One or two of you may wish to know what Baba is doing with the kids all day long these long days. Well I’ll tell you. For starters, Baba is forgetting, from time to time, to pack the backstock clothing when she goes out with them, and when one of them, let’s say the little guy, pees through their diaper (since I can’t underscore enough how it is that they are BOTH in diapers right now), Baba and the pee-er-through-the-diapers are both up pee creek without a paddle.
Then I got this bright idea about how to dry the wet garment whilst we were out driving: pinch ’em up into the top of the the lil’ peanut’s window and get a twofer! Shade him (kinda), plus dry off his solitary pair of pants. It provided the lil’ monkey boundless thrills as I insisted she keep me updated as to when and to what degree the pants were flapping in the breeze.
Flappity flap flap.
If there is an ordinance against this, or if I committed some moving violation, thank the goddess no one in authority espied us and put a stop to our hi-jinx. Because people it worked GREAT! I see only one downside to this scheme, which is that when we are in buggy (which is more often than in vehicle), I will have to run really fast for quite a while to get the same effect.
Another thing we’ve been doing is having field trips daily. This is largely to make up for my sense, when I’ve worked half the day and cared for them half the day, that we never had enough time to hunker down and really sink our teeth into a full adventure. Also, some of my mates told me that Getting Out of the House would be of paramount importance to all of our sanities. Or, failing that, to mine. And since I’m the one operating heavy machinery, my sanity (or lack thereof) counts double.
I’ve taken this advice to heart, and so far, a week-and-a-half into Babarama, we’ve been to the zoo, to a coulpla city parks we hadn’t been to before, and to a kiddie supply store for copious free reading in their book section before we actually purchased a little toilet seat jobbie (ha! she SAYS she’s going to use it! that’s what they all say!). Needless to say we also went to Little Farm, the fantastic, well, little farm in nearby Tilden Park. The pigs, by the way, are still mysteriously “on vacation.” Yeah, mmm hmm. Rhymes with “fakin’.”
And of course no spree of mini-adventures would be complete without a trip to the Merry-Go-Round (also located in adventure-rich Tilden Park). Though I have to refer to it as the “Mary Go Around,” since that’s what the lil’ monkey calls it.
While there at the Mary Go Around, we loitered at length in the grassy picnic area surrounding it. I got to chat with a nice couple, the gal half of which nursed her three month old while I plugged the lil’ peanut with his midafternoon snack bottle. Nearby the lil’ monkey played with their other two girlies.
I had that interesting interlude when they were talking with me and kinda figuring I must have birthed the kids? Kinda? Only this is Berkeley and I do have that odd feel about me? I made reference to “my partner” at one point, and how she birthed the two kids. Also how the donor chum is a dear friend, partners with one of my oldest and dearest friends and so on. How expanded our families are, in the best of ways, how much more love and cousiness our kids all have, all this. The gal remarked on the get-up with a sweet mixture of surprise and warmth. Honestly, I forget the novelty of this from time to time. And every time I am so dang happy to be the bearer of good news.
She shared about their family, which was atypical in a different way. Her husband is Polynesian, and she said that even though as a Latina she was accustomed to big families, she had to brace herself for how all his siblings started off producing five kids and only then started counting. Said how one time she paused and looked around and realized that there were fifteen kids running around their apartment at the same time. Yow! I will hark back to this whenever the cousins with whom we share a yard playfully explore the edges of the sound barrier, which they are wont to do from time to time. It could be so much noisier! It could be times seven!
Visits to Mama on her lunch break at the theater are de rigeur, needless to say. So that’s a daily treat. She’s directing a youth production of Cabaret, and both our kiddles are already intoxicated by the smell of greasepaint and mesmerized by the glare of the footlights. So long as the Kit Kat girls aren’t engaged in any NC-17 dance numbers, we’ve got gobs of entertainment value right there. Which means that we mostly confine our visits to the lunch hour. Because the one time our little girlie glimpsed the Kit Kat girls’ “Mein Herr” routine, for the rest of the day she kept draping her self backwards over chairs and kicking her one leg up in the air in a provocative fashion, saying “I’m dancing like the Kit Kat girls,” in case it wasn’t obvious to the casual observer. She’d also add, through a wince, “But it’s not quite working.” To which all I can say is Thank heavens.
