No Ice Cream for Me

I’ve been a mom to little P for a smidge over nineteen months now, and last weekend I finally had the irrefutable proof that I have stepped the line to thorough mama-hood.

For some reason, this proof didn’t come while I was pushing her form out of my nether parts into the world, or when we brought her home for the first time, or when we figured out that she was smiling at us.

Nope. The proof came in a frozen yogurt shop in Carmel. When I turned down a perfectly good opportunity to have ice cream. I love ice cream. I never turn down a good chance to get my hands on some frozen deliciousness.

We ended up in a frozen yogurt shop because, you see, P is a picky eater. Picky in quality and taste, yes, but also in the form of entertainment that is presented to her when she eats. As I told her doctor at her last well baby visit, A and I pretty much have to do a song and dance routine to make her eat.

The entertainment comes in the form of books, crayons, toy cars, and *gasp* Caillou. Anything to make the girl open her mouth. When we visited A’s parents in Italy, entertainment came in the form of our large, extended Italian family doing their daily thing. Loud uncles, dancing cousins, cooking grandma—who needed Caillou at that point? She opened her mouth for anything and everything (although the yummy Italian food served up by said grandma may have had something to do with it).

But in restaurants, we’re pretty much out of luck. We don’t go out to eat very often, because “eating” turns into one of us scarfing down food as fast as possible while the other tries to get P to open her mouth, then passing her along to the satiated parent to repeat the ritual. It’s great if the restaurant in question has some sort of coloring instrument, and we generally bring some toys along, but the attention span wanders after about five minutes.

This past weekend, we went to Big Sur for a friend’s wedding (FYI, a wedding reception happening in the background is also enough entertainment to make her eat). Adding a day to the trip to enjoy the California coast before heading to the wedding seemed like a good idea. Except, of course, for the whole having-to-make-a-child-eat-sans-Caillou.

On Saturday, we had lunch at a really cute bistro, which had a respectable kids’ menu. I ordered P a quesadilla and a side of broccolini. She had about a half an inch of the quesadilla, and the majority of the broccolini (what can I say, she does love her greens…for now). But as far as the calories actually consumed, I figured she’d had about 150, max. She needed something else.

Which brings us back to the yogurt shop. One thing P never says no to is frozen yogurt. So we bought her a cup and watched happily as she proceeded to consume the entire thing without any jazz-hands routines from us.

As she was eating, I suddenly had a flashback to when I was a kid, happily eating ice cream while my parents watched. And my 4-year-old self would think, “Why would you NOT have ice cream?” It didn’t even cross my mind that sometimes, you might not want ice cream. You may be too full for ice cream. You may not be having an ice cream sort of day.

That’s when I kind of knew that the line had been crossed, and there wouldn’t be any going back. I was full but not stuffed; I hadn’t had dessert at the cute bistro; I wasn’t having an anti-ice cream day. But I was perfectly happy to watch P eat her cup without any need to enjoy some myself.

Mama-hood, at this point I must embrace you wholeheartedly. I looked around the yogurt shop and noticed that there were multiple sets of adults there with their kids, and only the kids were having ice cream. We had all crossed the line.

The way I figure it, this is the ice cream thought process at different ages:

4 year-old: “Ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream!”

14 year-old: “My parents gave me money for this ice cream, but I’m too cool to share it with them. Or be within 100 miles of them when I eat it.”

24 year-old: “Ice cream? I’d love some! Who cares if it’s midnight and I just had a slice of pizza?”

34 year-old: “My child is sure enjoying that ice cream.”

Oh, ice cream, I love thee. But definitely not as much as P does.

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Adventures in Single Parenthood

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are both good and fine, but I am a staunch believer that there should be another dedicated parent holiday: Single Parents’ Day. On this proposed holiday, all the parents who are in a couple will be forced to separate for a day, with one parent taking care of his/her own kids, while another parent will take care of a single parent’s kids for the day. And when I say day, I mean from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., none of that I’ll-watch-your-kids-for-three-hours bit.
I am happy to say that I’m part of a happily-married couple with child, but recently I had to live the single parent lifestyle. My husband ended up going across the country for four months for work, leaving me with our then one-year old.
A disclaimer: I’m also lucky in that I have my parents nearby. At least I didn’t have to shuttle the wee one off to daycare before heading to work—I was fortunate that the daycare came to me. So really, my only single parenting came after work and on the weekends.
After work, the routine involved frantically making dinner for P, feeding her, Skyping with the husband so P wouldn’t forget his smiling face, giving her a bath, putting her to bed, eating, showering, and sleeping. I just got exhausted writing that sentence.
The weekends, though, oh the weekends. Talk about no down time: Up at the crack of dawn, running errands, laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the house while P slept, cooking, etc. You get the idea. One day P was bouncing off the walls with energy, and I was so exhausted I just put her in her crib for ten minutes while I collapsed on the bed. It was a sweet, sweet ten minutes. I love my daughter, but going to work on Monday morning was like going on vacation.
The worse, though, was how I figured out that she could open the front door by herself. We live on the second floor of a duplex, so there is a precipitous flight of stairs right outside our front door. One Saturday morning, I was running around as usual, trying to get out of the house. I slipped into the bathroom for a second to brush my teeth while P was playing with my keys in the living room.
I spit out the last bit of toothpaste and rinsed, and was finally ready to head out. P looked up at me angelically…and the keys were nowhere to be found. Toy box? Check. Behind the couch? Check. In the trash? Check. Nope, no keys, nada.
I figured that I would just find them later, and grabbed an extra pair. I opened the front door and had a mild heart attack: The keys were sitting outside the door.
That’s how I figured that my little precocious P could open the front door. She opened it, threw the keys out, and closed the door. I don’t even want to think about the what ifs in that situation, and needless to say, I was up until ten that night installing a safety gate—while cursing the state of the California economy that had sent the hubs 3000 miles away.
Thinking back, I probably should have taken up my wonderful friends’ offers of looking after P a little more often, at least so I could use the bathroom in peace. At the same time, I felt guilty about the fact that she couldn’t spend time with one of her parents, and that spending all her time with me would somehow make that better. Silly, I know, but sometimes there’s no logical explanation for the way we think and react to situations.
Now that the four months are up, I am so grateful that my husband is back and that he washes the dishes while I give P a bath, and picks up the toys while I put her to bed. And watches her as I brush my teeth.
And if you know single parents, don’t wait for them to ask you for help. They need it. They want it, but may be too shy to ask. Show up with some food. If no one answers the door, leave on the front steps. Go hang out on a Saturday and let them enjoy some adult conversation. Go hang out on a Sunday and let them take a nap. Whatever you do, don’t take no for an answer. And until the Single Parents’ Day is instated, your friend can have five minutes to herself.