Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Zoe vs. The Truth

Are all toddlers lying liars who lie? I'm wondering. And hoping.
Lies, damned lies, and Pinocchio.
Hoping that it's just a stage she'll grow out of. Because I don't know how to relate to this. I am painfully honest at times. Honest about things people might rather I lie about. 
Just ask a co-worker of mine who I had take a photograph of me when I was four months pregnant holding a giant container of Metamucil. Did he need or want to know about the intestinal struggles of pregnancy? I'm going to go with "need." I was suffering. People needed to know. Plus if I was away from my desk for a while and anyone asked where I'd gone, my co-worker could roll his eyes and point to the bathroom.
Zoe's grandmother is even more painfully honest, which must be where I get it from. 
Quick story: Atlantic City, early '80s. My nuclear family goes to one of those Dinner and a Show Tune Revues. They start singing "Hello, Dolly!" and before you can say "long-running Broadway musical" it becomes a full-audience participation number. The singers head out among the tables, working the two-drink minimum crowd into a show-tune frenzy, and then one of the singers kneels down by my mother, hands her the mic, and says: "What's your favorite song?" Without batting an eye she answers, "Right now it's 'Memory' from Cats."

Hello, Dolly: 7/5/96
Good-bye, Dolly: 2/14/03

Returning now to poop. Because that's the main thing Zoe lies about. Potty training is still a pipe dream, if pipes do in fact dream of poop.
Here's the nightly scenario: Six o'clock, time to poop. Aware of her schedule I prompt Zoe. "Do you have to go to the bathroom, my precious angel?"
Cut to one second later when she's retreated to the other side of the dining room table (but still in view of the TV). Her face has gone red, and she's emitting grunts.
"Zoe, dearest one, are you, perchance, pooping?"
"Grrrr. NO!"
When I eventually approach to change her, I'm met with cries of "Not done yet!" (But I thought you weren't pooping, I want to say.)
Or sometimes she just puts out her hand, turns her head away, and shouts: "Nothing!" 
"Nothing!" is the one-size-fits-all scream she uses for other situations, like bedtime, bath time, mealtime, getting dressed/undressed. Basically it means she's extremely busy and cannot be interrupted. Gotta respect the evil geniuses; they have a process and I'm pretty sure it's not "nothing."
I suppose I should be thankful that Zoe's lies right now are so transparent. One day she'll be a teenager and I will be even less of a match for her. In the meantime her lies are kind of funny in their obviousness.
My favorite mealtime lie is for when she clearly doesn't want to eat her vegetables and so she claims they're "too hot," no matter that she hasn't tried it, or that it's been sitting there for several minutes, or that it's a salad.
Zoe's bedtime lies would take a book and have been well-covered previously in this blog.
Recently, Zoe has been exploring Munchausen syndrome. Not the one "by proxy." It's all her. And it's all drama.
Remember Zoe's three-year doctor checkup, where she would not submit to being weighed, measured, examined, or generally checked up on? Well, since then she's apparently been turning the visit over in her mind and has come to realize the benefits of being or at least appearing sick, and not just because of the direct correlation between the degree of sick and the amount of attention received but in the quality of that attention as well.
When children are sick, she noticed, mommies give them stuff. Or let them get away with stuff. Being sick means more juice (all mommies fear dehydration). More TV. More of Mommy saying, how do you feel and delivering sympathy pats.
So the last time Zoe was sick and I brought her to the doctor, she was ready to perform.

The tragic case of Hieronymous Carl
Friedrich Baron von Munchausen, never
to have his towels monogrammed because
they assumed he was exaggerating.

First, two young student doctors came in and asked her how she was.
Zoe hung her head sadly, the physical embodiment of a sigh.
They asked if her throat hurt. She nodded sadly.
They asked if her head hurt. She nodded even more sadly.
A headache was a new symptom to her mother, who was bringing her in for possible pink eye and a longstanding cold. And who'd just been waiting over an hour in the waiting room with a child who was not acting sick but was instead running back and forth from the "sick" to the "well" side of the waiting room no matter what punishments I threatened her with.
On to her game, I told them to ask her about her foot.
"Zoe, does your foot hurt?" one of the doctors asked.
Zoe nodded. Very Very Sadly.
They looked at me. I looked at them. They looked back at Zoe.

A caption would be egregious.

"Zoe, does your knee hurt?" the other doctor asked.
Zoe nodded Very Very Very Sadly.
When the doctor came in and she repeated her performance, claiming to suffer from all manner of afflictions, I fake-sneezed "Munchausen."
The doctor may have just handed me the tissue box but I think Zoe got my point. 
Zoe: 37; Universe: 0

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Zoe vs. the Monster and the Ghost (and to a Lesser Extent, the Dragon and the Dinosaur)

In general, I see Zoe as a fearless creature. Countless times I've caught her climbing on structures that could not support her weight. I've watched her running while looking back over her shoulder (instead of in the direction she was running). And I've seen her put all manner of things in her mouth, trying to eat them, unless they were actually food. So I was surprised when one night she told me she could not retire to her room because "the Monster and the Ghost" were in there.

