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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Zoe vs. the British Nanny

You may have heard of British Nanny Emma Jenner, author of Keep Calm and Parent Up. A recent post of hers went viral in which she lists the reasons she believes modern parenting is in a crisis. I agree with her, for the most part. Zoe, as you might imagine, does not.
Emma Jenner's viewpoint boils down to this question: Who's in charge? Zoe thinks it's her. I'm afraid she's right.

Don't make me say "Rubbish!"

Fear is the first item on the British nanny's list. What are parents afraid of? Tantrums. The ones that start over nothing. The ones that seem endless. The ones that occur at 6:00 A.M. because you used the wrong sippy cup.
Jenner says that when a child objects to the "blue" sippy cup because they want the "pink" one, she often sees terrified parents dump out the drink and start over with the "right" cup. If she was at my house she would see that that doesn't happen. Because I learned my lesson the first time.
Seriously, I do hear what she's saying. And I do hold the line. However, at six in the morning that line sometimes gets dropped. Especially when you live in a Brooklyn apartment with neighbors who've knocked on your door on a Saturday afternoon because your toddler was too loud. So, yes, fear does enter into it.
I know that apartment dwellers do have nannies, but I also suspect that most of Jenner's clients live in houses, and a screaming toddler is a bit different when you live in a house. Jenner says "Remove yourself so you don't have to hear it." Where? The solarium? 
I have walked away during tantrums where Zoe's thrown herself on the floor at my feet. Sometimes she's so caught up in the drama she doesn't notice at first that I've left, and when she does, she stops crying in order to track me down and promptly throw herself down again. 
It is my firm belief that it's my job to raise a good, non-tantrum-throwing citizen, and I think the most important thing her father and I have to teach Zoe is that though she may be one of our top five people ever, she probably doesn't make that list for other people.

British Nanny Warns:
We're raising a nation
of Veruca Salts!

The Husband and I have each had our struggles. I'm more of a sucker than the Husband at bedtime, often going back into her room after she should be asleep to humor her increasingly manipulative requests. In contrast, The Husband puts his foot down much sooner than I do. 
On the other hand, he has done the dumping-out-the-sippy-cup thing a few times because he just couldn't deal at 6 A.M. Early on he also had a tendency to run to her when she fell while I'd be more likely to not react (British nanny approved!). This could be because I was home with her more at the beginning on my maternity leave and knew she wasn't as breakable as she looked. Plus, I'm pitiless, which is why Zoe won't let me brush her hair, running straight to Daddy, who, unlike me, has never broken a comb in her tangles.
In fact, the last time I was filled with the feelings was right after Zoe was born and I was experiencing the postpartum hormone dump, along with a two-month-long period and night sweats (I had to sleep on a towel---please tell me I wasn't the only one). The tearfulness, though, was really disorienting. 
People who know me know I don't really do emotion. The words ghoulish, dead inside, and constitutionally incapable of tenderness have been bandied about. And now there I was with a newborn, home all day, failing at breastfeeding while switching between marathons of House and A Baby Story. No matter which show it would end with me in a puddle of tears. 
It took a few months for me to return to my normal uncaring self, ready to dispassionately observe Zoe flounder about while I debated whether or not to help her eat the TV remote.
Which leads me to the British nanny's next point: Sometimes children cry for things we can't in good conscience give them, or even if we can, maybe we shouldn't. Where to draw the line is different for everyone. Something we often forget in the so-called Mommy Wars.
Whether we're free-range tiger moms or helicopter attachment parents buying the latest Rosetta Stone Junior CD, we're all primed to get into a tizzy no matter which approach someone says is the correct way to mother. Make up your mind, Interwebs! 
Cartesian coordinate plane.
Voted Most Humorless Graph
300 years running.
The only thing that I think is an absolute necessity is a sense of humor. Because some days children will test your patience, and some days you will not be In the Mood. How I will react to Zoe having a tantrum is not an exact science, and yet it can be charted (see chart) to measure my patience level against her tantrum type. 
Let's say that the +6 on the x-axis, aka the Axis of Patience, is Mother Teresa while the -6 equals Mommie Dearest. On the y-axis, or the Axis of Evil* Attitude, we have Veruca Salt on the bottom--representing the depths in purposeful brattiness--and Regan from the Exorcist at the top--the devil made her do it so we can't really blame Regan here. Best-case scenario, Zoe's so upset she's beyond personal agency, but that day I'm Mother Teresa, gunning for sainthood. Worst-case? Veruca Salt meets Mommie Dearest. Sans the wire hangers (because I have no opinion on them either way though I understand they can be a source of contention). Most days fall somewhere in the middle, with everyone just barely holding it together till we can all go to bed.

