Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What the Heck Kind of Punishment Is That?

I'm listening to Rosie being interviewed on a podcast: http://littlehousemothering.com/index.php/2015/07/19/stylin-motherhood/ She mentioned that the twins (Elizabeth and Mary Claire, currently about 2 1/2) recently were sent to their room as a punishment and started taking everything out of their dresser and closet, throwing it on the floor. As a punishment for that, their dresser was taken away. "You don't get a dresser any more? Who punishes their child like that?" Rosie asked, almost in despair.

Ohhhh, do I sympathize with that! Once I was so mad at my kids that I threatened them with a bath. Then I realized that that was not a punishment, but I had to keep my face in punishment mode. Fortunately, that threat worked. Whew! If it hadn't, I would have had to administer a bath as punishment, and that would have tainted baths forever!

In any case, once I took practically everything in Paddy and Peggy's room away. I had to make the punishment fit the crime, and the crime was—

<record needle screeches>

Well, let's back up. From 1984 to 1987, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in what was then Merrifield Gardens. (It's now called Merrifield at Dunn Loring Station, but Metro didn't come there until 1986.) Patrick and Meg shared a room. When Rosie was born, she had a crib in the den, which had no door and was not counted as a bedroom.

One lovely summer weekend day in 1985, I was in my (our) bedroom talking to my mother on the phone, and it was going well. That was so unusual that I was willing to let the phone call go on longer than usual even though I heard an ominous silence in the background. Jonathan would take care of everything, right? Right . . . ? That silence was still going on when I got off the phone, and I rushed to the kids' room.

The kids had taken everything out of their closet and thrown it on the floor. They had taken everything off their beds. They had actually pushed a hole into the edge of the windowscreen and

they had thrown most of their toys and clothing out of the window.

You think that isn't a problem? We lived on the second floor.


They had thrown just about all their stuff outside. All that was left inside was a mattress and pillow for each child; those clearly didn't fit the hole in the screen. Jonathan and I had already noticed that stuff that was left outside (like Paddy's bike) managed to walk away.

So these two kids, aged almost-four and almost-two, were bored and found a novel way to entertain themselves. After they finished, they had the feeling that they had not done a good thing, but they didn't know how to get out of it. So they were just standing in their room staring at the lack of stuff and looking stunned.

It was hilarious! But a parent can never admit that an infraction of this sort is funny. So first I had to squash any hint of a smile, and then I had to speak sternly to the kids. They completely understood that they had done something bad; they were just wondering what the consequences would be. I was kind of wondering that, too. While I thought about it, I got their daddy to go and get all the stuff they had pretty much given to the neighborhood.

I finally decided that their punishment was to have nothing in their room for a week except what they had left in it. They were greatly relieved that nothing worse was happening to them. Gradually, I gave them back their bedding, toys, and clothes. It was summer, after all, and they weren't cold enough to need any blankets.

So I completely understand why Rosie took away her twins' chest of drawers. When they are old enough not to be tempted to do it again, maybe they will read this story. Then they can tease their Uncle Paddy and Aunt Sister about it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Two July 14ths

There are at least two family stories about the fourteenth of July. Let's have the funny one first, shall we? Well, anyway, I think it's funny.

I learned the Marseillaise in French class. Eighth grade, I think it was. It is such a stirring song that I still enjoy singing it, probably because I've never been forced to do so. Here's my favorite rendition. It doesn't start out as the Marseillaise, so wait for it.


I learned the first two verses. Well, sort of. I don't remember all the words right, and sometimes I loop between verses. Eh.

It really sticks in my head, so much that when I tell my kids that we're going, I say, "Allons, enfants." Even Timmy knows what I mean, and he doesn't speak French. It faintly amuses me every time I say it, because I know I'm not calling them to battle; I'm probably just telling them we're going to the checkout counter.

So that's the first. The second is about July 14, 1986; I remember because it was Bastille Day. I'll probably never forget that awful day.

