Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Microblog Monday: On Doors

Specifically the door to my apartment.  The very heavy, metal, self-slamming door to my apartment.

No matter what shenanigans the kids are getting up to in the hall, no matter how badly you need to use your right hand, which was holding the door, to break up whatever the hell they are doing that is making one of them screech that much, do not, under any circumstances, move said right hand until you are good and sure that your left hand hasn’t found its way into the crevice between the door and its frame, over by the hinges.  Especially if you are the only parent at home.

On the plus side, checked out the new local ER, where everyone is very nice, and found out which neighbor will come to check if you really, really, really scream.  And I got some classy pics of my somehow not broken fingers.
  


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Math for Parents: Probability

Yes, this is the same dang thing I just posted on FB, but some of y’all aren’t on there and might want to know I’m not dead.  Plus: posterity.

 

 
A bottle of 180 children’s vitamins is divided into three colors (orange, pink, and purple) and four animal shapes (cat, lion, hippo, elephant). Every day, 2 children are presented a selection of approximately 10 vitamins, poured from the top of the jar, from which each selects 2 vitamins, for a total of 4 eaten per day. (The unselected vitamins are returned to the jar.)
 
IF Child A only wants purple vitamins (without regard to shape) AND Child B only wants cat vitamins (without regard to color), what are the odds each will be pleased with the selection on
 
– Day 1?
– Day 60?
– Day 90?
 
For extra credit, at what point in the life of the bottle do the odds of direct conflict between the children over their choices (i.e., the only purple vitamins are cats or vice-versa) rise above 50%? Does it matter which child is allowed to choose first?
Additional discussion: If at least one of the parents of these children believes vitamins are a crock, how did she get into this mess?  (Hint: it involves iron vs. lead absorption.)


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Saturday Songs

The trouble with me is that I don’t finish the posts I start writing, and then when I come back to them, they no longer feel so urgent.  For example, I began a nice, fretful rant about the NYC public schools G&T test, the asinine idea of testing four-year-olds in the first place, the way one feels, sitting in an auditorium of similarly waiting parents, that if one is going to engage in such an asinine, classist, generally racist (in its effects, anyway) system, then perhaps it is the height of naïveté not to have gone whole-hog on the project and done some real test prep, etc. — and then he emerged, life carried on, and here we are, weeks later.  

I did dream the other night that everyone we knew had gotten their children’s test results, which were all very high, and they all magically got in to the citywide school in Brooklyn and were deliriously happy.  I was still patiently waiting for our results, which eventually arrived, late because what does it matter how timely the results arrive if the score is 18th percentile?  One part of this dream is ridiculous — the citywide gifted schools technically take 97th%ile and above, but what with sibling priority, one recent year it was more like 1/4 of the 99th.  No way did they all get in.  I admit I think it unlikely that the Bean would score quite that low (thanks to selection bias and possibly other things, a huge percentage of the kids who take the test score in the 90s), but it’s hardly impossible: testing four-year-olds is asinine.  (Did I mention that it’s asinine?) A few days later I had some kind of nightmare involving excessive use of screens in a kindergarten classroom.  Moving to a cabin in the woods and homeschooling looks better all the time.
…And now it is tomorrow, and we are driving back east after a visit to Sugar’s parents.  (New York schools get a week off in February to save the cost of heating the buildings.)  Sugar prefers to drive (read: is convinced I will drive off the side of a mountain, because this is what happens when you are raised in a place with only the dinkiest of hills) while I snack on tepid McNuggets.  The Bean is playing Monument Valley and parcelling out single goldfish to Jackalope, while they both sing snatches of familiar and invented songs, most recently “Poopyhead, Poopyhead turn around” and “I’ve been working on the potty on the railroad.”  (“Poopy is a good song!” enthuses Jackalope.) 

Jackalope has been cycling through “ABC,” “Twinkle Twinkle,” and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in a way that suggests she’s onto their tune-sharing game, if not their precise lyrics.  “Baa, baa, black sheep, funny funny wool.”  The Bean has mashed up the two great songs of canid mysteries, “What a Does The Fox Say” and “Who Let The Dogs Out:” “WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? RUFF. RUFF. RUFF RUFF.” (“And the cat say meow,” adds Jackalope, helpfully.) 

Oh, hey, look, it’s Tuesday now, and we are back in Brooklyn. Thanks to a cascading series of plan failures, I am currently in the IKEA parking lot, in the rain (and a car, thank heavens). Jackalope is asleep in the back.  Insert arty rain picture. 

