Thursday, August 27, 2015

Zoe vs. the Great Target Toy Aisle Debate

Earlier this month, that emotionally fragile information superhighway, the Internet, worked itself into yet another tizzy over the latest "biggest issue of our time."
I'm not talking about affordable health care.
Or that tempest in a teapot we call the Middle East.
No, I'm talking about gender-based signage at Target.


Before I wade in, I have a confession to make.
I've never been to Target.
I know. But I live in Brooklyn and I don't have a car. I hope you don't think less of me. If that's possible. Anyway, onward.
After some customer complaints about toy aisles divided by gender at Target---most notably, one sign for "Building Sets" and one for "Girls' Building Sets" (ew!)---the discount retailer decided to remove such indications from their toy department, as well as a few other departments. Not clothes. Since that would signal the apocalypse.
Some felt it was the end times anyway.
Angry Internet was angry. It felt this was political correctness gone too far, that this was part of "the gay agenda," and I'm going to take my business elsewhere, just as soon as I buy my pitchfork. You guys carry those, right? I'll take one in blue and one in pink. . . . I'm still mad at you.
As a former tomboy and now mother of a girl who says she wants to be a ballplayer when she grows up, I'm all for gender neutrality.
Is Zoe though? I've suspected gender bias on her part before and been wrong. However, a lot of her questions lately are more like statements lobbed at me to test my reaction, and so I have to wonder where she really stands.
Last week she said, "You know what? Boys can't play with girl things." (Girl things undefined.) And the next day she said, "You know what? Girls can't play superhero."
Each time she waited to see what I'd say, which was, Who told you that? and Why not? And then, bam, before you can say "teachable moment," we almost had one.

Line?

Of course, at Zoe's age it's normal for her to be looking for strict definitions and rules for behavior. What fascinates me is how inconsistently she applies them. Or maybe it's how consistently she feels they don't apply to her.
The other day we were discussing one of the girls from school, and I asked if she liked to play superheroes, and Zoe said, "No, she only likes girl things."
But didn't Zoe herself like to play superheroes? I asked. And so didn't that make it a girl thing just as much as a boy thing?
Zoe thought for a moment and then said, "Booty butt." Which I found non-responsive. And which is also how so many of my teachable moments end, by the way.
If I look for evidence in Zoe's play, it's inconclusive. She likes trucks and horses, princesses and fire engines; she likes her dinosaur for his roar and Superman for his snazzy boots.
The other day she was playing with her My Little Pony dolls. Brony phenomenon notwithstanding, My Little Pony dolls are what you would've expected to find in the formerly pink-and-purple aisle at Target. My own prejudices made me assume Zoe was involved in stereotypical girl play, which I imagined would be sweeter and less violent than her usual play. As I moved closer, though, and heard what she was saying, I discovered Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle were engaged in a duel to the death. Pinkie Pie's broken body lay nearby. Apparently shit got real in Equestria.

Maiming is magic.


Another "girl thing" Zoe likes is getting manicures and pedicures. Only once in my life have I had a manicure, the day before I got married. And I've never had a pedicure. (See Elf Toe Syndrome). But even without my wrecked toes, I wouldn't like people touching me. My fingers itch imagining someone filing my nails. Aaah! But Zoe's been getting her nails done with her older cousins since she was three. 
She loves it so much she's created a bath-time game where I play a customer at Miss Zoe's nail salon.
First, I must place my hands on the edge of the tub. Then she washes and massages my fingertips with her cloth (soothing!), asks me what color I want (pink or purple), and finally, whips out her water gun saying: "I'm going to shoot you with nail polish."
Before I can reclaim my fingers, she gently stabs each of them with the water gun. Then "dries them" with her beach shovel. Finally, she stands back to view her work.
"Are we done?" I ask hopefully.
"You know what?" she says.
"What?"
"Booty butt."

Zoe: 106; Universe: 0

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zoe vs. Top 9 Mispronounced Words

As a New Yorker, Zoe is already an at-risk proper-English speaker. She's probably picking up Queens English from me. That's "Queens," meaning the borough, not "Queen's," meaning proper English.
In Queens, where I was raised, some people (my mother) have been known to use the word "bunk" to mean bump into. My mother: You know who I bunked into the other day? Me: A bed?
People from Queens often drop letters from words and phrases---"Djeetyet?" Did you eat yet?---and then, perversely, they add letters to words that don't need them. Why do we do that? I have no idear.
Zoe's dad grew up in Brooklyn, where the highway signs as you leave say: "Fuhgeddaboudit." The welcome signs say, "How Sweet It Is," which, of course, is from The Honeymooners, but on its own like that, on a sign, we can see it has no clear antecedent.
So Zoe is doomed. You'd think I'd want to get ahead of the problem, and nip her mispronunciations in the bud, but you have to admit you've been wrong before.
I know part of my job as a parent is to guide and correct, but when it comes to the words Zoe mispronounces I feel like it's my job to sit back and eat some popcorn. Her mispronunciations are either too cute, hilarious, or a combination of both.


