Outsmarted

This exchange just happened between my daughter and I as she drifted off to sleep:

S – Mommy, did you know that life goes on and on for infinity? Not the kind of infinity that goes on and then stops when you stop it. The kind of infinity that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and never stops. It’s kind of hard for you to imagine.

I mean, people die, but the life goes on. Like, you had me. Then I have a baby girl named Vinny. Then she has a baby boy named Peter, after Daddy’s middle name. Peter’s wife has a baby named Soshan, and Soshan has a baby named John, and his wife has a girl named Glora, and she has a girl named Rosie and she has a little boy named Izza. And it goes on and on. You know what I mean.

Me – You’re right, honey. That was really smart. Those concepts are hard.

S – I wasn’t even taught that. I just knew it from my own brain.

Me: Oh.

And what I meant by that ‘Oh’ was, Oh my God you’re going to be smarter than me by the time you’re in first grade. Also, she should name characters in the next YA dystopian novel.

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I think Liebster was a war hero or something…

I got a nice note last night saying that I (my words, to be more accurate) were named a Liebster Blog by Domestic Goddess In Training. She is a fellow mom trying to make her way in the world, only she’s probably better at it because it looks like she actually does stuff with her kids. Thanks, Goddess!

Anyway, the Liebster Blog award is a nice way for bloggers to celebrate and promote small blogs that they feel should get more notice. Last night, I tried to trace the idea of the Liebster award back to the beginning to figure out where this came from. It was a bit of a worm-hole. I spent so many hours searching, linking back, and googling that I got a bit lost. The best I can decipher is that Liebster was a soldier during the German War of Liberation. In 1813 he thought that the soldiers trying to oust France from their homeland needed a little levity and a way to connect across the miles between encampments. He dreamed up blogging, but due to an inexcusable dearth of imagination and know-how, he was unable to invent  electricity, computers and the internet. At least that year.

Instead he invented chain letters, which are being reinvented here. I’m not usually one to remember to follow up on chain letters, but this is a good chain letter – like passing on stickers or recipes – and not a bad chain letter – the ones that ask for money or naked pictures. I bet there are those. Don’t say there aren’t, you don’t know.

So the idea is that you are supposed to link back to the person who nominated you, then nominate 3 to 5 more small blogs that you enjoy (difficult to gauge how many followers they have, so we use our judgement). You’re also supposed to state the rules of the award. So that’s what I just did. Oh, and also, you’re supposed to insert this cute little image here.

Liebster blog logo of awkward love

Here are the blogs I’m nominating. And to break with a little tradition here, I’m going to give the blogs and out and say that if they don’t continue the chain letter within 3 days… NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN!

1) Yoonanimous – fashion, family other good stuff. She’s a friend, too, so I root for her, though I disagree with the idea that we all can wear high waisted pants.

2) Liquorstore Bear – because who doesn’t want to read their boozy horoscope as predicted by a beer-soaked bear.

3) London Drawings – I like the illustrations, the humor (or humour) and drawings. A little hard to see on a mobile device. The “history” post is awesome.

4) Year-struck – fabulous writer. She is the teacher I wish I had.
More instructions: Read all of these bloggers. Follow them. Smile.

This crutch looks like it wants to kick me

My son has been employing an interesting new linguistic crutch lately. He’s in that development stage where kids discover that they can be part of conversation if they participate in the natural back and forth of discussion. The problem is that sometimes he starts to talk before he knows what he wants to say.

“Mommy?” He’ll say, getting my attention. Then nothing, until he feels the need to fill the silence to keep the attention. “I love you but…”

This phrase chafes.

It implies that there is going to be a low blow dealt to my parenting psyce. But it doesn’t come. He says, “I love you but…can I wear jammies with feet tonight?” or “I love you but…are we going to park?” It’s just a verbal filler to him. But it’s a crutch I picture with a big steel-toed boot on the end that’s poised to kick me in the ass.

I love you Mommy, but you're freakin' me out right now!

