So angry I could…

The parenting issue that has given me the most grief so far is that my precocious, sweet, active little girl is.

A biter.

There. I said it. I know, I know, it’s normal, age appropriate. Oh for f*ckssake. I just got another incident report from daycare while I was typing that.

At first I thought “not my daughter! How could this be?!?” She doesn’t bite at home, and, being the first born, doesn’t have anyone *to* bite anyway. She is not aggressive, she is highly verbal & communicative, and at home, when she asks for something she can’t have, she tends to work out her anger & frustration through fist-pounding tantrums & the accompanying wailing.

So it was totally mystifying to us to hear that she’s been biting. Repeatedly. So much that I’ve had to leave work to retrieve her from daycare because she’s been released. Repeatedly. Like 2-3 times a week.

It’s usually the same. Right before a nap (read: tired), wanting a toy, she lunges out & Mike Tyson’s someone. Okay. It’s not thaaaaat bad (I hope) but still.

At first, I would get to daycare all concerned – is the other child ok?? I’m SO sorry (and embarassed). They would say she’s fine, the other child is fine, and you don’t need to apologize. When it kept happening, I turned to the trusty interwebz and found it’s totally normal, not to worry. When we saw the pediatrician for her 15 month checkup she told us the same thing. Still, it kept happening. I wasn’t worried about it as a behavior anymore, just what it was doing to my good standing at work to be ducking out all the time. I can’t overemphasize how big of a pain in the ass this is. For weeks now, I’ve had to tell my boss ‘so sorry!! Gotta get her. Again.’ I’ve missed more work than I am capable of calculating.

As the weeks wore on, daycare no longer would say “no need to apologize!” It turned into more of an exasperated we need *you* to take steps to address this okay? attitude.

What am I to do? I have said to my friends & family, why should I have to apologize to daycare for completely normal, age-appropriate behavior?! I’m not here when it happens. I’m not the one watching her at those moments. I’m not going to preemptively drug my kid with Tylenol because ‘maybe she’s teething?’ Yeah. Right. Because pretending teething is the cause is going to help correct a behavioral issue. I understand that there are expectations on how she is to behave. And there are rules she must follow. And that you need to be able to protect the kids here from being hurt.

But I am paying you, daycare, to meet your responsibilities too. To take care of her, which doesn’t just mean keeping her from eating glass & running into traffic. It means helping her to understand boundaries, and learning what is expected of her. Is she just supposed to automatically know? It means teaching her what she can do *instead* of biting. Y’know, like “NO biting. Let’s try ‘F*CK OFF YOU DILLWEED! Or can you say ‘NUT UP OR SHUT UP YOU SISSY ASS?'” It also means getting to know her, taking the time to be patient with her most exasperating toddler behaviors, and, knowing that her toddler behavior includes biting, so knowing that it’s important that you take the time to keep a close eye on her when she is tired & frustrated so that you can proactively intervene and prevent the bad behavior. Look, I know there’s 8 other kids. But you claim that part of the problem is that her behavior is a danger to those 8 other kids, so how about investing that little bit of extra attention her way at those times?

I’ve tried to be patient with daycare. I’ve tried to be both non-apologetic and empathetic towards the perspective of the other kids’ parents. In fact, just yesterday my friend’s Facebook status was all about how upset she was that her daughter had been hurt by another child at daycare, and I was just far too ashamed to weigh in amidst the “WHAT THE F*CK? Bullies CANNOT be tolerated” bullsh*t. At this age, we aren’t talking about “bullies.” We’re talking about children who are too young to be able to communicate effectively, who don’t yet know how to share, and who are headstrong and bent on getting their way, come hell or high water.

But today was the bombshell that “I’m just going to be honest. Lots of parents are very upset…” So here’s where we got handed the bottom line: if she doesn’t stop biting in 2 weeks, she’s getting kicked out. I still am reeling.

How is this even? WHAT THE F*CK?! Other parents are upset? OTHERS? Newsflash to them: cause it’s a total joyride to feel like you are totally trying work’s last reserves of patience to be having to leave all the time with no notice to meet the 30-minute pickup deadline. It’s not at all frustrating to feel like I’ve little to no control over my otherwise decently-behaved toddler who never exhibits this behavior at home. And it’s a pride-filled moment to hear that my daughter is USING HER INCISORS TO ATTACK OTHERS like some chimp chewing off some lady’s face. What happened to an understanding that kids-will-be-kids and part of being a toddler amidst other toddlers means that they will sometimes fall down, get scuffed up a bit, get dirty, and, yes, get hit and bitten and scratched. Lest you think the shoe is always on the other foot, my daughter has been hit and bitten herself, and have I gotten all up in daycare’s sh*t about how they failed to protect her? No. And parents? I’m sure you would agree that routine is critically important to your toddler, right? You may have noticed that inconsistencies and deviations from routine are upsetting and difficult for them to manage. Inconsistencies like, oh I don’t know, how different teachers are there on different days and at different times, so maybe, just maybe it’s within the realm of possibility that some teachers are better able to monitor and prevent my daughter’s toothsome attacks than others? Yet I’m the one facing telling my boss tomorrow that perhaps I may need to take just a few vacation hours unexpectedly in the coming weeks – like, I dunno, ALL OF THEM? –  until I can make alternate arrangements for my toddler’s care?

