For your third birthday: a brand new life!

Someone asked me today about the CFM logo emblazoned on my laptop, and I dismissed it as a little software project of a bored, housebound mutha. I don’t know why I did that. It’s not little. And I’m not bored. In fact, I am so far from bored at the moment that I think I might have to stop sleeping so I can pursue every single interest at my fingertips this year. Even as I do that, though — even as I explore a new city, take classes, attend seminars and read, read, read everything I can get my hands on in this intellectual mecca — I will keep writing in this space. I have to. Because I do not scrapbook, and I do not want to forget.

In the midst of our harried move North, The Belle had a birthday. And when she asks me who she was at three, I will remember.

I will tell her:

You are tough. You demand a dress every morning, and it must be one that twirls. All those pink bows and ruffles adorn a powerful little girl, though. You’ve had strong fists for sometime, but now, you are just as likely to gun for someone with strong words. I am grateful for this, and I’m sure the parents of all your classmates will be grateful, as well.

You are happy alone. You do just fine in a crowd, my confident girl. You’re happy to play on the lawn with the big kids, but I’m just as likely to find you lingering along the edges of activity, singing to yourself and picking flowers you have been forbidden to touch.

You are trusting. It took less than a minute for you to hug the new babysitter who showed up this morning. You were certain the adults you met last night wanted to hear all the details about your Pooh Bear. You know everyone you meet loves you, and you are often correct in this assessment.

You are confused. We live in a new apartment now, but to you, it is the hotel. You refer to our home this way so often, I am waiting for you to order breakfast delivered to your room.

You are growing up so fast. The list of words you mispronounce is dwindling. It is a thrill to see you grow, but if anyone pushes you to “fix” your few remaining toddler words, I will not react well. I like getting you ready to go totweep at night. I like hearing you sing Happy Birfday while you wash your hands. I like the way you morph into a skilled game of charades whenever we fail to immediately grasp your meaning.

You are amazingly adaptable. We have asked a lot of you over the past weeks. Tonight, you are asleep in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room. Tomorrow, you will be cared for by an unfamiliar  person, and next week you will go to an unfamiliar school. And you haven’t regressed to wetting your pants. You haven’t started biting us in frustration. You haven’t threatened to hitchhike home to Alabama. For your birthday this year, we gave you a brand new life, and you gave us acceptance. Thank goodness for the three-year-olds.

When you see my children on the subway

A free, informative pamphlet for strangers

crowded

Hello.

Thank you for taking the time to read this guide, “When You See My Children On The Subway.” These quick tips will help you (and me) have a more enjoyable ride together through the underbelly of the city. If you happen to encounter my children on the subway, please:

Don’t make direct eye contact. This is important if you have any intention of reading that newspaper you’re holding or hearing whatever is coming out of your little ear buds. Direct eye contact with my children signals your willingness to hear a long explanation from Miss D. of how elves are running her boat factory or an almost understandable rendition of “A whole new world” from The Belle. Our don’t-talk-to-strangers strategy is still a work in progress. If my children catch your eye and begin talking, I cannot save you.

Don’t roll your eyes at me. Should my children sit down beside you while wearing the plastic quackers their daddy bought them on a Duck Tour, don’t look at me and roll your eyes, sister. I’m immune. I’ve had eyes rolled at me several times a day (at least) for the better part of five years. You don’t want to hear ducks quacking on your way home from work? Turn up your iPod.

Don’t take the staring personally. It’s not everyday little girls from Alabama see neck tattoos like that. They’re learning all about the world. Today, they are studying you.

Don’t feel the need to give up your seat. No, really. It’s fine. The Belle can probably hang on tight enough to stay upright on her little legs as the train takes a sharp turn. And she probably won’t fall against you when we stop abruptly. Or stomp on your feet. Because I certainly haven’t taught her to do that to people who won’t give a little kid the last seat on the subway car. Nope. Certainly not.