My daughter, during the same period of verbal development, would say “can I join your conversation?”  A much kinder, gentler introduction into the banter of life, no?

But she hasn’t always been the sweet lollipop of empathy she is now. “I love you but…” gets under my skin because she used to say it to me. Usually when I was at my most harried. “I love you but…I love Daddy more.” And she meant it. I am proud of myself that I didn’t throw a four letter word at her. And I mean that.

It wasn’t really surprising, though. The two of them have had an amazing relationship from the start. He was the one who could calm her down best during her colicky episodes. And when real estate kept me out working nights and weekends, they created a bond that I could not duplicate with her.

I’m okay with it now. Time has healed that wound and she and I have our own special (and completely different) relationship. Plus I read The Wonder of Girls and it drove home the importance of a good relationship between fathers and daughters.

So my son can say it all he wants: I love you but…at school I played with Reed yesterday. But…when are we going to California? But…I had a dream that I was. A. Lion!

This morning he said it again. “I love you but… I just love you.”

And of course it made me smile, because their two variations of the phrase sum them up. One honest and open. The other simple and understated. Except when it comes to dancing naked around the house. Then they’re both freakshows.

These are Happy Tears, Ducky Momo!

My daughter has just hit a level of sentimentalism that I didn’t know was humanly possible. It is off the charts. This one goes to 11, folks. It all started on Sunday…

I let the kids watch a tv show, and they asked for Phineas and Ferb, which our family has newly discovered. If you’re not familiar with the show it’s about two step-brothers who have spectacular adventures to maximize their summer vacation fun. The cast of characters includes their teenage sister, Candace, who tries to get them in trouble, and their pet platypus who is actually a secret agent. Brilliant! I’m being serious. It’s really clever.

If I had known the drama this particular episode would cause, I never would have let the kids watch it. You see, my daughter is more empathetic than just about anyone I know, whether adult, child or in-between. It sounds sweet, and it is. And then you see the side effects. She accidentally hits her brother with a wooden spoon – she cries, he doesn’t. A friend’s balloon flies away as soon as we walk outside – she cries, the friend doesn’t. Somehow I still never seem to have a tissue handy.

What the world needs now is Bunny, sweet Bunny.

Another side effect is that she gets very attached to things. She has a pink bunny, we’ll call her Bunny (because that’s what we call her), who must sleep with her every night or there will be no sleep. One time we were driving home from visiting my parents in Sacramento and we left Bunny behind. We were hours away before we realized it, and it was awful. The look of love and joy on her face when they were reunited was something I wish I could bottle up and give to the world. There would be no more war if we were all blissed out like that.

That bunny has been a companion to her for as long as she can remember. On Sunday’s rerun of Phineas and Ferb, their sister Candace goes to a sci-fi/fantasy convention dressed as Ducky Momo, a cartoon duck. My daughter could highly relate to Candace, who cared for the duck in plush form as a child and who has been her companion ever since. I know this because they did a sweet montage of a toddler Candace watching a cartoon of Ducky Momo, playing with the stuffed version of the duck, all the way up to Candace as a teenager with her Ducky Momo doll propped on a chair helping her pick outfits out of her closet.

When the montage was over I heard a gasp and sniff next to me on the couch. I hesitate to admit that my first ungenerous thought was “Are you kidding me?” I know that’s not the way a mother is supposed to react to her sobbing child, but cut me a little slack. We are talking a cartoon character within a cartoon show here, people.

“Honey, why did that make you cry? Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she said taking a huge breath and wiping her nose on her sleeve. “These are happy tears.”

That made me smile and give her a big hug. She ran and got her bunny and hugged it as she hysterical laugh-cried next to me. I thought that emotion was reserved for puberty, and I tried not to do the same weird, breathy contortions as I freaked out a little inside. Then she calmed down and I thought we were done with it.

Nope. Later that evening she asked for a Ducky Momo. We told her that Ducky Momo was not really a cartoon and that nobody makes a plush version of it. It’s not really a thing, Honey, we said. We hoped we were done with it.

