Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Saturday, August 12, 2006
“Move to the left. The left. Your other left!”
“Hold my hand. I said hold my hand. Hold my hand now!”
Little actors can be so difficult. They're so needy. Before we begin each scene (and it really often is a scene), we rehearse a little.
“You can push the cart at the grocery store, but only if you stay out of the other shoppers' way.”
“Let me know immediately if you have to use the potty so we can find where it is in time.”
And no matter how much we review, they're always forgetting their lines.
“What do we say? I said what do we say? Tell the lady thank you. Tell her thank you right now or you're going to have to give the lollipop back.”
“Answer you're YiaYia when she speaks to you. And look at her when you speak.”
What I'd really like is a little device (small like an iPod but with a speaker so that my kids can hear it) programmed with background music to enhance the drama of my words (like the way the music would swell on the former NBC drama The West Wing when President Josiah Bartlet would say something particularly profound, and his loyal staffers would swoon. That's the kind of reaction I want.)
Grocery shopping presents my biggest directorial challenge.
My 8-year-old is still grappling with how his body moves through space. It's often moving into other bodies' spaces.
“Stay to the right of the cart. Closer to the cart. Someone is trying to get by.”
“Excuse me. Say excuse me.”
“Keep moving forward you two. We're walking. We're walking.”
Directing the children around the cart as we push through the check out line is particularly tricky. They're both in much too big of a hurry to load everything onto the conveyor belt.
“No, kids. Let me handle the eggs!”
My 8-year-old is making progress with understanding the my sorting order on the conveyor belt.
“Keep the frozen foods together so they end up in the same bag.”
“Keep the breads together. Don't load heavy things next to the soft stuff.”
Then, as most of the groceries end up out of the cart and onto the belt, its time to maneuver the children from the back of the cart to the front.
I tell my 3-year-old to come first. “Squeeze between the cart and the candy shelves. No, you can't have any. Keep coming, keep coming. Good. Now stay there. Don't move. I said don't move.”
Then I direct my 8-year-old through, but not before I catch my 3-year-old wandering off.
“I said don't move!” Then to my son, “ Keep coming. Keep coming. Now both of you stay. I said stay. Stop making the automatic doors open. We're almost done here. We're almost done, right? If you need a price check, just forget it. I don't need it.”
Now the kids are on one side of the cart, next to an ever-opening door. I'm on the other side and I'm trapped there between the registers until the clerk is finished with my order. I have to muster all my directorial skills to keep the kids in the store and out of other shoppers' way using only my voice.
“Stand closer to the cart. Closer. See that man there? Let him by. I said move closer to the cart so that he can get by. Say excuse me.”
Finally, we're out of there, and into our most frightening scene: the parking lot. Cars are moving slowly, erratically past the the doors, crawling up and down the aisles, backing in and out of spots. And for added drama, it's raining. Both my hands are occupied by the heavy cart. The children are trying to open their umbrellas. The 4-year-old succeeds easily. The 8-year-old, not so much.
“Pull the Velcro strap. Pull the strap. The sticky part. That's the Velcro. Now push the button. Push the button. Oh, give it to me.”
Then it's Action! I hold the cart's handlebar with one hand, leaning into it with my forearm so that I can hold my 4-year-old's hand with the other.
“Stay close to me. You're too small for the cars to see you.”
By the time we make it the car intact, children belted in, groceries stowed in the hatch, I'm ready for my Tony Award.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
It only recently occurred to me why my grandmother's generation was always insisting we clear our plates and to be thankful we weren't like the starving children in Africa. They remembered a time when food couldn't be wasted. According to news reports, our generation seems to have let things swing too far in the other direction. We've cleared our plates clear into obesity. My friend's pediatrician has her all concerned that her kid's weights are skewing too high. You certainly couldn't tell this by looking at them. For my part, I'm just grateful my kids aren't dangerously allergic to peanut butter or wheat and that they actually like raw broccoli and that even though they aren't yet doing it politely, they are asking for more milk.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
When you embark on the perilous journey from couplehood to parenthood, it's helpful to remember that your husband is not traveling on exactly the same road as you are. At times, you will look at him and think perhaps he is not traveling even in the same universe. Muddling through the first months of parenthood is a bit like someone has plunged both you and your husband's heads underwater and is holding them there as you thrash about snatching desperately at diaper wipes, bottles of formula and fleeting moments of sleep. Eventually, you're able to come up for a few moments of air. Of course, your husband, having not actually given birth, is usually able to climb out of the water completely, dry off, and go back to work for a good portion of the day. He soon re-acclimates to the adult world where people speak in complete sentences, go about their day without carrying an infant and overstuffed diaper bag everywhere they go, and get actual breaks for things like eating and using the bathroom. Meanwhile, mom's world morphs into this time warp where regular bathing is an elusive luxury, uninterrupted sleep is the holy grail and all personal care functions – including eating – must be accomplished with only one hand. Somehow we master all this due, I imagine, to that maternal instinct that dwells somewhere deep within us. (We also suddenly realize why mothers of another era were so often prescribed drugs like speed to help them manage.) Some of us even manage to slip back into the work world to bask in the joy of being harangued by bosses and co-workers who, we at least can be assured, won't spit up on us or need our help in the potty (unless we happen to work with small children or patients). When we manage to get through a day, we feel a bit like Indiana Jones, face smeared with the sweat, dirt and grease of battling a pit full of snakes and a boulder bearing down on us. And then we wonder what the heck that husband of ours is doing sitting on the couch, watching TV? One look at us with our wild eyes and dirt-smeared faces and they're scared to death while we wonder why they're not offering to do the dishes. But there is good news. The children grow up. They start walking on their own two feet. They start feeding themselves. They even start asking Daddy to do things for them. Daddies are usually quite proud of themselves when they pitch in. It's best to encourage them by allowing them to believe they have helped a great deal. In time, the workload levels out – in large part because the children start taking on more responsibility for themselves. But by trial and error (and perhaps a few mommy breakdowns) Daddy figures out how to be really helpful. He even starts anticipating how to help without being asked. It takes time, but they get there. And you love them all the more for it when they do.