Rosie was 2 1/2 months old, and I'd been back at work for a few weeks. It was always hard for me to go back to work; I never got to stay with my babies as long as I wanted. I nursed them as long as I could, which wasn't very long for any of them—maybe seven months at the most. There weren't any nursing lounges or effective breast pumps back then. In fact, my company (which had awfully good benefits in most areas) didn't even provide maternity leave; that came after I'd finished having babies. I had to use my accrued sick leave and then accrued vacation, and then the company would allow new mothers to go in the hole for some length of time I've forgotten. What with kids getting sick, my sick days, and doctors' visits, it took me so long to get out of that hole that I didn't have an actual vacation until 1990, when Timmy was two. That one was a staycation. We painted the outside of the house.

Anyway. On July 14, 1986, I had forgotten to bring my cooler with empty baby bottles and ice packs. That was how I pumped milk—by hand into baby bottles, which I kept cool until I got to my home fridge. Without it . . .

Oh, wait. This is a family blog, right? So if you're embarrassed by breastfeeding, stop reading.

You aren't embarrassed? Okay, let's go on.

Without that cooler and pumping my milk, my breasts got really engorged. Painfully engorged. And I couldn't bear to pump milk into the toilet or something. I never had more milk than I needed, and I desperately wanted to give my babies my milk and feel that even though I wasn't home with them, I was at least doing what I could to help them be healthy. Remember, I was postpartum, and my hormones were still going crazy.

So I called my husband. (Probably only my family is reading this. Let's call him Daddy.) He was staying home with our children as usual. This was when he was at nursing school at Georgetown, but maybe he had no classes that day? I don't remember. Anyway, at lunch Daddy packed our three kids up and brought them to BNA with my precious cooler, bottles, and ice pack.

July in DC can be hideously hot, and July 14, 1986, was just about the hottest day of the year. Rosie couldn't stay in the heat for long; she was just a newborn, and she wasn't used to the horrible heat. Daddy brought the kids inside and told the security guard at the front desk that he was there to see me. Rosie's skin was still kind of mottled from the heat, and I think she'd been crying.

Of course as soon as she saw or smelled me, she wanted to nurse. Daddy had probably given her some formula, but she wanted her mama. I couldn't refuse her that. Anyway, it was my lunchtime, so I had time.

But it was noonish, so it was the hottest part of the day. I think the AC didn't work in the car; anyway, for some reason, that wasn't a good spot to nurse Rosie. I didn't have an office, and the older kids would have been disruptive at work anyway. I was not going to nurse her outside; she would have thrown up. I considered the bathroom, away from people, but, well, would you eat in a bathroom?

So I nursed her in the lobby, with everybody passing and complimenting me on the lovely baby. I positioned my clothing so that many people didn't even know I was nursing. But I still felt the need to tell my boss so that if anybody got mad, she would have heard it from me first.

She exploded. She said my children were never allowed on BNA property again. I worried that she might find a way to fire me from this job that I didn't much like but that fed my family. Within a year (I don't remember when) I found another job within the company, to my great relief.

Poor thing, I feel sorry for her now. She was painfully thin, her face was always squinched up in some kind of displeasure, and I don't remember that she ever laughed. From what I could tell, her marriage was not happy. She volunteered at St. Ann's, a home for orphan babies, and I suspected that she was having trouble having her own baby. Later I found out that was true. So it must have hurt her to imagine me with three young children, one of them still nursing.

Anyway, that's my Bastille Day. What's yours?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"I Didn't" [insert word here]

Rosie's blog posts often remind me of stuff my own children did. I think, "Oh, I should blog that." But then I don't have enough material for a whole post, and I don't.

Well, phooey on that. I should just blog whenever I think of something, right? Otherwise, these priceless pearls of—um—history would go unblogged. And they might be lost! Forever lost in the mists of antiquity!

So this may be the first really short blog post about just one thing. And I doubt it will have a picture. Contain your disappointment.

Mary Claire is following in Patrick's footsteps when she makes up a word or claims that she didn't do whatever her mom is telling her not to do. Patrick used to throw things when that was not the best idea. I told him, "Patrick, don't throw things."

But of course he hadn't been doing what he wasn't supposed to do! His response was generally, "I didn't throw it! I tossed it!"

Yeah, right, kid. Throwing, tossing, what's the difference? Well, one was apparently allowed and the other wasn't. But it was only after I told him not to toss things that he would stop.

. . . Sometimes. Because, of course, he wanted to do what he wanted to do, and he didn't want to be caught at it. He actually admitted that once. I saw him doing something against the rules, and he exclaimed piteously, "But you weren't supposed to see!"