Archive for the 'mommy dearest' Category

01
Oct
11

chatty cathy vs. chatty johnny

As I was researching language acquisition for the last post I did, I found a lot of research on language usage and the subsequent amount of it. Blah. Blah. Blah. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Except. Except… in every single one of the studies I skimmed the scientists were showing that females talked more than males. Girls talked more than boys. Pretty much all the scientific studies showed the same thing: girls spoke earlier, more and had a bigger vocabulary. Except…

Um. No. Clearly these scientists and researchers have never met my children. My male children. All three of them talked early, often and with huge vocabularies, including words like “appeared” and “actually” (pronounced oxually). When big was not so big he never stopped talking, his entire life was a running dialouge. I say dialogue becuase no matter what came out of his mouth I was expected to respond and if I didn’t the conversation took on an urgent tone that I was forced to notice.

Big at 3: Vrooom. Vroom. The car is driving up into the parking garage to park on the top floor. [driving car around as described]

Mom: [silence because honestly I don’t know what kind of response is called for.]

Big: MOM! THE CAR IS DRIVING UP INTO THE PARKING GARAGE TO PARK ON THE TOP FLOOR!!!!!!!

Mom: OKAY! SUPER!

Every single waking moment of every single day I was expected to participate in conversationally; the boy performed no monologues. My brain was over-stimulated and it was the sort of thing that would make a mommy a little cranky. I perfected the least interested response I could. When I was pregnant with Middle and laying on the couch in the clutches of mid-afternoon sickness and Big was desperately trying to include me in a conversation about trains; I came up with this cheat sheet for the direst of times.

first response: Hmmm.

second: hMMmmm.

third: hmmmmMMM.

fourth: hmmmmm?

fifth: hmmmmm!!!

Repeat.

speak no evil, speak a little evil and speak much evil and by evil I mean mostly potty talk.

So of course I would go on to bear two more children who would grace the good earth with their voices that tinkle like bells ALL THE TIME. I was feeling guilty; like shouldn’t I want to be constantly engaged in unstimulating conversation with little people? I asked my therapist if I was secretly totally evil. She said, no. We had a nice dialogue about it. She said the human brain isn’t meant to be stimulated ALL THE TIME. I should tell him that for five minutes I was going to turn my brain off and he could talk, but I wasn’t going to listen. If he wanted someone to listen he should find someone else to talk to, like say his baby brother or his teddy bear. It took him about a week to stop talking to me and expecting a response, but it was damn nice not to be expected to remember where I was in the “hmmm” cycle.

So all these studies are saying that boys talk less than girls and they have evidence and shit and I say, “whatever” because I don’t see it. So I want to know what they think the reasons are, so I know if my boys are freaks of nature and possibly huge moneymakers some day. In The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre she talks about how two separate studies found evidence that pointed in two opposite directions. Super, science, just super.

In the first study researchers decided after following around 22 educated, middle-class mothers of toddlers, both boys and girls about the same age for a few hours every month and tape every word they said, that the moms used the same amount of words with boys and girls, but boys spoke less and used fewer words. They believed that there was something intrinsic that made the boys less verbal (pp. 65-66). However, in a completely different study across more diverse racial and socioeconomic lines showed that the number of words a parent speaks to a child is directly related to the size of the child’s vocabulary regardless of gender. So that means that if you have a very active boy who wants to be outside running around, throwing balls and stuff, you might not choose to take them to the story hour at the library or sit down and read books to them. If you’re doing what they are interested in, or what is easier to do with them, then maybe there’s less language involved.

Now that makes sense. They spend a hell of a lot of time with me and I am a world champion talker. The kind of person that loves to talk. The person that volunteers to get up in front of people and talk. I can’t get enough of it. “Listen to me world!” Maybe because no one listens to me at home. Naw, I’ve always been that way; in theater, forensics (not the CSI kind). LOOOOOVE the stage. My childhood report cards always said, quarter after quarter and year after year, “Becki’s a great student, but she needs to spend less time talking.”

I talked so much that my fourth grade teacher tied me into my desk with crepe paper so I wouldn’t walk around the room and talk to people. If we would have known then what we know now about suing for pain and suffering…

So the boys have a great role model, if they’d let me get a word in edgewise. Also, I’m not so much into the running around outside and the ball-throwing. I was always reading to Big and dragging him to story hours and anything else that involved me sitting on my ass. It’s gotten harder with Middle and Little because they seem to be more active types. And don’t go around thinking I’ve ruined Big and he’s like a big blob on the couch; he’s a white belt in Tai Kwon Do, but he’s going places.

