Thursday, July 11, 2019

Zoe vs. General Observations Better Left Unsaid

You remember several months ago when I said it's getting harder to post about Zoe as she gets older? This is why the months since I've posted have been several.
As Zoe becomes more of a person I feel the need to respect her privacy in case she's ever embarrassed by something she's done. So far she's embarrassed over things she shouldn't be and not embarrassed over things she should be. This, I suspect, will change.
In the meantime, I'm the parent, so I'm supposed to have restraint; I'm supposed to care about whether or not she's embarrassed. I'll tell you something I've discovered about this caring: it's a one-way street. And I travel it alone.
As the child, Zoe has little regard for her mother's, or really, anyone else's, humiliation, or to say it another, more accurate, way, she's very comfortable exploring and discussing others' humiliations., behind their backs, in front of their faces, whatever, she's not discerning.
Charmingly, right now, she's going through a phase of excessive truthiness, truthiness of observable facts that will hurt people's feelings if said out loud but that she NEEDS to say out loud if only to have me confirm she's still a good person even though she has these thoughts.
Each day she informs us who she's seen that day who has a pimple, or smells funny, or is fat. And at first we responded by telling her it's okay to notice these things---often you can't help it---but that didn't mean she needed to say them out loud, and moreover, she shouldn't focus on appearance so much.
Then the eye of terrible judgment and truth turned on us, her loving parents.


It began with, Is it okay if she sometimes loves Daddy more than Mommy, and vice versa?
Naturally, whichever one of us she asked was the one who was enjoying Less Than Favored Status at that particular moment. So, of course, we'd reassure her our love (unlike hers!) was not conditional.
A sensitive child, at least in the sense that she was sensitive enough to realize she should appear to be sensitive, she'd sometimes clarify the REASONS WHY she loved one of us more than the other at that particular time, or even better (!), what qualities she was celebrating or denigrating, depending. And so I'd hear things like: I like to play with Daddy more than I like to play with you, and he'd hear things like: I want Mommy to put me to bed or come in to the bathroom with me or to help me do this, that, or the other, the clear implication being Mommy is the nurturer, sure, but also, super clearly, the workhorse, and Daddy is FUN!
Soon, as you probably were expecting, she began sharing, always with sad regret and a performance of guilt, observations she just had to get off her chest, usually about my graying hair, my expanding waistline, and whether or not she thought my outfit was flattering. 
I would reassure her that I forgave her for having these thoughts while emphasizing she didn't need to share them. And I'd say no matter what, I still loved her, albeit through increasingly gritted teeth. 
Taking a shower soon became a gamble, a fifty-fifty chance I'd step out of the tub to be greeted by a frank appraisal of my perimenopausal body. Did I know how pale I was? Did I know I had rolls of fat on my stomach, especially when I bent over to dry my feet? Did I know "insert another non-supermodel factoid" about my hips, thighs, or the shiny heels of my feet?
Indeed, my precious child, I did know.
Eventually I'd had enough. The Husband and I sat her skinny youthful eight-year-old ass down and reminded her of when she was smaller and we'd tell her to use her inside voice.
Did she remember that?
She nodded.
Well, Daddy and I want you to do that, just, now, more inside. Like way inside. Like in your head.
She nodded, slowly, turning that over in her mind.
Since then she's been trying. Sometimes. Though quite often still, when she's chatting away, and suddenly stops midsentence, her distracted gaze lingering on my midsection or the roots of my hair, I can almost hear what she's thinking, so really she doesn't need to say it.
But, god bless her, she says it anyway.

Zoe: 194; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Zoe's and my previous entanglements with truthiness in the aptly named Zoe vs. The Truth.

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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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Zoe vs. Self-Sufficiency: Hair-Washing Edition

I heard somewhere---or maybe I read it---that the main idea behind parenting is to raise functional, independent, contributing members of society. This is my goal for Zoe someday. But before she can get a job, vote, pay her bills, etc., she probably needs to learn how to wash Her Own Damn Hair.

Teri tries a new shampoo with jojoba oil, coconut essence, and LSD.