I’m so angry I could bite someone.

Thankful for Thanksgiving (and Weeknight Roast Chicken)

I love Thanksgiving. There is nothing better about a holiday that is centered around food. Of course, I grew up in a family where one meal was spent carefully plotting the next, so maybe it’s just me, but I think Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.

It helps that we have never traveled for it. EVER. We spend it at home, avoiding the stressful are we going to make our flight or is our connection canceled because of snow and if so, how and when are we getting home because every American has the same 4 day window for flights. (And the thousands of dollars that it costs due to holiday airfare gouging). It’s just always been so difficult, and not just financially. When you’re in academics, like at least one of us has been for the past 10 years, school  takes that same 4 day break and then it’s back to a very hectic last-dasy of grading the last assignments and writing the final lectures when you’re completely out of fuel before finals, so it’s not such a relaxing time off anyway. As a result, we’ve always tried to keep it low key. It helps that we’ve lived in Arizona that whole time, where even when it’s been cold it’s still been lovely enough to spend a good chunk of time out on a long walk. But more importantly, we both love to cook, and over the years we’ve had friends and family join us for the showcase showdown that is the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the cranberries, the homemade rolls, the apple pie…

Sorry. I’m in a food coma now.

Last year we scaled back our efforts a bit. We had a 4 month old, and were just utterly behind on housework (and sleep) so before we could even think about cooking anything we had to clean up our place. Luckily my parents were here, and that was a huge help. We alternated with my parents: some taking on the task of soothing or feeding Baby while others took over mopping the kitchen and cooking, then we would trade. And the meal was lovely all the same.

This year we’re not having anyone over, which is something we are both really looking forward to. Finally – some time off for both of us to just sit around in our sweatpants and watch some football and go for walks and eventually eat an amazing meal. So back to that meal. What to serve? We’ve always done a turkey. Some years it’s roasted, some years it’s brined, some years it’s smoked, but it’s always been there. And we do love turkey. But is it necessary this year? In keeping with our hopes of being as lazy as possible that day and just enjoying spending the weekend with Baby (who is now a toddler), maybe we should consider a roast chicken. Because that is at least as delicious as turkey in my book. And a whole lot less of a time investment. Last weekend, I happened to catch an America’s Test Kitchen episode in which they did a “Weeknight Roast Chicken” that was both simple as ALL GET OUT and amazingly succulent. Basically they browned the chicken in a skillet, then transferred the skillet to a preheated over…and then turned the oven OFF. That’s it, folks. So that might be my route. I’m definitely going to do that recipe, just not sure yet if we’ll do that one for Thanksgiving.

Turns out I’m not the only one thinking this way. This week’s Culinate just arrived in my inbox, saying: “It’s turkey-roasting season, and many of us are looking forward to feasting on our yearly Thanksgiving bird. But my colleague and friend Carrie Floyd may not be among the turkey-eaters this year; instead, she might replace her turkey with a roasted chicken — Roast Chicken with Mustard Butter to be exact. Carrie found the recipe in A Bird in the Oven and Then Some, Mindy Fox’s book about roasted chicken — and it was a big hit. The recipe worked well, as a recipe should, and her family loved it and begged her to make it again — for the upcoming holiday.”

Scuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

Unfiltered Thoughts: Artist Statements

I was listening to an old episode of one of my all-time favorite podcasts today – Wiretap, to be specific – and it included an interview with an artist whose project was living inside a plexiglass apartment in the Boston Museum of Contemporary Art for a month. Like absolutely every moment of her life on display for any wandering museum-goer. And she talked about how she did this as an exploration of transparency. The idea that was at the crux of her project was “Where there are walls, there are lies.” She said she wanted to “have the public think about what it would be like if their life was equally transparent and everyone could see what they did and would they judge their friends and neighbors” as harshly as they do now.