There's just no talking to Linda when
she gets like this.

However, some days Zoe surprises me with her maturity and understanding. But maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. Ms. Jenner says that we need only raise the bar for our children's behavior and they will rise to it.
Or, like Zoe, they will pull over the nearest piece of unstable furniture in order to climb up to the bar and swing from it till it breaks.
Zoe: 53; Universe: 0
*Deleted because apparently this phrase was already used. Fascists!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Zoe vs. the Blog Tour

Zoe here today. My mom was invited on a blog tour, and since I've earned a much-needed vacation I decided I should be the one to go on this tour.

This is how Mommy sees herself. I just know it.

Mommy was invited by a perfectly delightful woman named Susan who blogs at Pecked to Death by Chickens. I have a few things to say about this. First of all, can that really happen? Can chickens kill you with their beaks? Cause I don't need any more nightmare fodder. There's already the Shadow by the Closet and the Sound That Has No Source and colors like black with black spots. Plus, I only recently made the connection between those dinosaur-shaped breaded meat nuggets I've been eating and the denizen of Old MacDonald's farm who used to cluck, cluck here and there but now clucks nowhere at all unless in my stomach so I can see why they might want revenge.
On Fridays Mommy Susan also blogs about this guy named Craig and his list, which seems to comprise Chewbacca-themed miscellany and dirty stuff from some old guy's garage. I'm not sure why anyone has this stuff let alone is trying to sell it to other people. Money does not grow on trees. (Allegedly.)
So, the blog tour . . . Turns out this is less like a vacation and more like a game, like Hot Potato, where someone answers four questions about their writing process and then hands the potato off to two other people, so I guess that means they have two potatoes? Mommies have a tendency to complicate things that are simple. "Candy" comes before "dinner" alphabetically, am I right?
As for the four questions, I will now answer them as I think Mommy a) would answer them b) should answer them.

What is she working on?
If Mommy was answering this regarding me, she'd say, "her last nerve." This is because she thinks she's funny. I don't know why. Most of her so-called jokes aren't even about poop. 
Besides being a blogger she fancies herself a novelist and is trying to write the Great American Novel. Poor thing. She likes to write about people uncomfortable in their own skin and is a fan of Nancy Drew. I don't get it. I mean, big deal, the chick can drive. And as far as I can see, her investigative abilities consist of "finding" clues that ne'er-do-wells drop as they're running away. Elsa shoots ice from her fingers and is my best friend ever. 
So Mommy wrote this one novel and I think she should go ahead and put it in that drawer she keeps mentioning, the one where she should also put that inappropriate midriff shirt she needs to admit she will never wear again.
Now she's working on another novel. She probably thinks it will be funny. What's funny to me is how she thinks she's gonna have time for that since she wrote the first one before I'd graced her with my presence.
Mommy started this blog to have a platform for her other writing but is having such a good time because it's about me and I'm entertaining. Sometimes this makes me self-conscious, like when she watches me with a notebook in her hand and smirk on her face, like some ungodly mix of Jane Goodall and Tina Fey.

How does her work differ from others?
I'm not sure it does. I know she likes to get all meta. Have lots of reference that she thinks are artsy but are really more fartsy. She's like Ezra Pound but without the anti-Semiticism. She also likes to reference pop culture, especially sci-fi and eighties (her heyday) music and film. And she often says "humorous" things at my expense that she thinks I won't get. I do. Like when I was little, and I quite rightly, and vociferously, expressed alarm at being confined to that wheeled death trap in which I'd be propelled headlong through the streets, deprived of any autonomy, she'd roll her eyes in front of the other mommies and say, "You must chill, you must chill; I have hidden your Firebird keys." Recognizing her I'm-making-a-dated-reference tone I rifled through her DVD collection and found Say Anything. I get it, Mother, I really do.

Mommy had a crush on John Cusack in high school.
How original of her. (c) Twentieth Century Fox.


Why does she write what she does?
She feels she needs an outlet is my guess. She seems so stressed. I have no idea why. She's even used the pretentious phrase "self-actualization." I'd be embarrassed for her if I did empathy. (I'll let you in on a secret: I will never do empathy. Let her think it's because that's normal for my developmental stage.)
Basically I think she's trying to grasp on to having some sort of life outside of me, God bless her. She wants to make people laugh or move them. Cause let's keep up the charade that she doesn't like talking about herself. 

