I guess I knew it was inevitable. But I didn’t think it would be so difficult. All the hints were there, however. This summer, the only shoes Sophie would wear were her lime green, jibbitz-infested croc imitations. Every time (and I mean every), we would try to put her cute little chunky feet in equally-as-adorable sneakers or sandals (see photo), she would scream. Not a weak, “I don’t agree with you” kind of scream, but a bloodcurdling, “you are ruining my life” kind of scream.
It happened again. Not a day goes by when the floor of the tv room is spared an encounter with food. Yesterday, it was almost an entire container of French vanilla yogurt. Today a full cup of milk. There are usually a bunch of crumbs to accompany the liquid mess.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my new career turn as a stay-at-home mom is having more time to bond as a complete family unit. When I was working, it was rare for my husband and me to have dinner together with the girls. For the last six months, not only are we dining more frequently as a foursome, but I’ve accustomed the brood to some ground rules for harmonious meals:
(1) Dinner at 6:30 pm, because if it’s any later, I have to deal with Mr. Hyde (i.e., Sophie, see related post here), who turns into an inconsolable crank if she hasn’t eaten by then.
(2) Chloe must stay seated at the table until Sophie is done; otherwise, Sophie will inevitably follow her sister into the other room before her tummy is full. Saying the word “done” out loud is also verboten for the same reason. Chloe has since taken to spelling it out. Sophie is smart, but she’s not that smart.
(3) And no interrupting! The hubby goes nuts if we cut him off while he’s trying to make a crucial point.
So, it was with great pleasure that, after we finished cleaning up the mess Sophie made of the pasta, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese this evening, our two daughters asked to HELP(!) us fold the laundry. Had a passerby bothered to look through our dining room window, she would have seen the girls diligently trying to fold their father’s ratty old t-shirts – why such rags are even worthy of a folding effort is beyond me, but you do what you gotta do to keep the spouse happy. Of course, we had to refold everything they touched, but Chloe learned a thing or two from her father about proper folding methods. And Sophie amused herself by grabbing as many pieces of clothing from the basket as her little arms would hold, and putting them on her head.
I smiled quite a bit during that 1/2 hour. However, in the interest of full disclosure, the girls managed to exasperate me plenty of times after we finished the laundry, so the warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t really last all that long. But the episode gave me fodder for the blog, so that certainly counts for something, right?
(1) I would become a brain surgeon (I think “St. Elsewhere” was one of my favorite shows back then);
(2) I would live in a beautiful apartment in New York City; and
(3) I would lead the life of a cosmopolitan, childless single woman (in the manner of a “Sex in the City” character, before the book and HBO series existed).
I was adamant about all of this, advertising my intentions to all of my friends, at least for a few years. Then I went off to college. I realized I would have to take too many science courses to fulfill adolescent fantasy #1, that in choosing to major in Art History and French literature, I would likely never be able to find a job that would pay enough for me to afford fantasy #2, and that, after meeting my future husband as a junior in college (the story for a future blog posting, perhaps), my single and childless fantasy #3 was numbered in years, not in decades.
I am incredibly happy that the path my life took differs so greatly from the life I imagined for myself in high school. A brain surgeon, for crying out loud?!? What was I thinking? And, no offense to Manhattan, or committed bachelorettes, but NYC has got to be one of the loneliest places on earth for a single woman. My post-high school decisions led me to several incredibly romantic years in a closet-sized studio apartment in Paris, my husband, my law degree, my girls. All of that adds up to fantasy-turned-reality #4, although I never would have put money on such an outcome when I was 17.
It’s funny how life happens.
Sophie may be our second child, but it’s our first time experiencing the terrible twos. I always thought the image of a misbehaving two-year old was such a cliché – our first child, Chloe, was an angel until she hit three, when she unleashed her toddler fury in all its glory.
I had long suspected that Chloe’s indirect exposure to death and tragedy over the years had left her bizarrely unaffected. Are most six-year olds this unfeeling when it comes to the notion of mortality or injury or separation – not knowing how to express sympathy, let alone empathy? Am I asking too much of her – is she simply too young to fully grasp such difficult concepts?