 
What I wanted to say before is that…actually I don’t remember.  Here is a video of Jackalope playing a ukulele and singing Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train.”


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You Are Beautiful

Sugar here.

Wow, I am not sure Facebook is at all good for me.  My FB friends seem to curate a lot of articles that are about parenting, NONE of which is a good idea to read (change it! fix it! make it better! you suck, btw!) and then there was that tear-jerker IKEA ad in Spanish today about how all kids want for Christmas is for you to spend more time with them.  Dude, Ikea, I know that, and I would love to, but I have this job thing.  Thanks for making me feel super guilty about not being rich enough to stay home.

Anyway, what I really wanted to write about is this other thing I saw today that pops up on Facebook on a regular basis.  It’s about how to talk to your daughter about her body.  You’ve probably seen it.  It goes a little like this:

“How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works. Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight. If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that…Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one….Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter…”

While I don’t want to troll well-meaning friends on Facebook, or to post an entire essay in FB comments, I want to say somewhere that I really disagree with this.  Really.  Very much disagree.

I do not find this to be an inspiring message, but rather one that erases joy.

Imagine how this would play out in real life.  Negative messages are pouring in from all sides.  Possibly the child herself is hearing from other actual people at school or on the street that she looks bad, wrong, or ugly.  Even if not, the whole world is telling her she isn’t good enough and doesn’t look perfect through the pervasive images and messages on every billboard, television program, and magazine ad. In this poisonous atmosphere, how is the silence of your closest family to be interpreted? As support?  Probably not.  More likely as disapproval, hesitance to voice the awful truth, shame, or disgust.

I think that much more to the point would be a countervaling and voiced opinion that the child is beautiful.  Period.

I am not saying that being beautiful should be the only thing or the main thing that a parent complements about a girl.  It would be best to mostly talk about other things — how strong, or smart, or fast, or whatever, that she is — but that sometimes, not too infrequently, it would also be nice to tell her that she is beautiful.  Beauty is something that our culture values a great deal.  One way to change everyone’s perception of what falls into that category would be to talk about a lot more kinds of people and bodies as beautiful.  With words.  Out loud.

I feel strongly about this issue because I don’t have to imagine how parental silence on this topic would play out in real life, I know.  I was “the ugly girl” starting in elementary school and continuing through high school.  To be jeered at in the halls, to be the butt of jokes, and to be certain myself of how completely awful I looked was a basic fact of my life.  I don’t know what my parents thought of my appearance. They never said.  I didn’t ask.  I assumed that compliments they gave me in other areas stemmed from their ideals (I was smart, I was good at art) but also covered up the big unmentionable dreadful thing, which was my completely unacceptable appearance.

As an adult I now realize that my parents probably had no idea of what I experienced in school.  But that is my point.  You don’t necessarily know what everyone else is saying to a kid, and silence is so vague, so hard to account for, and so easy to assign an unintended meaning to.

Now that I am nearly forty I usually feel that I am over the bullying I experienced in school.  I’ve been surprised to find that mentioning the whole “ugly girl” thing is fairly taboo.  Twice recently I mentioned (in a normal conversational context about high school, or whatever) that this happened to me, only to be met with horrified silence and a quick change of topic.  I don’t know what that is, but it feels related to the persistent assertion that if you are the right sort of person, then the best way to deal with the body and how it looks to NOT TO DISCUSS IT.  Why?  If it’s so important to the world that people be beautiful, and it seems to be, let’s try to take charge of the conversation by participating in it.  Otherwise the only voices out there are the wrong ones.


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hmmm…

Hi readers, Sugar here.  I’ve taken down my last post for the time being.  It generated a bit more vitriol that Bionic and I were comfortable with, considering I was writing about someone we actually know.  I was pretty angry with that person, so possibly my tone was off.

More updates from Bionic coming soon, I hope.  Operation find a therapist who will return a message, make an appointment and then work on the right stuff is still underway.


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Of children’s books and cognitive dissonance

Sugar here.  I haven’t posted in a while, but, hey, I’m still here, mostly reading along as Bionic writes.  I’ve been feeling a bit sad myself, these days.  I wouldn’t have thought of our library of children’s books as an emotional minefield, but it turns out that, yes, I can just start crying in the middle of say, Where Does the Garbage Go?  Because why?  Don’t ask kid, it’s too depressing.

Some favorites of the Bean that can really get me down while I try to read cheerfully along:

Bob and Otto: screw you, famous, successful friend

Oh the Places You’ll Go: or not. or we’re just all in the waiting place forever.

