Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

May 20, 2002

Whining about weaning

In the final weeks before Lucy was born, I had my choice of terrifying literature to read. I could choose the book about childbirth — a book that had many, many pictures. Or, I could skip ahead to the book about breast-feeding — a book that also had pictures.

Since nothing larger than milk ever passes through nipples, I naturally chose the book about lactation.

“OH MY GOD!” I said, when I flipped to the photos in the back.

There, I saw a startling image — a giant child sprawled across his mother’s lap, hanging from her breast. Because I had no idea how large toddlers could get, I figured the child had to be at least thirteen years old. He had a mullet, for crying out loud.

In reality, the kid was probably about two. Even so, I thought that was awfully strange. Any kid who was old enough to ask for a little drink was old enough to drink from a cup. And not an A-cup.

If there’s anything that parenthood teaches you, it’s to shut up. For every time you say, “I’ll never do that,” or “No child of mine will do this,” you will find your mouth so full from eating your words that you no longer even have the opportunity to speak.

Lucy is just a few months shy of being two years old, and every chance she gets, she leaps onto my lap, rips up my shirt, presses my neck back with her foot, and helps herself to a drink. If I’m standing therefore have no lap, she pinwheels down to the horizontal position and demands my nipple. Loudly.

Two things, and two things only, save me from embarrassment by my failure to wean her. The first is that, unlike the boy in the book, Lucy doesn’t have a mullet. The second is that no one within earshot knows that Lucy is the boss of my breasts — because Lucy thinks nipples are called mopples.

At first, I just thought Lucy was really thirsty. So, I bought ten sippy cups and made sure to always have one on hand. I have since learned that Lucy’s love of the mopple has little to do with thirst.

Lucy never adopted a favorite blanket. Nor has she singled out one of her stuffed animals for special love. Lucy’s comfort object is my mopples. When we go someplace new and she’s feeling insecure, she snakes her hand down my shirt and grabs.

What’s more, she’s very interested in other people’s mopples. My sister gave her a Barbie doll and the first thing Lucy did was rip the doll’s sweater off, grab her chest and say “mopples!” It amused us so much we’ve named the poor, sweaterless thing Miss Mopples.

Worse is what happened at the house of a friend who has a teenage daughter, a girl we’ve known since she was small, but is on now the rough and painful edge of being grown up.

“Mopples!” Lucy said, pointing at this dear girl’s shirt.

“What’s she saying?” the girl said. “Purple?”

“Yes, that’s exactly it,” I said, relieved. “Purple.” And then, purple myself, I changed the subject.

But it doesn’t stop here. Lucy and I went to see her cousin Katy perform the role of Real Rabbit Number Two in a play. Lucy, energized by the show, reached her hand down my shirt and bellowed, “FUNNY MOPPLES! FUNNY MOPPLES!”

It’s hard not to take that personally. Does she mean my mopples are comic? Or is she referring to their appearance or texture? I’m afraid to ask. And yet, she tells me that they’re funny every day now.

I’ve tried weaning Lucy. I’ve been trying since she turned one. It would be nice to have my body all to myself for awhile. But Lucy’s a total grouch in the morning until she has some mopple. Same goes when she’s waking up from a nap.

What I’ve read about weaning has been almost no help. “Try cutting back, a feeding at a time.” When you have a baby who got used to feeding 2,867 times a day, though, that means your best hope of being done with her will be shortly after her 18th birthday.

I’ve also tried reasoning with Lucy. “Big girls don’t drink mopple,” I say.

“Just a little mopple,” she replies, sweetly.

It’s a sad day when you realize your 21-month-old is a better negotiator than you are. But on the flip side, I will have the ultimate bartering chip when Lucy turns 16 and wants to take the car out for wild rides with her no-good friends.

“Lucy,” I’ll say, “You don’t want me to tell your friends about Miss Mopples, do you?

Now that’s a funny mopple.

May 13, 2002

The Facts of Death

No one I know gets excited about the prospect of teaching kids The Facts of Life.

My mom lies and pretends to be enthusiastic about it, but that’s because she’s a school nurse and she gets paid to do it. When she taught me the facts of life, it took me most of the lesson to realize that Mom wasn’t talking about punctuation.

Now, with her paying audience, she spends a healthy amount of time on something we never had at home – the “question jar.” Kids are allowed to submit anonymous questions to the jar covering everything they ever wanted to know about the "Meericle" of Life. Most questions are about anuses and hermaphrodites. No one, it seems, asks about any of the central players in the birth process.

Thankfully, I have a few years before I have to talk with Lucy these embarrassing facts.

