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There was a time when you flew in circles about the room, flapping your wee wings and laughing in delight.

There was a time when the cries ushering from your mouth were only true tears of sadness or hunger.

A hug, a nurse, a kiss, a tickle, cheered all.

Where have you gone, my little fae?  And who is this peskie pixie that has come in your place?

Who screams with a banshie howl, shattering glass with her spoiled desires.

Who refuses to listen to reason and instead throws herself on the ground–a heap of thrashing limbs.

Who screams and screams and screams and screams.

And then screams some more.

Where did she come from and why?

But, of most importance, how do I get you back, child of my heart?

I see glimpses of you as she gasps for a new breath.  I see you underneath it as she whimpers, ‘I want a hug.’  But I cannot give in while she is still here.  That would make her stronger.  Some how I must resist her caterwauling and still find you beneath it all.

I don’t know how to do that.

I miss you, child of my heart.  I miss the mama I was to you.

But, most of all, I miss you.  My little faery child.  I miss you.  I hope you find your way home soon.

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Dear Madame Librarian,

When I was a little girl, my mom took me to the library almost every week (as far as I can remember).  The open foyer was breezy and sunny.  To the left went the children; left again into the big kid section; right and into the little kid section.   Low wooden buckets lines the walls in the little kid section, plus a little white shelf filled with teeny tiny peter rabbit books.  And in the big kid section, my favorite section, there was a low desk sized perfectly for children to check out their own books with their own library cards.  Sometimes I browsed the low stacks, but my favorite fiction books were in the tall stacks.  The Wizard of Oz series was on the highest possible shelf which meant I got to pull over a stool to reach them.  Each hard cover volume was huge.  I loved the smell.

On the other side of the foyer was the grown-up section.  It felt specious, littered with complex information and quiet, thinking grown-ups.  I could always find my mom to the left, in the fiction.  Sometimes I found fiction for myself there too, even though I was still a kid.  Sometimes, I fingered the drawers that held the maps, wishing I had an excuse to pull them open.  I didn’t; so I pulled open the card catalogue drawers instead and fingered through them.  Curious.  Like reading through a dictionary.

I don’t remember the name of my favorite librarian.  She was the kid’s librarian.  She sat behind the low desk and smiled and said hello so kindly.  She seemed pleased when I filled out so many summer reading cards to pin up on the wall.  I vaguely recall her help and suggestions.  She was kind.  She was part of the room itself.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually lived there like Mike Mulligan and Maryanne in the basement of the new town hall.

Today, I brought my own child to the local library.  Where you work.  I wish it already held as many fond memories.  But it doesn’t and, unfortunately, I don’t believe it ever will.  Technically speaking, the children’s section is lovely.  Tons of books.  Big kids, little kids, buckets of picture books, a nice open area for group activities, a little play area with couches, plenty of tables to sit at.  But you, Madame Librarian, are a unwelcoming cold breeze sitting behind your high desk.  A high desk, I should mention, where you cannot check out your own books if you are a child.

Twice I have asked for help, and twice I have been glared at as if I shouldn’t be disturbing you as you cut our your shapes from your colored paper or gossip with the others.  The first time, we spotted a picture of Maisy the mouse.  My child wanted to know who she was.  Modeling a love of learning and asking for information, I suggested we ask the librarian who she was and wether we might read a book about her.  When we asked, we received a glare poorly covered up with a glassy smile.  “Sure! We have plenty of Maisy books if they’re not all taken out.  It’s a TV show!”  I’m sorry, did you just say TV show to my toddler who doesn’t watch TV and is at a library for a reason?  A reason having something remotely to do with, say, reading the written word?

The second time was today.  My child has displayed a ridiculous fear of bugs.  Who knows from whence it came since I spent much of my childhood dreaming of being an entimologist.  Upon its discovery I declared, “We’ll just have to go to the library and take out some books on bugs so we can learn about how cool they are!”  When we got there, I discovered that all the picture books were stories and the computer catalogue was no help, so I turned to the librarian.  “Can you tell us where to find non-fiction books about insects for my two year old?”

You glared at me.  “We don’t have any.  They’re for older kids.”

“Oh, well that’s alright.” But what I’m thinking is, “Is there a rule somewhere that says little kids can’t look at big kid books?”

