A Very Short Story About The Little Brother Who Loves His Big Brother (and tries to hang on his every word ;) ) …And the Vast Difference Between 18 and 9

I was washing my face last night when The Baby walked (a little sulkily) into the bathroom, but obviously with some news he needed to share with me. I asked him what was up.  He announced to me that one of Mini Me’s favorite musician’s had died, and he asked me if I already knew that information.  I told him I did.  He stood there for a minute and we looked at each other.  Then, with complete and total veneration for his musician-big-brother (and said big brother’s sadness over the loss of Chris Cornell),  as well as  a little bit of rockstar-little-brother-EGO, The Baby says to me: Yeah. I’m pretty sure it was the guy from Radiogarden. 

(Yes, I whispered Soundgarden ūüėČ )


Fifth Grade Cynic

I have been a cynic since the fifth grade. ¬†In my opinion, I’m lucky I made it¬†that far. I can pinpoint the exact¬†moment that my life changed for the worse. ¬†It was going so well. ¬† We lived in a nice neighborhood. ¬†We had a pool at our house.¬† We had a sauna in our house.¬† We had a bidet¬†in our house.¬† We moved into this house in¬†1978, people. ¬†Mothah, who is like 5 ft. 2 (if that) , drove a Cadillac. ¬†Granted, it¬†did¬†look like a pimp mobile. ¬†It was navy blue with some glitter in the paint and it was a two door. ¬†It was loooong. ¬†I think it may have been called a sedan-de-ville. It had crackled white leather seats and a white leather top and wire wheels. Can’t you just hear some Curtis Mayfield playing in the background as you are reading? Superfly…. I know you are laughing your asses off, just imagining this. ¬†When my brother or I would get out of the car, the doors were so heavy, we could not hold onto them and they would go flying off onto the sidewalk and get stuck, making this awful scraping sound. ( I am laughing my ass off just typing this) ¬†We could lay in the back window, on the speaker area- and we loved to do that. I think Eli and I could lay up there at the same time-one of our head’s at each end. ¬† Seat belts existed back then, but of course were not a requirement. ¬†Daddy had an orange Corvette. ¬†God, that thing was U-G-L-Y-it-didn’t-have-no-alibi-it was UGLY, but baby, we were stylin’ and profilin’. ¬† I walked to school or rode my bike, and guess what? The school was not in sight from my house. In fact, it was about a mile away. ¬†I don’t remember anything sinister ever happening. ¬†Imagine that. Well….except for the time that I cut through a yard I was not supposed to cut through, and these people’s dog bit me on the butt. ¬†Mothah said, “Well, Jennifah, you shouldn’t have cut through their yahd.” ¬†Imagine that. ¬†¬†We used to roller skate up and down the hill in front of my house in boot skates with metal wheels. ¬†I can remember saving up my babysitting money (.50 an hour) to buy the skates. ¬†They were $12.99. ¬†Skating down that hill is how I broke my wrist. ¬†We played in the creek behind my house. ¬†We played “Cowboys and Indians” and none of us had ever heard the phrase¬†politically correct before. ¬†We played with all different kinds of toy weapons-guns, knives, bows and arrows. ¬†We loved cap guns too-those were lots of fun! ¬†None of it was never deemed¬†inappropriate. ¬†We ran in a pack of neighborhood kids-after school and in the summer. ¬†It was just the way it¬†was. ¬†Life was carefree and fun-until the fifth grade. ¬†I almost hit a snag before the fifth grade , when a friend of mine told me about the horrors of¬†sex. ¬† I think that was around the third or fourth grade. ¬†I was¬†certain¬†she was wrong about¬†all¬†of that. ¬†That¬†was such vile and disgusting information– I had to go to Mothah and ask-just to make sure that something so nasty was not in my future. ¬† I was instantly sorry I had opened that can of worms. ¬†It resulted in my having to watch NOVA’s¬†The Miracle of Life¬† video and then having a¬†Q and A¬†session with Mothah afterwards, that was mostly silent. NOVA had explained it all very well. ¬†The only real question I had was, “How could I get out of doing it¬†?” and I don’t recall asking Mothah that. ¬†¬† I could forget about sex, I decided. ¬†I just put that nasty junk out of my mind, as it was a long way off for me. Sex was nothing¬†compared to the complete and utter¬†devastation¬†that came in fifth grade, when this same friend, who shall remain nameless, as we are¬†still¬†friends today, ¬†informed me that indeed, there was¬†no Santa. ¬†¬†I assured her that this time, she was dead up wrong and how dare she take the name of Santa in vain like that? She started laughing and asked me how I could actually believe that a fat man in a red suit traveled in a sleigh, with reindeer, to every house on earth, in one night, delivering gifts to every child? ¬†I thought about that for a moment and had to admit that the idea was a bit ludicrous….yet I went back to defending the great name of Santa….When I got home from school, I went to Mothah, hoping like hell she was going to tell me that¬†of course,¬†my friend had it all wrong, Santa was totally real! He was magic!¬†Magic was real!¬†¬†Yet, to my disappointment, that is not what happened. ¬†She told me a beautiful story about how Santa is love. ¬†Santa is how your parents show their love for you at Christmas time. ¬†I can’t remember now exactly how she said it, but it was beautiful and we both cried. ¬†I looked at her, sobbing, and I said, “Well, I guess this means that there is no Easter Bunny and no Tooth Fairy either?” and she nodded her head. ¬†And that was it. Fuckety fuck me. ¬†Life, as I knew it, was over. ¬†And things have never been the same again, and they never will be. ¬†I will say that things improved,¬†somewhat, when I had children of my own, and could do the whole Santa-Easter Bunny-Tooth Fairy-thing myself,¬†but,¬† it’s still not the same as it was . ¬†It will never be the same as it was. ¬†Damn it.