Still, even when no one’s draping themselves on café chairs, the lil’ monkey is entranced. Note, for example, in the image above, where she is working really hard not to levitate with euphoria as no less than a half a dozen impossibly cool (and uncommonly kind) high school kids surround her and engage her in conversation. This production can’t be over any sooner, though, wonderful as these young people are. The other morning our little girlie drew a picture, and when I said “Shall we bring this to Mama at lunch?” she said, “No. I want to give it to [name of impossibly cool and uncommonly kind H.S. girl with magenta hair].” When we got to the theater and presented the gift to its proper recipient, Mama took the blow quite gracefully. I myself, having never occupied quite so lofty a pedestal as Mama, don’t know what it feels like to be knocked off of it by a sixteen year old gal. But I could offer the beloved a great deal of sympathy, and the honest assurance that these things wax and wane, and there’ll be a day — some day soon — when her daughter will go back to drawing abstract images of fairies for Mama again.
Finally, while I still have a veritable cornucopia of fun adventures yet to be pulled out of my sleeve, or hat, or whatever, I am not above turning right around and repeating anything that looks to have been a success. So yesterday we were back at the Mary Go Around, simply because the lil’ monkey weathered a skinned knee like a champ and I asked her what kind of fun she wanted to get up to. (If she weren’t planning to become a face painter when she grows up, or a Kit Kat girl, I’d think: for sure, EMT. She shakes off the injury in the blink of an eye, and then is transfixed by the application of first aid, which of course she takes a very active hand in. It’s not just a lingering P.T.S.D. that has inspired me to keep first aid kits in every conveyance and kiddle care bag.)
So we were back for more carousel fun for the second time in a week, and wouldn’t you know it, the thrills were as just as plentiful as they were a few days before. As we swirled around in a Spirograph of color to a serenade of drippy organ music, I hugged tight onto these little kiddles, stealing peeks at the wonder in their faces. Thinking what scores of parents have thought before me: I know right now they will tire of this long before I do. If ever I do.
I am into week two of Babarama, my first foray into full-time childcare since we’ve moved from “child” to “children.” I have discovered many many strange and wonderful things, most of which I can’t find the time to tell you about, since the breezy discretional hours of yore (hours?! what am I saying?! minutes!) continue to hide themselves somewhere either under the bed with the dust bunnies, or behind the couch cushins with the lost coins.
Ordinarily, the beloved and I share childcare at a rate of some kind of 50 – 75% each, both of us working a similar amount of time. We are so dadgum committed to this that we’ll get hernias, ulcers, and worse in a dogged attempt to make our working lives conform. Then, at such time as we’ve managed to bend our working lives into this shape (not easy in this man’s world, as I’m sure you know!), we heap yet more hernias and ulcers on as we actually try to to manage to feed and shelter our brood on what’s left of our incomes. Easier dreamt than done. But heaven help us we are determined. Since, we ask ourselves, which lifetime would it be, in which we balance work life and family life? (And who better for the task than two lesbian feminist parents, one has to ask?) I promise I’ll report back as soon as we’ve concluded that we’ve figured it out in this lifetime. It’s entirely likely that the internet will still be used as a means of communication by then.
Meanwhile we do what we can. Which means that occasionally we trade off full-time kiddle care when one or another of us has a bumper crop of work. So it has come to pass that I have been knee-deep in kiddles of late, and have had to postpone my best-laid plans for hefty, essay-length ruminations here (I can’t even count the number of sober, consequential ditties circling the LD airport, but believe me they are legion).
I can grab a moment to mark a major milestone, though, and the lil’ monkey hit one yesterday evening. Our little girl washed her hands completely on her own. Yep, she did. All of you who try to get their toddlers to wash up their hands before eating know why such an event is newsworthy. It ordinarily takes us a good five minutes every time, the first three and a half of which entail wrangling the boomeranging child back to the sink over and over again. What a boon, then, for the lil’ monkey to have discovered hand washing’s special joys for herself. Only I didn’t quite anticipate that something about the process might capture her imagination, and never let it go.
