So this is what happens when a three year old takes over your iPhone. About a hundred pictures in a span of 15 minutes, some of which look like a crime scene involving a knockoff Barbie.
A couple of weeks ago, P had her very first play date. Before you pass horrid judgement at the fact that she was almost three before this milestone took place, please let me explain myself.
P was born in the lovely (and expensive) city of San Francisco, and since we knew we wouldn’t be living there permanently, I didn’t bother joining any mommy groups. So I completely missed out on the whole mommy-group camaraderie, as well as the possibility of having women around with kids P’s age.
We ended up moving twice in P’s first three years, so there wasn’t really any time to settle down and find friends with similarly-aged kids. And it turns out that none of my friends who live within a thirty-minute driving radius have kids around P’s age. So that wasn’t an option either.
I was excited when P started preschool, thinking that I’d soon meet other kids’ parents and we would start the whole mysterious cycle of play dates. But meeting said parents turns out to be rather difficult when you all have different drop-off and pick-up times.
So I just figured I’d wait it out until P started going to slumber parties sometime in high school.
One day at school, though, I had a fabulous surprise waiting for me: the mom of P’s BFF had left a note with her email and phone number, asking if we were around during winter break, and if we’d be interested in setting up a play date between P and S.
Interested? I was practically doing a happy dance. I think I was way more excited than P was, because honestly I don’t know that she knew what a play date even was.
After a few backs and forths on email, we decided on a Bat time and a Bat place, and I was to bring drinks (which, in my excitement turned out to be way too many for a two-hour play date). The girls played happily with one another until around lunch time, at which point P got completely cranky and needed some space. Apparently, that’s normal at toddler play dates. So much to learn.
S’s mama and I chatted happily, complained a bit about our preschool, drank yummy tea, and had a lovely snack. And I finally figured out that the play date was as much for our sake as it was for the girls’. So, so much to learn.
I know it’s a bit too late for a post-Halloween post (all the on-the-ball mamas probably did it by midnight of the 31st), but I’m definitely of the better-late-than-never mindset.
This year, P, along with every other girl in her preschool wanted to be a princess. OK, I take that back, I remember seeing a mermaid. And a Princess Leia (Disney’s newest princess?). When I saw the gaggle of children at the Halloween “parade,” aka children wildly running to their parents in excitement as teachers tried to make them walk in a line, my first thought was: why don’t any of the boys want to be prince charming? They were probably having too much fun being firefighters, Humpty, and Dumpty to worry about rescuing all the girl preschoolers from the clutches of evil stepmothers.
I’ve already chronicled my own issues with Halloween elsewhere, so I’m generally pretty determined that P will have a different Halloween experience. So, donning her Cinderella dress and tiara, she ran around with the other kids, and ate her treats.
I’ll be honest: I had tried my best to have her pick another costume. Super Girl? Doctor? Anything else? The idea that someone of my flesh and blood could be so princess-centric is completely foreign. No one who knows me, even remotely, could ever ever in a million years call me a girly-girl.
Not being a girly-girl is practically unheard of in Iranian culture. Almost every Iranian woman (and I only say almost because I’m thinking of my sister as the other lone exception) wears gobs of makeup, is always immaculately put-together, wouldn’t dare sunbathe in order to keep a clear complexion, is always wearing incredibly trendy clothing, and more likely than not, has had some sort of surgical enhancement, and looks YEARS younger than her husband, even though they are probably the same age. I realize that I’m making incredibly huge generalizations, but I know a lot of Iranian women who fit this bill.
My lack of girly-girl-ness, however, came as a result of growing up in Iran. We moved from Iran when I was nine, and from the time I started school when I was six, I had to wear headgear to cover my hair. My solution, completely endorsed by my parents, who thought having to cover my hair at such a young age was completely ridiculous, was to cut my hair really short and pretend I was a boy outside of school. Minutes after the school bell would ring, I would run out of the building, tear off my headscarf, and sprint home. Ahhh what a heady feeling of freedom.
I got to be so good at pretending I was a boy that a second cousin, who was in the military, was able to sneak me into the military stables and have me hang around with the horses. The obsession with horses, a staple of all girl childhoods, was definitely not lost on me.
Once we got to the U.S., I tried to shed the tomboy tendencies, but it was difficult. I distinctly remember holding the door for an elderly couple at a restaurant, and being thanked in this way, “Thanks, son.” My English was still rocky, but I was shocked at not being recognized as a girl.
So I figured the next step to becoming a “real girl” was acquiring a Barbie. So I shamelessly begged for one. The only one I was allowed to have was Astronaut Barbie, since my mom was not too keen on the whole princess thing.
