The Medium Guy is a junior version of the Big Guy, at least on the outside. Both tall, both lanky, both holding their shoulders like Rodin’s Thinker. Lately it’s apparent that they are like on the inside as well, most particularly because the Universal Translator is growing hot from constant use.
MomBrain: Get up. It’s time for school.
Medium Guy: I can’t.
MomBrain: Get up. <pulls the shade open for light>
Medium Guy: <turns over> I can’t! The ambient light levels are too high.
MomBrain: Get up.
Medium Guy: <covers eyes> STOP! My photoreceptors are overstimulated!
In which MomBrain plods through an unexpected snow day and contemplates an island of nothingness.
Taking a cue from the surprisingly twitter-esque This Woman’s Work:
What the Little Guy is doing right now: Playing with two neighbor boys, racing around the house in his karate belt looking for markers and scissors (I’m afraid to ask).
What the Big Guy is doing right now: Talking on his cell phone, speaking slowly and clearly to a Japanese colleague who doesn’t speak fluent English, trying to sound professional even with the screams in the background.
What Kitty is doing right now: Hiding from ninjas, probably under the big bed.
What MomBrain is doing right now: Listening to the boys, in case of blood or tears. Thinking about all the grand ideas I have for essays, and feeling too tired to even begin. Thinking about the books piled on my nightstand, but too tired to read. Thinking about the cluttered closet, the mountain of laundry, the dishwasher that needs unloading, but feeling too tired to do any of it. Thinking about the 4830 emails in my Inbox, but feeling too tired to open any of them. Thinking about the 32 self-portraits drawn by the Little Guy’s classmates that I promised to scan, but feeling too tired to push the On button. Reminding myself that if I eat the dark chocolate in the pantry I will feel even more tired. considering a cup of tea. wishing for a nap. realizing i have stopped using capital letters, but feeling too tired to fix them.
Here at MomBrain HQ we are weeping bittersweet tears as the Little Guy marks another milestone in his short life. Tonight, in a battle of wills over homework, he ran away. He grabbed his backpack and his Halloween costume and made a beeline for the neighbor’s house, where two Lego-loving boys live. So I did what any shocked and confused mother would do — I shut the door behind him and spied through an upstairs window. The neighbors weren’t home, so he sat in the front yard and waited. I waited. He waited. I waited.
God bless the Big Guy, who’s not all that good at waiting. He grabbed the car keys and loudly suggested that — since we didn’t have to cook dinner for the Little Guy — he and I should just go out to eat at the Little Guy’s favorite sushi restaurant. Before you could say sashimi he was in the back seat, buckling up and hoping for kappa maki. A happy family reunion followed, and then, when we returned home … we did homework.
It’s hard being seven.
Here at MomBrain HQ we have been watching burly men blow insulation into our attic. The house is draped with octopus-like tentacular tubing that’s right out of a B movie — “Attack of the Killer Squid” right here in the ‘hood. You can’t buy that kind of entertainment for a seven-year-old. Oh, wait … I did … I did buy it.
MomBrain wears many colorful hats. The orange one with the large peacock feather is my MotherTalk hat, the one I wear when I’m wrangling bloggers to review books for a Blog Tour, or — like today — running a Blog Bonanza. So, in honor of No-Cry Friday, here is MomBrain’s single pearl of wisdom when it comes to discipline. Yes, I have only one pearl, but it’s a big one and the Little Guy likes it a lot. This is because my pearl keeps me from totally losing my cool, yelling, and saying or doing things I regret later once the temperature has cooled down. Here it is: are you ready?
Discipline is about control, not punishment.
When the Little Guy misbehaves, he’s out of control — usually because he’s tired, hungry, overstimulated or emotional. When he cannot control himself, I do — I declare quiet time, feed him, remove him from sensory overload, or help him name and manage his emotions (in time out if necessary). Later, when everyone has calmed down, we talk about what happened and ways to handle it better next time. But punishing him just doesn’t work — it pushes both of us into emotional overdrive, and — more importantly — it doesn’t fix the underlying problem. Okay, maybe spanking or yelling would make him stop throwing rocks at the playground, but he’s still hungry and overwhelmed, and now he’s crying and embarrassed and confused on top of it. Far better for us to just leave the playground (a natural consequence), get something to eat, have quiet time at home and then talk about it (including what will happen if he ever throws another rock again).
Ultimately, my goal is to teach the Little Guy to control himself and his environment so that I don’t have to — to recognize when he’s hungry and feed himself well, to find a quiet corner or room when he’s overwhelmed, to go to bed early if he’s tired. In other words (this is big), to have self-discipline. But until he can do that, I will have to don my Captain’s hat (the navy blue one with the rank insignia on the brim) and take charge myself.
MomBrain has spent the better part of today bowling with 30 first graders. While the Big Guy was no doubt sipping tea with the Queen, I was tripping the light fantastic at a glow-in-the-dark bowling alley, complete with disco balls and a subwoofer in each lane. Two hours into it the kids were chasing the swirling spots, beaning each other with 8-pound bowling balls, exposing their white underwear under the black lights and screaming at full volume. Then the glazed donuts appeared, and all hope of control was lost. Jesus wept.