“You should have just typed in ‘Insects’ in the computer.”  To which I opened my mouth to reply that I had, but you swept out from behind the desk and disappeared into the tall stacks.  I grabbed my child and followed you.  I had to look down every single aisle since you were completely gone.  When we finally found you, you stood there impatiently but then proceeded to list through every single kind of insect we could read about as you pointed to every single shelf.  Did you think I was daft?  And then you left us, turning back briefly to comment that the books with a brown stripe were for children in grades one through three.  Other than showing us where to find the books, that was the most helpful thing you said the entire time.

We found plenty of appropriate books.  As it turns out, nonfiction books for first graders to read to themselves are perfect for parents to read to their toddlers.  Not too many words, simple sentences, and great pictures.  If you were the good childrens librarian I wish you were, you would have known that, and been excited at our search for bug books, and encouraged my toddler to explore the stacks, to one day call libraries her second home.  But you aren’t.  And that is extremely dissapointing at a time when my child needs to love the library now.

In a few years, I’ll have lost her to the internet.  She won’t know how to use a phone book or an encyclopedia.  She will not feel comfortable wandering through the stacks alone, pulling random books out to poke through, rubbing her hands across the cover as if it could tell her more than the words.  She will love the smell of dusty keys and frying screens instead of musty books that breath their own history when you turn the pages.  I need your support now, because in a few years, it will be too late.

As for the dismal toddler and preschool activities you offer, I won’t even go into it.  It’s not worth.  But you, Madame Librarian, need to get your priorities straight.  Encourage the seeking of knowledge from the very books that surround you.  Encourage the desire to reach up higher than anyone thinks you should.  Welcome us gladly into your day.   Are these things not why you became a childrens librarian in the first place?

Sincerely,

Single Mom with Tiny Tot

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I have two new roomies.

One is another single mom.  She’s super cool.  We met through my mother’s group.  We became friends when both of our marriages fell apart.

The other is her daughter.  She’s also super cool.  She’s a year older than Avi and they already get along like two peas in a pod, which is good since they share a bedroom.

We now live in a house.

With a playroom, a dining room, a dishwasher, a laundry room, a walk-up attic, and a yard.  It’s the biggest house I’ve lived in since my childhood.  It may even be bigger than my childhood home.

I haven’t slept all by myself in a bedroom this size since I was 17 and still lived in that childhood home.

I’ve had a hard time getting used to all the space.

Everything is so far apart.

I can’t cook dinner, pee, see my child bouncing on her bed, check my email and watch a movie all within ten steps.

Bed time takes 45 minutes longer just because of all the going up and down of stairs and running down of hallways.

Cleaning up my child’s scavenging trails is an hour long event instead of a 10 minute chore.

I never realized how I had grown so used to small space.  Small, airy spaces.  Not caves.  Just cozy.  I have a feeling, I may grow to miss cozy and will seek it out again one day.

But, in the meantime, I’m liking space.

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Dis/connect

Somewhere in the middle of a day like today, I identify the life-lesson or life-reminder.  I smile.  Move on.  And continue with the day.

On a day like today, my life has a story line:  a beginning, middle, and end, you might say.

On a day like today, I can feel the earth spinning on its axis–and it’s not all that unpleasant.  I can feel myself standing still–and it’s not all that unpleasant.

But, today, a day not unlike any other day of cognizance and self-awareness, I could not and did not identify the life lesson—and, oddly enough, I’m very okay with that.  In fact, I like it.

I woke up to my alarm.  I had unpacking and breakfasting to do before I made myself pretty for a day out.

My new roomie woke up in a slight panic because of her sick child, her sick self, and her desire to get out the door to the aquarium.

I have newly shorn hair.  I can’t decide if I look like my 18 year-old-self or my 50 year-old-self.  Either way, it stuck up at odd angles in bedhead fashion so I had to tackle it with mounds of putty.

I set off, irritated because the new love of my life, my gps, has gone temporarily missing in the move.  It wasn’t until I mentioned this to my first appointment of the day that he pointed out the obvious irony: a lost gps.  I simply admitted that I’d sat at my computer earlier in the day, staring at the google page, wondering whether it would help if I typed in “I can’t find my gps.”  Would google come through and point the way?  I didn’t give in to the pathetic urge to make google my savior, by I was sorely tempted.