Candace and the unexpectedly evil Ducky Momo (courtesy of Disney)

Nope. That night, after the lights were off and she was in bed, we heard crying from her room. My husband went in to investigate. “I really want Ducky Momo!” She was sobbing hysterically.Have you ever been in a situation where you will say anything, literally anything, to make someone happy? Or in this case, to make someone stop being sad. We have. “We’ll look for one for you, we promise,” we said, just to get her to calm down and go to sleep. We hoped by the morning she would have forgotten about it. Of course, we knew it was only a hope.

As she was getting ready for school yesterday she asked me, tearily, if I had looked for a Ducky Momo doll yet. “What about Bunny? I thought that you loved her. Won’t she be sad if you cuddle with Ducky Momo instead?” Of course, as the words left my lips I wished I hadn’t said them. I think sometimes that I am not sensitive enough to parent her well.

The cries came in earnest. “I can love both of them!” I let her have cookies in her lunch. The anticipation was good for halting those tears of longing.

Yesterday evening was not as bad, because John drew a picture of Ducky Momo that she hung next to her bed and kissed before lights-out. Of course, we are aware that it might just be drawing out the pain.

We haven’t told her yet that John did find someone who makes Ducky Momo on Etsy. It’s a crazily expensive toy for a stuffed animal. Before I make the leap, I want to make sure it’s not just a passing desire. But as I said, sometimes I worry that I’m not sensitive enough for her.

I am still shocked by her reaction to a single musical montage. And you know what? Shame on you, Phineas and Ferb, for being so effective in your portrayal of the evolution of an attachment object. I may never be able to watch it again. At least not with the kids.

Out on a limb like a monkey’s uncle

I just hit send on an email that was too long in the making. A real editor is going to take a look at one of my short stories, and it’s kind of terrifying. I’m sure it’s full of errors and clichés and poorly used idioms, despite my repeated attempts to edit them out. But I went out on limb and, though I held my breath when I did it, I clicked that button.

Perhaps there’s a comfort we feel when we hit a certain age and with that, a confidence to do something different and push our own boundaries. I’m inspired by people around me who do this.

I have a friend who is thinking of quitting her job and pouring herself full-time into her jewelry business. A past client opened a cute bottle shop in North Portland. My step-mom went back to school for her PhD when most people start to think about retiring. For all of us that “certain age” came at different decades in our lives.

The timing for me wasn’t right before now because of my own doing. My confidence was too low and my fear of rejection too high. I’d like to say that having kids inspired me to write, but really it was needing to have a moment to myself that did it. My husband and I now know that writing keeps me sane. I think it’s because I feel more confident about working and writing than I do about my parenting skills (more accurate to say skilz?). Probably because I’ve been doing the former two longer. See? Comfortable.

Despite my base reasons for starting to write, continuing to write does have an beneficial upside as a parent. It’s important for me to show my kids that finding a hobby and an outlet that makes them happy is an important part of their social and psychological development. Their eyes glaze over when I use those words, so I have to show them – By leaving them with their father for an evening and not letting them read what I wrote because they’re stories for grown-ups, thank-you-very-much.

So, maybe I have to keep working on showing them, just like I have to work on lots of things. At least at this point in my life I can do my best and have the confidence to know that it will be good enough. In fact, it might be really good. Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!

About those idioms: I’ve been kind of fascinated with them since I started writing again. Did you know that “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle” dates from the Scopes trial about teaching evolution in school. And before that most people didn’t know or weren’t taught of evolution, despite Darwin’s best efforts. It’s things like this that will probably keep me too sidetracked to ever complete that novel.

Little Miss Thang, Making Herself at Home

My daughter told me the other day that the reason she likes Leia/Renesmee is that she likes scary things. That explains a lot.

It explains why she wasn’t fazed when we came home on this blustery day and found that Demon Doll had raided the liquor cabinet. Her thumbs aren’t flexible enough to work the remote, so what else was she to do? Though how she found sherry in the house, I don’t know. Well, make yourself right at home, little lady, because none of us have enough daring to gaze into your bloody-looking eyes and challenge you.

