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Fun Dad (#264)

I was primary caregiver to our son. This meant that I was also primary disciplinarian, Sayer of “No,” Destroyer of Fun.

It’s no picnic parenting a headstrong, contrary child. Ideally a parent can redirect a toddler to a non-destructive activity. But sometimes, you just gotta say no. Then you have to back it up with consequences. Otherwise, you’re raising a privileged monster who flouts the rule of law and does whatever the hell he wants. (You know, your basic born affluent white man.)

Take pets. Baby D loved our cats. He only learned to crawl in order to chase them. He had to be taught to pet them instead of sit on them. Then he had to be taught to pet them in the direction of their fur. Once he learned that, he had to be taught not to pull their tails at the end of petting. “Make a hole with your fingers and thumb, when you reach the tail,” I’d instruct Baby D. “Then let the tail slide through your fist until it’s free! Ta-da!”

I spent every day training Baby D to not pull on dogs, other children, plants, or electrical cords.

If I wasn’t telling him not to pull those things, I was telling him not to bite those things.

Hit those things.

Throw those things.

There were timeouts and tantrums.

All that fun began about 5 AM. Naps? One. Length? Half-hour.

There were many, many days, when we waited on the front steps for reinforcements Daddy to come home.

Baby D’s face lit up the second he saw Daddy. Here was the fun person! The person who pretended to be a bucket truck and lifted him in the air! Or rolled on the floor as a steamroller!

“Dada” was Baby D’s first word, of course.

And once Dada was home, Mama held no more interest for Baby D.

Mama was okay with that. Mostly. Baby D and I had our own games. But they never seemed to have the same level of physicality that made Baby D shriek with delighted laughter. “More! Dada, more!”

Dada was also responsible for bath time, which involved more laughter and infinite tsunamis over the tub edge.

There were times when Mama seemed to get all the mopping and Dada got all the fun.

Until Dada took Baby D to Hawaii. Without Mama.

Those of you without kids are all, “Wait. A Hawaiian vacation? That seems like MORE fun!”

Those of you with kids are like, “Quelle horror! A vacation with a toddler is not a vacation!”

Andy had five days as the primary caregiver (his parents were no help at all). He  lasted five hours before calling me and ranting about “my” obstinate child.

He called every day, in fact, to vent his frustrations.

But it wasn’t all bad. Baby D and Andy did have some fun times at the beach.

Andy was very proud of these storytelling photos.

I got a little more sleep than usual, despite sick pets and worrying over whether the boys would survive each other.

But we were all relieved on the day Andy and Baby D came home. I waited impatiently at the airport, waving like a lunatic as Baby D’s stroller appeared.

I’d been hoping that Baby D would be at least as excited to see Mommy as he was when Daddy came home from work.  Instead, he just stared as I  pulled him into my arms.

I covered him with kisses and said, “Hi, Baby! Mommy missed you so much!”

Baby D said nothing for several seconds while I cuddled him in the corner of baggage claim.

Then a fat little hand reached up and caressed my face. “Mommy,” Baby D said, almost as if in awe. “Mommy.”

For five minutes, in a small corner of LAX, my little boy touched my face and wonderingly whispered, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” As if I were a miracle.

A Fun Dad is a great thing for a child. But you know what?

I’ll take Miracle Mommy.

Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)

My husband had Chinese-American parents. Mine were white, uptight, and Anglo-Saxon Protestant/ Atheist.

Andy was expected to obey his parents without question. If his parents said his curfew was 10 PM, Andy was home at 10 PM. If Andy’s father wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV, Andy could forget about participating in Little League or any other sport.

I was expected to obey, but not without question. My mom was an attorney. Dinner table discussions in her house ranged from abortion to capital punishment. Everyone was encouraged to express their own opinions and defend them. If I could present a good argument for a curfew change or pierced ears, these items might be considered. (Lost on curfew, won on pierced ears.) Continue reading Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)

Autumn on the Edge (#262)

Nursing moms never sleep in. Not on holidays, and not on weekends. Even if you could sleep through a crying baby, you probably can’t sleep through aching, leaking boobs. So up you get at 4:30 AM, changing the baby, feeding the baby, and then maybe entertaining the baby if baby is suddenly wide awake.

After all, your poor partner works hard all week, providing for you and the child. There’s probably a stressful project at work, or maybe he had to travel. And since you’re already up, you take a last, wistful look at your comfy bed before closing the door and letting your husband sleep in.

You don’t know it, but you’ve taken the first step to divorce.

