Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Playground dynamics

I've been thinking about the fact that when you are engaged with your kid in a public space, like the playground or the bus, other people's kids start to gravitate to you.  By now I've gotten used to seeing parents at the playground who are totally disengaged from their kids -- they sit there reading their Economist or talking among themselves as their kids bolt around screaming their heads off.  I've been maintaining an attitude of low-level, simmering self-righteousness about this -- about the same level of ire reserved for smokers who fling their butts on the sidewalk and people who take up two seats on the bus.  Engage with your kids! That's the point of weekends!

Like most weekends, we spent a fair amount of Memorial Day weekend at Riverside Park enjoying the playgrounds. Alice has a nice routine where she clambers up the ladder or the stairway (which earns her a high-five from me), makes her way across the bouncy bridge, and goes down the big-girl twisty slide.  I kind of coach her along and narrate the action.  (It's not helicopter parenting, it's having fun and building confidence.) This weekend she started swinging on the monkey bars on her own, holding her legs out in front of her and just dangling there, her face an expression of quiet intensity that's usually only seen when she's trying to poop.

Sure enough, several kids started hanging out with us.  One little kid on the slide objected when I described him to Alice as a "little boy" -- "I'm a big boy!" he said ("Well, you're littler than me," I told him.)  Another girl, Inga, wandered over to us and got very bossy about the bubbles we were playing with.  I entertained her for ten minutes while her nanny was oblivious to the whole thing. 

Then today on the bus a little four year-old kid just started talking to us about nothing.  "I'm four and a half." "My name's John."  "My favorite bus is the M104, but sometimes we take the M4."  "My shoes light up when I do this."

Kids are drawn to other kids, and a lot of kids like to talk to Alice and learn about her.  But then some just seem very hungry for an adult to pay attention to them, to talk them through the playground, to provide some kind of order and cohesion to the experience.  It's very odd to be in that kind of position sometimes.  But I'm enjoying the process of learning how to talk with kids and entertain them and lead their pack.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Here's a Motherlode blog post from the New York Times that I completely agreed with.  And I was even moved to add a comment.

Motherlode: That ‘He’s Adopted’ One-Liner in ‘The Avengers’? Not Funny.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

So much for the rhythm method

As L explained earlier this week, we are once again in the family way.  I have been quiet about it, but I wrote some thoughts about it when L first told me and you can read all about it, if you're so inclined. 

We find ourselves in yet another season of change: a baby on the way, new professional responsibilities for us both, ever-growing questions about where to live and where to send Alice to school.  For this family, when it rains, it pours.  Why go through one transition when you can tackle three? 

I live a charmed life, for sure. Our great good fortune.

Good things from tonight

A really good evening with Alice.  First, when I went to pick her up, I found out that she had had a  painful poop that interrupted her nap -- this was unfortunate.  The silver lining?  When Mel the nanny went in to check on her, Alice was asking for me to come help her!  Huzzah!  

Second, we had a really nice dinner at Chipotle, where she sat across from me like a big girl and we enjoyed some lively conversation regarding what she did today (played with mommy, read, sang, pooped).  

Third, after we came home we spent some time sitting on the stoop of our building, at her insistence.  Alice would play in her little orbit around me -- climb up the steps, climb back down, jump from the last step to the pavement.  I was singing songs, counting to three for her to jump, clapping my hands as she made it to the ground.  At one point she put her hand on my shoulder and said: "Please stop talking."

(A few minutes later she fell down the steps and earned a large knot on her forehead, but she's ok.)

Fourth, I was giving her a bath and I sneezed loudly.  She looked at me.  "Oh," she said.  "...boy."  And it was funny.

Fifth, on "American Idol" last night some contestant sang Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me."  (A song that lives on through my marriage, when we often tell each other, "don't patroniiiiiiiize me.")  After we read books we sat in the dark for a few minutes and sang songs.  After the old standbys ("Happy birthday," ABCs, "Doe a deer," "Twinkle, twinkle," etc) I sang "I Can't Make You Love Me."  She leaned against me and just listened, and when I finished she pulled back to tell me, "I like that one."

My girl.  These are the moments.  The scary thing is that I can feel my memories blurring already; it's hard for me to distinguish 12-month Alice from 18-month Alice.  So I write it here in the hope of preserving a few of the remarks, the laughs, the songs she enjoys through the night.