Oh Boy

Last week, Flora asked me to keep a secret from her daddy. And I did. She has since told her father the secret — about liking a boy in the other second grade class. So that cat’s out of the bag.

Flora has liked boys since day one. She’s already been in love at least twice that I recall. At one point, she was “caught” nearly kissing a boy at her former daycare. While part of me is doing a total freak out (BOYS? YOU CAN’T LIKE BOYS! YOU’RE TOO LITTLE! YOU’RE MY LITTLE BABY GIRL! ARGH!), most of me has been very calm and, I like to think, helpful about these situations.

So: the conversation took place in my parents’ car after I had picked them up from the airport. We were talking about Valentine’s Day, and the VDay parties at school, and so on. I planned on taking the kids to the store on Saturday to get the supplies we needed. As we talked about it, Flora asked, “Can I buy B* Pokemon cards and a card for Valentine’s Day?”

This is their main interaction: at recess they play Pokemon.

I hesitated. I wanted to talk to Dan about it — this is where she asked me to keep the secret. Once I agreed to that, I said, “Well, what happens if you give B a card, but he doesn’t give you anything?”

“That’s okay!” she exclaimed. “I don’t care.”

We’ll see about that, I thought. But I didn’t contradict her.

“You and B are friends, you know,” I said. “You can’t be more than that at 8-years-old.”

“I know. I just want to give him a card for Valentine’s Day.”

Deep, quiet breaths. “Okay, Flora. That’s all right with me. We’ll pick it out this weekend.”

Much like Halloween, I like Valentine’s Day again, a day of hearts and candy, of little gestures of love for family and friends. It doesn’t have the weight of being overly romantic, and there’s certainly not the pressure (and disdain) I used to feel as a single gal who usually wore black on the day. (Sixth grade boy, braces and broken hearts, long story.)

I would like Valentine’s Day for my children to be a day of hearts, candy, and small gestures of love and kindness. For years to come. I would like Dan to be my girls’ only Valentine, again, for years and years. Most of all, I would like to save my children from associating a Valentine’s Day spent alone as a day that is lonely. I don’t know that I can do that. I am not more powerful than the culture.

More than that, though, thank goodness my friend @jayesel wrote about this, because I’m just going to quote from her directly:

“But I didn’t let my shock and fear and ZOMG! reaction show. I couldn’t. I knew that this was one of those moments. A moment when everything can change. It SEEMS small and minor to us, but for them? (rpm note: This is *exactly* how I felt when Flora asked me not to tell her daddy about buying B a card. She knew it was a big deal to her, and she knew she wanted me to know, but wasn’t sure about Daddy yet. I’m glad I kept her trust.) This is when it starts. This is the age where things can change, and we need —*I* especially, as her mother — to be careful to make her comfortable talking to us. About EVERYTHING.

“The boy is not important. She’s [8], after all. But when she’s 15? I want her to want to tell me who that boy is. I want her to want to talk to me about the Stuff in her life— the crushes, the heartbreaks, the first kisses (OMG HOLD ME). I KNOW there will be a time when we’ll both be stewing in Teenager/Mother silence, angry with each other over whatever drama we just had between us. She may even storm off to her room and give me the finger through the wall (NOT THAT I EVER DID THAT TO MY OWN MOTHER. AHEM.) But I want her to always feel like she can share these things with me, talk to me, and I won’t judge (too much) and I’ll give advice if it’s wanted. And yes, I’m her mom first, always. But I also want to be her friend, at least on some level.”

“Some level” for me includes being trusted, being a confidante, being someone to whom she can turn when she is hurt or confused or sad or angry (or, for that matter, happy, overjoyed, etc.), knowing that I will 1. Take her seriously, 2. Listen to her all the way through (note to self: get better at this now) and 3. That I will not tease her, condescend to her, dismiss her emotions. I will be calm, I will be safe haven. Even if (when) I’m doing the Internal Freak Out Over MY BABY.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! Whether you wear black, red, or pink; whether you make the grand romantic gesture or have take-out Chinese and chocolate (our plan); whether you’ve got a secret admirer or a known sweetheart; I hope you get a little and show a little love today.

*B for boy. That’s not even his initial.

Memory Lane: Date Night, Past and Future

My parents went on dates. Every week. I have very clear memories of Friday night babysitters coming over, and watching my parents walk out the door together, all gussied up.

Usually gussied up. At one point they were in a bowling league. Probably less gussying going on. But they each had their own bowling ball and bag… and possibly shoes. Can you buy your own bowling shoes?

I also recall them taking disco dancing lessons — hey, it was the ’70s. We kids used to clamor at them to show us the moves they had learned. I have an image in my head of my mother in blue bell-bottomed disco pants with a flowing blue shirt with a vest over top. Her red hair was permed into an afro (or as afro as she could make it, anyway). While I don’t recall my father’s outfit, I clearly remember his mutton chops. They boogied for us before they left for the night.