My fist date was with Mr. Dad of Two.  Not a “date” I should clarify.  Just a catch-up cup ‘o tea.  A “Hey, how are you since you disappeared and sometimes I think of you so I was just wondering” cup ‘o tea.  It was nice.  And then it got sweetly odd…because we walked out to our cars and he said he had something for me.  He bought it last summer, when he read one of my posts, “and they match.”

They’re black.  And lacy.  And he admitted he’d never get to see them, but he wanted me to have them.

I blushed.  And giggled.  What a girl.

Alone in my car, I fought back a few tears.  Neither said nor happy.  Relieved, I think, upon introspection.  Relieved that there are men in the world who enjoy giving random beautiful gifts.  Just because they can.

And then the tears went away, and I moved on.  And I felt us spinning on the axis, and I wondered where my gps is, and I drove on.

And I arrived at a local community center by way of a trail of purple and yellow balloons.  A baby shower.  A baby shower filled with cousins and little girls running about.  Filled to the brim of lovely old ladies and pink bags of crocheted bonnets.  And I wondered why I wasn’t jealous.  Jealous because my shower was so small and my circle of friends is so small and my family is so small.  Jealous because I dream of another child, and another, and another.  A life full of many children that I will not have for many more years.  But I wasn’t.  Instead, I felt such a deep sense of pride and admiration that this young woman, my friend, would be surrounded by so many women who loved her and wished her well.  How wonderful for her.  How beautiful she is.

And then I drove home.

My roomies were back.  And then they left to go out to dinner.

And then my last roomie came home.

The child of my heart.

And the rest of the day dissapeared in its disconnected connectedness.  It didn’t matter.  Lacy undies, purple balloons, floating gps, rumbly belly.  It didn’t matter.

So we sat and colored.

And then we went to bed.  And her kisses and cuddles have never felt so sweet.

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I didn’t bring the spare.  They were nestled in our cold cold car, and here we were in the mall with a puddle of pee and soaked toddler.

Sears to the rescue.

After racing to the potty, cleaning up, and wrapping her bare bottom in my sweater, we headed to the children’s sale rack to see what we could find.

Pink sweatpants for $4.  Score!

But try as might, I coudn’t convince her to wear pants without undies.

So we went in search of the undies section.

“No, honey, those are boys.  How about Dora?  These are for girls.”

“Look!  Minnie!”

“That’s Mickey.”

“I like Mickey!”

I was wearing out at this point so I didn’t care to point out that these were boys undies too.  We paid at the counter, turned down the bag since we were putting them on right away anyways, and went around the corner to hide in the candle section.

I ripped open the package and handed over the pair with Mickey on the ass.

She pulled them on, pleased with herself.  And then looked down and exclaimed: “These are boys’ undies!”

I stuttered, “Uh, well, yes, yes they are.  But that’s okay.  You can still wear them.”  I didn’t think she’d spot the gender-bender.  I figured she’d stick her hand through the hole and exclaim about the pocket.  I didn’t know she could actually identify boys undies.

“When we get home, we should give them to a boy.”

“You want to give them away?”

“Yes.”

“Um, okay, I’ll call and see if W__ needs some Mickey undies.  He likes Mickey.”

“Otay.”  And she pulled on her pink sweatpants and told me to throw the package away so we could go walk around some more.

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I’m about a week and a half in to my very restricted diet.

The relief has been unprecedented.

Not in that I feel 100% normal again, but that I feel happy again.

Food allergies, it turns out, are not just hives, puking, or blowing up like a balloon.  They are varied, subtle, can be delayed over days, and can involve dizziness, fatigue, irritability, angry outbursts, and depression.

All year I have been suffering from small yet debilitating bouts of inexplicable depression, violent and scary outbursts of anger towards my child, extreme irritability, and an inability to recover from an emotional irritation.

When I have my daughter with me everyday, I’ve had to consciously say to myself “welcome this child.  love this child.  look at her and love her.”  It’s an awful feeling to have to remind oneself to love a toddler who’s giggling and dancing.

