A Day at the Library

A week before Disney re-released Beauty and the Beast, Morgan reminded me that her home library was missing that classic tale. I’m not quite sure how we missed that one, but I decide we’ll make an adventure out of it. We’ll get the little bookworm a library card of her own and borrow Beauty and Beast. “I’m so excited,” she says. She raises both hands in the air, palms to ceiling and says “oh yeah, I get a library card.”

Well obviously I should have researched the library system a little better before making that promise. The night before our big trip I decide to visit the library’s website to investigate what I need to bring to get my baby her very own card. To my chagrin there is no information about the qualifications for a library card. But to be sure, it can’t be too difficult. I mean, what would they require a picture a id, a credit card for incidentals, a drop of blood, the promise of one’s first born?

After I drop Morgan off at school I call the library and am informed immediately that you have to be 5 years-old to get a library card and able to sign your own name. This seems a bit outdated to me. Morgan is almost 3 and can print her own name, well sort of, so why the archaic rules for the public library? Now how am I going to explain this one?

As soon as we get in the car after school, she says “are we going to the library now to get my card and the book?” I pause, because I am contemplating how to break the news. She repeats herself with a smile bright enough to light up a room. So I tell her that we are on our way to library and before I can finish she yells “hooray, hooray.” I interject her excitement to tell her that the rules say that she has to be 5-years-old to have her own card but she can use mommy’s card to get the book. As I suspected, she is adamant that she wants her own card.

When we arrive, her excitement grows and I find it cute that a library trip is to blame. When we walk in, she is in awe and says “wow look at all the books in here.” I try to keep her focused and direct her to the line as I promise we can peruse the shelves when we finish.

As we’re called to the front the desk I tell the lady I am there to get a library card. Morgan is tugging at my leg begging to be raised up so she can see. I sit her on the desk as she asks me for my photo id.  Morgan interjects and reminds the lady that this card is for her. Luckily the librarian plays along and I continue to lie to baby girl and tell her that I am signing her name on the card, but I have to be responsible. This she seems to buy but insists that upon signature that I give her my temporary card. After all, it’s hers right.

Now it’s time to find the children’s section. She insists on opening the door herself, walking in front of me and obviously thinks I am just a tour guide on her library adventure. After asking a thousand questions like why do they have computers, why is it so quiet, what’s that boy doing, I direct her to the help desk to ask for Beauty and the Beast. Without hesitation the not so friendly woman in the children’s library walks us to the Disney section picks up the book, stamps our return date and send us on our way.

As we are leaving Morgan reminds me that I said “we could see ALL the books.” She walks slowly through each isle, picking up at least a dozen books asking “What does this say?” She stops when she sees an M in the title and reminds me that’s the letter in her name. Then we stop in the study room and she asks if we can read her book and we do; three times. I am so ready to leave the library and I’m wondering why we have to take home a book we just read three times in a row.

Who knew that encouraging a love of reading would be so exhausting?

When we get home she asks me to read it again and then every night until movie day and every night for about a week after we’ve seen the movie. When the excitement dies and the book wears off, I remind her that the book is not hers and we have to return it. She asks if we can buy her one of her own. Next time, Amazon here we come.



Preschool for a Day

Not sure how many parents out there make deals with their children, but with my soon to be 3-year-old daughter everything is a negotiation. If you eat your lunch, you can have a treat. I will hold you if you promise not to cry when it’s time for me to leave. We’ll listen to kids place live if you put on your headphones. Well I am also proof that sometimes these negotiations, don’t quite go as I plan.

For the last few weeks my daughter has practically begged me to stay at school with her. She even went so far as to say “ I worry about you, when you leave me. Can you just stay please?” Oh yeah, a new bargaining chip. So last Thursday night in a desperate plea for a decent night’s sleep I promised to stay at school with her, if she was able to sleep in her bed, in her room, uninterrupted, without middle of the night prompting, until the sun came up. She immediately nodded and said “okay” with a smile. Since she has only done this a handful of times in her life, I figure my chances had to be pretty good. Huh.

“Mommy, it’s time to wake up,” she announces as she pranced into my room a little after 6 a.m. “so you get to come to school with me,” she finishes. Damn, damn, damn, am I really spending my one meeting free morning in preschool? Yes, happy Friday to me. We head to school a few minutes before 9 all decked out in our matching sweater dresses, black leather coats and boots. When we arrive, I delicately ask the teachers if I can stay to observe. As promised when she started, they welcomed me with open arms.

