Christmas night, after I spent an entire day indulging myself and my daughter, as I drove home from my parents’ this thought crossed my mind, “I’ve lived a life of uninhibited indulgence.”
I’m not saying that I have lived a life filled with debauchery and excess. I haven’t. Not in the context of American life, anyway. In fact, it’s been the opposite. I’m un-American in many ways, in that I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, food, or cars.
But in comparison to most of the world, my life has been filled with always having enough. I’ve never lacked for anything, not really.
I’ve always had a home, with food on the table, clothes to warm my back, and transportation to take me wherever I need to go.
When it comes down to it, I’ve always done exactly what I wanted and gotten exactly what I wished for.
The latter part is subjective. There are many things I’ve wished for that I’ve never gotten. But in all honesty, they are things that are either impractical, illogical, or completely unnecessary to my being. Day-to-day, I cannot say that I have lacked for anything.
If I want new clothes, I buy them. If I want food, I get it. As an American, if I want. I get. It’s just that easy. While yes, there are poor people and homeless in this country, overwhelmingly, we are a country filled with more haves, in comparison to the have-nots.
Yesterday as Annika opened her gifts, she went from gift to gift, finding all things she had asked for at one point and a few things she had not.
Then we went to my parents’ where she got more gifts that she had wished for perhaps once.
Yesterday morning, the day after, we were driving in the car and I asked her, “Did you have a good Christmas?”
Her response was, “Well, Mommy, I did get the things I asked for, the dolly, and the wagon, and the jump rope. But I got a lot more things that I didn’t ask for.”
She wasn’t being ungrateful. I don’t think it’s logical to expect a 3-year-old to be that knowingly selfish. She was being honest.
It was too much.
Oh, from the mouths of babes.
And this conversation got me to wondering, “Can one suffer from having too much?”
This question in itself might seem selfish. But the reason I wonder is because I know that while I have always had plenty, I have not always been happy. And I look around me, at this world and our country, and I see many depressed and angry people, wanting something different.
We spend our lives wishing for more, or something else. And this season just has me wondering, maybe, it’s that we just have too much and that we got a lot of things that we never asked for.
It’s time for my yearly bitch about how I can’t find black/biracial/dark-skinned-in-general dolls in general stores.
My biggest complaint is with stores like HEB, Walgreens, CVS, (Wal-mart if I shopped there often enough) and Target. I”m mainly focusing on these stores because I hate to shop, I don’t go to malls, and I’m not going to pick on small, locally owned stores.
So, here goes.
Why the fuck can’t I find a doll for my daughter in a store that I shop at regularly? Is that too much to ask in this day and age?
We have a black (biracial) president. Dark-skinned populations are growing at vastly enormous rates in this country. (Don’t read the census, it’s skewed based on how they define “white,” etc.)
Here in Texas, it’s one of four states that has a “minority majority” population. Which means that white folks are the minority. Yep, that’s right y’all. We got more brown skins than white ones here. (Don’t even get me started on politics. Really.)
And yet, and yet, I still can’t find a damn brown-skinned baby doll at my local five and dime. Not even the ones on the brown side of town.
I paid three fucking times more on Amazon than I would have paid if the local grocery stores would stock a few on their pristine little shelves. Luckily she was eligible for super saver shipping, or I would been really bent out of shape.
I know that I posted last year about my joy at finding that Big Lots stocked some brown babies, which I bought.
But this year, Annika specifically wanted a life-sized dolly. She has been drooling over these girls everywhere we go.
When we first saw them in a Walgreens last summer, I started watching for them everywhere. They were on shelves in just about every store we went into for a while. Surely, the HEB on the east side of town will stock some dark-skinned dolls I thought stupidly. They did not.
Really? I mean, for real? I go into stores on those sides of town without Annika and people stare at me. (Okay, not really, but my skin color is, without a doubt, in the minority.) It amazes me that they only stock white dolls there.
The stress over this issue runs deeper still. Annika has started to show interest in doll houses and smaller dolls. Gah. I have been searching for about two years various ways I could put together a biracial family for her dollhouse. The only solution I’ve come up with is to split two families with another biracial family. Or buy them all separately.
I realize that this is not the worse thing in the world. My daughter isn’t being ousted for being racially different. Her life isn’t going to be dramatically affected by this doll obsession of mine. What this all boils down to is the fact that I hate to shop I just want my daughter to be able to find her place in the world at every step of the way and I can’t believe that stores are so fucking far behind the times socially.
One night not too long ago, Annika and I were lying in bed. I was waiting for her to drift off when I noticed that the metal chain on the ceiling fan was catching a tiny bit of light from the outside every few seconds as it twirled.
I immediately had a GREAT idea.