Careful, she's an angry drunk.

John says that she reminds him of Kirsten Dunst’s character in Interview With a Vampire. So it’s Leia, Claudia and Renesmee. Her various names add up to Claureneia. That is what I will call her. It’s as appalling as she is.  (BTW. If you haven’t met Claurenia before, read this.)

He looks forward to a lifetime of streaking

File this under “What on earth was I thinking?”

A few days ago, sick of my clothes and wondering how a pair of black pants and a couple of sweaters can get up and walk away every winter, I decided to spend a Christmas gift certificate. Here was my mistake: I brought my 3 year old with me.

A minor stroke must have temporarily cut off circulation to the decision-making cortex of my brain. What else explains the thinking that bringing my son with me was a good idea? In my defense, it was pouring, we had nothing to do, and I felt like going shopping. I know?! Thank God I’m not a lawyer, right?

So off we went to Macy’s, where I promptly lost him in the racks of clothes, and began to panic when I couldn’t find him. I called out to him. Though I knew he couldn’t have gone far, there was no answer. Of course there wouldn’t be. You see, Z has an uncanny ability to ignore. He does it with such resolution and determination that you begin to doubt yourself. You think, Can’t you hear me? Didn’t I just say something? Well, maybe I didn’t, then.

If a tree fell in the forest, he would most certainly NOT hear it. Not if he didn’t want to. Even if he was standing right there.

Eventually I heard the thud-squeak of rain boots on linoleum and gathered him up. I found him holding the most hideous shirt ever, retrieved from the floor under a crowded. I’m sure it was hastily tossed down there as the last person who picked it up screamed out in horror. It looked like something he put together himself. He asked if I wanted it. He looked proud of picking it out. Of course I said yes. I was beginning to realize that shopping with him was a bad idea.

I figured the dressing room would be easier. I could corrall him in there and give him my phone to play with so I could try on a few things. Just a few. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes.

I tried on the ugly shirt first. I will say this to my son’s credit – he did not insist that I buy it. I have had this experience with my daughter. She once picked out a shirt for me to try on and was heartbroken when I said it was not my style. “Please stop crying, Honey,” I eventually said. “Actually, I think it is my style after all!” The glitter from that shirt still haunts my dresser.

I turned just for a second. It always starts that way, doesn’t it? The parents say “it was only a second” and something terrible happens. Thankfully, this wasn’t that terrible. It was embarrassing and now, kind of funny. So I turned back and before I could say “Why are you taking off your pullup?” the clothes and pullup were off.

At first it was funny. He just wanted to be naked and dance around to the dressing room music. When he dances he likes to wave his arms and shake his booty, sticking it out. The three-way mirrors gave him the ability to see that spectacle from all angles. That’s why they’re there, you know, so you can check out what your booty looks like. Smart boy.

Admittedly, it probably didn't help that I laughed and took his picture.

Then he decided to try on clothes, so he put on a red sweater and danced around in that for a few minutes. He clearly enjoyed the silky feel on his…well, let me just tell you that you might not want to try on any red sweaters on the sale racks at the Lloyd Center Macy’s.

And then he got bored of that and took off. Just opened the door and ran. Nude. Through Macy’s.

He timed it well, too. I was in the middle of changing and couldn’t go after him quickly. By the time I whipped on my clothes he was already being led back to the dressing room by a nice sales associate who had tears running down her face. I loved her. She anticipated my panic and called out to me that she had him before I even saw her. She didn’t make me feel bad about irresponsibly letting my kid run around naked. She was alert enough to see him, catch him, and prevent me from having to retrieve my naked kid from the security office where they would be calling child protective services on me.

I don’t even know if they get commission there, but I made sure to ring up my purchases with her – while CARRYING my now-clothed kid so he didn’t run off again.