Zoe was born with an impressive mane of hair, and so from day one I had my work cut out for me. As she grew, coincidentally, so did her hair. Along with that, she developed an astounding ability to acquire knots, leading to extreme anguish on a daily basis when I tried to get a comb through her hair.
She would cry, and I would threaten to cut her hair short, and she would cry harder, until I got a pair of scissors---not to cut her hair, but to excise the most recalcitrant knots.
I believe there should be a direct correlation between a child complaining about how they look and taking care of it themselves.
So this was a New Year's resolution. I forget if it was mine or hers. She would learn to wash Her Own Damn Hair.
For those unfamiliar with calendars, January first was a few months ago, and she's still trying to weasel her way out of it, putting the same mental energy for excuses and avoidance that she applies to other things. For instance, for Lent she announced she was giving up Airheads, a candy she had just finished from her Halloween haul and so there were none left. And they were not her favorite, something she told me every time she ate another one.
Excuses for why she can't wash Her Own Damn Hair:
Her arms are too tired.
She's too tired.
She needs to sit.
She'll do it tomorrow night.
Can't I wash her hair? I do it better.
Well, of course I do, but that's not the point. So I force the issue. And it is an ordeal for both of us.
SETTING:
A woman stands outside a shower curtain, glasses fogging up, trying not to get wet, getting wet, exhorting her child to actually put her head back so that the top of her head gets wet and not just the ends of her hair. It's like she thinks her hairline begins way in the back of her head like the beverage-refusing Gestapo agent from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Bet we're thirsty now.

TRANSCRIPT:
Mother: Put your head back. Farther back. Farther. Your hair's not wet yet. Tilt your head, tilt it, get the hair by your ears wet. Put all your hair back. Behind your shoulders; you still have some in front of your body. Pick it up IN YOUR HANDS and place it behind your bodeeeee. Oh my god. The hair above your ears is completely dry!
Child: After this can I have candy?
And this is before we even get to the shampoo, which, when I pour it into her hand, she proceeds to place it, carefully and precisely, on top of her head, like she's balancing an egg.
Mother: Rub it in. Work it IN to your hair. Lather up. Move your hands. More. Gather your hair on top of your head. Do it!
I'm yelling, I'm wiping my glasses on my damp pajama shirt. I might as well just get in there with her. 
Maybe 35 percent of her hair gets sudsy before I give up and tell her to rinse it out.  (Put your head back. Back!) Then there's the conditioner.
Two roads diverge, if you would. Down one: present yelling and crying to get the knots out of her hair. Down the other: still yelling and crying, but it comes farther down the road after she's dry and in her pajamas and I have to comb the knots out. So actually it's more like two roads converge or there's a wormhole or a wrinkle in time but instead of a wrinkle it's a snarl of blond hair.
And something else. This is a child who, with one minute before she has to leave for school in the morning, asks me to style two symmetrical mini buns in her hair so she can look like an individual named "Dove" from Roblox YouTube video, as if she's ever known her own mother's hair to vary from one of two styles: a) in a ponytail holder and b) just released from a ponytail holder so there's a semi-permanent bend in her hair from where the ponytail holder was.
So I censor my first few responses (my curses have more range than my hair styles) and ask her, "Did you at least brush your hair first?" Because I'm trying to get her to do that too.
"Yes?" she says.
I run my hand through her hair only for it to get caught halfway by an enormous knot.
Time for the scissors.

Zoe: 193; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Zoe vs. Picture Day.

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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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Zoe vs. "Bohemian Rhapsody" A Parody

I don't know about you, but since the Oscars I've had "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen stuck in my head. That is, when I don't have Lego Movie 2's prescient "This Song Is Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head" stuck inside my head.