“I’m washing my hands!” came her little voice from the bathroom.
“Great,” the beloved and I each say, absently, from our dinner prep the kitchen. Of course we figured she was “washing” her hands, rather than actually washing them.
“No, I’m washing my hands, by myself!” Dang! She totally heard the casual disbelief trickling out of our voices. Of course now I had to get up and go see. And what sight do you suppose greeted my eyes? None other than our little girl, hiked up on a stool she had procured, tall enough now to have leaned over and (a) reached the soap dispenser, and (b) turned the sink water on and off. (Global warming notwithstanding, this is California, a state in a six-month annual drought, and so one turns the water off after one initially wets one’s hands. Ditto tooth brushing.) There she was, our little girl, washing her hands all by herself for the first time, complete with a native Californian’s water miserliness. Only she was washing over, and over, and over, and over again. A la Howard Hughes in his later, Kleenex tissue box-for-slippers years.
The tune for “Sunrise, Sunset” welled up behind all the other incessant noise in my head, yet again, as it does for each such growing up milestone. (Cue my favorite harp version of the timeless classic.)
“She did, sweetie! She did wash her hands all by herself!” I call out to my co-conspiritor. The beloved rushes to join me. And there we both gather, teary eyed and arm-in-arm, gazing upon the sight of our little girl, growing up into Howard Hughes before our very eyes.
She turned and saw us, flabberghasted and slack-jawed in the doorway. “Want to see me do it again?” she asked, pride positively radiating from every pore. “Yes, sweetie, yes!” we each say, breathlessly. And so again with the Howard Hughes. Through our sniffles, we sway back and forth, and hum the theme song of parenthood.
Ah, Pride. Hot sun, cheering crowds, thumping disco beats emanating from jumbo speakers on flatbed trucks and from a massive sound system installed in front of city hall. Lining and streaming up the street are old and young, lesbian and gay, bisexual and transgendered. Locals and tourists. Drunk and sober; clean and sober. Been there, done that attendees. Been there, done him, and him, and him attendees. Never been there before attendees, who can’t wait to do anything a’tall. The heartwarmed and the heartbroke. The bursting with energy, and the utterly exhausted.
For us parents, Pride is now accumulating new layers of associations: Kiddles in their favorite Haloween costumes, our in-front-of-the-house flags, taken down and flown with pride through the streets.
The hope against hope that the kids will be able to make the journey through the march part of it all without needing a diaper change. The hope that the arms will hold out. Baloons galore.
Hand-colored, kid-scrawled signs proclaiming the love of kids for their two moms, or their two dads; the phenomenal credibility of these sentiments, particularly when they are replicated up and down the fat city street for several blocks in either direction. Strollers (or wagons, or tricycles, or bikes, or scooters) got up with decor that only queer folk would think up. Impromptu schmoozing with familiar folks in the stroll past the cheering crowds. Sharing resources as needed from other parents: a band aid, water, essential snacks.
Depending on the city, a gnawing fear of getting the stroller’s wheel caught in the streetcar’s tracks (or the subway’s vent), as it is valiantly piloted wherever it can fit.
The kind, warm Big Kids from COLAGE painting up kiddle faces at the “Family Garden” haven at the end of the march. Or the Clown, our lil’ monkey’s highlight of the day, next after the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence whom she swore was Quan Yin, due to the yellow parasol, and who were we to convince her otherwise?
Same ole same ole state fair-type provisions. With a new twist. (Yep, that’s a folded-up diaper at the left.)
The tired (but happy) subway ride home. The speculating about whether the hullabaloo was worth it for the kids: questionable; depends on the age; will probably phase in and out. Speculating on the worth for the self: are you kidding? Even if you’re so exhausted you can’t stay up late and write down all the thoughts that have been occurng to you, it’s worth it. Has been for the past umpty-ump (for some of us, twenty-three) years, through various sweeties and none, through one political affiliation or another, active or dormant.
Until it feels this way, any day of the week, any week of the year — the relaxed sense of belonging, everywhere, that you have amongst your kindred on this day — you have to go. Majority status for a minority community, just this one day. Sip long and deep from this trough this day, so’s it’ll last you another 364.