Cute Zoe Things

My goodness, it’s difficult to list them all, as usual.

Today, she asked to have a necklace put on.  Once it was on, she informed me that she was sixteen years old, and not a child.  I believe it’s a line from The Little Mermaid.  Boy, am I in trouble.

A few weeks ago, she saw me putting on make-up in the car.  (I wasn’t driving.)  She asked what I was doing and I told her.  When I was finished, I said, “There.  Do I look pretty?” and she said, “No, do some more!”

She climbed to the top of the playground this week at preschool and then announced “I did it!”  She looked extremely thrilled with herself.

She has become even more huggy and kissy lately.  She even demands “smishing,” which is what I call it when I kiss and tickle her all over.  And she continues to play with my hair and tell me I’m byoo-a-ful and soooo pretty.  She did that to her buddy the other day, too.

When she put on her outfit for Rosh Hashannah services, she declared that she looked “byoo-a-ful” and also said, “I’m cuuuuute.”

I wrote about this on Twitter, but a couple of weeks ago we were watching the Daily Show and Bill Clinton came on.  I told her Bill Clinton used to be president, just like Barack Obama is now president.  She said, “President?  Oh.  I be president.”  I said, “You’re going to be president?” and she gave that firm nod and said, “Yeah.”

Yesterday when she woke up from her in-car nap she said, “I’m a princess.”

She likes to explain the plot of Sleeping Beauty to anyone who will listen, going into detail about the “evil witch” and the “fairies” and “killed the princess” and “Prince Phillip.”

She also sings more and more.  Her favorites right now are “Out There” from Hunchback of Notre Dame (with which she is obsessed) and the two songs from Sleeping Beauty – “I Know You” and the sort of “Hail to the Princess” song they sing in the beginning.  Only she changes the words to that one a lot.  She might hail characters in the movie, like Aurora (the princess, but she prefers to use her Christian name) or the fairies, or sometimes she just likes to hail the woman, and sometimes Mommy and Daddy get hailed, too.

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Car Seats and Community

Two incidents have happened lately to make me question the wisdom of the car seat.  I know, radical of me.  And in general, obviously, I want my child – and all children – to be safe in cars.  Although it occurs to me that at a certain age, they’d probably fine in a regular seat in all but the most dire of car crashes, and the most dire of car crashes can have totally unpredictable and uneven results.  Like, what if you’re in such a horrific car crash that you die instant on impact, but your child survives in his/her supersafe carseat – only to have to burn alive in the horrible fire that takes your car in the next instant?  Is that really better?  I know that’s horrible and grizzly, but it’s what thinking about car seats leads to.

Anyway, last week, I stopped by a friend’s house with Zoe to drop something off and socialize a bit.  She has two kids, who are two and four, and on that day, she was also watching her 5(?)-month-old niece, something she does regularly.  She doesn’t have a car seat for the niece, and also the niece is on a fairly rigid schedule, so she can’t go out when she has her, which makes her own kids (and her, probably) a little stir-crazy.  So as I was leaving, to go to the grocery store, the four-year-old asked to come with me.  Now, I would have taken her in a heartbeat.  She’s an enjoyable and well-behaved kid, my kid worships her, and even if neither of those things were true, it’s a trip to the grocery store and the opportunity to give another mom one less kid to worry about for an hour.  But.  No car seat.  So no trip.

This week, my mother-in-law ended up having a mom and three-and-a-half-year-old kid stuck at her house without transport.  My mother-in-law would have given them a ride home, obviously.  But.  No car seat.  So the pair walked home, quite a distance, along a busy road that doesn’t have consistent sidewalks.  Which is obviously safer than a three-year-old child just being strapped in the back.

And leaving aside the “I rode in the regular old front seat of the car when I was four and I’m fine” theme, this to me is one of the examples of perhaps overweaning safety concerns eroding the ability to create community, to encourage people to do favors for others, to make the lives of families just plain easier and more pleasant.  So what do I want to do about it?  Not eradicate car seats, surely?!  Well, no.  Not exactly.  Although I do think that we keep them in car seats for too long.  I had two kids in my Hebrew School class who were in fourth grade and still in boosters.  Granted, they were small, but seriously.  But especially for the 0-2 or 3 set, I do think one needs something other than the regular car seat.  But couldn’t we treat them as guidelines instead of etched-in-stone rules after the age of, say, three?  Like, when faced with the choice between walking three miles with a preschooler on a busy road with sparse sidewalks, or riding in the very safe car of a reasonable driver without the added protection of a car seat, shouldn’t that mom be able to say, “You know, I think driving will be safer,” rather than, “CAR SEAT CAR SEAT CAR SEAT.”?