My Bohemian Rhapsody is about games. Mostly board games and card games but also computer games.
When Zoe was younger we'd play things like Candy Land or various Disney movie versions of Chutes & Ladders, and yes, I let her win (meaning, let her cheat).
She was four. I'd say letting her win made Candy Land interesting but nothing makes Candy Land interesting if you're not four.
Since then the Husband and I have played lots of games with Zoe from Uno to Chess to the Game of Life and Careers, and I thought at a certain point we'd broach the ideas of fair play and losing with grace and basically not cheating all the time, or at least not so obviously, or maybe it's better that her deviousness is transparent?
Well, we haven't gotten there yet. 
She doesn't whine like she used to at the first sign of something not going her way.
Not the first sign.
Her bad sportsmanship is more insidious. Like somehow there's a new rule you didn't know about or a rule that she "doesn't ever go by" . . . till it's your turn. If it's ever your actual turn.
So I've set my suffering to song. "Bohemian Rhapsody," specifically. Though in my rendition it's called . . .

You-Lose-Me-Win Rhapsody
Let's play the game Life
How 'bout Monopoly?
All chutes no ladders, I slide
She wins each game with me
Before your eyes
Anyone can see she cheats
I'm just a tired mom, my child lacks empathy
She says "lose your turn," "don't pass go"
Her score is high, mine is low
Anyway the die rolls, doesn't really matter to Z . . . to Z.

Mama, I took your pawn
Knocked your bishop in the head
Illegal move, don't care, he's dead
Mama, game time's just begun
After chess and checkers, what else can we play?
Mama, ooh ooh
Didn't mean to make you cry.
Let's play this game again this time tomorrow
Or maybe now, maybe now, the rules don't really matter

Probably too late, the time has come
To tell her that it's fine
No one wins games all the time
Goodbye, everybody, she's gonna blow!
Wasn't worth it to try to make her face the truth
Mama, ooh ooh (it's my turn but she goes)
"Now your king is gonna die"
Sometimes I wish I'd never sat down to play at all . . .

I see a slim to little of a chance
We don't play Clue. "Let's play Clue! Or will you play with me the Uno?"
"Battleship! Now fight me!" She's very very frightening me.
Connect 4-oh, Sorry!? No. How bout Nintendo? No playing Halo! God damn Hasbro!
Stratego? My lumbago!
I'm just a tired mom, my child no loves me.
She's just a tired mom, doesn't want to play Monopoly.
Spare her her life from cheating progeny
She wins some, you lose all, will she let you go?
Monopoly! She will not let her go, let me go
It's surely my turn! She will not let you go, let me go
No $200 for you, do not pass go! Why no pass go?!
(Will not let Mom go) let me go (never, never let Mom go) let me go (never let her go)
Oh oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh mama mia, mama mia,  mama mia, let her go
My eight-year-old puts a go-directly-to-jail card aside for me for me for me . . .

So you think you can cheat and I'll play one more time?
So you think I won't notice you palming the die?
Oh baby, can't do this to me, baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get outta jail free
Oh oh oh yeah, oh oh yeah

The rules don't really matter
Anyone can see
The rules don't really matter
Fair play don't really matter to Z.

Zoe: 192; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Zoe vs. Mommy Land.

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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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Zoe vs. the Oscars 2019

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, so that means it's time for my sixth annual roundup of all the movies nominated for Best Picture. Continuing the downward trend, having seen four of the nine movies for 2017 and two of the nine last year, this year I've halved my tally again, seeing only one of the eight nominated. Maybe next year I'll only see a movie halfway through!
So now it's time to sum up this year's movies and how they reflect life with Zoe.


The Favourite: One thing about having an only child is you don't have to check that the coast is clear before saying to your kid, "Who's my favorite?" Whether it's American or British spelling, it's Zoe! Still, she sometimes vies for my attention as if she's competing with a sibling, or a cousin/courtesan currying royal favor. And yet she's the one who seems to think she's royalty, much like Queen Anne, expressing little interest in taking care of her responsibilities, preferring instead to partake in eccentric pastimes like pretend-narrating a YouTube fashion show, racing Lego dragons, or flossing (the dance not the dental hygiene), the latter of which gets her so hyped up I've contemplated drugging her tea.

Bohemian Rhapsody: The many moods of an eight-year-old girl are much like the music of Queen, particularly this song: a mix of styles ranging from operatic, to ballad, to rock. It's drama enough to give you whiplash. Especially if you ask her to do her homework, take a bath, or go to bed. Mama, didn't mean to make you cry, indeed.