The whole thing just makes me realize that I have a bit of an odd job, raising this kid who prefers to be nude. I’ll have to teach him how to do it in a fun-not-creepy way. I think we’ll look into colleges that have streaking traditions so that he has an outlet for his art.

Oy vey!

A story in 36 minutes

Last Tuesday I went to the Mini Sledgehammer writing contest at Blackbird Wine on Fremont. It’s a writing contest that is put on by Indigo Editing here in Portland. We are given four prompts and have 36 minutes to write a story. Normally the shop is quiet except for the clicking of keys and scratching of paper, and when all is done everyone reads their creations. This time around the place was too loud with a wine tasting event – the gall of those people to drink wine at a wine shop!  – and both reading and judging were delayed.

I just found out I won!  Here is the story:

Prompts: Writer, Moving in, Vet’s office, “out of nowhere came” 

Simon, Ariel and the Cat.

When Ariel moved in with Simon she expected that he would be an eccentric roommate. He was a freelance writer, working on his second novel.

He paid for his little house with the advance from his first book. Not long after he closed on the house and got his keys he realized that the royalty checks weren’t as big as he imagined they would be. He decided to get a roommate.

Being a bit disorganized, combined with his focus on writing rather than living, he didn’t manage to unpack until Ariel decided to agree to live in his extra bedroom. Actually, she took the master bedroom. A caveat of living with him was that she was allowed to assume the largest bedroom and the adjoining bathroom. A princess needed her privacy, you know. And she was willing to pay a little extra for the privilege.

So Ariel’s moving day was Simon’s moving day. She unpacked quickly and efficiently, knowing that she would need to put her prickling feet up later. Some days the pins-and-needles were bad. Today they were worse.  

When she finally took a moment to lay back on her freshly made bed with the seafoam green duvet, she closed her eyes and hummed a little tune she knew from her childhood. She started to think of her father and the song trailed off. 

“Don’t stop,” Simon said from the doorway. “You have a beautiful voice.”

Ariel smiled and touched the base of her throat, but didn’t continue singing.

“Do you need any help unpacking?” Simon asked.

“I’m done,” Ariel said in her prim, high pitched voice. She swung her legs, both at once, off the bed. “Do you need any help?”

“Uh, I don’t – well, sure,” Simon said.

They unpacked the kitchen together, starting by throwing away all the pizza boxes and takeout containers that had accumulated over the past several weeks.

Ariel had been right about his eccentricism. Simon only owned a few plates, all mismatched. He enthusiastically told her about each of their stories as she put them in the cupboard. All told it took over an hour to clean up the kitchen and put away four plates.

They had moved on to the pans, pots and griddles in a large box in the middle of the room.

“Do you actually use these?” Ariel asked him.

“I love to cook, when I’m not writing,” Simon said. “You?”

“I never really had to cook for myself.”

“Oh,” Simon said, not really knowing what to make of that comment. “What do you like to do when you’re not,” Simon paused there, because he didn’t know what Ariel actually did. “Uh, in your free time.”

“I used to like to sing, but I don’t really any more. And I like to swim.”

“Oh, that’s good,” said Simon. “I’m not really into working out. Why don’t you sing anymore?”

“I used to sing with my sisters,” Ariel said, “It’s not actually much fun without them. And Eric got sick of it after a while.”

“That’s your ex?” Simon asked. He and Ariel had met through a mutual friend and had only met once before becoming roommates. They didn’t know a lot about each other.

“Yes,” Ariel said. “He turned out to be…not what I imagined.”

“I was married once, too,” Simon said. “She was a bitch.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ariel said. She turned prim again, uncomfortable with revealing her background. Out of nowhere came a cat that leapt up on the counter and stared at Ariel. “What’s that?” she said, startled. She was staring at the black and white cat, sitting on the counter.

“That’s Princess, my cat,” Simon said.

Ariel glared at the cat, who was still staring at Ariel, switching her tail back and forth, back and forth. The cat batted Simon’s arm away when he came toward her.