My parents made time for each other. It’s something I’ve carried with me, the memory of their date nights.

Saturday evening, Dan and I had dinner plans. I was feeding the kids while dressed in a robe. It brought back memories of my own childhood, watching my mom get dressed and put on makeup before she went out with my dad. She would wear a robe, do her hair and makeup, get dressed, and then — and this still amazes me — she would don her coat, and polish her fingernails. Then they were out the door for the night.

She still polishes her nails last thing. It’s a trick of hers I have never mastered. I can’t even get a manicure without feeling like I’m going to mess it up before walking out the salon door. Let alone get dressed for an evening on the town with my spouse and polish my nails immediately before leaving.

But Date Night is a tradition Dan and I are working on creating for ourselves. Like my parents, we are partners first, parents second. It’s tricky to remember in the crush of kid-stuff and schedules that are divergent (to say the least). We are looking into playing darts weekly, wine tastings, and dancing lessons. (Not all at the same time.)

I may never manage to polish my nails for date night immediately before leaving the house, but my parents taught me a vital lesson as I grew up. They did it without ever making us feel like we came second, but it was clear they stood united. The fact that their marriage was so very important to them — important enough for them to spend special time together on a regular basis — made me feel safe. It’s something I’d like to pass onto my own children: that as much as I love them, my relationship with their father is something special and (to a certain extent) inviolate. That as much time as I am willing to give them, I also have to give time to Dan (and he to me). And I hope that in doing so, in showing them our commitment, they will learn about marriage and love, and that they will feel safe.

What did you learn from your parents about love and marriage? What do you do on date night?

The Valentine’s Day Saga: Part III

Wherein I make DearDR prove his love for me. Or he proves that he is a patient, patient man.

So we’ve established why, exactly, I am not crazy about Valentine’s Day.

Fast forward to February 2000. DearDR and I have been dating for about four months. DearDR (and he will tell you this himself) is head over heels for me.

He wants to do something for Valentine’s Day. I go through my whole song-and-dance about why I don’t do Valentine’s Day, and it’s just a Hallmark holiday, and we shouldn’t pay any mind.

DearDR completely ignores me. “We’re going out,” he says.

“Fine,” I huff. “But we’re going to do what I want to do.”

So I took him to see the Pittsburgh premiere of the Vagina Monologues at CMU.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, it is exactly what it sounds like: a number of monologues about the vagina, all performed by women.

Yes, I made my boyfriend sit through a play about bajingos, va-jay-jays, lady business — because Dave Boore broke up with me on Valentine’s Day in 1983.

We weren’t even having green beans at the time.

And he still asked me to marry him.

Later that evening we shared some wine at Casbah and just talked. After that, he twirled me into his arms on the sidewalk outside and gave me a kiss I felt all the way to my toes.

Is it any wonder I said yes?

Happy Valentine’s Day, DearDR. I love you.

The Valentine’s Day Saga: Part I

I do not know one person who really likes Valentine’s Day (well, except for one — the guy I’m married to; more on that in Part III). The most common comment — and you’ve heard it/said it, too, with varying tones of bitterness: “It’s such a Hallmark holiday.”

When I was in grade school, I was the tallest person in my class in grades one through six. Well, except for Rick Hidd*. He was both taller and thinner than I, and he was a redhead to boot (I was a redhead as a child — well, auburn-head. Now I have to get my color out of a box).

About the time that the idea boys had cooties was starting to phase out in my peer group (between grades four and six), I started getting teased about being Rich’s ‘girlfriend’. Because we looked so much alike, natch. (Grade schoolers are not known for their discerning intellects.) Quite to the contrary, I harbored a crush on Rich’s best friend, Dave Boore, who, fortunately for me, had had a growth spurt in 5th grade, so was now taller than I was.

Let me also add here: I was not a looker in grade school. I know that everyone talks about how awkward the teen years are, but for me? Grade school was the pits. I got glasses in second grade and braces in fifth. I was tall and skinny to the point of emaciation. To this day I look at pictures of me as a 12-year-old and wonder how Social Services was not called to my home. Because it truly looked like I was being starved.

In sixth grade, it finally happened: Rick walked up to me after class. If memory serves (and, admittedly in my case, it may not — N, feel free to correct any details in the comments), it was after Social Studies (dear Lord, remember Social Studies?). He was blushing like crazy, and on a tall pale redhead, this is not an enhancement. He looked like a sunburned stork.

“I have a question,” I think he said. I stood there with my glasses and my braces and I could not breathe.

“Yeah?”

