I can only imagine how much bacteria and germs and stuff are in there so I’m going to go now.” Still a snot. And her butt is getting big, so there’s that.

Why are people such jerks to each other? How hard is it to just be nice? I think many unpleasant things throughout the day and generally just bite my tongue. Like, “Wow, your butt has really gotten big since the last time I saw you.” I just hold that in. It’s bad karma to put that much negativity into the universe. Half a dozen people made me angry yesterday and I managed to swallow down my mean thoughts with a delicious buttery pretzel while laughing and playing with my kids. I wash it all down with that perfect pretzel stand lemonade and seriously, how can you not be happy when you’re drinking that stuff?

I guess that would make the moral of this story “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” but I’m not into clichés so let’s go throw them at things and pretend it’s Big Butt, The Hairdresser and Mean Pair.

Then we’ll make margaritas.