1. I feel the need to start negative. I know most of you reading this want to know all the good stuff about Zoe, because you love her and/or because you like hearing cute-kid stories. But sometimes I think mothers don’t share enough of this stuff with each other, so that when we experience it, it feels like we’re experiencing it alone. And that’s definitely how I felt one Friday when I was Shabbat Mom at her preschool.
I already feel like a kind of incompetent mother there. We started last year, and I was absolutely convinced that she would be fine in the Me Alone classes, because we’d been going to this place where the parents stay in the building but not in the room, and she had been fine from the first day I took her there. Just ran into the room and started playing without even looking over her shoulder at me. So I thought we’d be fine.
We were not fine. They had to call me to come pick her up after about forty-five minutes the first day because she just did not stop. The same thing happened the second day. I enrolled her in the Transitions class.
I should have realized that she wouldn’t be fine. The weekend before school started, Zoe was abruptly weaned when my great-aunt died and we decided my going to NJ alone for the funeral would be the end of the seemingly endless breastfeeding.
In the Transitions class, parents were supposed to stay for a number of weeks but basically be out of the classroom by the end of October, depending on their kid’s ability to withstand the loss of their parent/caretaker.
I had to stay in until January. I was the only parent not to leave on schedule. I became, in effect, an assistant teacher.
But once I was gone, she was fine. Just fine. She loved her teachers, she played okay with the other kids. It was great.
Camp was a little bit more of a struggle, and that has continued into this year.
One Wednesday, they had their Purim event, which the parents were supposed to attend. It started an hour after preschool started. The minute I came back to the classroom, Zoe started crying and reaching for me. The kids were supposed to perform some Purim songs for the parents but Zoe wouldn’t leave my lap. I decided to just go home; it was pointless trying to stay.
The next session was the Friday on which I was Shabbat Mom. We went to a Shabbat Sing, in which all the classes join together to sing Shabbat songs, and then any and all Shabbat Parents light candles with their kids in front of the group and all.
Zoe would not sit still during Shabbat Sing. She would not sit in my lap; she would not sit with the other kids. She wanted to run around the little library where this song session was being conducted. I had to take her out of the room. More than once. Then we were called back in to do the candles and things and she threw herself on the floor and refused to do it. Then her teacher had to practically carry her back to class.
I felt pretty awful about the whole thing, actually. I felt like I was failing in some fundamental way as a mother because Zoe wouldn’t do what all the other kids were doing, and because I obviously had no power to make her do anything. I felt embarrassed and angry at her for embarrassing me and then angry at myself for being embarrassed and angry with her for embarrassing me when it shouldn’t be her primary job to be a credit to me.
Anyway, on to the good stuff.
2. We were at this play structure at the mall and this little boy approached her. He said he was four. For reasons I don’t fully understand but which must have something to do with child development, Zoe took huge offense to this. “I’m not four, I’m three!” she kept insisting, belligerently. The boy tried to explain that he wasn’t saying she was four, he was saying he was four. Zoe was having none of it. I tried to intervene by, basically, repeating what the boy said about him not declaring anything about her age, and then asked if she would like to play with the little boy. “No, I don’t,” she said, with force, and then threw herself on the ground.
3. She delivers every sentence like she’s trying out for a soap opera. We went to the mall with her grandmother. At first she was holding her grandma’s hand but then she switched to my hand. “I don’t want to lose you,” she said. “You won’t lose me,” I said. “I will never lose you, never, ever!” she replied, throwing her arms around me. But really just about any time she’s speaking, she’s being dramatic.
4. She likes to announce when she’s throwing a “temper tantrum” or a “temper fit.” The latter phrase she got from Eloise.
5. Lately she’s been extremely cuddly and affectionate, even more so than is usual for her, which is a lot, and it’s awesome. She also compliments me the same way I compliment her, by telling me she loves me so much, and, lately, I’m her “best friend,” which I think she’s mostly getting from watching “My Little Pony,” and that I’m so pretty or wonderful or whatever. But my favorite is when she clearly knows that something is a nice thing to say, but she doesn’t know what it really means. So for instance, she told me I had very “clever” hair. (I assure you, even if such a term made sense in, say, high fashion journalism, I would still not have “clever hair.”) And, I’m always telling her I am the luckiest mommy in the world, so she has been grabbing my cheeks and cooing, “You are so lucky and gorgeous!”