Initially, Morgan treats me like a show and tell item, she is eager to announce me as her mommy, takes my hand and tries to give me a tour of her classroom. As if I don’t go in with her every morning. Time for the first negotiation, “Morgan if you aren’t going to do you work while I am here, then I am going to leave.” She quickly drops my hand and begs me to stay. I agree and she finds her way to her first work station. My hand is free for under five seconds because her classmate Ruth feels the need to make me feel welcome. Maybe I looked a little uncomfortable or like I needed a friend. I can’t help but notice that Ruth has a snotty nose and clearly has been using her arm as a Kleenex. Jesus, Lord help me through these three hours. Dealing with my child’s snot is one thing, but someone else’s baby, wasn’t fun.

Morgan is unmoved by my new friend, in fact she almost seemed thrilled to have the little girl out of her hair. So all is well, until Mary decides to make me a picture with a heart on it and says I love you. Talk about territorial, Morgan was not trying to hear it and made sure to announce that she would make me a picture, I was her mommy.

I can’t help but make mental notes of her classmates and had fun matching names with faces. After all, I hear about these little people every night so I am unmoved by hearing the teachers say Will’s name over and over again. Puzzle time is interesting and becomes a group activity. Three little ladies, mine included decide to put together a tortoise puzzle. I sit back and watch them try to figure it out. I’m peeping how dominate my daughter is, she organized this group and refused to let Camden in on the action; even gave her the stiff arm. At this point I interject and suggest that everyone helps. Morgan glares at me as if to say, mom you don’t know this chick, trust me.

The next hour is uneventful and finally it’s almost time to go. That means it’s circle time and the teacher reads a book before sending them outside. The book is Grace for President and I thought it perfect since Monday was President’s Day. Morgan insisted I join the circle. As I struggle to keep my feet from falling asleep in the crisscross applesauce position, I look around and have a new appreciation for teachers. All I see is boys with hands in their pants, pretty girls with fingers in their noses or twirling their hair and all around fidgeting. But Morgan looks happy, in fact she seemed thrilled that I kept up my end of the bargain. With her hand on my knee and a smile on her face, she says “ I love you mommy” and it is at that moment that I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else and this is one negotiation that was definitely a win win!


School Girl

Smurfs By Candlelight

My husband and I used to do Valentine’s Day BIG. When we met nine years ago he coerced the ladies in my office to let him in. He changed my screen saver asking me to be his Valentine, covered my office with rose petals and topped it off with a cute stuffed animal that held a silver bracelet that I still cherish. Then there was the year of the diamond tennis bracelet, but mostly it was our getaways. I still remember being whisked away to New York City to see the Color Purple on Broadway. We cherish those memories and affectionately refer to it as the pre-babies stage.

Two babies in we laugh to keep from crying at how our days and holidays have changed. Morgan crept into our bed somewhere around 2 a.m. on February 14th.. Apparently, she wanted to be the first to wish her mommy Happy Valentine’s Day. Not to be upstaged, my 6-month-old son joined the party a little after 3 a.m. and again at 6 a.m. (the later was daddy’s turn). I woke up reluctantly about 8 a.m. to husband and baby heading out to brave the elements and stuck to wake up a still knocked out sleeping beauty to get ready for preschool.

My husband made it back just in time to give his baby girl her special Valentine from her “honey” before the 25 guaranteed from her classmates. She loved her singing balloon, flowers and a plant. I too was pleased as punch to receive my flowers and tulips (my favorite). Now my husband and I had already discussed postponing our Valentine’s Day. We had not planned a sitter, had not made reservations, it was Tuesday and really, “we got babies.”

However, he made a great lunch for me and Morgan and we let her decide our dinner fate. After much thought she asked for Chinese and a movie. Baby G didn’t wait up for the excitement; he was out like a light about 4:30 p.m. Now, I suppose like most 2 ½ year olds my daughter can watch the same movie over and over. This Valentine’s Day she decided on Smufs, which she had the privilege of seeing months ago with her daddy in the theatre on a special daddy daughter date. Somewhere between Gargomel’s wizardry and me trying to catch up on how smurfette ended up with 99 male smurfs, the two adults in the room start laughing. It’s amazing how things change from jet setting across the country to being perfectly content to watch a kiddie movie with our toddler. How will Valentine’s Day 2012 make the history books? We call it “Smurfs by Candlelight.”