I know that someday I’m going to miss all these little voices around me. They may be surly teenagers and I’ll have to beg them to talk to me. I videotaped Little yesterday telling me the names of all the Star Wars guys that he knew because it’s just too precious to hear your three-year old recite the members of the Dark Side. That’s not all he says, he says I love you mommy about twenty times a day, but I never have the camera ready for that. That, I’ll never forget.

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06
Sep
11

the tears of a mom

Yes, it’s been a while. It’s been one hell of a summer. Little and Middle have been locked in daily battle. Middle uses physical tactics; a punch in the gut, a slap to the bare back, a face shove, a kick in the nuts. Little goes with the mental sort of torture, the constant annoyances that build up over time and make it necessary for Middle to use the above methods to get his revenge. Big has just been screaming at them like a teenage girl and hiding in his room reading Garfield comics. I don’t think I ever thought I’d ever say he’d be glad that summer was over, but that kid is glad that summer is over.

There was some fun to be had this summer, like in the water...

and in the mud on West Lawn during construction...

Then there’s me; the chronic daily migraines persist, while the side effects from the medications we’re trying to use to treat the daily migraines cause a myriad of side effects that put me in a bad mood. Ahhhh, summer. Let’s add to this the fact that for all the requests to read my novel I’ve gotten and all the “I love it! It’s witty/clever/well-written” they all end with something about “not in this cautious competitive market blah blah blah.” So, the novel I’ve spent 4 years writing is on its last legs. I’ve got about 15 more possibilities out there and then we put it to sleep. Cryonically of course, like Ted Williams, just in case there’s ever a change in the “market”. I’ve started a shitty rough draft of a new book and it’s coming along so that’s all well and good.

[side note: If you’re interested, I’ll share with you the nastiest rejection I’ve ever gotten from some crazy old coot of a lady from Atlanta who took issue with my usage of the work F*ck in narrative and also the way I decided where to separate paragraphs. She said it wasn’t literature and she ONLY represented literature, which apparently includes cozy mysteries called “Kissing Cousins” but I’m not bitter]

and by burying children in the sand.

yes sir that's my baby. yes sir, her name is "Maybea". So I make up songs about my dog. what's it to you?

The big news this summer was that my best canine companion blew out her rear ACL and had to have it repaired. It happened right at the beginning of summer and for several months it was kind of a watch and see kind of thing. It was almost better and then some damn chipmunk encouraged her to chase it and she completely tore it and flipped her meniscus over. So on August 2 she had to have surgery. The vet called in the middle of the surgery to say they found a growth on the underside of her tongue. We had him cut it out, stitch her up and send the growth away “just in case”. A few days later, he calls. It’s a very aggressive form of skin cancer that rarely shows up in the mouth. It’s not good news. We get an appointment with the vet school at the university. Our vet sounds like the Mary Poppins for sick animals; she’s not. She gives us our options and tells us in pretty plain terms that she’s got about 6-12 months left, no matter what we do; treat her or not. She’s genuinely surprised when I cry.

What does this have to do with the science and psychology of boys? A lot it turns out. Silly me; I was worried about crying in front of them. I was worried about protecting them from my sadness.

Here’s where Dr. Luann Brizendine comes in again, only this time, shame on me, I don’t have the book, I had to return it to the person I borrowed it from. Now, you know I’m normally good about referencing pages and authors, etc. but I don’t have the damn book, so I”ll have to do big ideas this time. We all remember how boys emotional centers are not as well-connected as girls and develop later and all that jazz from previous posts. (if this is news to you, go back a few posts and read in detail, with references). I guess while I knew this was true I hadn’t actually considered what it looked like in action.

I was doing a lot of crying when this news came; I love this dog like crazy. We got her at the Humane Society when she was a puppy and we’ve had her ten years. Since I stay home and work from home, we spend a lot of time together. Sometimes (who am I kidding, often) she’s the only easy thing in my day. Like I said above, I was trying to sob subtly. The thing was though, they didn’t seem to notice. Not at all. None of them. Not even Big (who’s 9 now). Not until Daddy talked to him on the phone and told him that I was sad and he should be extra nice to me. Then he came and hugged me and said he loved me and he was sorry that I was sad and it was very lovely and wonderful and then he asked me if he could use the computer now. Little and Middle showed no recognition of sadness, only recognition that I was still the Mommy that got the chocolate milk and fielded the complaints about the jelly with seeds situation.

So I happened to be reading The Female Brain by Luann Brizendine around this same time and in learning about how girls brains develop I learned a little bit how boys’ don’t. I learned that a girl at 18 months can read the emotion of an adult and know what they need and “caretake”. I learned that it takes boys a LOT longer to be able to read emotions on a person’s face. So couple that with the fact that their emotional centers are less connected and slower to develop, they really just didn’t notice that I was sad.

You know who did? The dog.