Pfft! But can he do the floss?

Green Book: Seems magical but might really be a white-washing scam. Was that a critical review or parenting metaphor?

Black Panther: Okay, this is the one I saw. Notwithstanding the fact her favorite big cats are cheetahs, she does like panthers too. And, as an evil mastermind in training, the idea of developing advanced technology while hiding in a third world country is right out of her devious playbook. 

Roma: Featuring a middle-class family where the main character is a live-in maid. Zoe is part of a middle-class family. She is the main character. She thinks I am her live-in maid. Brooklyn!

Every mother ever who just wants personal space.


BlacKkKlansmen: It's a biography, a crime story, a comedy, a drama. In other words, it's a parenthood joint!

Vice: Who's really in charge? I wonder every day. Life with Zoe includes praiseworthy performances, polarizing behavior, getting shot accidentally (by a toy missile from a four-headed Lego dragon), and when it's time for bed and the credits roll and you think it's over, it starts up again because she needs a drink of water or to go to the bathroom, and it feels like the only end will be your own death, after which she'll harvest your organs. No regrets!

A Star Is Born: Enough said.

Zoe: 191; Universe: 0


If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy my first-ever post about the Oscars.

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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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Zoe vs. Laughter: With, At, Near & Around. Or, Mommy, You're NOT Funny!

Apologies, I've been neglecting this space for a while. The usual reasons---work, life, holidays, etc. 
But it's also because as Zoe gets older, it's harder to write about her. Her thoughts and feelings are more particular to the person she is becoming. And so it doesn't seem fair to tell stories about her without her having some control over them. Even if this blog has always been more about my own reactions to motherhood than telling deep dark secrets about Zoe. 
And even though I've obviously exaggerated some of her antics and alleged crimes against my humanity. The records have been sealed. (And you can read them here.)

Another issue is her sense of humor. 
I often think she's funny. 
Sometimes she thinks I'm funny. 
But often she does NOT THINK I'M FUNNY AT ALL, MOMMY, PLEASE STOP. 
For the past few months, especially, only three types of jokes have been funny to her: 
1. Those concerning butts and their doings. 
2. Jokes SHE tells. 
3. Jokes that she tells ABOUT butts.
She DOES NOT like jokes where she thinks, rightly or wrongly, that she is the butt of the joke. Butts are not amusing when employed in that fashion.
Obviously Zoe has become trapped in what is popularly called binary thinking. That something can only be one thing or another. You are either laughing with her or at her. 
And if she's the only one not laughing, hold on to your butt.
Her mother, unfortunately for her, is someone who thinks mockery is the highest form of love.
It's going to be a rough couple of years. For us both.
So far I don't think my attempts to elucidate the concept of binary thinking have gotten through. It might be because I use words like "elucidate." 
I've been trying to explain the middle ground between laughing at and laughing with, that there's a third option---no, not laughing near the person, though I never fail to chuckle at that zinger. 
The third laugh, which is maybe not the middle ground, but more a transcendent laugh, is where you laugh at the person but with love. Because it's funny but also so true about that person, and you laugh because you enjoy them at their essence. 
Feeling my words must have effected a breakthrough to some greater, sophisticated understanding, I wait for her to speak, her face, changing every day but still my baby's face, wrinkling in thought. 
"One question," she says.
Of course, I say, flush with teachable-moment success. 
"Can I go on the iPad?"
And so I sigh and say, yes, "for half an hour," which I know will stretch to an hour, so I can get stuff done around the apartment, while trying to convince myself I'm funny, it's just my audience that's lacking, as in the background Zoe giggles at some goofy video on YouTube while sitting on the couch, scratching her tiny hilarious butt.

Zoe: 190; Universe: 0


If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Zoe vs. Some Truly Terrible Knock Knock Jokes, which may include more butt-focused humor. Okay, it does.

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

   Mockery is to love as butts are to comedy. Enjoying analogies is to fun with words as fun with words is to clicking here to subscribe.