Brown Like Me

In an effort to enjoy these Spring-like temperatures in the middle of winter, I agreed to go outside and help Morgan practice roller skating. At 2-years-old it takes longer to strap up her elbow pads, knee-pads, gloves and helmet than her interest in the activity, but she looks so cute with it all on that is barely matters that she can hardly move. On the way home we spotted our neighbor, who has a daughter one week younger than mine. We wave and the bunny helmet grabs her attention and demands a visit. As she approaches, Morgan gets excited and falls as she tries to show off her new skills; or the lack thereof. She looks up at me and says “I’m okay mommy.”

Our neighbor congratulates her on her new hobby and makes small talk about her get up. She then proceeds to tell Morgan about her family’s new pets. Apparently, her three children are the caretakers of chickens. Yes, live, egg laying, farmhouse chickens. Wow, how exciting, a hint of country living, right in the middle of the city.

Since this reminds me of one of my childhood chores, I think I was a little more excited than my daughter. Plus, I was delighted at the unsolicited invitation to expose my child to something new, with children that live so close. Now, I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm. Morgan’s jaw drop gave me a clue she too is interested in this activity.

She then invites Morgan to join them any day around noon to help gather up the fresh eggs and this is when it gets interesting. So, my daughter says “but….but” and it is clear that she is searching for the right words then one last “but,” before a brief two second pause. “You’re not brown like me,” she says. So in the midst of such a pleasant day and a pleasant, long overdue conversation, I find myself trying to pick my face up off the concrete.

My neighbor, who is also a teacher, doesn’t hesitate in her response. “You’re right, I am not brown like you, but we are all the same on the inside,” she says with a mild grin. Morgan looks up, right into her eyes, tilts her head to the side and pauses yet again. Then she says, “well, you’re hair is brown.” As if to say, I guess that will have to do for any physical similarity right now. I am grateful for my neighbors’ patience and understanding. She simply agreed and said “yes, my hair is brown.” Now I’d like to state for the record I have never told my daughter or anyone for that matter that they can only play with their own kind. And as some would say, some of my best friends are white. So why on earth, where on earth did this come from?

My daughter is trying hard to figure out this whole race thing and where she fits. From complexions to different hair textures, she is trying her best to make sense of it all. For me this is scary and obviously delicate. Instilling African-American pride can be taken out of context in certain situations. After all, I am the one that encourages her to look for dolls that are brown like her or reminds her that her older cousin that she wants to emulate is brown like her. I’m the one who taught her that term. As a chocolate mother, I don’t apologize for reinforcing self-love and positive imagery at such a young age. But as a human being, I look forward to an opportunity to also teach the importance of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I Am Not a Dog

After the first year of unsuccessful fertility treatments, I fell into a slight depression. I didn’t understand how teenagers without a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of could rub against a guy behind the bleachers could conceive and I couldn’t. During it all, my husband was a trooper. He dried my tears, pretended to listen to all my rants, administered injections; you name it and on our third wedding anniversary he brought home a tan colored, pug.

I fell in love instantly. I named him Uno, after all he was my first baby. I spoiled him rotten. He had a drawer full of polo shirts, a car seat and the best Vet I could find. I was content and we stopped fertility treatments, took a vacation and came home pregnant.

Now Uno is great with kids, but I should have named him Velcro because he insists on physically touching me at all times. After dealing with a toddler and an infant all day, sometimes his neediness is a little too much to bear. But the most irritating is his passive aggressive, don’t forget me eyes as I am trying to wolf down my dinner before someone needs more juice, another napkin, to go potty or a diaper changed.

Usually, my response to him, however unconventional is “get out of my face.” Now Morgan has never heard me speak like that to a human being. And despite all the folks that know about her momma’s neck rolling and occasional hood moments; she is completely unaware. Well one day my darling daughter that I adore, had worked my last nerve and was demanding my attention, although she’d had it all day. In a desperate plea for a moment of silence and peace, I made a mommy mistake. Don’t judge me, but I told my beautiful baby girl, to get out of my face.

At that moment, without hesitation and with a slight attitude to match my frustration, my baby said with one hand on hip “I am not a dog.” My husband looked confused and asked her what she said. She repeated, “I am not a dog. Mommy, don’t talk to me like that cause I am not a dog.”

At that moment, I realized that she associated that phrase “get out of my face” with how I speak to the dog and she also was very clear in reminding me of the difference. Checkmate, my 2-year-old had made her point and I owed her an apology; one I willingly and freely gave. Who said you can’t learn something from a toddler. One thing for sure, I have never parted my lips to say that to anyone again, including the dog.  I am thankful for forgiveness. I am grateful for new beginnings of each day to be a better parent than the day before.

I am Not a Dog