Thursday, September 25, 2014

Zoe vs. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep is regarded as the world's greatest living actress. I believe that was true.
. . . Until four years ago, when Zoe arrived on the scene.

The second-best actress in the
world (as of August 2010)

Zoe was born dramatic. Though I suppose all births are dramatic. As renowned baby expert Dr. Benjamin Spock said, "Childbirth is the most unnatural natural thing ever, except maybe for Carrot Top."*
Still, the style in which Zoe arrived---a little resistant at first (induction at 41 weeks), then a lot resistant (plenty of Pitocin to no purpose), then causing a bit of a panic (um, where's that heartbeat?), ending in blood and screaming as if she was the one being cut open (semi-emergency c-section)---set the tone for what was to follow.
Even today, most of her emotional outbursts follow that same pattern: sluggish resistance, followed by irrational fear, then the blood and the screaming and the calls for drugs.
From what I've seen in the past four years, I think it's reasonable to conclude that in a diva-on-diva throwdown my daughter would out-act Meryl Streep. As evidence I present the following selections from Ms. Streep's impressive filmography and examine them against the theatrics of my pint-sized thespian.

A Cry in the Dark
Meryl made this movie in 1988. I was in high school at the time and probably preferred murderous dingos to children. (Now, it's a close call.)
I've never met a dingo, and I've never been to Australia, but the title resonates with me because it sums up that first sleepless year with infant Zoe. 
Early on, her crying was for serious, but by the time she turned two she was able to cue it up anytime for effect. She buries her face in her hands as she cries then peeks between her fingers to make sure she still has an audience. If I've left the room, she stops crying (Cut!), comes to find me, then commences crying again (Action!).

A dingo ate my hairdresser.

This movie also reminds me of Zoe because in it Meryl plays a mother accused of a crime she didn't commit. This gels with Zoe's prosecutorial style, aka how she wakes up: Why's my blue sippy cup with the red top lying unwashed in the sink? You should've washed it by now. I have a witness who places you in the kitchen at 7:55 P.M. last night washing your coffee mug, so clearly you had opportunity. Did you just not care? You are guilty of being a terrible mother. (Bangs gavel.)

Sophie's Choice
You'd think I was asking her to choose who should live and who should die the way Zoe reacts when I ask her which of two shirts she wants to wear. Every choice is pregnant with future bitter regret. If she chooses the pink toothbrush rather than the blue toothbrush, what are the ramifications? What untold suffering that cannot be foreseen?
On the way home, should she sit in the stroller or should she walk? Wracked with indecision she jumps on and off, forcing Mommy to stop and start. That's not frustrating for Mommy. And who has time to think about her anyway? Getting home only means facing another weighty decision of what cartoon to watch.

The Devil Wears Prada
Just do what I say!

The Iron Lady
Just do what I say with a British accent! 
Regarding Meryl and her accents. Zoe is a master at this as well. Though I don't recognize what country of origin Zoe's accents are supposed to represent. They seem to be wholly her own.

What can't Meryl Streep do! Here she is as a building.
She trained for the role by spending a summer
as a newspaper kiosk.

Zoe likes to shout orders in strange, made-up voices, or yell things that sound like orders but are just extreme imitations of me or her teachers. She's been doing this since she was around two and "imitated" me changing her diaper.
Knowing how she exaggerates my treatment of her for dramatic effect, I kind of assume her teachers are not constantly screaming at her and that a particular little boy is not hurting her as much as she claims. At bath time, she works out her stress in little vignettes, randomly letting loose with: "I'm NOT telling you again" or "If you don't stop talking, you go straight to the office. Ha!" or "Stop talking or I won't read the story. Ha!"
I don't know what the "Ha!" thing is about but she tacks it to the end of every sentence when she's in acting mode.
Naturally I'm her favorite to imitate. Picking her up from day care once I must've rushed her to get home saying I had a lot to do because almost every night now she launches out of the stroller, plants herself at the top step of a stranger's house, turns and shouts: "I've got tooooooo much stuff to do! Ha!" Then she crosses her arms and levels a disarmingly shrewd stare at me.
I am tempted to point out that her behavior and stance are the exact opposite of how a person with toooooo much stuff to do would behave but that would only raise the curtain on the next act.