How does her writing process work?
She might answer this differently, a mix of mad rush vs. planning and note-taking. From what I've observed, she needs to be under the gun to work. And so I help her out by interrupting as often as possible and hanging on to her arm. Writers need to suffer. Also, they need to want it. My role as muse is to focus her; otherwise she has a tendency to ramble and go on tangents. I'll stop there cause the worst thing is to be accused of being your mother. At least that's my understanding.

A cautionary tale for
Mommy bloggers.

That's it. Now to pass the potato on---or cut the potato in half? I don't know---to two other funny writer mommies who will present their answers next week. 
First, we have Carrie from Ponies and Martinis, who also has one little girl. She's a funny lady who's barreling through life trying to make sense of being a wife and mother while bringing a little bit of humor to her day. She also takes care of three dogs, one cat, and a dwindling number of fish. (I'd say her cat is a feline of interest.) Here's Mommy's favorite post of hers: "Delivery Room Drama: My Daughter Fell Out of Me." She also often appears on BLUNTmoms.
Then Steph from We Don't Chew Glass, which is a title to ponder from several different angles. Here's Mommy's favorite post of hers: "10 Tips on How to Be a Person." Much-needed advice for our troubled times. She's an inconsistent perfectionist, a writer of rubbish, a mother of three, and wife of one. She says that if you find brutal honesty, foul language, or bathroom humor offensive, you should stay away because she's contagious. I can confirm because my mommy's infected. 
Be sure to check them out next week!
Zoe: 52; Universe: 0

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Zoe vs. the Civilized Meal

My father was fond of the old phrase, "Children should be seen and not heard." Around dinnertime, when my sister and I were young, he'd take it out and shake the dust off it if either of us was acting silly.
He was kidding, mostly. He quoted the W. C. Fields version just as often: "Children shouldn't be seen or heard from . . . ever again."
My sister and I would roll our eyes, but we had to be careful he didn't see or he'd then channel Rodney Dangerfield: "No respect, I tell ya. No respect at all."

Next one to move gets it right in the giblets.

My sister and I were hardly wild, or loud. Our obnoxiousness was of the stealthy variety. Zoe can be stealthy as well, but she is also loud and wild. This has made going out to dinner with her quite the adventure. 
In early days, it wasn't a problem. If we timed it right, she slept. But as soon as she could walk, that was all she wanted to do. We'd try belting her into a high chair, but she'd soon escape her bonds like a young, non-Hungarian Harry Houdini.
The thrill of walking was the thrill of exploring. She tottered from table to table asking everything from "Who's that? " to "What are they eating?" to "Why are they eating?" Usually wrapping up with, "Hold the phone, are those stairs? Why wasn't I notified!?"

When I get loose I'm gonna
annihilate that buffet.

If there was a window, she wanted to go outside. And so for a while I spent more time just outside of restaurants rather than inside. At my table. Enjoying dinner.
As for Zoe's dinner, her preferences were limited. Chicken fingers and fries, or pasta. If I ordered pasta for myself, not wanting to squander a full meal on her, she wouldn't share. If I ordered something else, she wanted what was on my plate. Until she had it. And then she'd make a puke face and lunge forward as fast as an Amish kid on Rumspringa, barely waiting for me to proffer my hand---something that when I was childless I'd never envisioned doing so automatically.
Not just air guitar, electric air guitar.
(paulrichardjames.deviantart.com)
By the time we left, her part of the table and the floor beneath looked like a crime scene after a tsunami had hit.
Depositing a pack of wild Amish.
So Zoe strenuously objected to high chairs, but regular chairs didn't work either because she couldn't reach the table without climbing on top of everyone. The Husband and I would pass her back and forth, alternating bites.
Of our meals, not of her. She didn't learn that behavior from us and I'll pinch anyone who says different.
After she turned three she explored the restaurant's environs less because toys could now provide distraction. For a bit. Then she wanted to leave, usually before the entrees had even arrived. On one occasion we bribed her by saying when we were all done eating, she'd get ice cream. The rest of that meal was set to the music of her little voice piping, "Is it time for ice cream yet?" Eventually she got up and stood by the kitchen door, accosting the waitstaff who emerged by inquiring about the ETA on that ice cream. (Large tips were dispersed.)
The next couple of times we went out we were saved by two items generously donated by family: a portable DVD player and Frozen. The only contentious point with having her watch a movie at the table was how high the volume should be, but overall it was a success. In fact, mesmerized by Elsa and friends, she once fell asleep with her head on the table, inches from her untouched plate. 
I was positive we would soon have a socially acceptable little person when dining out. And I may never have written this post if not for our experience at brunch this weekend where she was seen and heard by all. 
Our first mistake, maybe, was neglecting to bring Frozen. And by "maybe" I mean definitely.
I had brought toys but lately the way she plays is very loud and very dramatic. Whenever she has two toys in her hand, they are bitter enemies and yell at each other, trash-talking gibberish and stamping around.