(You should probably keep in mind here that I had, at this point, Annika had not been introduced to fairies in any stories.)
“Annika look,” I whispered conspiratorially.
Surprised, she opened her eyes.
“What mama?” she whispered, sounding a bit worried.
“It’s a fairy,” I murmured.
Swish. Swish. Swish. Around and around the tiny dot of light glanced at us every few seconds. I thought it seemed magical.
And at first, it seemed, so did she. She squeaked in delight as we watched out little dot of magic hovering over our bed.
The next day we set up a fairy house on the floor in the bottom of the closet.
We made twig and leaf soup for the fairies, gathering items from our “garden” near the front door.
We set up some doll furniture and Annika made the fairies a bed out of two of her baby blankets.
When she wasn’t looking, I’d remove some of the “soup” and wait for her to notice that the fairies had eaten it.
The fun lasted for a few weeks.
Then one night, the light showed up again.
“Mama, I’m scared,” she whispered upon noticing that our fairy was back again.
“Why?” I asked. “Fairies are magical. They will keep us safe.”
“I’m afraid the fairies will bite me while I’m sleeping.”
Ah, fuck, I thought. There’s no coming back from this. I mean, fairies are magic. They can do whatever the hell they want to. I can’t stop them from turning on us in our sleep.
It got worse when I tried to make a comeback.
“The fairies are good. They sprinkle fairy dust on us to help us become sleepy.”
This was during high allergy season.
“Mama, I’m ALLERGIC to fairy dust!” In between sneezes.
Damn, my timing was off on that one.
The fears of being bitten went on for a while. One night, I was annoyed by the continued insistence that she would be bitten in her sleep.
“Annika, I’m going to level with you. Fairies aren’t real.”
“Yes they are mama. I can SEE them on the ceiling.”
She had me there.
“Okay, I’m going to tell them to leave. ‘Fairies, we don’t want you here anymore,'” I proclaimed.
The next day.
“Mama, they’re still here! The fairy house door is opened!”
Part of me was starting to think she was just screwing with me.
To be honest, I still haven’t come up with a solution. The fairy house is still in the closet, but the real estate is getting squeezed out by some stored items. Annika still mentions the fairies occasionally, but she’s no longer worried they will bite her in her sleep. Now, she just blames missing items on the fairies. When can’t find something her solution is, “Maybe the fairies stole it!”
To my surprise, Annika popped the big question to me the other day.
“Mommy, is Santa Claus real?”
I stammered for moment, wondering what to say. It had never occurred to me that she would ask at such a young age.
I guess my critical nature is rubbing off on her.
Let me just say, I was not prepared.
After stammering for a few seconds, I said, “Well, some people think he’s real.”
LAME ANSWER! My brain screamed. But at least I didn’t tell her a blatant lie.
Apparently it sufficed for the moment, because she began babbling and I vaguely remember something about Mrs. Claus and Rudolph before the conversation changed to more important topics like what kind of dog to be and the next thing I said was, “Stop licking my face!”
However, it wasn’t enough for the long term; the conversation didn’t end there.
A few days later, right in the middle of several days of learning Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I referenced Rudolph in conversation as if he was real.
“Mama, Rudolph isn’t real!”
“He’s not?” I questioned.
“No Mama. Rudolph isn’t real. But Santa is real, and he’s fat because he eats too much sugar.”
She’s mentioned Santa again several times since then. And to be honest, my answers still haven’t become less lame because I honestly don’t know what to say to her.
What I Thought Before She Was Born
Before Annika was born, and even when she was still a tiny infant, I always thought that I wouldn’t do Santa.
I would never lie to my child, I swore on it. It had been so long since I had looked at the holidays through the eyes of a child, I had forgotten the fun of Santa.
But then she started to grow. And we had our first Christmas, and our second.
I began talking up Santa without even realizing that I had soften my stance on the issue. It just came naturally.
I realized that I wanted her to experience the magic of Santa Claus. The letter writing, the excitement on Christmas Eve, lying awake, hoping to catch a slight tinkle or clip clop of reindeer feet on the roof. The wonder when she awakes on Christmas morning to find gifts and candies.
I don’t know why it’s so important, but there seems to be something so special about believing in magic as a child. And Santa is just part of it.
I recently made the mistake of introducing fairies in a poor manner and now she’s afraid of them and tells me she’s allergic to fairy dust.
I really don’t want to screw Santa up.
Then and Now
So when she asked me last week if he was real. And then brought it up again. And again, I began to wonder, what is the right effing thing to do?
Do I play it off? Do I outright lie? Do I distract? Do I encourage? How will she look back on this as an adult and will she wish I had done it differently? Will she be pissed that I lied to her? If I told her the blunt truth, would be happy about it? Or would she be angry that I didn’t give her the magic of Christmas for a few years?
