photoWe all evolve; nobody starts out perfect.

Consider this little person, a casual caregiver at best, with her bottle of beer and her baby splayed, arms outstretched, in the grass.

She LIKED the baby well enough. She just didn’t really know how to care for her.

Her grandfather David and I didn’t know how to care for her mother at first either: we read her to sleep on a waterbed in the basement of our friend’s house by the sea.

In Coastal Maine.

In late August.

And the waterbed, it turned out, wasn’t even heated – so when we came back downstairs many rollicking hours later, having played rounds of Botticelli til we were blue in the face, we found our child seemingly blue in the face herself – or so we at first thought when we touched her and felt her cool, cool skin.

People almost shouldn’t be allowed to have babies until they’re like 40.

And yet

And yet.

Only six months later, this little person is still only one year old and already she has grown in the nurturing arts, as you can plainly see.

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Moral of the story? Love a little person hard and s/he will learn to do the same.

The End of Parenthood

I thought NBC’s Parenthood would be lame, a remake of the old movie by the same name but then March 3rd came here they all were: Craig T Nelson, so perfect as patriarch Zeke (even though I’m not 100% convinced that a vet from our earliest years in Vietnam would actually BE proficient in acoustic guitar.) And Bonnie Bedelia, who shows me my own future with her ringlets and her angel sleeves and her dangly earrings. She dresses as if it’s the 70s again and why not? Viva empowerment!  The Blond Kristina is sure in her own boat: “I was a teenage girl once! You never were!” she yells to her husband, played by Peter Krause. Still, I’ll admit she’s pretty sweet in that scene where she disappears into her closet in search of an outfit for the big  job interview and comes out in such a giantly shoulder-padded jacket her two sisters-in-law hoot with derisive laughter. (“Who are you, Cybil Shepherd”?!)

Dax Shepard is in it too. He’s  the rangy big-eyed dude above  you know him: he who played  Tina Poehler’s  partner-in-deception in “Baby Mama”. I like that his name is Crosby in the show. I keep looking around for family members named Stills, Nash and Young.

Plus even the kids are great, especially the older ones. That mild boy-teen trying to get a foothold in the new school. And pretty-girl Sarah Ramos. And Mae Whitman with the sad eyes and the slumped shoulders.

But my favorite character?  Hands down it’s Lauren Graham as the merry-eyed slightly screwed- up daughter who has to move home with her kids and then begins thinking she should move back again and stop causing everyone so much trouble. Her daughter’s English teacher falls in love with  her for her funny vulnerable way.  That’s what did it for me too. Take a peek from the promo clip to see what I mean:

Here’s to You, Kid

It’s my boy’s birthday today and didn’t we have fun when you were small, Mike, like that one time we used Magic Markers to make a big scary face on my styrofoam wig-head, then lashed it to the closed and upended ironing board so its base became its shoulders, then dressed the whole monster up in my big old bathrobe and propped it up so it was sort of leaning in over Dad’s sleeping form? When you called Dad’s name and he startled awake to see this hideously smiling ‘thing’ staring into his eyes, the look on his face was priceless. In our minds he deserved the shock  for presuming to be sound asleep on a Friday night at 7 when the rest of us were celebrating the start of  the weekend.

Now here we are at the start of another weekend some 15 years later and God  knows what kind of crazy fun you’ll be getting into tonight with your pals down there in Brooklyn…. So this is just to say here’s to you, boy of my heart; you whose oldest sister once called  Our Best Final Project, even though you did bite her square on the bottom the summer you were four.

So, readers of mine, this is Michael when he was little being given the ET-in-the-closet treatment by his sister Annie when he was little. And here underneath is his big sister Carrie looking over at her own new baby  a few summers back. Maybe someday, when Mike looks over at a baby of his own in someone’s arms he might finally come to know how much we all loved him.

Like in Fatal Attraction?

