Clarissa Johal: May 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Santa Claus...and other lies

December 26, 2006

Early this morning, my 5-year-old and I were sitting on the couch together, watching the fire crackle in the fireplace. We were the first up, as usual. Her Christmas present was that she'd been sick all week, struggling with a sinus infection and getting over conjunctivitis in both eyes. It's made for very short nights and even earlier mornings.
So, bleary eyed and congested, my little darling suddenly asked me...if Santa is real.
Now, I'm sure she's heard her sister and me discussing Santa and Christmas faeries; a traditional, but watered-down version handed down through generations of my family. Her 6-year-old sister knows (and has had no problem with the fact) that Santa is make-believe and Christmas faeries are a figment of her moms flighty, but “trying to keep the Scottish faith,” imagination.
My older daughter indulges me.
But, I guess I've never had a heart-to-heart with my youngest daughter about it. And, of course, this morning at 5AM and after dosing her up on sinus medication, saline nose spray, and eye drops...she chose to bring it up.
"Is Santa real?" she asked me again.
"Ummm…" I had about a thousand replies and couldn't seem to come up with one.
Her big, blue eyes started to fill with tears as she asked me again, "Is Santa real, mommy?"
Oh geez. On top of her lower lip getting all quivery, and her pinkish eyes welling up with tears, she was making herself all congested again.
Setting down my coffee, I gathered her in my arms and held her tight...and I lied.
Oh, the guilt.
I have made it a rule in my heart and home never to lie to my kids--even about the small stuff. So, it came out something like this;
"Do you think Santa is real?"
To which she nodded her head uncertainly.
"Well, if you think he's real, then he is." (Note to self, he's a spirit of...a feeling...historically, he was....blah, blah, blah. Shut up, head, you just lied to your child.)
"And he has a beard, mommy? And wears red pants?"
Oh boy, this was snowballing. "Ummm..."
My 5-year-old looked deep into my eyes and somehow, I just had this feeling she knew that I totally lied to her.
"Do you want to leave some cookies out, Santa, and thank him for all your presents you got on Christmas? We didn't do that, did we?"
"Okay, we'll do that tonight."
I sighed. When she turns 6-years-old, or whatever age, and discovers that there is no Santa, she's never going to trust me again.
Or maybe my older daughter will end up telling her when she wakes up this morning...

A Princess and Her Sword

March 19, 2006

Last night, my husband decided to have boy night. Most of his friends have gone on business trips so he decided to invite some new co-workers over. There was a visiting scientist from Thailand, another from Kenya, and another from some other place that had well-behaved children. Anyways, I guess you could say he wanted to make a good impression, new co-workers and all, because he was fussing about in the kitchen with the food for about an hour.
I decided to take the girls upstairs around 6:30 for their bath. Plus, I felt a responsibility to keep them from descending like locusts on my husband's painstakingly prepared food.
The girls were headed down the punchy-path already because they were tired and it was the end of the day. However, thankfully enough, bath time went without incident. I wrapped my children up in their fluffy towels, gave them a kiss on their damp, little heads, and told them to get into their PJ's.
As I drained the tub and rescued the toys, I could hear that my husband’s friends had arrived and I patted myself on the back for being so organized.
And, I patted myself again for having such well-behaved children.
As I was in my bedroom putting on my PJ's and robe, I heard yelling down the hall and opened my door to hear my 6-year-old screaming at the top of her lungs.
"No! Princesses do not carry swords!"
And my 4-year-old, equally as loud, "They do so carry swords! I say yes!"
I sighed, knowing this bliss was too good to be true, and started down the hall to break up the fight. Half-way down the hall, I was side-swiped by my 6-year-old, high-tailing it downstairs in her PJ's, still screaming at the top of her lungs.
"Princesses do not carry swords! Daddy!!"
And off she disappeared.
At the same time I ran downstairs to stop my lovely daughter from crashing my husband's boy party, my 4-year-old pushed past me, fuzzy "Wiggles" sword in hand, completely naked and screaming at the top of her lungs.
"Princesses do too carry swords! Waaaa! She said princesses don't carry swords, Daddy!!"
And skitching past my outstretched fingers, my darling 4-year-old ran screaming into the living room, waving her fuzzy, giggling sword over her head like some crazed, naked warrior.
At this point, I wondered if once I caught them, if anyone would notice if I used her fuzzy sword to smack them on both of their heads.
I continued into the living room, the faces of my husband’s co-workers a blur and acutely aware that I had stumbled into man-territory.
In my bathrobe.
With one child in her PJ's...and another in her birthday suit.
I grabbed each child, made my apologies, and dragged our screaming, tired banshees upstairs.
Being the wonderful man he is, my well-meaning husband started after me to help, but I waved him away.
"Got it under control, honey!" Yeah...right.
As I walked our girls back to their rooms, smile plastered on my face, I concentrated on the fact that this would all seem funny tomorrow morning. Yep.
Doggedly, my 6-year-old was still arguing her point. "No prince is going to marry you! Because princesses do not carry swords!"
"Well, I find a prince to marry me! I carry a sword!"
"Honey," I said to my eldest, "Princesses can carry swords."
"No, they can't."
"So if a dragon was swooping down to breathe fire on you, you're going to wait for a prince to save you? You're not going to pull out your sword and slay the dragon?"
"Umm, I'd wait for a prince to save me. Where's the prince? What's he doing?"
I started to reply with something clever like, getting his hair done or making cookies, but my 4-year-old beat me to it.
"He's marrying me! Because I carry a sword!"