Here are my 9 favorites:

1. Peeyuter (computer)
Zoe's been saying this one since she was two. It's my favorite mispronunciation of hers, and I feel like when she finally gets it right, a part of her childhood will be gone forever.
Future Me: No, you cannot have a peeyuter in your room. There's a perfectly good peeyuter in the living room.
Future Zoe: Mother, I don't say computer that way anymore.
Future Me: . . . Peeyuter.

2. Chinkmunk (chipmunk)
Kind of cute, albeit with a glance toward racism. She started using it to describe a tiny Lego which is part of a veterinary ambulance kit, and which is also, actually, a hedgehog. I corrected her on the biological facts, not the mispronunciation, and I didn't even get very far in that since, as she told me: "It's not a hog. It's a chinkmunk." Okay then.

3. Oxtable (obstacle)
Lately Zoe's obsessed with American Ninja Warrior so we're hearing this mispronunciation a lot. She places all the couch cushions and pillows on the floor and then says: "Look, Mommy, I'm running an oxtable course."

4. Zizzers (scissors)
As in: "Mommy, may I run the oxtable course with zizzers?" That would be a no.

5. Teerara (tiara)
Several times a day I hear: "Mommy, I can't find Cinderella's teerara." Mommy should've never cut it off with the zizzers.

6. Enjury (energy, sometimes injury, so it gets confusing)
Zoe: Mommy, can I jump on the trampoline? I have too much enjury. I'll hold on so I don't get enjured.
Me: Only if, and for the last time, you please put down the zizzers.

7. Hopsital (hospital)
Me (continued): If you don't put down those zizzers, you might get an enjury.
Zoe:  Yeah, and  then we'll have to go to the hopsital (sic, but also sick).

8. Ointmeal (oatmeal)
Zoe: Can I eat ointmeal when we're at the hopsital?
Me: If you ask nicely, maybe they'll even cover you in it.
Zoe: Silly Mommy, then you'd have seerul on your clothes.

9. Seerul (cereal)

Zoe: 105; Universe: 0

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Zoe vs. the Kobayashi Maru

In pop culture, the Kobayashi Maru has come to mean a "no-win situation." To Star Trek fans, it's a test cadets in Starfleet Academy take to see how they deal with a no-win scenario. Basically it tests the cadet's character.
It begins when a civilian ship, the Kobayashi Maru, calls for aid from the neutral zone, which Federation ships are not allowed to enter due to a treaty with the Klingons. If you go to their aid, it turns out it's a trap and your ship will be destroyed by Klingon Birds of Prey.

O no.

You were supposed to lose, and everyone did. Everyone except for James Tiberius Kirk.
Famously, Kirk changed the parameters of the test---some say "cheated"---so he could win.
The Kobayashi Maru was first mentioned in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and it was dramatized in one of the recent reboots with Chris Pine as Kirk.
James Kirk did not believe in the no-win scenario. Also, he really didn't like to lose.
The latter could also be said of Zoe. As for whether she believes in the no-win scenario, that's only for the unfortunates who play against her. Zoe aims to win. 
When we play a game, and it looks like things aren't going her way, suddenly Zoe will change the rules. Just like Captain Kirk, but with more whining and carrying on and general emoting (a close call if we're talking Shatner).

The face of winning.

It goes for all games, from board games to footraces. If we're running and I start to catch up, first she'll veer in my path, trying to cut me off; but if I dodge and weave and start to pass her again, her ploy is to scream "No!" and grab on to my arm in sweaty despair.
When she challenged me to a footrace, I was not to win. Silly Mommy.
Board games, same thing. I'll say she can't change the rules, waving the actual written ones in her face. She affects illiteracy and pretends she doesn't understand. Which is unbeatable in its own way.
Most impressive is how she even cheats at games she makes up. More than actual time playing the game she'll expound upon the rules, and then violate them as soon as Daddy or I start to "win."
The other day she made up a game called "Cronin." It involves rolling a ball and either getting it through your opponent's legs or around their legs. Hard to say which because whichever way I do it I lose and whichever way she does it she's cronin. I guess I just don't understand the meaning of the word.
One more story because I know you hate it when I leave you:
This weekend at the park we played "Bad Guy." Alternate name: "Good Guy." Either version, I ended up trapped in her Fire Engine Spaceship (a jungle gym). The only way I knew which one of us was supposed to be the bad guy was if, when she said "Now you're trapped," she added "ha ha ha" to the end (classic bad guy). Otherwise it was the same scenario: she put me in her ship, then made a great show of wrapping chains around me so I wouldn't be able to move.
But then, just as she was about to walk away, she turned back, and, perhaps because of the safety lessons she'd absorbed from her sainted mother, she made another stretching motion across me and told me she was attaching my "seat belt." Which kind of felt like a little bit of a win for me.
So maybe she'll bend the rules a bit to remain on top, but she also cares about the well-being of all crew, even POWs.
Which makes her definite Starfleet material.