Mamma Mia!
People didn't know Meryl could sing, but she can. Zoe knows she can sing. Because who's gonna tell her she can't? You can't develop that kind of confidence. You either have it or you don't.

So many parallels:
Zoe acts like she's being psychologically tortured but I think it's really me.
I try to point out blatant safety violations, but she refuses to heed my warnings. However, if I bump into her accidentally, she claims grave injury and that she is bleeding (she is not bleeding) and demands a Band-Aid.
Because I once gave her a Tic-Tac to settle her stomach on a long car trip she now believes it's medicine, and so when she sees Tic-Tacs suddenly her stomach hurts. She cries when I don't believe her.
Two nights ago she showed me a paper cut. Although she called it a book cut. I said, Yes, books have paper so that's why it's called a paper cut. It's a book cut, she said. I sighed.
"It's bleeding," she continued. (It had been.) "A lot." (Barely.) "The biggest." (Biggest what? Whiner or liar?) I got her a Band-Aid.
Another thing Silkwood-esque: Zoe refuses to wash her hands after using the potty unless it's bedtime. Then she wants to wash as if she's been contaminated by plutonium.

After seeing what she did to the potty,
I welcome death. (Source:

And finally. . .

The Hours
Sometimes, with Zoe, what "the seconds" feel like.
Zoe: 62; Universe: 0
*I may be making this up. There's nothing natural about Carrot Top.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zoe vs. Barbara Walters

Zoe is like Barbara Walters: When she asks questions, someone ends up in tears. Usually me.

Grown-ass men sobbing. When we return.

I am Zoe's usual victim interviewee. Her questions fall into one of the following three categories.

1. Questions with the Same Answer
Each day starts with these. Where are we going? School and work. Who's taking me to school? Daddy. Who's picking me up? Mommy. Who's putting me to bed? Three out of five weekdays the answer is Mommy. 
Same questions. Same answers. Still she asks
As I'm putting on makeup: What's that? Eyeliner. Can I have some? When you're older. Or, if I'm feeling all Teachable Moment: Eyeliner is one of the few Things That Cannot Be Shared, like a lollipop that's already been in your mouth. 
Because it's unhygienic. 
What's eugenics? 
. . . It's when a bad guy says that all the questions should have the same answer.
She thinks for a moment then says, "That's silly." Isn't it, though? 
At night on the way home (regarding a random person): Where is he going? Home. Why? Because everyone's going home now. Why? It's dinnertime. 

2. Questions with No Answer (or at least not one that satisfies)
At night on the way home (regarding a specific person): Where's he going? Home. 
Then when Specific Person walks up to a door: Why's he going there? I guess that's his home. Why? Because that's where he lives. 
Sometimes this leads to the third category (see below) but sometimes, just to be perverse, Zoe says:
"No, he doesn't." 
 "What do you mean, 'no, he doesn't'? 
"He doesn't live there."
"We just saw him go in."
"He doesn't live there."
At this point I sputter that we'll have to agree to disagree. How do you explain the obvious? Especially when you don't really care.

Jerry keeps pressing for a bathroom
break but is soundly ignored.

Another example:
She wedges one toy inside another toy and then needs help getting it out. On the edge of tears but gamely holding them back to underline just how well she is bearing up under the full scope of the tragedy, she comes to me for help. 
With some finagling I finally remove the toy. As I hand the consciously uncoupled items back to her, I say, "Now don't do that again." Zoe asks, "Why not?" What can be said to this that wasn't evident from all that preceded?

3. Questions That Lead to More Questions
One of Dante's Circles of Hell must have its circumference paved with the questions of preschoolers.
Let's say we're going on a car trip. . . .
Where are we going? Who's going to be there? When are we coming back? Can I take the largest most unwieldy toy with me, the one with multiple tiny parts that never stay on and will end up being left behind causing untold emotional anguish or, at minimum, regretful pining? Why not? Now that we're ready to go, and I said I wasn't hungry the twenty times you asked me before, I am now, in fact, hungry, so how about a grilled cheese sandwich? How come? Can I take a squeezable yogurt with me in Grandma's car? Why not? Is Grandma coming with us? Where are we going? (Return to start.)