Spring Break, Daytona Beach, 1987.
Before it all went to hell.

A lengthy exorcism had to be performed before she could go to bed that night.
The next day it was the same. And the next. 
Before we knew it, it was "a thing." And what this thing was was a crutch, an excuse not to do something we wanted her to do. 
Sometimes it was also a game. One that she played with Daddy, because he is a better sport than Mommy. Daddy can be counted on to Perform. To get into it and yell, "Go away, Monster and Ghost! You can't be in Zoe's room [or the bathroom at bath time, or our bedroom whenever] anymore!"

The thought of seeing this movie
again scares me.

It would take numerous attempts to dislodge the Monster and the Ghost. They would not move until they damn well felt like it. According to Zoe. The only person who could actually see them.
Clearly, Zoe was working out some fears via those old standbys, the Monster and the Ghost, right? 
Then she upped the ante. 
One day, Zoe said she couldn't go into her room at bedtime because the Monster and the Ghost AND the Dragon and the Dinosaur were in there. What a crowd! No wonder there was no room for Zoe to go to sleep. I imagine it was quite noisy as well. 
So before bed, Daddy now needed to clear Zoe's room of all four interlopers. There were the usual animated exhortations mixed with the occasional gentle request when the Monster and the Ghost and the Dragon and the Dinosaur seemed the most receptive to reason (again, we took our cues from Zoe).

Tiamat, the Swiss army knife of dragons.

Digression here. I did some research about common childhood fears and learned that for small children, the fear of monsters is often about their fear of their own anger. Thus, the "monster" is an externalization of their aggression. 
Which led me to wonder: Just how much aggression did Zoe have that she needed to externalize four separate creatures?

Make up your mind, lady, am I a
monster or a dinosaur? 

Interestingly---or I imagine it was interesting if you didn't have to live with her---at some point---and I don't know exactly when it happened---the pretense was subtly dropped. Zoe was no longer afraid of the Monster and the Ghost, or the Dragon and the Dinosaur, and it seemed, in fact, she never had been. 
No, suddenly the Monster and the Ghost and the Dragon and the Dinosaur were Zoe's allies. 
Allies against who? 
Why, who else? Her parents. 
So all along her notifications had actually been warnings
She made this shift with such innocent flair that looking back we couldn't prove she'd ever actually presented them as creatures she feared. All she'd ever done was say they were there, never that she was afraid of them. We'd just assumed.
Viewed that way we saw now how her statement, "The Monster and the Ghost are gonna come and eat you," was a specific threat aimed at us, not an expression of a fear Zoe had.
The blinders were off. It was all a power trip. The enemy of our "enemy" was her friend! 
Now we were afraid. Not of Zoe's creations. Of Zoe herself.
Because our Little Angel had the intelligence to realize that other people fear monsters, ghosts, dragons, and dinosaurs, and therefore, if she conjured them up, even invisibly, she could maybe get them (us) to do her will. 
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 equals parental pride and 10 equals the awe and amazement you feel when your offspring surpasses you, Zoe had reached 11, i.e., "engenders feelings of existential terror." 
I have seen the Monster and the Ghost, and the Dragon and the Dinosaur. And they are a three-and-a-half-year-old girl.
Zoe: 36; Universe: 0

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Zoe vs. Sticker Shock

Literally, stickers. I'm not referring to inflated prices, because to Zoe, money is no object. Though it's occasionally been mistaken for food.

You've never seen The Incredible
Mr. Limpet

Sticker shock is a state of being. For me. For the Husband. For the walls and the furniture. And for the rug.
But not the cat.
In fact, she's the only thing in the apartment, animate or inanimate, to remain unaffected by Zoe's obsession with stickers. For one thing, Harley routinely runs from Zoe (her only exercise). And for another, she's the only self-cleaning organism who's got enough time on her hands (paws) to be thorough.
Therefore, unlike Harley, the Husband and I are covered in stickers---clothes, hair, skin. It's as if Zoe's attempting to mummify us, one smiley face or sparkly star at a time.
Stickers appear on every surface Zoe can reach. Stars and hearts line the windowsill and the coffee table. Fire engines, hydrants, and Dalmatians dot the TV stand. Smiley faces stick to the bottoms of my socks, still there after I wash them.
I pull back my bedcovers and, surprise!, a little pink heart. Or Foofa, waving hello.
The living room rug has perhaps suffered the most. Star of David stickers Zoe got from the Jewish book fair are ground into it; they combine with other stickers plus dirt and hair.
Once, when I vacuumed, I got rid of a lot of them. If I should ever vacuum a second time I'll hopefully get more.

