Undercover Picniker

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tonight, I led my daughter from the path of righteousness.

Yes. I secreted food and beverage in her backpack and had her carry it into the movie theatre.

The movie being Harry Potter, of course.

I lay out the plan in the car after stopping to pick up sandwiches. I mean, in my defense....Summer Camp ended at 4 p.m. The movie was downtown on St Catherine. It started at 4:30 p.m. The next showing wasn't until 7 p.m. - and I knew that she could not eat dinner that late - nor was she making a massive tub of popcorn her meal. Plus going into the movie at 7 would get us out at 10...and home by nearly 11 p.m. No way I was handling the exhausted puddle she would become by that time of night.

So, we ran into the sandwich shop and got a couple to go.

"Look", I tell her in the car. "The movie people don't really want you to bring food in - at least not food that you haven't bought THERE in the movie - so we have to be kind of ....not Obvious about bringing it in..."

The truth of what I am saying sinks in.

She weighs this. "What if they find them?", she asks.  She is, after all, a rule follower.

"I don't know, but I don't think they will take our sandwiches - I mean they're just sandwiches!"

I begin to feel kind of bad, inducing my child into being my accomplice in the illegal transport of bread and meat and vegetables. And a couple of bottled waters.

I look at my purse. I wish I had brought a bigger purse. I look around and see her backpack.

"Ah", I think, "the ubiquitous child's backpack...."

Being opening week, they will undoubtedly search my bag. Montreal is, apparently, a hot bed of illegal taping in theaters. Indeed, a security team is at each of the doors of the  screens showing  Harry Potter. You show your ticket, they check your bag...and then they walk up and down the stadium seating, making sure no one has whipped out the video-phone to capture Old Harry in his 5th year.

I sigh. This moral dilemma is bigger than I wanted at 4:22 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon.

I decide to go with the "Don't ask, Don't Tell" Policy. I pack her backpack and carry it down the street. I suppose the worst they can do is take our sandwiches.

We get our tickets at 4:32 and race up the escalator to the FIRST theater. I present our tickets to the security team. They look in my bag....and completely ignore her backpack.

We walk in past the doors and Emily,  in true nine year old fashion says (loudly):

"WOW! They didn't even look in my backpack!"

Mata Hari, she's not.

July 13, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Storm Front

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The storm arrived fast. There had been no tell tale clouds in the sky. No predictions of rain in the forecast. In fact, until the moment the storm arrived, you would never have guessed that there was even the vaguest possibility of foul weather.

It started with some mild howling. She didn't want to do her reading, she said. There was a law against kids having to do homework in the summer, she said. This progressed into precipitation - tears rolling down her cheeks as she is sent to her room, foot steps thundering away as she stomped off, muttering loudly about fairness.

Moments later, like lightening setting a meadow afire, she returned to curse at her mother. She hated her, she said. She wanted to live with her grandmother.

The mother, calm and passive until that moment, is struck by the lightening of her daughters fury. It passes from body to body, the smell of ozone lingering in the air.

The mother gets up and leaves the room for the kitchen, beginning to make dinner. The storm follows her. Upon opening the freezer, a water bottle falls out and cracks  - the plastic shattering into jagged shards. The second crash follows on the heels of the first, as the glass coffee carafe falls into the sink and breaks.

The mother now storms from spot to spot, trying to clean the glass and plastic and cook at the same time. The daughter returns, rumbling about the choice of dinner as the thunder cloud of her mother moves from mess to mess.

The storm cloud expands, mother and daughter echoing the thunder back and forth...

Until , like all storms, it passes. The child is fed. The mother cleans the mess. The quiet is restored.

You would almost not know that the storm had rolled through, save for the melting ice bits, slowly melting on the kitchen floor.

July 11, 2007 Gimlet Eye


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The old cliché is that the shoemakers kids are the ones walking around barefoot, right?  Well, kids of early childhood professionals are the ones who fail to adhere to developmental timelines. They are also the ones on whom all the advice their parent has ever spoken will be guaranteed to NOT work. They will talk late, be constipated as exclusively breast-fed babies, and get chronic ear infections. They will also become biters in their classroom.

Yes, I was the Mom of the Biter. That Biter – you know the one who took a chunk out of your child’s face? Then followed that up with the bite on the back the next day? Yep – That was my kid.

What doubled my pleasure, so to speak, was my dual role as point person for the angry parents who wanted me to “do something” about that Biter.

Logically, I could tick off the reasons for Emily’s biting. She was small. At a year old she weighed a whopping 13 pounds so her classmates were behemoths in comparison. She used her teeth when she felt threatened or unsure. She also bit people when she was overcome with love or happiness. Knowing her life long struggle with the modulation of her emotions and her eventual diagnosis of ADD, it doesn’t shock the Me watching seven years later. But try to explain to another’s mother that your child loves her child so much, that she bit them. Not a popular sell.