That’s my girl.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In the Underwear Aisle

December 25, 2004

It was Christmas Eve, and I decided to nip off to Target to grab some last minute stocking stuffers. I made a completely practical "mom" decision and decided to get my girls...some underwear.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Underwear aisle; 10,000 choices, 10,000 sizes, styles and colors. I was overwhelmed by the colors and bright, shiny packaging. I started going for a package of "Care Bears," then realized my oldest was going on 5-years-old. Would she think that I thought she was a baby? Care Bears were kind of for little kids--and she was all grown up now at almost 5-years-old. Dora? No, she's sooo last year, Spongebob? No, my 3-year-old would be jealous, maybe I would get those for her. I put back the innocuous and smiling Care Bears and picked up a pack of "Bratz" undies.
My daughter’s fascination with them was purely because I thought they sent the wrong message to little girls. They smirked back at me from the underwear's plastic packaging, mocking me with their pouting lips and layers of blue eyeshadow. If I bought her these, would my daughter think I now condoned "Bratz" dolls? Would she grow up to wear too-tight jeans, cut-off shirts and too much makeup, parading a long line of Biffs and Jakes through my house? Would I wonder where I went wrong? Would she be so jazzed by her new Bratz undies that she'd want to show them off to all the kids in Kindergarten?
At this thought, I threw the pack of Bratz undies back on the shelf because I swore they had exploded into flames.
Unable to make a decision, my mind wandered and I started thinking about my almost 5-year-old beginning Kindergarten next year. And I proceeded to get completely choked up.
In the underwear aisle.
As I tried to get myself together, another mom walked by and without even looking, plucked a pack of underwear from the display and threw them into her cart.
"You okay?" she asked me.
"My little girl is starting Kindergarten next year and I can't decide on what underwear to get her," I managed to mumble.
She gave me a pat on the back, "It's gonna be okay, honey. They all gotta start sometime. Have a Merry Christmas."
I watched this other mom enviously as she meandered over to the boy's underwear aisle and plucked another pack (again, without even looking) off the display, tossing them into her cart.
She must just have too many kids to care.
So, back to my indecision. There were some cute undies with Scottie, she’d see the dogs and want a puppy, no good. Plus, they're bikini...bikini? Can 4-year-olds wear bikini underwear? My mom didn't let me get bikini underwear until I was 13, she said it would make my hips grow funny. I started to feel my face grow warm as I realized the ridiculousness of that. I'm going to defy my mother and get these bikini undies for my child! Okay wait...I wondered if they'd be comfortable for a 4-year-old? Maybe not.
Glancing at my watch, I saw that no less than 20 minutes had ticked by and I still hadn't made a decision.
Feeling like a loser, I decided that my almost 5-year-old probably wouldn't want boring underwear in her stocking anyways. What was I thinking? What a dumb idea.
Maybe some cool socks!
I turned around with a triumphant smile on my face...until I saw all the choices of socks on display.

My smile faded and I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown...

Mom e-mails

Sometimes I feel like my life is a string of hastily typed-out e-mails. My mom friends and I, for some oddly-conceived reason, find it much easier to send e-mails to each other as a way of keeping in touch about our daily lives, frustrations, successes and attempts to get together for random MNO (moms night out for those of you not in the know), rather than pick up that weird, outdated thing called a telephone. Not that we don’t call each other, because we do. However, the moment a mom’s hand touches the phone receiver, it sends out some sort of invisible signal to that mother’s child that the child is dying of starvation, thirst or some other life-threatening malady and they must be attended to—immediately. So, it isn’t uncommon to flick on my computer at 6AM in the morning to find an e-mail in my inbox from a stressed-out mom who spent the night in the ER with her child, who for some unforeseen reason, decided jumping jacks on the bed would be a fun activity. Once that mom opens her weary eyes in the late morning, peeks in at her child (who miraculously survived) and is able to open her e-mail; she will see the outpouring of support and sympathy from her friends and know she is loved. No invisible; “I’m about to pick up the phone” signal to contend with, no words wasted, just quick communication with those that love her. It’s a weird way to conduct friendships. However, I like to think of it as another layer of communication in this racing world of technology.
As I look over my sent e-mails, I see a collection of musings, stories and anecdotes that trace my “life as mom." It's a collection which I may print out and bequeath to my two daughters some day. A moment from their life as babies and toddlers all the way into their school years when they no longer need me as much. It is a time I am experiencing with a combination of acute, empty-nest sadness and a guilty feeling of freedom. I can write uninterrupted! I can walk the dogs without pausing to examine every dead worm that has dried out on the sidewalk! I can talk on the phone, do housework and go grocery shopping; all uninterrupted and with no thought to my children's tolerance for such mundane activities! It’s a feeling that fills me with happiness, freedom, and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. It’s also a feeling of such intense loneliness that sometimes I find myself watching old video tapes of their favorite cartoons they liked when they were toddlers. However, I have to remind myself that my children are taking their place in the structure of the world and doing that inevitable thing that we’ve all been ambushed into without our permission—growing up.