On the metaphoric eve of becoming a grandmother, I have been thinking a lot about my journey as a parent, from the day when we first met Chris to this afternoon, when my spirits were lifted by just hearing his voice on the phone.
Let’s face it, I did some really dumb things as a first time parent, and because we didn’t get a second time, I have a lot of plans about how to improve in the next grandparental round. Here are just a few of the things I did wrong.
The Tooth Fairy
Over the weekend, we were doing some set dressing on the current production of “You Can’t Take It With You” in the Bing Theatre. Set designer Grace Wang and I were making an inventory of some objects that director Gigi Bermingham had brought in from home to be used as set dressing. We unwrapped lots of small items, but my favorite was this little ceramic receptacle of a pretty creepy looking tooth fairy. Made in two parts of bisque, I think, this little sprite sits on a bowl, inside of which is inscribed “new teeth for old.”
I was instantly transported back to when Chris was a child. For some reason, maybe all parents do this, but I decided that it would be a good idea to keep all of Chris’ baby teeth. I don’t know what the hell I thought I was going to do with them, but I thought maybe make a necklace or some such thing. Ok, I can’t be the only person who saved their children’s baby teeth, right? I shudder to think what the going rate for the Tooth Fairy is these days, but in our time, I think it was a dollar per tooth. Inflation and all, had driven it up from the quarter my brothers and I got for our teeth. Which I’m hoping my sensible parents threw away after paying for them. Perhaps its the Scot in me that made me save them, but I put them in this little metal snuff box that my friend from high school had given me when he returned after the winter recess from India, where his parents were stationed as diplomats. The container is quite small, and silver, with blue inlaid stones. And I had stockpiled the teeth over the years, so I had about 10 in the box when, at age 8, Chris found the box.
This happened simultaneously with my mother’s passing, after a brief but traumatic hospice stay in our house. I was dealing with the grieving process, and when Chris asked me whose teeth they were, I blurted out, “They’re Nana Shirley’s.”
So, Chris, here’s the take away:
- Don’t save your child’s teeth. Throw them away. Nothing good can come of it.
- Don’t lie. Nothing good comes of it. (Well except maybe this blog and a lot of laughs over the years about those stray teeth.)
There was a period of time when Chris had a lot of trepidation about sleeping in his room. For years, I attributed it to the fact that on the morning of the Northridge Quake, when we were shaken out of our beds at 4:30AM, I had run into his room, and stupidly “saved” him, carrying him to stand in the doorway until the shaking stopped. It was my birthday, too, so after it became clear that neither Chris nor I would be able to get back to sleep (Jimmie immediately went back into the bedroom and fell asleep), we went to sit in the darkened den and waited for the sun to come up. Actually, I think Jimmie stayed up long enough for me to open a birthday present or two. He had gotten me a popcorn popper, and after he went back to sleep, I went into the kitchen and turned on the gas burner and made some popcorn, much to Chris’ delight. Yes, go ahead. You can count the errors in our earthquake preparedness plan, but standing in the doorway was the practice at the time. After the sun came up, I asked Chris to help me pick up the books that had fallen off the shelf, and 4 and a half year old Chris stomped his feet and said
Make the Earthquake pick them up! He made the mess!
- If there is an earthquake, don’t wake up your child. Stand over them, but don’t wake them up.
- After the quake stops, don’t start cooking with gas in the kitchen.
Tying Shoes, Wearing Shorts for Life
When Chris was about 5, I worried that he wasn’t meeting his developmental milestones. As a kindergartner, according to the experts, he should have been getting himself dressed, packing his lunch, cleaning up his room and making brownies. I don’t know what they were feeding those kids, but Chris was not about to tie his shoes. I did what any self-respecting mother would do – I bought shoes with velcro straps, and then fastened them for him. I actually remember thinking that I was going to have to go to college with him to tie his shoes.That, and expecting he would continue wearing shorts until he was 45. He will tell you that I bought girl’s shorts at the uniform store by mistake, and yes, I confess, I did that, too. And then made him wear them (there’s the Scot again).
- Be patient. They will come along at their own speed. Rushing them won’t make them feel any more accomplished, and it will just stress you both out.
Whatever you do, do not seek to soothe your insomniac toddler to sleep by telling them that some creepy guy is going to come into their room and sprinkle sand in their eyes. Yes, the Sandman apparently traumatized my child. I guess I forgot to say it was “magical sand.” Chris spent about 3 years sneaking in to sleep on the floor next to our bed. Waking up with your child not sleeping in their bed makes you feel like a really lousy parent.
So, there are just a few ways I screwed up as a parent. And still, he turned out pretty great. And I know he’s going to be a wonderful Dad, because he’s had such excellent role models.