For Emily, she was also dealing with a significant language delay. Having experienced chronic ear infections from the age of 3 months on, she was a very late talker. She would get frustrated with a friend, and since the word or objection couldn’t be quantified as a word – the teeth were handy and fast.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The day that another child bit Emily, I fought back my urge to punch a 14-month-old child in the face. I also knew that my husband was going to go apeshit when she saw the marks on her cheek. “Who was it, Who was it, Who was it” he grilled me over and over.

“Are you asking me as the mother or as the Director?”, I responded

“The Mother”, he said

“I don’t know, as the mother. Staff doesn’t tell you the name of the biter.”

I braced myself for the follow up.

“Then Director. I am asking you as the Director.” His eyes were widening, mouth tightening.

“As Director, I must tell you that we don’t release the name of the child. It is a matter of program policy and confidentiality. I can assure you, however, that the parents have been notified and are working closely with the staff.”

I took a deep breath. I braced myself, for the gale was a-coming.

“What!!! You will tell me Dawn. You will tell me who bit our child! You will tell me …or I’ll sue you. I’ll sue the Center! This is a matter of health! What if that child has something?” He paused, panting and huffing.

After several more threats to my professional well-being, he desisted. The tables turned soon after. WE became the parents of THE BITER!!!

Her reign was not mercifully brief. She had a long and glorious stint as the top shark in the pond. It persisted through the Two-year-old room, off and on.

The crowning moment in my title as “Mother of the Biter” came after one of Emily’s best beloved friends transitioned into the classroom. 

Now, Early Childhood people worth their salt will tell you that groups of children behave in some very predictable ways. In groups of Toddlers, new children are often targeted with a bite. This may come from the last child to transition into the group – or may come from the “Top Toddler” so to speak.  I wasn’t kidding when I referred to my groups of children as “Wolf Packs”. They have very, very similar characteristics.

J was coming into the Ones and Emily was overjoyed. She was her buddy in badass behavior. In fact, this group of Mom’s and I often joked that there must have been a streak of Bad Ass in the water, since we had produced some of the most Bad Ass group of little girls to grace the center in quite a long time.

Day One, Emily greets J and Bites her on the right Cheek. The bite takes up about 70 percent of J’s cheek. It is a nasty thing. Purple and swollen. I want to cry when I see this other child. It is bad. It’s a bite that, as Director, I have to call the Mother about. A mother whom I considered to be a friend. As with my husband, I am going to be questioned. As with my husband, I am going to have to hold the professional line.

This Mother was actually OK. This was her second child, and she was a bit more relaxed when it came to life in the child care center. Her husband, predictably, flipped out. I believe that she later told me that he had wanted to come beat up the Toddler who had bitten his child. I understood.

No, the beauty of my tenuous situation came from another mother in the group. Mother of the very first child who had bitten my own child, in fact. Having observed J’s bitten face, she approached me in the hall.

Her: “Boy, J has a bad bite!”
Me: “Yeah, It is a big one”
Her: “You know, I’ve been thinking. The parents of that Biter have got to do something about this. I mean, they can’t be very good parents if their child keeps biting, right? What kinds of parents have a child that bites like this?

Me:” I can tell you that the parents are very aware of the situation. They are working closely with the staff and they feel just terrible about the biting.”

Her: “Still, if they were better parents, their child would stop biting.”

At age one, Emily taught me that while she is Of me, she is not me. She has to make her own way, as hard as that is for me to watch and experience. So what kinds of parents have the biter – or the hitter, or the pincher, or the pusher-downer? Ones just like Terrance and I, apparently.

July 9, 2007 Gimlet Eye

River of Tears

Sunday, April 07, 2019

In keeping with our theme of "ways to make Dawn and Terrance uncomfortable and/or annoyed" , we can safely add the persistent and unexpected crying that our child has taken to unleashing at any time or place.

Flat Stanley left at school?

Can't find the pair of socks she wants to wear?

Can't decide if you want to go on a bike ride with your father? 

Refuse to wash your hair, and then cry when you are ordered out of the tub before your hair is washed? 

Demand to have the fan installed in your room and then insist that it be turned off because you are too cold?

FLOOD OF CRYING. And screaming. Let's not forget the screaming. For it ties it all up in a lovely package of pre-adolescent angst. 

If ever there was an effective form of birth control, I would say that living with a hormonal nine year old girl would pretty much do the trick.

Oh, and her father just added this tidbit of nervy-ness.

This morning, after demanding that he get up and make her pancakes and bacon, she criticized the crispiness of the bacon, for she likes her bacon a bit chewy and he failed to achieve the chewy texture she desires.