Those who coveted the Play-doh in life, must separate
mounds of it into their constituent colors in death.

So far I've managed to dodge embarrassing questions, like why is that person standing within earshot fat? But she's come close.
One day she asked me "Why's that kid so short?" as we passed a man who happens to be a dwarf. 
(His size, by the way, had nothing to do with why she called him a kid. She often calls adults kids. Or boys and girls.) 
I don't think he heard. I'm always awkward around this particular dwarf because he's sort of a neighborhood fixture. He can be seen at Christmastime dressed as an elf. For the St. Patrick's Parade, he's a leprechaun. Sometimes, for no obvious reason, he's decked out in a top hat and tails.
The reason for my awkwardness is that before Zoe was born he and I lived in the same building, and every time I saw him he would reintroduce himself. Now that we are no longer living in that building, I'm even more doubtful he remembers me. 
So all this noise is running through my awkward brain when Zoe asks why he's short, but I just say, He was born that way. 
Because he's a dwarf. 
I immediately regret using that word, not for any political-correctness reason because I've kind of lost track of what's the proper term (midget? little person? height disadvantaged?), but because I'm afraid she'll now associate him with Snow White and her seven companions and so I'm way ahead of her when she asks, Where's his beard? (He has a mustache but he is bald.) 
He shaved it, I say. 
He was hot. 
This seems to satisfy her for the moment.

If You Were a Tree, What Kind of Tree Would You Be?
Barbara Walters was famously mocked for asking this question of Katharine Hepburn, even though Hepburn herself opened the door to Walters asking it. 
As a mother, I know how this feels. I often find myself asking questions I never expected to ask another living soul, like "Did you lick your shirt?" and "Why are you trying to put that toy in your butt?" I know something about context and being misunderstood and how if you make one mistake there's always a person standing just behind you who will never let you forget it. "Mommy made a mistake." (Statement, not question.) 
If Zoe asked me what kind of tree I was in the middle of the usual chaos, I'd be tempted to say the Giving Tree, from Shel Silverstein's eponymous book, y'know, the tree that gave and gave till nothing was left, not even a stump. Do you know what a martyr is, Zoe?

Go ahead and sit. If I could only provide shade,
but someone chopped me down.

Last night I asked Zoe what kind of tree she was and she said, "A leaf tree. No, an apple tree. No a bean tree. No, a big one...." Why did I ask?
Zoe: 61; Universe: 0

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Zoe vs. Catapedaphobia

Catapedaphobia is not the fear of cat feet, which is what I first thought when I heard the word. But then who would be afraid of cat feet? They're so fluffy and cute.
Until you touch them and the cat swipes at you with her claws and you're bleeding.
So now I have a new fear.
But it's not catapedaphobia, which is the fear of jumping from high or low places. 
Zoe may or may not have catapedaphobia. In any case, it's the closest word I could find to describe Zoe's antipathy to bouncy castles.

Ablutophobia: fear of bathing.

There are a lot of unusual fears out there, and many of them get their own words. For instance, did you know somniphobia is the fear of sleep? Maybe that's another fear Zoe has. It would certainly explain a lot.
Ever hear of iatrophobia? That's the fear of going to the doctor (another one Zoe may have). Taphephobia is the fear of being buried alive. But who doesn't fear that? Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words, which sounds like some pscychologist's cruel joke since people who suffer from it can hardly self identify.
But back to catapedaphobia. Over the past two weekends Zoe confronted her fear of bouncy castles and, eventually, conquered it. 
Let's start with two Saturdays ago when she went to her first kid's party, a boy's of course. It was at an indoor "play arena" where the revelers could enjoy several different bouncy castles. Some had slides, some had climbing, some had both, and some were just for bouncing.
Zoe did not want to slide or climb or bounce. She wanted to go home.