She’s so young. She could easily believe in Santa for several more years.
Part of me says that I’m obsessing over it way to much. “Just answer her GD question,” my pragmatic brain says. Any other question, and my parenting philosophy declares that I should give her an honest, age-appropriate answer.
But the other part of my brain says, “But she doesn’t know what she’s asking you to do. She doesn’t know that if she finds out the truth at age 3, she will lose several years of magic and make believe. She doesn’t know that she will have to be in on an adult secret while her friends still believe that the North Pole is home to elves who make toys and believe in a man who can fly around the world in one night.”
So for now, I’ll be lame. Because I can’t honestly say to her, “Yes, Annika Santa is real.” But I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell her that he’s not. Not yet.
I’ve recently discussed being single with a couple of married moms, one thinking about getting divorced, and the other, getting divorced because her husband wants it, but she doesn’t.
It got me to thinking about how I looked at things so differently when we were still living with Toyin. And now, being single, there have been times, I admittedly, have inwardly rolled my eyes when listening to married moms talk about their main complaints. Not having enough “me” time. Trouble keeping the house clean. Not enough money to spend on luxuries like expensive shoes. Wishing they could take fancy trips.
My biggest wish right now is a house with a backyard.
But on those occasions, I lectured myself about how life and hardships are all subjective. It all depends on perspective.
When I had a house with a yard and my biggest worry was which playgroup to attend and when I was going to grocery shop, I still had things to complain about.
Oh, if only I could just be happy with what I have, right at this moment!
I know that on the outside, my life probably looks really great to some people.
There was that one time a hooker in my apartment complex told me she thought my apartment was the model because she could see all my furniture through the window when she trolling walking by.
Yes, I admit, it was a proud moment. I mean hey, ya gotta take your props when they’re given, right?
Honestly, she must have been smoking crack.
Other moms I know have talked up the idea of being single, as if it would make their lives easier. One mom told me that she’s thought about leaving her husband because she was tired of the disagreements over child rearing.
“I could just make all the decisions myself,” she dreamed.
Not really, I thought. While I do make plenty of decisions on my own, I still have to consult Toyin on lots of issues. And on top that, he makes plenty of decisions on his own too. I bet that one would make plenty of married moms dreams of single-hood come screeching to a halt. What?He can’t make decisions about the child without consulting me!
Don’t get your panties in a wad ladies, you know you’re thinking it.
Some sahms bemoan the fact that I get more “time off” than they do (a fact I don’t disagree with).
But when I’m without child, I am usually doing all the things I can’t get done when she’s around, like working. And on top of it, I miss her like crazy. The house just doesn’t feel the same when she’s gone.
One mom said she thought it would be better for her child because her kid would spend more time one-on-one with the dad, who apparently did nothing much with his child except spend a few moments hanging out before bed.
To this notion, I’d say, sure, that’s one aspect of single motherhood that might be beneficial all around. Child gets more quality/quantity time with dad. Dad gets to be more of a parent than he might if he was married.
I can easily say that I trust Toyin implicitly with day-to-day routines like bathing, tooth brushing, bedtime, dinner, and even clothes-buying, than many married moms entrust to their husbands.
But this argument assumes that you have an ex who wishes to be a good dad. I’ve known divorced moms who complained that their exes used the divorce as a reason to be a crappy dad, or blamed the mom for their lack of intimacy with their children.
Best case scenario, having a dad who does it all and steps up to ensure he is spending quality time with his kid, it doesn’t compare to having two parents at home. And it doesn’t wash out the scenario of a young child being frustrated about not wanting to be shuttled back and forth between two homes; two sleeping arrangements; two lifestyles.
We’re in that right now, where Annika doesn’t want to spend the night at Toyin’s. She’s used varying reasons, but I honestly believe that it’s the inconsistency in routines and that she simply wants to be at one home every day.
No matter what a great dad Toyin is, it still doesn’t take away the guilt I feel when I leave her crying and begging me not to leave because she wants to go home with me.
On the flip side, there are plenty of things that totally rock about being single.
I don’t have to justify my expenses to another person.
I don’t have to make time for anyone but myself and Annika.
I can let her stay up late without involving any discussion except for the voices in my head that scream, “Are you fucking nuts?!” To render these voices silent, I just turn up Annika’s cartoon louder and pour a glass of wine.
And that is something I don’t have to justify to anyone else either.
I missed writing about my thoughts on food for Halloween and Thanksgiving, but I didn’t want to miss my yearly opportunity to write about food and unfooding this year.
In the past three years here’s what I’ve learned about teaching a child to have a healthy relationship with food.