I am sure you will not fault me for the wee margarita I drank with lunch. It was for medicinal purposes only.
She heard his feet before she saw them: clomping toward her, an easy size 13, in worn hiking boots beneath frayed jeans. She lifted her venti iced tea to her lips and waited.
“Excuse me, ma’am.”
Ma’am??? MA’AM??? MomBrain, Woman of Mystery, lifted her head just high enough to see his sun-leathered face beneath the brim of her straw hat.
“Is there a Starbucks around here?”
She squinted into the sun and smiled, a slow langorous smile.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
The stranger looked confused, then glanced at the Starbucks cup in her hand. She smiled again as he clomped away.
She heard his feet before she saw them, stepping lightly toward her in worn black leather beneath frayed jeans. She lifted her grande iced coffee black one Splenda to her lips and waited.
“Escuse me, meees.”
Meees? Ah – miss. MomBrain, Woman of Mystery, lifted her head just high enough to see his brown eyes beneath the brim of her straw hat.
“Where eez ze store of coffee?”
She squinted into the sun and smiled, a slow langorous smile.
“Starbucks is on the corner” she said, in her best Marlene Dietrich growl. She gestured with one graceful hand. “Next to the lingerie shop.”
The stranger smiled as she lowered her head and hid her eyes again beneath the brim of her hat. His feet were still for a second too long before they turned to step away.
She felt the cell phone before she heard it, vibrating in her pocket and threatening to ring loudly if she didn’t answer quickly enough. She plunked her Mocha Frappucino down and wiped a drip from her chin, then fished the phone from her too-tight jeans.
“Yes? Hello?” MomBrain, Woman of Mystery, spoke into her ultra-slim Motorola Moto Razr V3 cell phone. She crossed her legs. This was the kind of phone James Bond would give to one of his Bond Girls, assuming she already had a sexy little handgun with a pearl handle.
“Hey, it’s me.”
MomBrain smiled and imagined blue eyes.
“Have you been to Starbucks yet?”
“No,” she said, and glanced at her Frappucino. “What can I get you?”
“A grande iced mocha would be great. And the Little Guy wants a kids vanilla steamer.”
“AND A LOLLIPOP!” shouted a small voice in the background.
“And a lollipop.”
“A grande iced mocha, a vanilla steamer, and a lollipop. Got it. Anything else?” she asked. She reached for her purse and knocked over the Frappucino. Chocolate spilled all over her size 9 Keds.
“Nothing, I just — nothing.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes!” MomBrain held her phone away from her face and yelled. “I’m losing reception! I’ll see you soon!”
She ignored the people staring at her and looked down at her feet as she squished away toward Starbucks.
The Timekeeper … MomBrain made the very horrible mistake of giving the Little Guy a zipper pull with a digital watch on it. It was only a dollar at Target, and who can resist that? But LG is now covered with bruises because he stares at his zipper pull constantly, including while he’s walking. Also, our morning conversations have been reduced to variations of one recurring sentence: “MOMMY!!! IT’S 8:38!!!” followed by “MOMMY!!! IT’S 8:39!!!” until mercifully we are at preschool and IT’S 9:00!!!
Shout Outs … My new stats counter has a time zone map of all the people who click into MomBrain. And hey – there’s five people in Africa! I’m guessing those hits are from Iraq, probably from friends of Navy Corpsman Sean at Doc in the Box. So here’s a big shout-out to the troops who stumble into my little corner of the Blogosphere. MomBrain thinks about you every day.
There is a boy in my bed, wearing nothing but his Incredible Hulk underpants and my lavender-scented eyemask. He is lying on his back, sucking his thumb. He is five years old.
Today is the Big Party. Now, by some standards, MomBrain is a very, very bad mommy. Do I bring in ponies? No. Do I rent a moonbouncer? No. Do I hire clowns? Hell, no. We are simply meeting a bunch of kids at the local park, where we’ll have cake and ice cream and presents followed by a free-for-all at the playground. Five-year-olds don’t need more than bikes, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk to have fun, so that’s exactly what we’re providing. My nine-year-old niece Girly Girl has agreed to be law enforcement. My fourteen-year-old niece Sweetie will be attending to presents and food. And Sister N, with an Eye for Beauty, is the Official Party Photographer. The rest is just fun, fun, fun.
MomBrain is back from a lengthy absence in which she was held hostage by her other personality, Suzy Snowflake. Suzy is a sad, sad girl who likes to look at her bellybutton a lot. She also sleeps a lot and eats nothing but Oreos. Poor MomBrain is bound and gagged in the corner while Suzy writes very bad poetry about dead leaves in the gutter of life, forgets to shower, and misses all of MomBrain’s deadlines.
Eventually Suzy gets tired of herself and MomBrain manages to break free of her restraints. We stretch. Eat salad. Wonder how fast we can lose the three pounds of belly fat that Suzy left behind. And start typing.
Today is the Little Guy’s fifth birthday. Every sentence begins with “Since today is my birthday and I’m turning five …” and ends with some variation of “Can I eat breakfast in front of the TV?” or “Can I not go to school today?” And I can barely squeak “No” because I am so misty-eyed remembering my little peanut.