Take a good look. It's not gonna happen.

There were muffins on the table, so she ate one and then, naturally, wouldn't eat her chicken fingers when they came. Fine. We'd take it home. But that "kid's meal" she didn't eat also came with, you guessed it, ice cream, as the waitress perkily informed all of us. Zoe paused in her toy-slamming to properly absorb that piece of intel.
We could've said no, but it's better if she's ignorant altogether. Once those words are out in the world, you can't take them back. Just ask Pandora.
So one bowl of chocolate ice cream later, she was keyed up. Like the Energizer Bunny except wired.* By that point we were leaving and I decided to take her to the park to get the sillies out.
I didn't even bother cleaning the ice cream off her face, and later I noticed she had a little dark mustache on her lip. The effect was Hitleresque. If Hitler ever wore a pink helmet and rode a pink tricycle.
Eventually she crashed. Sugar-wise, not tricycle-wise, though there were a couple of close calls. And she actually went to bed early for once. At which point it was time for my ice cream. No sillies involved. Eating ice cream is serious business for this Mommy.
Zoe: 51; Universe: 0
*mixed metaphors intentional

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zoe vs. This Blog:
A Blogiversary

I can't believe it's been a year since I started this blog. I can't believe Zoe is almost four years old. I can't believe Interpol hasn't caught up to her web of international evil.

Just snap the damn picture already so I
can get these germ-magnets off me
and get back to my blog.

When I started this blog I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up. Could there be that many things Zoe was "against"? Turns out the universe is a mighty big place, filled with a plethora of wonders to behold with awe and then despise.
In this first year, she and I have explored many of her dislikes: from eating healthy food and sleeping reasonable hours to visiting doctors (boo!) and attending parades (should've been yay! but was somehow boo!). 
Sometimes I've wondered if, a la the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, I've altered Zoe's behavior just by observing and writing about it. Had I sometimes sat back, pen and pad in hand, and said to her, "Dazzle me"? Had I watched her in the throes of some emotional breakdown and said, "Splendid foaming at the mouth, dearest, but would you mind having your tantrum a little to the left?"

It took eight scientists to make this 60-inch cyclotron.
It took one mommy to make a blond version half the size.

Since I still feel relatively new at this, I researched to see what other bloggers did for their blogiversaries. Giveaways were pretty popular. There are such things out there called Rafflecopters. If you read last week's post, it won't surprise you to learn that upon a moment's investigation into this widget/concept/thing, I hyperventilated and passed out. When I came to, a certain blond-haired little girl was bouncing on my chest, constricting my airway. When I came to the next time, I'd completely forgotten about the whole thing.
Zoe is a walking---more accurately, running---case study, so, as I said, coming up with topics was not a problem. The biggest hurdle in blogging has been finding the window of time where I could sit at my computer unmolested. Those rare moments when she wasn't using my mouse arm as a monkey bar while screeching like a hyena. (Note to self:  "Zoe vs. the Zoo Trip"?)  
She's nobody's fool. If anything, I'm her fool. She has all sorts of ways to stop me from working.
1. Being cute: Wherein the subject begs me to play with her, big blue eyes threatening tears.
2. Being evil: Wherein the subject has a tantrum or otherwise precipitates a crisis/accident.
3. Miscellaneous manipulation: Wherein the subject perversely refuses to watch TV---something she always wants to do unless I'm on the computer---claiming the only entertainment that will satisfy is a YouTube video of Elsa singing "Let It Go." In Portuguese. 
4. Or, finally, that one-two punch of Guilt-Inducing Drama: Wherein the subject implies that the Mommy has scarred her for life by playacting a scene where she's the Mommy and informs Geo and Umicar that she can't play with them because: "I HAVE TO WORK!!" And also: "Go away! You're bothering me!"
For the record, I have never said those words to my daughter. I may have thought them, in a very loud voice, but I didn't say them.
Zoe is a consummate actress. One time, when I wasn't even working on my blog but was performing some much-needed cleanup, she wanted me to play, but I put her off. She walked away sulking. Later, when I was done cleaning and said I could play with her, she told me she was busy. 
I sat on the floor next to her and sighed a lot and made moon eyes and said,  "I wish I had someone to play with." After letting me stew for a bit, so I'd know how it felt, she relented and allowed me to hand her the toys she wanted to play with.