June 12, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Deep Thoughts

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

As part of my "Let's do anything to keep a child busy during two rainy in-service days" campaign this week, Em and I went to see Pirates of the Carribean.

I like watching a little Orlando Bloom and J Depp as much as the next lady and Em LOVES the Pirate/fantasy/mythological aspects of the movies.

However, producers and writers of the P of the C movies, my nine year old has figured out a major weakness in the plot point of this last film, which she addressed to me this morning.

If all of the crew on the Flying Dutchman are in effect Dead, but immortal - as evidenced by their gruesome sea creature like appearance as well as the premise of the entire second movie - How can they all be killed so easily during sword fights?

Chew on that Hollywood writers.

June 7, 2007 Gimlet Eye

Full circle

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Some of you may have noticed the recent emergence of several posts which seem....out of time.

No, my daughter has not morphed backwards to an 8 year old.  Yes, she still asks for dessert daily.

Emily is on the cusp of turning 21. TWENTY_FUCKING_ONE!!!!! This makes me feel oddly old, since I met her father when I was 21.  I look at my daughter and think "How could you even ever think about settling down with a partner at 21?!?!"

My blogging has decreased, obvs. Part of that is because I have classrooms full of students to regale with my humor and stories and the need to write them down feels less urgent. While my personality felt large and outsized for my body in 2005, it feels less so in 2019.  I have expanded, both internally and externally ( pats belly roll). 

The recent stories are old Gimlet Eye stories that I'd forgotten I'd stored in Draft form. I wanted to insert them in this blog because they are 1) good and 2) things I don't want to forget. 

Em is using them for a narrative for her sexual behavior class as examples of how parents talk to their children about sex and it amuses me endlessly to re-read those stories. 

When I read these stories to her over the phone, we both end up laughing. She remembers glimmers from those years, but my voice overlaid on top adds a sort of nuance to her memories. I am filling in the behind the scenes stuff that she didn't need to know, but now does know. Having my daughter read the inner voice of her mother was something that I never anticipated when I began blogging in 2005.

In hindsight, I am so glad I wrote it all down. 

It just happens

Sunday, March 24, 2019

While we were in the Target dressing room, Emily asked me what was wrong with her Daddy.

I took a deep breath and tried my best to explain to her that he father had noticed the changes that her body was beginning to undergo and that it made him kind of sad. She wasn't his baby girl anymore.

She put her hand on my shoulder. "But I'll always be his baby girl!", she said.

"Yes baby, I know - but it freaks him out a little to see your body changing. He sees that and starts to think about you being in high school and starting to date and it just makes him a little weird..."
I trailed off.

She paused and stared at her body in the mirror. She did a little half naked dance. The same dance she has been doing she she could rip her diaper off and tear ass across the living room.

"Well, Daddy just has to understand that EVERYBODY grows up - It just happens." She cocked her hand on her hip and stared at me.

"I know, sweetie - he'll live. Now get dressed."

Stepping out,  I waited for her outside the dressing room. She needs her privacy now, you know.

Always Be Prepared

Last week, Emily and I were walking along the lake. The flooding was at it's height, and we walked around looking to see how far the lake had risen into our neighbors yards. We walked down to the front yard and watched the ducks swim around the partially submerged picnic tables.

As we walked back, she hit me with a question for which I was unprepared.

"Why do boys have penises?"

Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder? A penis discussion at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday?

Attempting to conceal the lump that has grown in my throat, I inquired, "That's a good question - what made you think of it?"

Buy the time, Dawn, buy the time. THINK!! THINK!!

Em:"Well, we talked about being safe in school and how only certain people are allowed to touch your private areas, like your doctor - or you and daddy."

Em:"That's true, but even Mommy and Daddy and doctors should ask you if it's OK first. Your body is your body and you have the right to tell anyone that you don't want them to touch you."

Em:"Yeah, I know. And I know that I have a labia and a hole where my pee comes out and a hole for my vagina, but I wondered what do penises do? What are they used for?"

My mind begins to cycle through a variety of answers, not the least of which is "NEVER TOUCH A PENIS!! PENISES ARE BAD!!!", which is irrational, but a mommy instinct. I then mentally veer to the "too much information" side where I give a detailed description of the clinical uses of the penis and it's reproductive or elimination functions.

Egad. Where do I go with this? I settle for the middle of the road.

Me:"Well, boys use their penis to pee. You know, like Daddy does."

Em:"Oh, yeah. I've seen Daddy pee."

Me:"What else do you think penises might do?"

I have an image in my head of dancing penises of various ethnicities and girths, in full cirque de soleil garb, putting on a Vegas style show.