Afterword: We went to another veterinary Oncologist and although he agreed with the diagnosis from the non-Mary Poppins vet at the vet school he had a much more positive prognosis. We’ve now been through staging and a second growth, but at the current time, she’s got no decetable cancer in her body. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t microscopic cancer hiding out, but she’ll start chemotherapy on Wednesday and hopefully we’ll blast the hell out of it. Dr. Kai has a positive outlook and for the first time this summer it feels good to have the same.

You can't tell from the picture but I swear to you it was a double.

09
May
11

“You like me! You really like me!” A Mother’s Day recap

My gifts today: a popsicle stick picture frame, a painted pot with a pansy in it, and a card that says "From a boy who is strong in the force, and may be a jedi. Happy Moter's Day."

Once a year in our little man-cave in Madison there comes a day where manly activities take the backseat to momly activities. In place of potty talk there is conversation about why everyone likes me: I am brutiful. I read books. “I like you ’cause I like you.” There is also a lot of potty talk, but for a golden half-minute there is none. In place of action figures and blasters there is a trip to the lake where you can use “finger pistols” to kill your brother, but there are no action figures. In place of Star Wars… nothing, still Star Wars.

I get one day a year where I can say, “It’s mother’s day damn it; stop calling your brother Mr. Doodoo and they have to listen. I’m not really sure why they believe me so strongly and do listen. Maybe it’s because there was one mother’s day where they didn’t and they ended up making me cry. But we don’t talk about that. Do they understand the importance of this day? Do they sense what I want and need? Do we drill it in to them and hope for the best?

Or is it possible… that they really love us and respect us and… need us?

You’ve probably seen the emails that go around with pictures of why boys need mothers. Apparently there is photographic proof that without our guidance they would skateboard off the roof of the garage and cover themselves with panty liners.  But this is serious; I know from all my reading about raising boys that boys really need their dads. But, maybe this is obvious to you, what do they need from me, mom, that they don’t get anywhere else. So for the last hour of my Mother’s Day, as Daddy did the dishes, I researched the question:

 why do boys need moms?

I turned to Michael Gurian and his books The Wonder of Boys and A Fine Young Man and Meg Meeker and her book Boys Should be Boys. First of all I just want to say that Meeker writes the saddest and most heart-breaking theory of mothering boys I’ve ever read;

“so she will protect, adore, and nurture this tiny boy until he becomes a man and then, the ache will feel overwhelming. As a man he will leave and life as a mother will never be the same for her. She will continue to love her son, but the connection will be reworked. Not because she changed, but because one day, he will belong to another.” (p. 105-106)

So WAAAAAAA  to you Meg Meeker! After I shed a few tears and sufficiently hexed her I read more.  She did go on to make some valid points, but I’ll never quite forgive her for the above. Maybe because deep down I know it’s true. She goes on to talk about how mothers are often the fiercest protectors and strongest advocates their sons have. We teach them how to love and express love, because it is in our extra X chromosome to do so (not scientifically speaking) and this need to love and be loved and express that love is huge in boys development and how they learn to interact with women. We respond to discipline differently; our super-analytical minds need to really dissect and understand a problem our son might be having, rather than immediately trying to fix it. Mothers put a lot of thought into how to discipline their boys. Because we are so verbal about our feelings, we teach them how to name and think about their own. And I like this one: “Her words help him become a better man.” (p. 123)

Ultimately through our unending, unconditional love we build up boys’ self esteem, a crucial piece to making it on the journey to becoming a great man. We forgive and in doing so prove to a boy his self-worth; that we accept him even if he makes mistakes. When we extend our love to a boy who has just failed or effed up we teach him what love is. We teach him how to love and how to receive love at his lowest points. (Meeker, pp. 105-124)

What does Gurian say about moms? All that cuddling that we do when they’re babies, builds brain systems. Gurian says that this is even more important for boys because boys brain development in a lot of areas is slower than girls. (p. 89) Most of the other stuff that he has to say has to do with Meeker’s tear jerker above. Our job is to send them on their way to become men and then let them go on to do it. He talks about an African saying: “The mother has the boy for the first half of his childhood, the father for the second.” (Gurian, A Fine Young Man, p. 73).

As often as I find myself wishing that I was no longer dealing with poopy diapers and temper tantrums, hating bedtime and hair-washing, when I read this it reminds me that it doesn’t last forever. There will come a time when I have to put them on the Greyhound bus to manhood and I won’t go along. I will stand outside the bus depot and wave a hanky and blow kisses. I hope in my heart of hearts that I’m doing a good enough job now that they’ll want to come back to visit and not just so I’ll do their laundry.

Maybe poopy diapers and temper tantrums aren’t all that bad after all.

Happy “Moter’s” Day all.




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