“Uh, Dave wants to know if you’ll go with him.”

What? Who? Go with?

Was I about to have a boyfriend?

“Okay,” I’m sure I stammered. Out of the corner of my eye, I realized that Dave was actually standing there, behind and to the side of Rick. “I mean, sure. I’ll go with him.”

Who knows what actually transpired? (N probably does.) ‘Going with’ seemed to mean a lot of sweaty hand holding and note passing and stupid grins across classrooms. Remember when ‘copping a feel’ meant squeezing your boyfriend’s hand? Was I naive or what? Innocent, I guess you would say. Or I would. I don’t even recall if Dave and I ate lunch together. I know we did not kiss, because I recall my first kiss. It was not with Dave, and it was not in grade school. It was exceedingly sloppy with a lot more tongue than I thought should be involved.

Anyhoo.

Shoot ahead a few … months? I don’t remember exchanging Christmas gifts or birthday gifts with Dave, so it may have been mere weeks. Although in the horror I am about to reveal, any other gift giving would have been burned out of my memory.

On February 14, 1983? 1984? (You would think the date of this final humiliation would be seared into my brain. It may be, but I can’t see my brain.), I was scheduled to get my braces off. After a year, I would finally be free! And I had a boyfriend! It was going to be perfect. I would turn into the beautiful swan (with really, really smooth teeth).

I know I bought Dave a card — my first Valentine’s Day card for a male not related to me! And I would be getting a card, too. I agonized over a gift, and settled on a little heart-shaped box of chocolates. Everyone likes chocolate.

My orthodontist appointment was early in the day. I was looking forward to math class, because that would be the first time I would see Dave. (Hmm, Dave Boore may also be the reason I am so bad at math… mmmm, probably not.)

I walked up to him and gave him the card. “H—” I started.

He looked uncomfortable. “Oh, listen, I wanted to talk to you.”

This is probably not how this was supposed to go.

“I just think we shouldn’t go with each other any more.”

What? Who? Who the heck breaks up with someone on Valentine’s Day? Especially a girl who just got her braces off?

“Oh, well,” I stuttered. “Okay. Well, that’s a card. You can keep it.”

I probably gave the chocolates to N.

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent — and the guilty.

Random Thoughts: A Baker’s Dozen

1. DearDR is bound and determined to lease a car. We talked it to death this weekend — when we started talking to each other again — and it’s just what is going to happen. He made some very good points that were backed up by research, so I’m all: “Go to it.” We should *fingers crossed* have a new-ish car this weekend.

2. Monkey lately has been Li’l Miss Malaprop. When she gets a boo-boo, she asks if it’s going to “bleet”. Today in the car, she asked what extinct meant (they’re talking about dinosaurs in preschool). I explained that it meant there weren’t any left. “Like the dinosaurs,” I said.”They aren’t any dinosaurs alive.”

“Yay!” she yelled in the back seat. “Dinosaurs aren’t allowed!”

3. Holy cats! They are talking about dinosaurs in preschool! What’s up with that? May be time for a trip to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

4. In addition to watching Mamma Mia! this weekend, I watched Stardust. What a great little movie! I loved the book — I love Neil Gaiman’s writing — and I’m so glad the movie was enjoyable. If your tastes run to The Princess Bride or Harry Potter or the Narnia movies (I’m looking at you, N), you won’t be disappointed.

5. Not having a washer at my disposal stinks. DearDR, in addition to finding that car this weekend, has to fix that hose. I hope it’s just the hose leaking.

6. Anyone have experience baking with a preschooler? Monkey and I made pretty good chocolate chocolate chip cookies on our snow day, but it felt very challenging to me: “Don’t put your fingers in the batter. Don’t pick your nose and then touch the spoon. Wash your hands again. No, you can’t have more chocolate chips.” Am I doing something wrong??

7. I am not the most confident of bakers in any case. I love to cook — I should really get back to Meatless Monday around here, try some new recipes. But baking is not a strong point of mine. And, no, I did not bake from scratch. Monkey opened a box of Jiffy Devil Food cake mix at my in-laws while we were staying there, and I had to do something with it.

8. I am pretty sure that the only reason Monkey wanted to help me bake cookies was to lick the spoon.

9. My driveway is a sheet of ice. I have to solve this problem, if not this year, then before the first snowfall next year. I am thinking of looking around for a plowing service. In the meantime, I think DearDR and I need to get a ton of sand and/or kitty litter.

10. There was a flock of 31 turkeys in my front yard and driveway the other day. And a turkey slipping on ice? Is pretty funny looking.

11. DearDR wants to do something for Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been big on Valentine’s Day.

12. And, yes, that may have something to do with Dave M dumping me on Valentine’s Day in sixth grade.

13. So, what should we do?