Em:"Well, I think they help to make a baby..."

Oh. My. God. I am not ready for this talk. I cannot have the how babies are made talk. I will throw myself in the lake to divert her. OK, that seems a bit extreme. I go for the middle of the road response again.

Me:"Yep, they do. Do you have any other questions?"


Me: "OK. But you know that you can ask mommy anything, right? I will always give you answers to your questions..."

Razor's edge, folks, Razor's edge.

Originally Published May 24, 2006 at The Gimlet Eye

The word Daddies fear

Last night, after dinner, we three were settling down to our evening activities.

Emily snuggled into the couch and pulled the quilt over her. I recognized the nesting behavior. I knew what she was planning to do.

I said, "I know what you are about to do and I am telling you not out here in the living room."

She started to laugh. I continued my walk out of the living room.

But NOOOOOOoooooooo. Someone has to get all "nosy" about what is going on. Someone can't just let me deal with anything without involving himself. Someone can't simply assume that there are some things that don't need a family conference.

"What? What's going on", asks Terrance looking up, his bloodhound scents activated.
"You don't want to know - it's taken care of...", I continue to walk.
"No, Dawn - what's going on? What are you two talking about? What was she about to do?"

I stop. I turn. I decide to let him have it.


His face recoils in horror. He practically begins to sweat.

"That's what your nosy ass gets", I say as I walk into the kitchen.

Now, with More Sex Talk!!

So we all know about my daughters penchant for asking me pointed questions regarding sex and sexuality when I least expect it..Right?

It is not as if I am embarrassed when it comes to bodies and sexuality. I always insisted that children be given the correct names for their genitals - in school and at home. My family was modest, but not prudish. Genitals are parts of a child's body and should be given the correct name, just as an elbow, or a toe.

So it isn't the technical aspect that has been giving me pause.

It is the realization that at 8.5 years, my daughter is experiencing pre-pubescence. I see it in her hips and legs. I notice the padding of fat starting to form around her breasts. She complains that her nipples are itchy sometimes. She is starting to notice boys a little more closely.

And, well...this makes me uncomfortable. As practical as I feel about sexuality, I don't think I want it to affect my child.

This is both a ridiculous and understandable feeling. One the one hand, as uncomfortable as her emerging sexuality may be for me, it is my Job as her mother and female role model to give her the language, the knowledge and the confidence to manage puberty as best she can.

On the other hand...This is my baby. The manifestation of her fathers and my love and sexual union. She is beautiful, she is innocent, she is pure.

The acknowledgment that she is awakening in her sexual curiosity is the knowledge that she will soon come to look at her father and I differently too. She will begin to understand that there is more than we have told her about our relationship. That while she did indeed grow inside my body and that it took a piece of daddy and a piece of mommy to create her - there was more to it than that. She will begin to know that her father and mother are sexual creatures too.

So, I wade into these murky waters - as every mother in the world has before me, and all others will after me. I try to balance my need to protect her against her need to trust me for correct information.  I know that this is just the very tip of the iceberg. The hard work of parenting a teen girl is being built on this foundation. The hard work of helping her make good decisions in those years is being influenced by every reaction, every discussion. Her path to her own sexuality as a young woman is being paved by these discussions, and as much as it makes me squirm, it is a gift for which I can can help her prepare.

Even if I have to have big glass of Merlot afterward.

Walkin' in The Rain

I decided to take Emily for a rainy day walk yesterday. She was off the wall, and while it was cool and rainy, it was not prohibitively so.

We bundled up, she in her matching rain coat, boots and umbrella, and I in a heavy jacket and hat, Pooh umbrella in hand. We strolled. We enjoyed the relative quiet of the streets and the deserted sidewalk. We decided to walk to the bakery for some hot cocoa for her and a coffee for me.

It was one of those moments where you think, "I kind of have this motherhood thing well in hand. Someone should take a picture of us in all our cute mother/daughter glory!"

That is when she got me.

"Hey Mama? You know my labia?"

"Yeah. Is it all right?"

"Yeah, it's OK but I have a question about it."

"All right, what's your question?"

"You know that piece in the middle? Not where I pee, but above it?"

"Yes. That is your clitoris."

"My clitoris - yeah. What's it do? I mean what does it do in my body?"

I take a deep breath. I frame my response. I search for a better explanation than the one that is rolling through my mind.

"Well, how does it feel when you touch it? Does it feel good?"


"Well, that it was it does in your body. It just exists to feel good"

"Oh.....It's stretchy."

"Um, yeah - I guess so. You should be gentle with it."

"Mama? Do you have a clitoris?"

"Yes, honey. All women have them. Its part of the body parts we are born with as females."

"Oh. OK."

Why do I think this is just the beginning?
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