The horror of watching children play,
or pedophobia.

Maybe it was the size of the structures themselves (megalophobia). Or perhaps the bright colors (chromatophobia).
Whatever it was, I had to hold her for the whole two hours of the party. On the positive side, this alleviated my own social phobia. I was too busy with Zoe, alternating between psyching her up and then comforting her when her socked foot touched the entrance to the inflatable structure and she jumped back into my arms, to worry about small talk. She was a 36-pound conversation piece. "I guess she's afraid." "She just doesn't want to." "Whaddaya say, Zoe?" "Look, the birthday boy is doing it." "Kids, huh?" 
Zoe has a history of taking her time warming up to things. She was that way at an amusement park we visited earlier in the summer.
In Phase One she'd say she wanted to go on a ride but then she'd stand and stare at it in silence for several minutes, her hands pressed to her cheeks.
Was it tachophobia, the fear of speed?
Or kinetophobia, the fear of movement?
How about neophobia, the fear of new things?
Phase Two was her getting on a ride, then crying to get off before it started, then standing outside again, watchful, waiting for an explosion perhaps. 
Phrase Three: the carousel. She went on. She stayed on. Progress.
Considering her obsession with coin-operated horses (the gateway drug of rides), I knew the horse part wouldn't be the problem. (She is not equinophobic, thank god, because I was afraid of that.)
But in light of the fact that I'd never been allowed to put money in the ride (mechanophobia?), I wasn't so sure she'd be okay when the carousel started moving. However, my fears proved groundless and she ended up loving the carousel.
Therefore, at the bouncy place I figured she just needed time to warm up. I was right. Apparently that time was seven days.

In this picture, how many things are there
to fear? a) 4 b) 5 c) a + b?

Last weekend we went to a block party, and they also had a bouncy castle. As I had the week before, I stood at the entrance to the anxiety-inducing inflatable holding a serious Zoe, who played with her hair, a considering frown on her face.
Again we went through the false starts. She'd say she wanted to go in, I'd place her on the castle's foyer area, and then she'd scuttle back into my arms. Foyerphobia?*
I'm not sure what finally decided her. Maybe it was that while she was busy ruminating, her friend, who is a year younger, had bounced all over like a curly-haired pinball and gone down the slide umpteen times and she wanted to join her.
So Zoe goes in and I follow her around on the outside until, lo and behold, a smile. "Mommy, I like it!" Miracle!
This bouncy castle had punching bags erupting from the rubber floor like stalagmites in a clown cave, and the bigger kids were knocking into them. At one point Zoe got hit with one and went down. A moment later she bounced up, saying, "I'm okay." 
When she finally came out she told me, "I loved it."
So when trying something new, Zoe's action plan is: 1) abject terror and resistance lasting about a week, then 2) grim acceptance, followed by 3) like quickly followed by 4) love then 5) obsession as evidenced by nonstop talking about it forever plus infinity.
Bouncy castles do not foster equanimity. 
I was glad she'd gotten over her fear and enjoyed herself. And I was glad none of the kids had eaten before bouncing, because if they got sick, that would've triggered my emetophobia, fear of vomit. Can you picture it? Bouncing vomit. Vomit getting on socks. Vomit in hair.
If you feel queasy, maybe you're emetophobic too. You should probably seek help.
Zoe: 60; Universe: 0
*Okay, I made this one up. But I can't be the only one who hates that moment when you first enter someone's house for a party and everyone looks at you.**
**Scopophobia: fear of being stared at. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Zoe vs. the Kardashians

Public urination. Questionable taste. Unintelligible ramblings. Am I describing a preschooler or a Kardashian? Trick question. These are features belonging to both. Perhaps I'll dub my own preschooler Special K so she can join the club of Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kylie, and Kendall. After all, she is in Pre-K, which may as well indicate a Kardashian in training.

From sex tape to reality show
queen. What a long and crazy ride.