Or murder. Continue reading Autumn on the Edge (#262)

When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

We had two three-year-old rescue dogs and two old rescue cats when Baby D was born. Even though the dogs were well-trained (mostly), you never know how your pets are going to react to babies.

Well, in one case we knew. Beowoof (Woofie for short) loved everyone and everything. Especially kids and puppies. The greatest day of Woofie’s life was the day he escaped and went to Science class at the local middle school.  Half the kids were on their desks, shrieking, but, as usual, Woofie was convinced everyone loved him.

Woofie had been waiting for his own boy forever. He was gonna be thrilled…as soon as the kid was big enough to play.

I expected Bat Cat and Commando Cat to be utterly indifferent until Baby D was old enough to terrorize them.

Fey (orange) and Woofie (dark brown).

My biggest worry was Fey. Continue reading When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

Savory vs. Sweet (#260)

Our neighborhood holds a cooking contest every Labor Day. My amazing Chinese-American husband Andy won for many years—until I figured out how to sneak chocolate baked goods into the competition.

Then I won for many years. The hostess finally created two categories, Savory and Sweet, in an effort to mitigate my chocolate dominance. Andy, sulking over repeated defeats, refused to enter again until last year.

Then he jumped categories and trounced me soundly with his homemade ice-cream and sugar cones. My miniature eclairs did not even place.

This year, the contest’s theme was “picnic food.”

Andy threatened to make ice-cream again.

I threatened to withhold sex unless he returned to his proper “Savory” category. Continue reading Savory vs. Sweet (#260)

Don’t Whine, Ditch That White Boy (#259)

There’s plenty of whining on social media.

My favorite GOP whine, which I find hilarious as a former Washingtonian, comes from current Trump/ Republican staffers in D.C. The Trumpers complained that they are harassed and ostracized by locals; instead of touting their proximity to power as Obama staffers did, they vaguely mumble about working for the government when asked about their jobs. (I love you, D.C.!)

A similarly entertaining whine comes from the 62% of white American males who voted for Trump: women hate them. Women won’t date them. Women will actually ditch them in the middle of a date, upon learning that they are GOP supporters. Women have divorced husbands who voted for Trump.

Meanwhile, on Twitter and Instagram, my fellow white women are also whining, especially those who are college-educated and have advanced degrees. It’s apparently quite hard to find a white partner who is educated, motivated, unthreatened by a woman’s success, shares domestic chores, and doesn’t cheat.

That squares with what I remember back when I was dating.

It also squares with what I’ve heard from other Mom-friends at book clubs or playdates: their white husbands suck. Continue reading Don’t Whine, Ditch That White Boy (#259)

Bottle Battles (#257)

Baby D was born hungry. Maybe because he’d stretched his stomach swallowing amniotic fluid. Maybe it’s that he was overdue and over nine pounds. Maybe it was just genetic, courtesy of parents who love food.

That kid could eat. I’d nurse Baby D for almost an hour in the hospital, and send him back to the nursery to get a little sleep. Within an hour, a nurse would bring him back, saying, “He’s hungry!”

Me, wailing: “But I just fed him!” Continue reading Bottle Battles (#257)

Salute to Stupidity (#256)

Growing up in Washington, D.C. means no other Independence Day celebration will live up to your childhood memories. For a relentlessly political, cynical city, they throw a heck of a party.

Photo by Ron Engle

First, there’s the National Independence Day Parade. This ain’t no small, hometown parade where the local horses and fire trucks are the stars of the show. This is A Historical Spectacle. There are hundreds of Uncle Sams (some  in balloon form or on stilts). Bewigged Founding Fathers abound, as do Paul Revere impersonators. Military bands–past and present–are pressed into service, sweating in wool uniforms and 100 degree heat. My sisters and I once counted seventy-five Betsy Rosses. (We would’ve liked some Deborah Sampsons better, but we cheered what female historical figures we could get.) Continue reading Salute to Stupidity (#256)

The Good Dad (#255)

When Andy and I were skirmishing negotiating over having a child, I extracted certain concessions. First, my husband would have to take Family Leave for 12 weeks and help take care of Baby D. Since California only covers 6 weeks of paid leave (a partial rate), we’d use my saving to pay the bills.

The idea of not saving money was almost physically painful for the son of Chinese immigrants. Dipping into savings might as well have been a mortal wound. (He never did fess up to his parents.) But I was adamant. Andy reluctantly agreed. We had no helpful grandparents to rock babies, make dinners, or do laundry within thousands of miles.

Besides, if Andy wanted the baby, he was not going to saunter off to work and leave me covered in poop and spit-up. He was gonna help. Continue reading The Good Dad (#255)