Zoe: 104; Universe: 0


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Zoe vs. the Porta-Potty

I had thought we were done with all the milestones related to body waste. I'd thrown out the diaper genie. Zoe was potty-trained. And we'd since frequented all the public restrooms within a three-mile radius, from local restaurants to parks to the supermarket---all in varying states of cleanliness.
But apparently there was one final frontier to be reached, explored, and then stricken from the mental record for eternity: using a Porta-potty.


I can count on one hand the times I've used a Porta-potty. Or I could except I've since cut off and burned both my hands. In fact, I'm typing this with a pencil placed between my teeth, tapping the keys one by one. See what I'd do for you?
Which brings us to mommy guilt.
You see, my daughter had spent all of a recent weekend with extended family. I'd missed her and also felt a bit guilty so I left work early to pick her up from day care and took her to the park before dinner.
First, we went home to get her tricycle. Also so she could use the bathroom. Before we left I said, in all caps, "DO YOU NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM BEFORE WE GO?"
No, she said.
I asked again, this time adding italics and bold. When she still said no, off we went.
Naturally, as soon as we arrived at the park five minutes away twenty minutes later (she is somehow even slower on her tricycle), she had to go. And the public bathroom was closed.
On one previous, desperate, occasion last fall I'd had her go outdoors, but on this day it was warm, and so the park was crowded. Plus, two pee-wee baseball leagues were playing in the fields on either side of the building that housed the restrooms in whose jaded shadows she'd once crouched to pee.
So I told her we had to go home.
No, she said.
All caps, italics, AND bold.
But there's nowhere to go, sweetie, I reasoned. The bathroom's closed.
Wails of Extreme Desolation.
To add to her distress (and mine) she also had to poop. Or so she said.
Then we definitely need to go home, I told her.
Realizing she'd miscalculated, she quickly reconsidered and said she didn't have to poop after all. 
It was then I spotted the Porta-potty in one of the adjacent baseball fields.
For their betrayal I would later put out my eyes with the unsharpened pencil I used to type this.
But first I found myself ushering her through the blue door of the portable toilet, a disgusting convenience I swore I'd never take advantage of again now that the days of outdoor concerts were behind me. (Though that's probably not true either, just outdoor concerts of bands I wanted to see.)
Immediately upon entering, the smell----evil rendered airborne---assailed my nostrils. Before I could wipe the seat, Zoe sat. And put her hands down to brace herself.
I cringed, thinking: Would it be irresponsible, as a parent, to let her keep her hands after this?
Before you call CPS, don't worry, I did not actually set her hands on fire. I'm not that crazy.
Okay, now get ready to dial.
"Pee quickly!" I yell-muttered out of the side of my mouth, startling her.
She looked up. It was then I saw she was making an all-too-familiar face.
Turns out---surprise!---she did have to poop after all.
She got down to business as I wondered what the record was for how long a human could hold their breath. She was ruminating herself. Not a euphemism. In fact, each time she paused in her efforts, she asked me questions like, Where was the sink? and, Why was there no flusher? forcing me to open my mouth to respond, as monosyllabically as possible: No pipes. No plumbing. Later. Done? 
At last she hopped off the seat, turned, and peered curiously into the abyss. I don't want to know what stared back.
Then, in lieu of our usual fun game where she strenuously insists that I wipe her, and I insist, just as strenuously, that she's a big girl capable of wiping herself, I quickly bent and did it myself. After making merry with the hand sanitizer, we exited into the fresh air, so she could play for a total of three minutes before we had to walk the twenty minutes home to our apartment which was five minutes away.
And contained a bathroom.

Zoe: 103; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
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Not that it would help. But it certainly couldn't hurt.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Zoe vs. That Elite Daily Post

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mockery is the highest form of love.
Some parents look forward to their child reaching popular milestones such as walking, wiping their own butt, or getting their first tattoo. As for me, I can't wait till Zoe understands sarcasm. 
And can speak it fluently. That's when I'll be ready to pass the torch. And then yoink it out of her reach before she can catch hold. Because I'm all about teaching my daughter how hard it is out there for a gangsta. 
Zoe will absolutely need to get satire, or I may have to disown her, repeatedly, in public, till she finally understands the fine line between malice and love, the home where satire lays its pointy head, on its fluffy bitter pillow.
All this is a roundabout way of introducing my faithful readers (hello, out there; tall folks, please hunch down a bit so the multitudes behind you can see) to a new site for satire called MockMom. It's like The Onion but one that's focused on parenthood, specifically motherhood, though probably also that red-headed stepchild fatherhood. 
MockMom was started by the talented ladies behind Sammiches and Psych Meds and Is It Bedtime Yet? The site's up and running, and here are a few examples of the hilarious posts:
And guess who else has a post there?
Here's where I refer you back to the title of this post.
Remember a week or so ago when the site Elite Daily ran what may be the smuggest post anyone's ever read ever? About how young moms are totally killin' it at motherhood? Well, here's my response up on MockMom:
Enjoy!

Zoe: 102; Universe: 0 

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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