Giraffes Can’t Dance: but what if the music you love doesn’t pay enough to support you?

Frederick: isn’t this book about starving to death in winter?

Where does the garbage go? oh god, I don’t want to think about landfills.

Then there are the books that don’t push immediate emotional buttons, but I wonder about the wisdom of reading.  Sure, it’s great that the Bean loves books and loves cars and loves trains and wants to combine those loves. But. Danger at the Dieselworks, which keeps coming home from the library, has the worst subtext ever. (Don’t go hang out with those bad kids on the other side of the tracks. They are scary and mean because they are poor and have nasty stuff.  Also, they shouldn’t try to challenge authority either, because authority always means well…ahem) Does the Bean ever ask me questions about this set up? No!  Instead he wants to know why the Giraffe in Giraffe’s Can’t Dance learns to dance so quickly.  (Because he doesn’t.  He never learns to dance.  Now can we talk about systemic racism?)

I am also bothered by the fact that all books based on the Disney Cars franchise just make no actual sense.  They contain many sentences, but no sentence relates to any other.  Can it be good to read something that looks like a book, but acts like performance art?

Then there’s the work of changing the pronouns in Good Night Good Night Construction Site so that every other vehicle is a girl (come on, would it have been so hard to have even one girl in that book?).  I keep imagining a scenario where the Bean is old enough to read, catches me out, and tells Jackalope, who also loves trucks, that all the trucks in the book are really boys.  I hope he proves me wrong on this one.

Finally, there are books that fall into the category of questionable psychology.  For instance, Alexander and the No Good, Very Bad Day confuses me.  His day is bad.  It doesn’t get better.  Alexander was published in 1972.  I have this sense that in the 70s gritty, slightly depressing realism was thought to be good for a person, kind of like eating fiber but for the brain. But does this hold up? Do we still need to do this?

Perhaps the 80s were worse: In Gregory the Terrible Eater (published 1980) a goat’s parents encourage him to binge eat so that he will feel terrible and stop overeating.  Not only is this MESSED UP, but, as a former binge eater, I can tell you it won’t work.

It is not all horrors, of course. The Bean recently became enchanted with The Z was Zapped (the only difficult question — what is kidnapping, mommy?) so I am anticipating beginning to reread some books I really loved, like The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.  And the Bean made an awesome book for the Jackalope the other day, for when she needs to be cheered up, he said.  It is called Peekaboo Daniel, has two pages, and features a surprise picture of Daniel Tiger (Jackalope’s favorite) when you open it up.


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Updates (actual) 

In list form, because darling Jackalope was up from roughly 12:30 to 4:30 last night and slept thereafter only while nursing.  No apparent reason, and she bit my right nipple so hard at about one that it hurt the whole time.  Even when I tried to ignore her and she came and sat on my rib cage.  Woke up fresh as a daisy, altogether too early.

Item: It appears I do not have thyroid maladies nor anything else weird in the blood test arena.  On the one hand, boo for the loss of a sensible, treatable explanation for the sudden rise in crazy.  On the other hand, yay for not having a serious physical health problem.  Dr. Wonderful says she will send me to a cardiologist if I really want, but that she really, really thinks I am healthy.

Item: It has meanwhile occurred to me that there are two things on top of my chest that could be implicated in the acute (but not agonizing) pains I am getting, namely my ribs and my boobs.  Is it possible some of the physical stuff is rib cartilage gone awry? My posture and so on is awful, and I spent a lot of the summer carrying a heavy baby and huge amounts of beach stuff in less than ergonomic ways.  Or could this be milk duct shenanigans?  As a side effect of My Summer Adventures With New Phobias, I discovered that my nipples no longer spasm at this level of nursing (yay) and therefore stopped taking the nifedipine.  But possibly there is still some spasm action at the duct level.  But this doesn’t really feel like that, so I don’t know.   I might go get a massage; I have a gift certificate and I don’t have to teach on Tuesday, thanks to the large Jewish population of this city. Edited to add: I mean thanks about Tuesday. To be clear, the gift certificate is from Sugar, though I am not opposed to gifts from entire peoples. Interested parties should inquire via email for terms.

Item: Welcome back, ability to safely eat grapefruit.  I missed you.

Item: I have met with Friend’s Therapist twice.  She is nice, even if she does have a slightly annoying poster about how great breastfeeding is.  The kind with 80’s drawings of glowing women.  Very Park Slope.  I want to take red pen to the parts that are overstating what the research shows, which is to say all of it, or at least say that isn’t the least upsetting thing to hand next to a therapy couch, but those minutes are expensive.  