 

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Don’t Ever Break Him

When I was pregnant with Mini Me, I was terrified that something would be terribly wrong with him–mostly because of all of the terrible things I had done during my very in-depth studies for my PhD in partying at the University of Georgia. ¬†Of course I was¬†not pregnant with Mini Me¬†during these studies, but I was convinced that I had done irreparable damage to my body that would cause great harm to my unborn child. ¬†I went to my OB/GYN and asked if there was any way that he could tell if the baby had a port wine birth stain all over his face. ¬†My doctor just looked at me as if I had totally lost my mind. ¬†“Um, no. I’m afraid I cannot. ¬†Does that run in your family? Because that is a hereditary condition.” I looked at him and said, “NO. IT DOES NOT, BUT IT HAS TO START SOMEWHERE, DOESN’T IT?” ¬†I had him there. ¬†He just looked away and said I should not bother myself with such concerns and I had absolutely no reason to worry about a port wine birth stain. ¬†Ahhh, but I did. ¬†I drank so much red wine in college, I was sure that there was some stored up in there just waiting to stain that baby all over his face to punish me. ¬†Of course I did not think of this¬†prior to getting pregnant. ¬†All¬†I thought about was the adorable baby that was to be. ¬†I did not think about the 65 extra unwanted pounds or the purple stretch marks that would cover the bottom part of my belly. ¬†I did not think about the sleepless nights. ¬†The many, many sleepless nights. ¬†Around the eighth month of my pregnancy, when I was having trouble sleeping, ¬†Mothah was in town for a visit. ¬†“Jennifah, ¬†I hate to tell you this, but honey, you have had youah last good night of sleep.Forevah.” ¬†I just looked at her. ¬†What she really meant was this: ¬†In the sleep department, I was totally fucked. For the rest of my life. ¬†She was right. ¬†We brought Mini Me home from the hospital and put him in the family cradle next to our bed. ¬†He screamed his ass off. ¬†We would pick him up, swaddle him, rock him, etc. , put him back in the cradle. ¬†He would scream his ass off. ¬†This is how Mini Me ended up sleeping in our bed. ¬†It was the¬†only way that¬†I¬† could get¬†any¬†sleep. ¬†I say¬†I¬†because JC could sleep through the atomic bomb going off in our bedroom. ¬†Now, this was 1998. ¬†I knew that I was not supposed to put Mini Me in our bed. ¬†I had sworn I wouldn’t. ¬†I will just go ahead and admit that, pretty much, everything that I swore I would not do as a parent, I have done. And then some. ¬†Because before you are a parent, you don’t have a fucking clue. ¬†So shut the hell up with all of your “well I would do this and I would do that” because frankly, you don’t know what the hell you would do. ¬†So Mini Me slept in our bed for three years. ¬†I am not really sure how we even got The Middle Child. ¬†Maybe Mini Me went to his MiMi’s or his MiMa’s to spend the weekend. ¬†He would¬†do that. ¬†And yes, he had to sleep with them too.

The Middle Child came into this world and did not want to sleep with us. ¬†She wanted to sleep in her Moses basket beside our bed. She slept in it until she was too big for it. ¬†We could even put her down in it¬†awake and she would go to sleep¬†with zero crying whatsoever. ¬†I remember thinking “where did this angel come from?” ¬†I guessed God had sent her to make up for the spawn of….okay I won’t say it. ¬†I know I shouldn’t. I don’t really mean it, but dammit he was a difficult sleeper! ¬†When The Middle Child moved to her crib, we could put her in it, again¬†awake, and she would roll over, suck her thumb, and go to sleep with zero crying whatsoever, sometimes she would say “Night Night” and roll over and just go to sleep. ¬†This, my friends, was a dream come true. ¬†When she got a little older, if she got tired, she might just disappear and we would find her asleep in her bed! I could not have asked for anything more.