Virtual calories for my
illusory weight loss.

I don't know what the future holds. Or when her powers might come to their full fruition. Just as I don't know how much of an influence recording her activities is having on her development as an evil genius.
History will judge.
Zoe: 50; Universe/This Blog: 0

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Zoe vs. My Smartphone

Remember those logic problems from high school math? If A is smarter than B, and B is smarter than C, then A is way smarter than C? Now substitute Zoe for A, my phone for B, and me for C.
Zoe was born smarter than me. She finds screens on my phone I didn't know were there. By the time she was two she was able to call people on my contact list. In order to hang up on them. (Sorry, Aunt Therese.) When she turned three, she claimed she wanted to talk on the phone, but if someone answered all she'd do was breathe heavily until I wrested my phone away. (Sorry, Grandma. And thanks for not blocking me.)

Original "Smart" phone

I know what you're thinking. Is this Mommy so dumb she's not aware she can password- protect her phone? No, it's worse. I password-protected it but then forgot what my password was. Impressed yet? 
What's sadder is I use the same passwords for everything. Attention, hackers! So, instead of forgetting, perhaps I "fat-fingered" it. More impressed? Feeling a bit attracted to me?
Adding to my technological aptitude I'm lazy. After that one fail I gave up on the whole password-protecting thing.
Being a Luddite, it's amazing I even own a smartphone, but that's only because it's hard to find the old clamshell phones anymore, the ones that were so satisfying to slap shut when your call ended. I told the kid, I mean, Mobile Device Consultant, at the store, excuse me, Wireless Communications Kiosk, that all I wanted was a phone. A regular phone. One that could maybe text too. That's it. No camera. No WiFi. No apps. Nothing with a cloud; they belong in my sky, mister. And no phone with "galaxy" in the name. In fact, I'd prefer it if my phone believes the world is flat and the sun revolves around the Earth. A non-heliocentric phone. Is that too much to ask?

I'm more comfortable with phones
that espouse the geocentric view.

When the kid, that is, whippersnapper, only blinked at me, I said, Just give me the phone you'd give your grandmother.
That's when I found out they don't sell those anymore. I'm convinced my mother snatched up the last one. I probably inherited my enthusiasm for embracing change from her. (It's impossible to get my mother on her cell phone. She calls you, then she shuts the power off to conserve energy.)
Back to Zoe. As she grew so did her technological prowess, and though this meant less random dialing accidents, her purposeful nefariousness grew. 
I don't mind if she looks through the pictures on my phone. She loves looking at herself, and her vanity buys me time if I need to cook dinner.
I also let her play game. The singular was on purpose. App-less and hapless, that's me. I'm what I believe the kids call "the whole package."

"But why must they call it "wifey"?
"That's WiFi, angel-face."

The one game I have is called Pet Shop Panic. The object of the game is to clear the colored blocks of a building so that little puppies, cats, birds, and monkeys can escape. Escape from what is unclear. I think in the original version there was supposed to be a fire. There are harder boards with pink bunnies and snakes, but I don't play those because God forbid I'd have to think.
Zoe likes this game. And, as with gazing at pictures of herself, it draws her in so I can do other things. 
The problem is her attention span is just short enough that when I think to check on what she's doing it's already too late and she's changed my settings. Either my alerts are all on vibrate or they're blaring "Let It Go." My wallpaper has changed to a blurry shot she snapped of her mismatched shoes. My icons are all rearranged. I'm on military time.
More problematic, she messes with my alarms. She turns off the ones I need and then adds other ones. On Monday, for instance, she turned off the alarm reminding me to pay her day care, and I'm only remembering now because I'm writing this post. 
Reinstating that alarm, I see I have some others that I'm pretty sure I didn't program, like the one for Sundays at 3:34 a.m. Not just a one-time shock in store for Mommy but Zoe checked the box for "repeat." I could almost believe this was an accident except for that extra step.

The symbol for WiFi availability or
a person waving their arms in panic?

Of course, now that I have a smartphone I don't know what I'd do without it, so in that way my phone is much like Zoe. Daunting and intimidating but strangely addictive. The main difference is I have control over my device, whereas Zoe's the one who pushes my buttons.
Zoe: 49; Universe: 0