Or couldn’t we put in better sidewalks and more public transporation in suburbs?  PLEASE?  There are kids in my neighborhood who take a bus home from a school about a mile away.  Because of the chosen route, the bus ride takes sometimes forty-five minutes, even an hour.  To go a mile.  But there are not adequate sidewalks between here and there.  So a bus it must be.

Or couldn’t we do something about car seats to make them easier to use?  Like, obviously, if my friend’s four-year-old’s booster seat was easy to pop in and out of a car, then we could have done that in two seconds and I could have taken her kid to the grocery store.  Also, there was a chapter in Superfreakonomics that I found especially intriguing.  They write about how the system we have for car seats – in which one of several companies make the car, and one of several other companies make the car seat, and parents have to figure out how to make the two connect safely – is ridiculous.  In point of  fact, it would make a lot more sense for cars themselves to make things that would be safe for children.  For instance, they could produce their own infant seats that fit nicely into their own backseats, and then they could have conversion kits for every seat in the back so that a child of any size would be comfortable and safe in it.  Like, cushions could pop out to reveal five-point seat belts, and regular seat belts could be made adjustable to different heights.  But of course car companies don’t want the liability, which is its own ridiculousness.

This to me is just one example of over-legislation and hypervigilance destroying that which makes having a family – that which makes life, really – pleasant: community, kindness, agency.  And the brunt of it is born by parents, and really, the brunt is born by mothers.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

(The title of this entry is a reference to the contest my dad and his girlfriend are having regarding the popularity of David Bowie.  This may sound like nothing to you, but, if my Dad is competitive, his girlfriend is supremely so.  It’s why she fits in so well with my family.  And that will be the most light-hearted moment in this post.)

My great-aunt Mary died last week.  I can’t say I’m sad, exactly, because she has wanted this for a long time, and it just feels like her body finally cooperated with that wish.  So good for her, I guess.

My great-aunt lived for her entire adult life with her two sisters, Filomena (whom we called Aunt Phil) and Jessie.  Aunt Phil used to pick me up after school sometimes – always with either a Butterscotch Krimpet or a Kandy Kake from Tastykake – and then she and Aunt Mary would take me to Bowcraft Amusement Park in Scotch Plains, or the Pearl art supply store by them, where we’d buy something for me to create at their house.  One time, after I had taken a Home Ec class, I had them help me make the minestrone soup we’d made in class, and they showed me how they made fried potatoes.  And very frequently we would watch the talk shows that came on in the afternoon, and if I stayed late, we watched whatever sitcoms on – I particularly remember watching a lot of “Roseanne” and some “Coach” with them.

Aunt Mary was frequently working – even when I was a kid, and she was well into her sixties, she was still waitressing, which was just one of the jobs she held down during her younger days.

I didn’t find out until after Aunt Phil’s death, when I was fifteen, that she and Aunt Mary were taking care of Aunt Jessie because Aunt Jessie was mentally challenged.  “What did you think was the matter with her?” my mother asked when I expressed shock at what was, to me, a revelation.  “I thought she was an old lady!” I replied.

Aunt Jessie died when I was in college.  Now Aunt Mary is gone.  There is so much to say about Aunt Mary, but other people (namely, my sister) have said it better.  I am going to focus on me, me, me instead and say that it feels like a huge chunk of my childhood is gone.

Added to that, my grandfather is selling his house.  It’s a good thing, I’m sure.  I think they have it worked out so that my grandfather will move into my father’s house and my father will move in with his girlfriend.  My grandfather will be closer and more convenient to both of his sons, to a lot of his friends, etc., etc., etc.  Certain issues will no longer be his concern because my father lives in a town house, so someone else shovels snow and rakes leaves, and the building is fairly new and in good shape.  And I was wondering myself how he could stand to stay in that house without my grandmother there.  But this is about me, me, me, right?  That house has been a constant for me.  They moved there in the early sixties.  All of my early Jewish holidays were spent there.  A lot of my weekends were spent there.  When Lauren and I got too big to share the twin bed in the guest room (which had formerly been either my uncle’s or my father’s room; I don’t remember), my grandmother put two twins in the attic and made up a little room for us.  They didn’t have central air, so we learned how an open window and attic fan can feel even more pleasant.  Another chunk of my childhood is gone.

And this is on top of losing my stepfather, who is more than a mere chunk of my childhood.  But never mind.  We’ve already written about that.

And Zoe is finally weaned.  We decided that me going by myself to NJ for Aunt Mary’s funeral would be the breaking point.  It’s gone okay, really.  Except the other morning when she was barely awake at 4:30, crying out, “Mommy said ‘No.'”  I feel so guilty.  I wanted this; I know I wanted this.  I more or less hated breastfeeding.  But she loved it so much!  What kind of a shitty mother am I to take it away from her?

So this is all too much for me (me, me, me).  I think I’d like to take a nap.  For about a week.