Item: She is not ridiculous or annoying, and she has had one or two insightful things to suggest in terms of what kinds of things bother me.   

Item: I think I have to break up with her anyway.  

When we first exchanged emails, I said I was looking for someone who does CBT. She lists that on her website, but she cautioned me that she doesn’t primarily do that.  At the time, I was so desperate and relieved that someone had written me back that I said I didn’t care, but it turns out I care.  Her method of approaching this problem seems to be 1) techniques for feeling better right at the moment, and 2) talking a lot about the past.  The trouble with 2) is that I already have a degree in writing, which I increasingly think covers a lot of the same ground as this kind of therapy, and that the roots of my current problems don’t seem terribly complex from a literary perspective.  My mother died unexpectedly, suddenly, and alone, leaving me feeling very, very not okay; I subsequently develop a panic problem based around the belief that I am suddenly and unexpectedly dying (poison, heart attack) that is made worse by feeling terrified about leaving my children.  A disgusting amount of education went into making such a simple mind.

(And then there’s all the stuff about being raised with a sick mom, the responsibility/fear/resentment thing people always seem to think I won’t have realized.  I get very, very touchy about that.  Probably because: resentment/protectiveness, but also because yes, I realize that.  This isn’t the first time I am hearing this story.)

The trouble with 1) is harder to explain.  I have noticed that I am more likely to get panicky or have a true attack if I am underslept, hungry, or if I have alcohol, even in small amounts.  Likewise, places and things associated with a previous incident may raise my anxiety level and make another more likely.  Last Saturday night, for instance, we were visiting friends in Boston, where, in March, I thought I was dying from an overdose of my albuterol inhaler.  (Spoiler: I wasn’t. An extra puff isn’t enough to do that.  Moreover, I had not actually taken an extra puff.)  Jackalope had a very rough night, and I was up for most of it.  The next evening, very tired, I made myself a weak Salty Dog and proceeded to come apart at the seams.  

The following Tuesday, I sat down to talk goals with Nice Therapist.  I would like, I said, to be able to have a drink with close friends in a very safe environment without wigging out.  That’s a goal.  It’s a good goal, she said, but some people do need to make permanent lifestyle changes to avoid panic attacks.  

Look, I’m not opposed to the idea that clean living is generally a healthy idea.  Drinking less alcohol and caffeine, getting exercise, all that jazz.  But I’ve been doing that on my own.  I drink very little now.  I have about half a cup of coffee in the mornings.  And I think it’s making things worse.  This kind of anxiety appeasement just seems to make I more real, more scary.  Meanwhile, I see the sphere in which I live getting smaller and smaller, as every step outside the lines I am drawing around myself seems fraught with danger.  I’m terrified to do anything, lest my heart beat.  

Meanwhile, I watched this very convincing Scottish psychologist on YouTube make a case for a different approach.  He sends his patients out with orders to have a panic attack as soon as possible and then, rather than breathing into paper bags, telling themselves that the attack is uncomfortable but not dangerous.  I find this whole idea scary but intriguing, and I’ve been giving it a bit of a go.  It sort of works, and it’s much more appealing than teetotaling.

Item: So I suppose I will give that CBT shop another chance to find me someone at price level Mildy Outrageous. 

Item: I am not looking forward to writing this break up email.  She’s very kind, and sitting around talking about my life history isn’t unpleasant.  I’m just not sure it’s what I most need right now.

Item: What I suspect I could very most use is a whole lot more sleep.  I wonder if about 80% of what’s wrong with me isn’t 4.5 years of broken sleep wreaking havoc on my cognitive abilities.  Certainly it is true that being especially tired seems to undo some kind of executive function in charge of keeping a lid on things; I wonder if something on a grander scale no longer works properly.  

Item: But short of sending the children to boarding school, I don’t know how to make things better.  Sugar thinks I should wean Jackalope.  I’m certainly more than ready to night wean her, if only I could figure out how to do so in a in apartment with the Bean, who has just now started mosly sleeping pretty well.  Even the middling step of giving her a bottle won’t work, as she can’t for the life of her figure out how to use one, a different post for a different day.
Item: on that note, to bed.  In other news, The Bean started pre-kindergarten at our local public school, a subject about which we all have Feelings.  Be sure to tune in next time, when we analyze the roots of my crabbiness about school uniforms.