Chloe knows about my father, who died a year before she was born. In fact, she’s been a regular visitor to his grave, and often asks my mother and me about what he was like. Some of her friends have lost close relatives in the last couple of years and her great-grandmother has recently experienced an endless list of serious health problems.
The revelation happened a few weeks ago, and was totally unexpected. Chloe and I sat down to watch “A Little Princess,” a charming movie by Alfonso Cuaron (filmed long before his success as director of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban”). Based on a book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, it’s the story of a young British girl, Sara, who is sent to boarding school in New York City while her father fights during World War I. She enchants most of the girls at the school with her marvelous stories, but falls quickly from grace and into poverty after the headmistress is told that her father died in battle. The headmistress forces Sara into servitude, yet, despite her reversal of fortune, the little girl continues to delight the other children with her magical fairy tales. As it turns out, the father did not die, but is slowly recovering from a severe head injury that left him suffering from amnesia. Sara and her daddy are eventually reunited, and the evil headmistress gets her just deserts.
Now that I’ve sufficiently plugged the film, let me return to the point of my story. Chloe and I were greatly enjoying the movie together. The protagonist, Sara, is kind and smart, and the story was extremely engaging. Cue to the end of the film. Sara is inadvertently reunited with her father. Daddy, however, doesn’t immediately recognize his daughter, and she is crushed. She starts pleading with her father, begging him to remember, distraught that he is so physically close to her, yet so very far away.
I turned to look at Chloe during this scene, and tears were streaming down her beautiful face. She was crying in silence. When I asked her what was wrong, she couldn’t articulate it very well, and started to sob. There are two possible reasons for this reaction, I thought: (1) the acting was so manipulative that Chloe simply experienced her first tearjerker; (2) she was putting herself in the fictional girl’s shoes by imagining the sadness and despair she would feel if her father didn’t recognize her after a long absence. Of course, I prefer to latch onto the second explanation. I somewhat sheepishly admit, however, that knowing she’s not immune to a good weepy movie isn’t such a bad thing, either.
In any case, Chloe’s reaction was so endearing and so surprising that it caught me totally off-guard. But in those couple of minutes, my connection to her was as strong as it’s ever been. And I loved her more than ever.
“I am leaving.” Three simple words that can break a parent’s heart.
Chloe was angry at us. It started because, in a touching attempt to be a loving sister, she was having trouble wrapping up a canister that she filled up with gifts for Sophie. After a brief respite from her bad mood during a stroll on a local hiking trail, when she was happy to prance among the logs and the rocks (see a smiling Chloe in photo to right), the frustration found its way back to the surface as soon as the four of us boarded a pedal boat at the park.
My two-year old, Sophie, and I just returned home from enjoying a lunch date together at a local Tex-Mex restaurant. Whenever we eat there, she usually shares a burrito with my husband. But the hubby is out of town, and I don’t like burritos. So I ordered a rice, beans and cheese platter for her off of the kids’ menu. She loves her rice, beans and cheese (see photo of her above, enjoying the dish at home a few months ago). Until today, Sophie’s gusto for this dish was a mystery to me – especially since her older sister, Chloe, won’t go near such a concoction, and Sophie’s modus operandi is to emulate everything Chloe does. The serving was about three times too large for a two-year old’s tummy, but no mind. Sophie attacked it with all of the fervor of a child who hasn’t eaten in days. As she was nearing the end of the beans, she repeatedly said, “More chocolate chips.” In Sophie’s World (not the novel by Jostein Gaarder, but in my Sophie’s world), anything brown and mushy is a chocolate chip. What this says about her lack of taste buds is another story and perhaps worth a call to her pediatrician. But in the meantime, eureka! Forget about buying Jessica Seinfeld’s new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. All I need to do when I want Sophie to eat some brown, healthy stuff is to tell her that the mush on her plate is chocolate chips. Do they come in green, too?