For whatever reason, I do not have similar qualms about the Facts of Death. Lucy has two windows in her room, and every so often, insects get caught in the space between the screen and the glass. It’s awful. They crawl about and shake their antennae, as if to rail against the nasty, short, brutishness of life.

Last week, a bee found its way into the glass-and-mesh tomb. I knew my moment had come. It was time for me to teach Lucy about death.

“Lucy,” I said. “That bee is trapped.”

“Bee,” she said. “Bzzzzzzzz-ting!”

“Yes. Bees buzz and they sting,” I said. “That is why I am not going to let the bee out and into your room.”

“Fly,” she said.

“No, Lucy,” I said. “It’s not a fly. It’s a bee. Bees have stripes.”

“Bee,” she replied.

“Lucy,” I said, my throat growing tight, “This bee is going to die. If it can’t get out and go home and have something to eat and drink, it will die. The bee is stuck. The bee will die.”

“Bee,” she said. “Die.”

This talk was going better than I thought. Lucy looked very concerned. If she keeps it up, she’ll be a candidate for a mid-eyebrow Botox injection, just like I am. But that’s another kind of fact of life.

I moved in for the kill, so to speak.

“Lucy,” I said, taking her tiny hand in mine. “When something dies, like a bee, it doesn’t move anymore. Ever. It’s dead. And all living things, even Mama, will die someday.”

With this, I was nearly in tears. I can’t stand the thought of being dead, and the only thing that makes it at all tolerable is that once I’m dead, I almost certainly will no longer care.

The talk now over, I changed Lucy’s diaper and went downstairs, feeling wistful that Lucy, who is not yet 2, has had to face something as appalling and final as death.

The next day, we looked for the bee. And we found him, motionless on the bottom of the window. His little bee hands held on to the edge of the screen, clasped as though in prayer. I felt like a real jerk for not setting him free when there was still time, but I would rather Lucy learn about death than bee stings.

“Lucy,” I said, “The bee died. He will never move again.” A numbness spread through my veins, the anesthetic of misery.

“Bee died,” she said, looking morose.

We changed her diaper, and as I disposed of the contents, I at least had the comfort that life raged on inside my daughter’s bowels.

The next day when we checked on our poor, dead friend, we discovered something: the bee wasn’t there.

That was because he had crawled to the other side of the window, a feat that led me to conclude that he was not, in fact, dead.

On the one hand, I was glad I had a second chance to set the bee free. I felt awful about letting him die in the first place. This was my chance to restore balance to the universe.

On the other hand, I had told Lucy that dead things don’t ever move again. And here was our dead bee, crawling all over the screen and waving his antennae indignantly in our general direction.

“Lucy,” I said. “The bee!”

“Bee dead,” she said.

“No!” I said. “He’s alive.”

She looked confused. So much for the Facts of Death, as taught by Martha. But there was one thing I could do right that day. I could save the bee.

“Hey Adam!” I hollered.

He came into the room, and I explained the situation. With the two of us, we’d be able to capture the bee and set him free, and we wouldn’t have to leave Lucy unattended, or in the path of a seriously pissed-off bee.

“I can take care of it for you,” Adam said. He fetched a paper towel, while I secured Lucy.

Then he opened the window, ever so carefully and reached for the bee.

“Got it,” he said, as he crumpled the napkin.

“Adam,” I said, “You killed the bee.”

After I emerged from the fog of shock, Adam explained that the bee was too weak to make it on the outside. His action was swift mercy, not bee murder. Note to self: Adam should be kept far, far away from the plug if I'm ever on a respirator.

I still feel bad about the bee. And Lucy seems somewhat confused by it all. But one thing is for certain: That bee won’t be moving any more. That bee is dead.

May 06, 2002

The Mother's Day Stories

When I was growing up, I had friends with very nice mothers. But that didn’t mean I wanted to eat the sandwiches they made. There’s something about the way your own mom makes a sandwich that makes all other sandwiches taste kind of weird.

Now that I’m grown up, I will eat sandwiches that other mothers have made. I’ll eat them gladly, for it means that I don’t have to do any cooking. What’s more, I’m starting to realize that the sandwiches might taste different, but when you get down to it, sandwiches are all just good stuff between two slices of bread.

And so it is with mothers. We have different favorite memories of our moms, but the important stuff is all the same. Our mothers loved us beyond reason or comfort. They put our needs before theirs. They weren’t perfect, but we learned from their mistakes. They made us laugh. They dried our tears. They filled our bellies. And those of us who are mothers are doing our best to do the same.

Here are your favorite memories of your moms and step-moms. I loved reading them, and hope you find yourselves feeling as inspired as I did.

Your Mommy Chronicles

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