He held his arm and drew in a breath. “Damn! She is usually really sweet,” Simon said. She hissed at Ariel. “I’ve only ever seen her attack a goldfish. I don’t know what’s going on.”

A few minutes later, as they were waiting with the cat in the vet’s office, Simon said, “I don’t see why you had to hit her with a pan!”

“I’m sorry,” Ariel said, hoping she wouldn’t have to find a new place to live. “Cat’s just really freak me out.”

She peered down at the cat in the box on Simon’s lap. The cat stared back. Ariel considered it a victory that the cat looked away first.

[I’m taking the liberty of adding that last sentence now. I ran out of time to write it into my official entry, but I like it better now.]

The Demon from The Dead Zone

I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our family.

Looking coy in full regalia.

Fancy, no? Just don’t look directly into her eyes, for she will steal your soul.

This Christmas, my M-I-L gave my daughter a very questionable doll. With a back story.

Apparently the MIL was in the elevator of her retirement/assisted living community, when a woman walked in with a large doll. She was taking the doll down to The Treasure Chest – the building’s equivalent of Goodwill. My husband and I call the shop The Dead Zone. It’s located in an assisted living building, so do I need to explain why? Plus, we’re thoughtful like that.

So the MIL fell in love with the doll and stopped the woman from going down to The Dead Zone with it. She bought it right then and there in the elevator. Yes, you read that right. She bought a doll that a woman was about to give away for free.

I actually apologized to the doll as I re-created this scene.

The MIL wrapped her in a body bag trash bag and there she waited for Christmas.

I’m sure she was pissed.

My daughter opened her up Christmas morning and was thrilled. I kept watching her to see if she was being serious. Either she was serious or we need to get her in front of some casting directors, pronto.

My daughter was amazed at this pint-sized beauty with white-blonde locks. I think she was envious of the dress, since she had asked for a similar one, but pink. Santa failed to provide an adequately fancy pouf. Her acting wasn’t quite as good in that scene.

Anyway, I kept looking to see if she noticed the eyes. I was worried. Those eyes are the stuff of nightmares, and my daughter is prone to nightmares. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

I noticed. Want to see why?

You will do my bidding. Now, bring me a snifter of sherry.

You can’t look away, can you? It’s because she’s not done hypnotizing you. When she is done you will become one of her minions.

Stella named her Leah. I think the name stemmed from a girl in her school, sadly, not the bun-helmeted Star Wars princess.

But I know who she really is. More back story: A while ago, when I was in an apparent self-flagellation period, I read the Twilight series. In case you have maintained your dignity and don’t know much about the books, I’ll tell you the only significant part. In the last book of the series, a vampire and a human have a baby. A fast-growing, ultra-intelligent, vampy baby. It took four books for the author to get there.

So now, for some reason, Renesmee has come to stay at my house. It’s such an awful hiss of a name. It’s as if Stephanie Meyer turned off the sound when Cedric Diggory was talking and tried to read his lips. I think we’ll stick with Leah.

For days I’ve tried to find a pedophilic werewolf to take care of the demon doll. It may take a while, so in the mean time I’ll try not to give my daughter nightmares by referring to her as the demon doll.

And I will try not to piss off Renes- er, Leah, because those hard porcelain limbs could probably overcome my supple human flesh pretty easily.

She likes cats. She killed and stuffed these herself.

P.S. I just thought of a reason why someone might make this doll. Perhaps someone was obsessed with Toddlers and Tiaras. Let’s weigh the pros and cons, shall we?

PROS: She is less stiff than many of the contestants. Her makeup is already done in the very adult style they seem to like. The dress is perfect. Her talent is hypnosis, so she would hold tremendous sway over the judges.

CONS: She needs more makeup. She would scare the crap out of the other contestants, who wouldn’t then compete, and where is the competition in that?

Pink hair and the "chubby" insult

Six years ago my husband and I went to the ultrasound appointment where we would learn our baby’s gender. I was 20 weeks pregnant with my first child,

“I don’t care if it’s a boy or girl, as long as the baby is healthy,” I said, not for the first time, on the way there. I didn’t realize I was lying until we saw that we were having a girl.