She did see the error of her ways at some point, though. I may have been the only teenage girl who was begged BEGGED by her mother to wear makeup (this generally happened in a frantic tone in the car as we were going to visit relatives, who were generally really well-put-together Iranian women). I was probably not the first teenage girl to be begged to wear lighter colors (I was no goth, but somehow she thought I was). All to no avail.
What I find fascinating is that my parents are now the princess enablers in P’s life. My mom is getting an early start. There’s no need to pretend P is a boy in America. My mom is definitely getting all the girly-girl potential she lost with me in P.
I generally find it pretty amusing, and despite half-heartedly trying to get P to wear a different Halloween costume, I try not to be too militant anti-princess. P has a pretty healthy curiosity, likes kicking and throwing balls and rolling in dirt as much as any other toddler–boy or girl.
And the following picture also gives me hope.
Any girl who goes to an indoor playground, dresses up as a princess and then proceeds to put on a hard hat and play with the Black & Decker toy tool set is probably going to be OK.
My family had been living in the U.S. for just over a year when we moved into an incredibly cute duplex in a working class town 20 miles south of San Francisco. The house had a front yard filled with wood chips, a sunny eat-in kitchen, and hardwood floors throughout.
We had moved to Northern California from Irving, Texas, not too long before. In Texas, we first lived at my aunt’s house (for…two months? Three? The details are fuzzy) and then a hopelessly depressing apartment.
So the duplex in San Leandro was definitely a step up. And we had an awesome view: the house across the street. It was one of those beautifully refined Craftsman-style houses–incredibly well-kept and sporting a fantastic yard.
The man who lived there was, in every sense, quite neighborly. He was always out in his yard with a huge sun-hat, perfecting the garden, waving hello as we walked or drove by.
We hadn’t been there very long when he knocked on the door one day, presenting my dad with a huge basket of vegetable-garden bounty. I remember there were zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
My father, already an emotional man, was over the moon. He started praising the vegetables, our neighbor, America in general, and ended with “Thank you so much. I’ll put them on my eyes.”
Our neighbor wasn’t really sure what to make of this, and said something to the effect of, well, I guess you can do that, but it’s probably better if you eat them.
You see, my dad was literally translating a common saying in Farsi. The phrase, which is said when one person gives another something of value, literally means “I’ll put the [insert gift here] on my eyes.” But the real meaning is that the gift is so precious that I’ll put them on my most precious possession, my eyes (well, something to that effect anyway). It’s just a very flowery way of saying thank you.
That little sentence has fueled my love for all things involving literal translations. They are a fantastic, albeit nerdy, source of amusement.
Fast-forward 20 years, as I try valiantly (and often fail) to sing P lullabies that are actually lullabies, and not Tori Amos or Simon & Garfunkel songs. This is how bad I am–until recently, I would finish “Hush Little Baby” in this way:
If that looking glass don’t shine
Mama’s gonna buy you a concubine.
Every night I would think, what if she asks me what a concubine is tonight? So when I remembered, I would use “porcupine” instead. I pretty much learned how to correctly end that song while watching Skylar singing it to her newborn baby on Breaking Bad. (Ohhhhhhhhh Daddy loves you and so do I!)
So when an Italian friend and his American wife, back from a trip to the Ye Olde Country, gave us a book of traditional Italian nursery rhymes and lullabies, I was super excited. If I can’t teach P all the right American songs, at least A can teach her Italian ones.
And then I saw the songs and rhymes.
And they are ripe for a literal translation.
Here’s the first (please excuse my shoddy translations and lack of rhyming. It’s been a while):
Under the Baracca Bridge,
Little Gigin is pooping.
His poop is really, really hard,
So a doctor came to measure it.
He measured thirty-three,
Now it’s your time to count!
It needs to be said: wha? A nursery rhyme about pooping? Really hard, worrisome poop that needs doctor intervention? This may be the best nursery rhyme ever!
Well, that’s what I thought until I read this next one:
Three little owls on the dresser
Were making love to the doctor’s daughter
The doctor got really really mad
OK. WHAT? This is a nursery rhyme? About three owls having sex with the doc’s daughter? Who, rightfully so, gets mad? I mean, wouldn’t you if three owls were having sex with your daughter? All I can say is, leave it to the Italians to come up with a nursery rhyme that involves sex.
A laughed hysterically when he saw these rhymes in the book. I guess it’s one thing to hear them said over and over again, and it’s completely different to see them written on paper.
Well, K and M, friends who brought back the book from Italy: I love it. I’ll put it on my eyes.
We just came back from one of the best vacations ever, visiting the in-laws in the Olde Country. It was one of those vacation when you think…I totally want to move here. Until you slap yourself and think, wait, I already did that.
Anyway, I wanted to do a brief run-down of the 2.5 weeks, so here it is before I forget all the good bits.
So that pretty much sums up the vacation. As with every vacation, it was too short. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure we’ll be back.