I think April stirs up greed: for the warmth, and the length of days and … let’s face it, the loot. What I’m remembering today is a greed-related chapter from my parenting days.

My girls, seen here at the time, were nine and eleven and at the tail end of one very long day they were fighting. The younger one was looking for just the right spot under her pillow to put a tooth for a Tooth Fairy I seriously doubted she still believed in, when her big sister, perhaps suspecting the scam of feigned belief, suddenly winged a bean-bag at her, causing that tiny chip of enamel to fly from her hand.

Try as we might, we just couldn’t find it, which caused her to send up a wail like an air-raid siren.

“But the Tooth Fairy will find it and leave the money,” I assured her in my best June Cleaver way.

“No she won’t!” lamented the child.

“Oh, but she will,” I cooed on. “Because the Tooth Fairy is like an angel…”

But she cut me off. “She WON’T!” she screeched again, eyes now rolling with panic.

“Well now Annie,” I said, in a badly misguided appeal to reason, “The Tooth Fairy… well you know there ISN’T any Tooth Fairy, really. People’s parents…”  It was horrible. I couldn’t seem to stop myself, even as the child’s eyes widened. “You see it’s like with the Easter Bunny…”


As I say: my biggest parenting error ever. And I see by what I feel telling the tale, I’m not over it yet.

I’m pretty sure she is, however.  She went to culinary school between college and grad school with the result that once again this holiday she is doing the cooking for the Whole Darn Family and at 2pm we’re set to sit down to: Morel Mushroom Tarts and Semolina Gnocchi with Pea Puree and Burrata, a main course of Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream, Chicken Baked in Bread (whatever that is) Asparagus and Leek Bread Pudding…. And oh yes, for the pasta course?  BRAISED RABBIT over Pappardelle with Fava Beans, Black Trumpets and Ricotta.

So maybe kids survive their parenting after all. We can only pray.

Anyway, enjoy this day, all you great people, for whatever reason it might be holy to you!

Annie now, aproned up for the job ahead 

Revolt of the Powerless

Little kids are so sweet the way they repeat their parents’ phrases. A while ago I was sitting with a little girl two who really REALLY wanted the toy that this seven-month-old beside her was clutching, maybe because it wasn’t even a toy so much as totally delightful AID TO RELAXATION, a sort of wee vibrating robot that looks like this:

She just WANTED this gizmo. Bad. And so said “I’m sure the baby would be happy to share that with me.” She’d heard this phrase from her parents evidently and decided to give it a try –  and just like that the thing was buzzing away in her hand and she was smilin’ to beat the band.

The trick in life, children,  is to manipulate reality with words, just like she did: say a thing and hope that the saying will make it so. I know it’s a scam I personally have been tryin’ to run for like 50 years now.

But what would happen if little kids turned the tables and used those powerful suggestions on us their keepers? We say to them “Shall I check your hair now?” meaning ‘Shall I drag this painful metal-toothed comb through your tender scalp looking for nits?’ We NEVER say “Would you like a bath tonight or should we just say the hell with it?”, NEVER ask “Would you LIKE me to find the tenderest hairs at the  nape of your neck and rake my fingers through them?” Oh no. It’s all false choices we offer them, like those personality tests that ask if you’d rather have your nostril hairs pulled out one by one or be thrown from a third floor window.  “Should we take the lice-comb to you first or start the evening’s activities by scouring your bottom with infernally stinging baby wipes WHILE GRASPING YOUR TINY ANKLES AND HOISTING THEM HIGH ABOVE YOUR HEAD?

What I worry about is when the tables turn at which point “Will that be paper or plastic?” won’t exactly be the choice that they’re offering us.  More like “Mom? Dad? Will that be the pillow over your face or an overdose of Nyquil?” when we’re all 110 and they’re 80 and sick to death of us.

In fact what I think is we should fork over all our foot massagers, head ticklers and heating pads RIGHT NOW – and  maybe, just maybe, they’ll let us live.