I know that this is a controversial and awful statement. Hear me out.

The first picture of our little girl.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want a girl – most of me really did mean it when I said I don’t care about the gender. And now I can’t imagine life without this amazing kid and I am the better for her. But back then the idea of a girl seemed so much more difficult. I should have been thinking of the fun of dressing up, the inherent gentleness, the tendency toward cleanliness and fewer broken bones that comes with girls. Instead, the angst of my own teenage years (and, I’ll admit, the majority of my 20s) flashed to the foreground of my mind. Body image issues. Unworthy boyfriends. Mean girls. Break ups. Tears. Questionable fashion choices.

I took a deep breath and told myself to take it one day at a time. She was healthy. Plus, she hadn’t even been born yet! All of this was so far in the future that it was ridiculous to think about it. That would happen when she was a teenager!

(Tires screech. Needle scratches on a record.)

It happened last week. WHEN SHE WAS 5!!

We were at her boyfriend’s house. Yes, she refers to him as her boyfriend. No, she doesn’t mean it in any other way except that he’s a boy and he’s her friend. The kids were playing downstairs, parents were having a beer upstairs, and all was right in the world. Until my beautiful daughter stormed upstairs and sulked on the couch. Like a teenager.

“What’s wrong, Honey?” we asked.

“They’re being mean. They said I was chubby,” she said.

The two offenders, including my 3 year old, came into the room. When confronted, her boyfriend said, “yeah, I called her chubby.” And it was with venom and the knowledge and the intent of being hurtful.
Every adult was silent in the room for a beat. I was surprised that they all didn’t hear my heart break.

This was not supposed to happen at 5. This is not something kids this age should even know is a hurtful thing to say. And this is coming from a good kid. I know him and his parents. He’s raised to be respectful and kind. And it still happened. I had to remind myself that it was not okay to punch a 5 year-old in the pie hole.

We parents sprang to action after that, and I feel appropriate measures were taken. Boyfriend and Younger Brother were given a talking-to. Stella was given a pep-talk and hugs.

That words associated with weight have become insults thrown around by young children is one of those troubling things that I feel stymied by: this is how people are, they come in all shapes and sizes and we do not make fun of any of them. But if they open their eyes and ears as they move through the world around them, they see negative images and words about overweight people. Do as I say, not as the world around you does. How do I effectively combat this? Particularly when it comes to her own self-image?

Until we could talk on our own, I used the reassure and distract method. I told her that she wasn’t chubby and everyone made up by putting pink stripes in their hair.

As the kids were getting ready for bed that night, I asked my daughter if she was feeling okay after getting teased earlier.
“What?” she said, having already forgotten about the incident.
I should have known that my strong and strangely mature daughter would not let this be more than a blip of an incident in her big life. Still, now I was in a dilemma. Was it better to let it go? Or better to bring it up so that I can make sure it was properly, adequately addressed? I went with the latter.
“You know those are just words, right?” I asked. She nodded. “Sometimes people say things just to be mean and we have to remember that they are just words.”

“Why do they do that?”

“I don’t know, Honey,” I said. And then I had to ask, because I wanted to know if it was getting under her skin the way it was getting under mine, “do you think you’re chubby?”

“No,” she said, “I’m just right.”

“Yes, you are,” I agreed. “And I am. And daddy is.”

“But not Zachy. He’s too skinny,” she said. At least we’re part way there. We talked more about how unique each of us are, and that we all have things that make us special, and you know what? Sometimes people suck, too, when they’re mean.

Even though I can’t stop thinking of this a week later, I’m kind of glad it happened. Partly because we got both the first body image insult and the first questionable hairstyle out of the way in one evening. It also reminded me that we are both equipped to handle those angsty years that I dreaded as I saw my baby for the first time in that ultrasound. Even if they have already started. We just need to take them one day at a time. Pink hair and all.