Respect the inequitable rules regarding personal space. My children will not recognize your right to personal space. They will sit criss-cross-applesauce in a way that makes their knees poke into you. They will twirl in your vicinity. They will throw their arms wide right in front of you to explain how big something is. Sorry about that. Please don’t take that to mean you can invade their personal space, however. I have mace in my bag. Oh, yes I do. It’s right here under the sippy cups, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, crayons…

Thank you for reading. Look for our other informative guides, including, “When You See My Children in a Restaurant,” “When You See My Children at the Movies” and “When You See My Children in the Grocery Store.”

This is the way we go to school

On her first day of school in the city, The Belle strapped her sandals on, picked out a bow to match her dress, and set off on foot with her backpack secured to her shoulders. Having known only suburban-style travel to school (not Suburban, but suburban), The Belle saw excitement in every part of her journey.

bus

At the bus stop, The Belle asked her mother about the bus route, the route number, the other people waiting for the bus, and how one might be lucky enough to one day get to drive the bus. She told people hurrying by, I’m going on the bus! Clutching their coffee mugs and their aloofness, few paused to acknowledge her, but the kinder ones smiled.

The bus came, and The Belle found a seat near the front window. Her backpack pushed her body forward on the plastic chair and her legs stuck straight out into the aisle. As the bus sped into a tunnel, The Belle yelled,whee! She yelled whee! some more as she got on the escalator coming out of the station.

Once again above ground, The Belle took three steps along the sidewalk, then asked her mother, Are we there yet?

They weren’t there yet.

But they were at an intersection crowded with workers and construction equipment and police officers and college students heading off to shop for classes. When it was her turn to cross the street, The Belle stopped in the crosswalk to answer a police officer’s question. Is today your first day at college? he asked her. NO! she yelled, so he could hear her above the din. I RODE THE BUS! The police officer expressed more enthusiasm about this than most of the commuters had. The Belle said, POLICE ARE GOOD.

She walked on. And on. She walked very, very slowly on.

When she finally arrived at school, The Belle asked her mother to play at the painting table, at the clay center, in the kitchen area. Then The Belle forgot about her mother and got involved with some blocks and some children, who also heard her story about having ridden the bus.

Everyday, The Belle rides the bus to school with her mother or father. She now knows the bus route, the bus number and acceptable bus behavior. And more than a couple of others who ride the bus know when they see her, that she will exclaim — as she did on her first day — I’m going on the bus!

I am not your mother

I am not your mother. What is it to me if you yawn out loud in class, your mouth uncovered and stretched wide? What do I care if you make that sound — ahhhhhhhhh — so that those in front of you and behind look up from their notetaking to watch you? I am not your mother. But listen. That guy at the front of the room might have a fancy title and a bunch of books on the shelf at the university store, but he is still a human being. He worked hard on this lecture. For you. Cover your mouth and learn something.

work

I am not your mother. And you? You are most likely a genius. I’d guess you aced your SATs. You probably speak three languages, play the cello professionally and run a small non-profit in your free time. But it seems kind of stupid to ride your bike in traffic without a helmet on, Mister. I am not your mother, but don’t you hear that fire truck speeding up behind you? No? I guess it’s because of those earbuds you’re wearing.

I am not your mother. Your mother is probably sitting in her kitchen in New Jersey or Texas or Washington state. She might be drinking her coffee this morning, imagining you walking across campus wearing one of the button down shirts she bought you over the summer, before she packed all of your belongings into the car and drove you hundreds of miles to college, where she left you on your own for the first time, a lump in her throat as she drove away. I am not your mother, but would she be happy to see you wearing that I am the man from Nantucket T-shirt? Would she?

I am not your mother. It’s not my place to peer over your shoulder as you surf the Web, IM your roommate and peruse photos from New York fashion week when you should be listening to this lecture about the origins of the daguerreotype. Don’t you realize how much this is costing your parents? Don’t you realize college does not last forever and you should soak up every bit of this, because one day you will have a boss and a spouse and kids and a to-do list you can never complete and this is your one chance to just spend your days filling up your brain?

Did I just say that out loud? Oops. Sorry. Aren’t you glad I’m not your mother?