6. She also uses “dramatic” as interchangeable with just about any other word. “That’s so dramatic!” can be claimed of just about anything – an outfit, a cookie, a smile.
7. She does know what “frustrated” means and uses that word accurately.
8. Of course, with the affection is the need to explain to her that you don’t give your mommy open-mouthed kisses. Even if you are pretending she’s your wife. Even if that is how they kiss on “Glee.”
9. Also she still puts her hands down my shirt, especially when she’s upset or tired. When I tell her to stop touching my breasts, she says, “But I need to touch your breasts to make me feel better.” If there’s a next kid, I don’t think s/he’s getting breastfed at all.
10. She has started posing for pictures.
11. Best way to tell her her outfit is a good one? Tell her it’s something Aunt Kate would like. Better yet? Tell her it’s something Aunt Kate would wear.
12. Her play has gotten more sophisticated. By herself she imagines complicated scenarios and acts them out with an invisible cast, who she sometimes chastises and sometimes lavishes with compliments. With me, she wants to take her figurines, especially her My Little Pony figurines, and have them enact story lines.
13. Oh, and somewhere, she learned Rock Paper Scissors. She loves it.
14. She loves dancing more and more. I really need to get her into classes.
15. She asks you to sit near her so you can “talk about something.” Then she issues an invitation: “What should we talk about?” Then she suggests a topic. “Let’s talk about whales.” You say, “Okay, let’s talk about whales.” She says, “What color are whales?” You say, “I don’t know, what color are whales?” She says, “There’s yellow. . . and red . . . and green . . . and blue . . . and that’s all the colors of whales.” You say, “Which is your favorite color of whale?” She says, “Yellow. Do you like yellow whales?” “Yeah, I like yellow whales,” you say. She says, “Are they your favorite?” “No, I don’t think yellow whales are my favorite.” “Which are your favorite?” “I like white whales. Like the beluga whales at the aquarium.” She doesn’t like that answer. “I don’t like white whales. I like blue whales. Do you like blue whales?” “Yeah, I like blue whales.” “Me, too. We like blue whales together!” She grins and pats your face. “What about dolphins?” And on like that.
16. She really likes to sing along to the radio with me.
17. We’ve had to get very careful about rules and choices for her. For instance, let’s say she’s looking about for food. I want her to eat something healthy, like an apple. I offer her the apple. She says she doesn’t want an apple, she wants candy. I say she can only have candy after eating something healthy, like an apple or a cheese stick. Now, if she’s in a good mood, she’ll choose one, usually the cheese stick, with happy anticipation of the candy to follow. But if she’s not in a good mood or is not really all that hungry, she’ll throw herself to the ground and cry, “Then I’m never eating anything! No, nothing! Not ever! Never ever ever!”
18. You know, this is for posterity, and I put stuff up on Facebook, but I should repeat it here. But most of you reading this also read my Facebook feed. So you can skip this item but I’m going to reprint them so that we have them forever.
She claimed she was going to China. I asked what she was going to see in China. She said, “Beautiful snow, good flowers, good-looking chicks . . .”
Zoe: Why don’t I have a penis?
Me: Because you’re a girl.
Zoe: Why am I a girl?
Me: Because you don’t have a penis.
Zoe: Why don’t I have a penis?
Me: Because you’re a girl. It’s kind of a tautology thing, know what I mean?
Zoe: (giggles) We’re being silly together!
I am Zoe’s best girlfriend because I know which one Fluttershy is and how to make her voice. Zoe is my best girlfriend because when I bring home new shoes for myself, she gets as excited as me, pull them out of the bag, and pronounces them “awesome” and “amazing.”
She got really into Clueless for a little while there. Especially the scene where Cher is internal-monologuing about high school boys and then pushing one off of her? Zoe calls it “the movie with the yellow girl who says, ‘Uch, as if!'”
Oh, yeah, she cut her hair herself. She didn’t do too bad a job. We took her to the kiddie salon to “fix” it, but I don’t think they did any better than she did.
I don’t know, people, I’m losing track. Especially since I’m so used to her constant performances, I forget some stuff. So if you have witnessed her being especially cute, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will include your stories and comments in the next Zoe po