It’s an awful feeling to get irritated about one tiny incident and then be irritated and pissed off all day and to not be able to shake it.

I don’t know what the root cause of this year of tummy troubles was.  I’ll probably never know why three different bacterias have exploded in population in my gut.

But, what I now know is that I’m NOT crazy.  Feeling lousy emotionally is not just me trying to live with a physical illness; it’s a symptom of this physical illness.  It’s all related.  It’s all one big event.

This week, I continued to have some short-lived rounds of feeling ill.  But I also spent several joyous days truly loving my child without having to remind myself to love her.  I found myself giggling at her antics while I was still irritated with her over something naughty.  I found myself ignoring the chores so we could sit on the floor and string beads, do puzzles, dance, and sing.  I found a piece of myself that has been missing all year.  All of 2008.

There are tears welling up and pouring over as I write this because it is such a relief to have answers, results, hope, and joy.

I am looking forward to 2009.

This year, I will mend my broken tummy.  I will continue to find, create and make delicious meals that are free of over 65 different allergens.  I will bake.   I will sew.  I will create.  I will love theatre again.  I will love life again.

It finally feels good to be alive.

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Like ADD and Colic, I think a lot of children get lumped into The Terrible Twos unfairly.  Sure, there are plenty of children who actually have ADD, colic, and completely unexplained tantrums.  But, for the most part, a lot of patience, research, communication, and coaching can go a long way and allow you to remove the negative label you’ve given him or her.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, Avi momentarily changed all that.

She entered The Terrible Twos.  And I labeled her with gusto.

She threw herself on the floor screaming for no reason.

She looked me in the eye, dropped food over the side of the table and then innocently asked, “Is Avi being naughty?”

She screamed inconsolably.

She pushed buttons I didn’t even know I had.

And one terrible and fateful lunch hour, I slapped her.  Yes, I slapped her.  Not hard enough to hurt; it didn’t leave a red mark, it didn’t make her cry.  But it did make her stop.  It wasn’t planned.  It wasn’t wanted by either of us.  But out it came.

I was heartbroken, ashamed and horrified.

I never knew I could feel so much anger at such a little person.  I never knew I could hit her.  I had become the parent I never wanted to be:  I threatened, I screamed, I fumed, I forcibly stuck her in chairs, I hauled her out of stores.  We were both miserable.

So I gave myself a time out.

Everyone I spoke to reassured me that “it happens.”  In fact, the first person I called was my girlfriend, L__, who had just admitted to hitting her son the previous week without really meaning to (he’s just about Avi’s age) so I knew she would get it.  My mom admitted to slapping me and also reminded me that my dad spanked me several times and I’m perfectly fine, and I don’t remember it.

I let them make me feel better, because I needed it.  But, the thing is, I don’t really believe that.  I don’t believe Avi cries for no reason.  She always has a reason, even if I think it’s silly.  I don’t believe she would push my buttons just to irritate me.  I don’t believe in only one-sided anger: it does, after all, take two to tango. I don’t believe that this hit will not affect her even if she doesn’t consciously remember it.

So I’ve started reading.  In fact, I stayed up reading far into the night because I found this book so helpful that I kept telling myself, “I need to read as much as possible right now so I can put this stuff into practice!”  Eventually, I did go to sleep.  But, even being tired today, Avi and I had the best day we’ve had in weeks.  Not a single tantrum.  Oh, there were disagreements and irritations.  But no anger.  No screaming.  And no hitting (by me, at least.  I can’t say the same for her…yet).

And, just so you know moms, the hardest part of all this?  Admitting to her dad what I’d done.

And admitting it to you.

I’ve committed myself to revealing, in this blog, all the bits and pieces of honest-to-goodness parenting that no one is willing to admit or talk about.  But this was by far the hardest thing to state publicly.  For those of you who do spank, maybe it’s not a big deal.  But it is to me. I will carry the shame of the betrayal of my daughter’s trust forever.

I may forgive myself, as she has already forgiven me.  But I will never believe that I made the right choice at the moment.

I made the wrong choice.

So now I’m trying to fix it.

And, in the process, I think I will discover what I have believed all along: that a lot of children get lumped into The Terrible Twos unfairly, including my own daughter.

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