I’m probably screwing it up. So there’s that. I’ve also learned that I have more food issues than I realized.
And on top of all that, we live in a society that has some fucked up eating habits. As a backlash to the last generation of overeating and convenience food, there is a lovely food nazi trending in the world of motherhood. Everywhere you turn, someone has food restrictions and opinions about what to feed children. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with what’s supposed to be healthy.
What I Thought I Knew Was Missing Some Key Ingredients
Let me back up. Before Annika started eating, I thought I had found the perfect way to introduce Annika to food. I had it sewn up.
When Annika was an infant, I read about unfooding. The idea is that you give your child lots of choices and they learn to regulate their own likes, dislikes, tolerances, and intolerances. Sounds perfect right?
Except that it only works if you don’t have your own food issues blocking the way, and also if you’re really good at keeping a healthy balance of food in your home on a continual basis.
Neither does the theory of unfooding take into account being a single mom and having a baby daddy who takes your toddler out to eat regularly, and who doesn’t think there is anything wrong with allowing her to have soda and fast food hamburgers on a regular basis.
It also doesn’t take into account your child’s penchant for eating chocolate and calling that dinner.
When I started unfooding I thought it was working great. I let Annika eat cookies and she would turn them down sometimes. She didn’t gorge on her Halloween candy. She didn’t beg to go out to eat. She happily ate vegetables.
Then she turned 3.
To add to the Age of Having Her Own Opinions, I had under my belt approximately three years of really examining what I typically keep in my refrigerator and my own daily diet.
I came to the realization that while my meals were generally healthy, my snacks were not. And now that I’m no longer a smoker, my oral fixation had turned to food. When I was in need of a fix, I wasn’t grabbing carrot sticks. Instead, I was grabbing cookies and tortilla chips.
Part of my unfooding ideals had backfired on me because while it’s okay to eat cookies, it doesn’t mean that you have to keep them in the house all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you should allow your uber-picky 2-year-old to eat those instead of a meal because, “At least she’s eating SOMETHING!”
As a Child My Food Habits Were Restricted
My background surrounding food involves a mother who was ahead of the times and held her own personal war against junk food when I was a kid during the 70s and 80s when convenience food wasn’t a societal enemy. I was never really allowed to make my own choices about food. We never kept a lot of snacks in the house. Sugary cereal was out of the question during an era when Froot Loops were considered part of a balance breakfast. We rarely ate fast food.
And when I was finally introduced into a world where I could eat whatever I chose for myself, Taco Bell became a nightly routine.
Back to the Present
So now I have a 3-year-old who asks every day when she can have some sugar and lately I have been feeling forced into bribing her to eat her dinner with the promise of a cookie at the end of the meal, I realize that I was doing this whole unfooding thing partially wrong.
Luckily, she’s only 3. It’s still early on in the food/relationship game.
Unfortunately, my fears often cloud my judgment. I worry that Annika will grow up with some unhealthy eating habits, like binge eating, or ignoring her bodily warnings. But I would like for her to have a healthy diet right now, too. So I am confused about how much control to exercise over what she eats. And some of my behavior has turned passive-aggressive, a stereotypical mom behavior that I swore I would never do.
I have started making comments about how too much sugar is not healthy for our bodies every time she asks for a cookie; making a point of not having any in the house so I can say we don’t have any; and when we drive past McDonald’s I say, “Eww, gross. That place is disgusting! I hate McDonald’s!”
I’m not entirely sure that’s the best way to deal with my angst over her father’s habit of feeding her food that makes me want to vomit, but it’s where I’m at right now.
The New Plan
I don’t have anything set in stone, but I am forming a new plan in my head surrounding how to approach food.
First, I will start offering several options along with the sweets, which is still a part of the unfooding ideal.
Second, I will involve Annika in helping decide what we buy at the grocery store. I’ve already started doing this. She often picks out which fruits we buy and she helps me “read” the grocery list (hey, two birds, one stone).
Third, we will start making our cookies at home and I will try out various sugar substitutes.
I am not big on hiding things from Annika, so I will not mask healthy foods in the guise of snacks. I want her to know that healthy foods can also taste good. I want her to make the connection between eating crap and feeling like crap.
I hope that when she grows up she has a good sense about what makes her body feel good and stay healthy looking. I’ve never been overweight much in my life, I had a brief period in my 20s where I was a little chubby. But until the past few years, I’ve always thought I had a relatively nice figure. Then my stomach got flabby after having a baby and I just gotta say, damn, it’s uncomfortable!
I used to hear women talking about how thighs rubbing together. I started to experience that last summer and I was all, “Hell no!” This shit will not stand.
I don’t want Annika to live in a body that doesn’t feel good.