This picture is worth a 1,000 words, all of them the same.

Zoe's favorite thing to do with her stickers is to re-stick them. The problem is, stickers don't retain their stickiness. If you can even peel them off without ripping them. So Zoe gets upset. Her frustration has three phases.
1) She gets upset if she can't remove a sticker, so I have to peel it off for her, but  sometimes then it . . .
2) Rips. More drama.
If it doesn't rip, she places it in some new spot or, more likely, back in the same exact spot, and we repeat sticking and re-sticking until . . .
3) The sticker loses its stickiness and she sinks into despair, hurling harsh recriminations against me, her hapless dealer.
But sometimes Zoe doesn't want to stick her stickers anyplace in particular and prefers to put them on her fingers, one on each, and then attempts to switch them around, using fingers WITH STICKERS ON THEM to rearrange the other stickers, which leads to stickers sticking to stickers and thus, more and more and more drama. 
Growing tired of sticking them to herself, realizing how it limits her agency, she begins sticking them on us.
Down our arms and legs. On our clothes. Toodee and Muno and Broby circling my elbow. Elmo, Mickey Mouse, and Geo climbing up my leg. Stars, one memorable occasion, on my face in a goatee formation.

Sexy times!

Eventually I remembered Colorforms, aka, reusable stickers, and thought I'd discovered the treatment for sticker shock. So I bought Zoe a Melissa & Doug version with animals and dinosaurs and vegetation to be placed in their appropriate tableaus: jungle, farm, ocean depths, prehistoric tar pit. But guess what? She didn't stick them in the scenery book. She didn't stick them on furniture or on us. Instead, she stuck them to the magnetic board I'd put up outside her room, and which used to hold all her magnets.

This exact one!

What happened to the magnets? you ask. You got me. I haven't seen them in a long time. I think they disappeared around the same time I vacuumed.
Zoe: 35; Universe: 0

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Zoe Versus, In Verse: A Sestina on Sleep

For this week's installment, I wrote a sestina. 
I'm not one for poetry, as will shortly become clear. If I ever win any poetry awards, it'll be for writing bad poetry, at which I excel. But as Nietzsche was fond of saying, Play to your strengths, ubermensch. Or something similarly exhortatory and German. 
When you stare into a sestina,
the sestina stares back at you.
Here's Webster's definition of a sestina: "a lyrical fixed form consisting of six 6-line unrhymed stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of the three verses of the concluding tercet." Got that? Throughout history, sestinas apparently served as complaints, which of course only encourages me.
For my theme I decided to explore Zoe's rocky relationship with sleep and how this negatively impacts my own relationship to same.
For my six words I chose: (1) tears, (2) sleep, (3) mine, (4) juice, (5) dreams, and (6) demands.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep? (Spoiler: It's the Second One)

She entered the world in an abundance of tears
One of many poets rolling over in
their graves in reaction to my sestina.
In those halcyon days she seemed not averse to sleep
Soon enough she spoke her first word: "mine"
Followed by repeated requests for juice
Never again was I to enjoy uninterrupted dreams
Because 24/7 I was slave to a toddler's demands.

Ever-evolving and capricious were this toddler's demands
At first it was hard to withstand her tears
Time to myself? The stuff of dreams
Dreams I never had because to dream you needed to sleep
She didn't seem to need much herself. Possibly because of all the juice?
Inconvenient truth---the fault was all mine.

What could I do with this sleepless child of mine?
I had to admit a certain inconsistency in response to demands
Sometimes I bribed her with Umizoomi or juice
Sometimes I withheld these until she shed tears
Many an evening I'd count the hours till she'd go to sleep
Would she stay in her bed until morning? In my nonexistent dreams.

Each night that my head hits the pillow, waiting on dreams,
I vow that eight hours rest will finally be mine
She's at her cutest when she finally submits to sleep
Then it's hard to recall the waking person who demands
More TV, more playtime, unnecessary Band-Aids. Soon enough her voice tears
Through the silent apartment: "Mommy! You wake up! You sit with me! Juice!"

Maybe it's good I don't sleep.
This would give me nightmares.
She really really likes juice
I'm convinced that apples are pulped in her dreams
I imagine Granny Smith faces blurred by tears
Lack of zzzz's contributes to this mad fancy of mine
Medication? Is that what the occasion demands?
I down shots of tequila and then collapse into sleep

Five a.m. and I'm woken from sleep
by a tiny voice shouting in my ear, "I want juice!"
I tumble out of bed to face a new string of demands
from a short person who features largely in short dreams.
She leads me to the kitchen, her hand in mine
The overhead light makes my eyes fill with tears

The idea of going back to sleep is the embodiment of my dreams
As she sits on the couch guzzling juice, I can't believe she's all mine.
It's my misfortune that she demands payment in tears.

Zoe: 34; Universe: 0