If you happened to read “The Prize At The End Of The Cancer”, it is basically The Baby’s birth story. ¬†He entered this world under extreme circumstances, and I was not in the best mental or physical condition that I could have been in at the time of his birth. ¬†I say that¬†not¬†to excuse what I am about to tell you, but in an attempt to explain my actions. ¬†The Baby, like his brother Mini Me, did not like being put in a cradle or a crib. ¬†We would swaddle him and put him down and he, too, would scream his ass off. ¬†This would make me cry uncontrollably. ¬†It broke my heart into a million pieces. ¬†The thought of his sweet little self, back there in that big, beautiful, yet awful, $500 crib, surrounded by wonderful, yet somehow awful and scary bedding, swaddled in the softest, yet most horrible blankets, and clothed in the most wonderful, yet also most harrowing nightgowns with his monogram on them, screaming in misery…..I just could not take it. ¬†He wanted¬† me. ¬†If I held him, he would sleep. ¬†So, I would hold him. 24/7. ¬†And I was so tired that one night, in the middle of the night, he and I were sitting in the glider out in the den, and I fell asleep rocking him. ¬†I woke up and he was face down on the carpet! ¬†He wasn’t crying. ¬†I was sure he was dead, and I had killed him by dropping him on the floor. ¬†I picked him up and he looked at me and blinked his eyes. ¬†We had very soft, padded carpet. ¬†Mothah was staying with us to help me and try to keep me from going over the edge. ¬†I went and woke her up. ¬†I was crying hysterically and told her I thought we needed to go to the hospital. ¬†She started laughing. ¬†She took The Baby from me and looked him over. ¬†“He is FINE, Jennifah. ¬†He does not need to go to the hospital. What probably happened was that he just slipped down, slowly, onto the floor. ¬†The carpet is soft and padded. ¬†He is totally fine. Stop crying. STOP IT.” ¬†I did. ¬†About 30 minutes later. ¬†You would have thought this was my¬†first¬†baby, not my¬†third. ¬†The loss of 2 liters of blood when he was born had really done a number on me. ¬†My mother in law found a contraption that would fit inside our bed and The Baby could sleep in it. ¬†It was like a little box. ¬†It was low enough that he felt like he was sleeping right next to us, but we could not roll over on him and he could not get tangled up in the bed covers. ¬†It even had a little light on it. ¬†It folded in half for easy travel. ¬†The Baby actually liked the damn thing! So, The Baby slept with us. ¬†It was, again,¬†the only¬†way¬†I ¬†(or Mothah!)¬†could get¬†any¬†sleep.

Here is the part that should be embarrassing. ¬†It’s the part that you might judge me for, and that is totally fine because I really don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it. ¬†The pediatrician knows already. ¬†The Baby slept with us for 7 years. ¬†In fact, he just moved out. We have¬†tried, countless times, to move him out over the years. ¬†We have used charts and stickers and money and prizes. ¬†Nothing has worked. ¬†We have tried reading to him and staying in his room until he falls asleep. We have tried leaving a light on–all to no avail.¬†¬† For the past 6-8 months, he has been sleeping on the floor in our room. ¬†2 weeks ago, he and I rearranged his bedroom so that his bed is positioned for him to be able to see my bedroom from his bed. ¬†He has slept in his bed, all night, every night, ever since. ¬†He was¬†ready. ¬†He has been sleeping in his own bed at his MiMa’s or in a sleeping bag at his MiMi’s ¬†for over a year now–so it’s not like he couldn’t do it–he just wouldn’t do it at home. ¬†He just wasn’t ready¬†to do it at home. ¬†We did not feel like it was necessary to force him. ¬†We kind of miss him now…..it means he is growing up and we are getting older and things are changing…..There are a whole lot of feelings that I don’t want to feel! Imagine that.

I guess my point of sharing this with you is that my kids dictated¬†how¬†they¬†wanted to sleep. ¬†I know that there are many books about how to force your kid to sleep…how to make them cry it out….etc. ¬†I know all of that psychology. ¬†I have read it. I have all of those books. Or had them. ¬†Shit, I hope I have given them all to Goodwill by now. ¬†I allowed¬†my kids to dictate how they wanted to sleep–right, wrong, or indifferent. I was and still am judged for it. ¬† And I believe that it was the right thing to do for us, no matter how painful it was at times. ¬† I will end with this story. ¬†When Mini Me was about two and a half, we were at a park in Memphis, Tennessee. ¬†There was a homeless man there who was watching my us play. ¬†He went up to my husband and said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever break him.” ¬†That has stuck with us ever since. ¬†¬†¬† For us, that has meant allowing our kids to be¬†themselves, and sometimes it means not going “by the book”. ¬†¬†I believe it is okay to¬†not¬†go “by the book”. ¬†¬†Don’t ever break him……¬†it resonates deep within my soul today and Mini Me is 17. ¬†I try to live by it with all three of my children.