Without further ado, here are 7 ways Zoe is like a cast member---sorry, kast member---of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

1. Look at me! She wants us to watch her no matter how mundane or repetitive her activities. "Look at me!" (She's sliding down the slide for the umpteenth time.) "Watch me, Mommy!" (She's twirling around in a circle till she's overcome by dizziness and falls down in a heap.) "See what I did!" (She pooped.) Each time she jumps from the koffee table to land on a kouch kushion, I must affect amazement. Most of her stunts are run-of-the-mill but sometimes I watch with my heart in my mouth: Is she really going to klimb onto the windowsill before jumping, rolling to her feet and then vaulting over her Disney Kastle like she's mastered Parkour for Preschoolers? Yep. Often, I'm impressed with her athleticism. (She gets this from Daddy.)

2. Self-absorption. No one is as interesting as she is. Refer back to #1. She's never met a mirror she didn't like. That meal you slaved over? No, thanks. Except in place of the "thanks" she puts the plate on the floor for Harley, our Kat, while she waits for "something good."

3. TMI. With short updates from "I'm gassy" to full-blown stories with no konceivable end, Zoe is a konsummate oversharer. Many times she kan be seen hopping from foot to foot and holding her krotch, saying, "Pee-pee, pee-pee!" (She gets that from Mommy.)
Full disclosure: I've never actually watched an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I'm just not strong enough. However, I did hear about the episode where Khloe was enlisted to judge which sister's, um, kookie jar smelled better, Kourtney's or Kim's. (Kim's, in kase you've been living under a rock.)

Three Mile Island
The original TMI, but less irritating

4. Sensationalism. If there's drama, a preschooler will wring out every last drop. If she hurts herself, prepare to supply All the Band-Aids. You hurt her by accident, and you'll never hear the end of it unless Social Services takes the bait, and your child.
This brings us to a mini mystery, one which may explain our queer fascination with Kardashians and preschoolers, namely: How much are they aware of their own bullshit? I mean, at first, do they know they're lying, but do they end up being taken in by their own lies? It may be the greatest mystery of our time. 

5. Mercurial as to kommitments. Dora. No, Paw Patrol. No, Dora and Friends. Not that episode. No, wait, that episode. Kris Humphries.

Previous record: 72 days.

6. Mugging for the kamera, yet requesting privacy. All depends on mood. She wants attention but under her terms.

7. Public urination. Zoe kan do that one in her sleep. And has. I believe it was Kourtney's husband and honorary Kardashian Scott Disick who gets kredit here. He has been known to relieve himself in trashcans, both at home and out and about. The only difference is Zoe is now potty trained.

I may not know what the writing
says, but I'm sure it didn't need
that many characters.

Speaking of "honorary," more on Lord Disick. That's right, on a trip to England, he purchased a royal title so he wouldn't have to "walk around like some peasant." Not sure why he didn't go for Kount. I think he missed an opportunity there. Then again he's not a blood relative. But here's the weird thing about Kourtney's baby daddy. He's the ultimate riddle: full of himself and klueless, yet out of The Silly occasionally emerges a nugget of truth, even, dare I say, wisdom. Like a fortune kookie from hell. Click here for examples. Reading them was enough for me; I find I am unable to type them in.
Another thing. Apparently there was an episode where he visited a terminally ill woman after the Make a Wish Foundation informed him that her dying request was to meet him. Now, to me, the only thing more tragic than being terminally ill is to have meeting Scott Disick be your final wish. But, hey, who am I to say? And to give him kredit he did go, whether it was motivated by PR or not.
Still, it gives me an idea for that YA dystopian novel you're writing. A mash-up of Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars about a game show where terminally ill teens vie to see who gets to "take someone annoying with them" when they shed their mortal koil, sponsored by the omnipresent Make a Death Wish Foundation. You get away with murder because you'll be dead before you kan go to jail. Win-win! Sort of!

The hyperstructure of our dystopian future, where
kids can frolic in Thunderdome-style bounce houses.

In summation, greedy and goofy, attention-seeking yet oddly fascinating, whether it's a preschooler or a Kardashian, one thing's for sure: I'll never be able to keep up.
Zoe: 59; Universe: 0