Fine. Good. But here’s the thing: is that what the viewing public got out of it? In the interview, the artist mentioned her artist’s statement and it made me think about how it may have colored people’s reading of the art. (You know those panels that get included in art exhibits where the artist gets to explain the driving force behind their art?) I guess I’ve always read them. (Well, that’s probably because I worked in museums for a long time, and much of that time wrote exhibit panels, so I’m a bit of a special case). But that aside, I have always read them before I viewed the art. Of course, that’s also because they’re often placed at the beginning of a gallery – a biographical statement or something to help guide the viewer’s reading of the pieces. (Actually I really hope that second part rarely plays a role, because how insulting is THAT?! That the reader, the non-artist, must require a guide to how to “see” things).

And that got me thinking “Did the public really think about the ‘walls and lies’ thing when viewing the plexiglass apartment? And did it make them reevaluate their judgments of others and reconsider their attitudes towards harsh judgmental tendencies?” Because if so, I’d hazard a bet that those ideas were colored by having read the artist statement. If they didn’t read the artist’s statement did they come away thinking something else? Like how everyday life itself is beautiful, for instance. Or how we structure our public selves differently from our private selves. And wouldn’t those readings be just as legitimate as what the artist intended the audience to think about? When you’re an artist (whether a performance artist, a sculptor, a playwright, a musician, or hey, even a writer), is the only thing you have control over the idea that you want to explore in your medium of choice, and not the audience’s reaction to that? There’s always a gap between what you think you’ve communicated and what your audience gets from it – and that gap itself is well worth some  exploration (but I’ll save that for another post).

It made me think more about avoiding reading the artist’s statement when I go to another exhibition until after I’ve viewed the art, and then perhaps revisiting each piece after having read it to see if it changes how I think about the art. It also made me think about the presentation of art in online exhibitions. Many times the artist’s statement is presented either in the copy that introduces the exhibition, or comes up first in the gallery, or is used as a means of a caption for each image displayed. What comes to mind is the most recent one I’ve explored the “Artists and their Monsters” gallery on NYTimes. What if instead of having the artist mediate for me what their monster is as it does in each caption, let me work out its meaning for me on my own if I wish. I’d be curious to find unmediated exhibitions online. Ones where there is no artist’s statement provided. And no, I’m not talking about online catalogues where you can curate your own collection, but I mean ones where the works have been selected to be displayed together but where you can “opt out” of the artist’s statement if you wish. I’d be more inclined to seek those out to see if they somehow allow you to be more thoughtful about assigning your own meaning to the art and the viewing experience. If you know of any, please let me know.

Election Day

Today is election day, and I am thrilled. Not that we get to exercise our right to vote – although it is heartwarming to see the lengths that folks are going to in the wake of Sandy to exercise that right. But back to me, what I’m excited about is the end to an endless campaign. I’m over the robocalls, the mailbox full of campaign junk, the emails, and the ads. Dear God, the ads. I’ve forgone tv entirely for netflix for at least a month. Ever watch an entire TV series in one weekend? Cuz I have! (You totally should, by the way).

When the Republican primaries started, Baby wasn’t even born. Now, look at her:

toddler-running-halloween

She walks, she runs, she eats with a spoon. She’s even uttered at least 3 sentences (“Hi Kitties!”, “Me up please!” and “Me and Daddy!”). Pretty self-centered, isn’t she?

But back to the election. Every time election year YEARS roll around I lose my mind thinking about all of the money that gets poured into an election. If you want to hurl, click here to see the 2012 numbers. Actually, I’ll save you the math: Billions. Much of it inevitably wasted on the losing candidate. Imagine what could happen if those billions were spent not on nasty slurs and negative ads but on positive change. And I’m not talking Obama here. I’m talking about the potential impact that kind of money would make on the lives of individuals, families, and in communities if it were directed as charitable contributions to nonprofits intsead…

A Candy Hangover

Last night was probably my last Halloween spent doing anything other than trick-or-treating for awhile. Next year Baby will be well past 2, and she will undoubtedly demand tromping around begging for the good stuff. After all, her first solid food was actually Peppermint Patty, given to her at four months when we came home from my BFF’s wedding with mini York Peppermint Patties in hand, much to My Better Half™’s dismay startlement. (Yeah, I know, that’s not a word).

At any rate, Baby dressed up in a hand-me-down teddy bear outfit, but only for long enough for us to take this picture.

halloween-candy-crying

As you can see, she HATED wearing a costume. So we took it off and she just handed out candy to the 4 or 5 trick or treaters we got in regular clothes. Even though she’s cute in a costume, she’s much cuter when not crying, so no costume it was. And that’s fine with us.

But here’s something to make your trick-or-treating tummyache better. Don’t lie, you know you stole some Tootsie Pops out of that bag!