A Birthday Party or Three

Tomorrow my little baby Eva will turn three years old and officially become a Big Girl. As an only child Eva has gotten away with a lot of baby behavior for far to long. My embarrassment is often confessed to friends when Eva demands, “I want my nipple babi (her bottle)” something she should have given up two years ago. At least she is not an eight year old sucking a pacifier or worse, my breast- thank god I gave that up on week six. Eva also still sleeps in a crib, and has been asking for a big girl bed for at least a year. I have been promising her that she can finally have her big girl bed for six months but I keep shifting the date of my promise, counting on her inability to fathom time.

Now that she is heavy enough to give me a hard time lifting her into her crib, I have decided to take the metaphorical reindeer by the antlers and allow her to move into a big girl bed tomorrow. We will also be relinquishing her afternoon nap, my only two hour break on the weekends to work, surf facebook, write my blog, etc. I will miss her nap, but I won’t miss the bedtimes, which have lengthened to at times 10pm. I think I really loved her nap a bit too much. In exchange for her big girl bed and not having a nap Eva has to make an even trade and give up her bottles, this will be difficult to enforce, but life must move on. Parenting is really just a very long lesson in the art of the barter.

The upside of having an almost three year old is the tantrums have downsized, although a lot of parents say it is not the terrible 2s, it’s the terrible 1s,2s and 3s. Eva herself had her first tantrum a few days after her first birthday when I came to collect her from school. Auntie Zoe saw my new mother of a toddler look of horror, and lifted her hand to stop me from reacting further and said, “ This is a tantrum, you must ignore it.” The worst tantrums of course were right around two but they have been steadily improving since then. A friend of mine said her daughter’s tantrums were so bad she was convinced it was her personality, but it did shift eventually, and she was hugely relieved that it was just a phase, albeit a very long one.

Like all phases, as you see the backside of one, the next one hits you totally unprepared. Eva’s turning three phase is an honesty phase, when she says exactly what she thinks, right when she thinks it without social tact, embarrassment, or any kind of filtration. I hope it’s an almost three year old phase, but the thought has crossed my mind that she could have possibly inherited this character trait from my mother, and in that case it will be more than just a phase, and an interminably long one. My mother calls it “Telling It Like It Is.”

When we were at a Christmas party recently Eva was waiting patiently with Daddy to use the bathroom, when the very tall father of the host exited the bathroom. Eva yelled, “Daddy that man looks like the CREEPER,” hiding behind his legs while desperately trying to hold her wee. The Creeper for those who aren’t up on their Scooby Doo is one of the monsters that haunts the Mystery Kids.

A far worse example was when I had been to the gym, and in my usual crazy rush neglected to take a shower for one, perhaps several days and when I picked Eva up one such afternoon from school, she threw her little arms around me and stuck her nose in my crotch and yelled, “Mommy You are Stinky!” at least twice to my complete mortification. I knew somewhere my own mother was enthusiastically nodding.

Then there was the time when we were at the coffee shop and I saw her little friend Gwyenie coming through the door and alerted Eva of her arrival. Just as Gwyenie entered our room Eva yelled, “But I don’t like Gwyenie.” I smiled as my cheeks blushed, and Eva continued to completely ignore the little girl. I suppose the lesson there is I can’t choose my daughter’s friends.

Although Eva’s tantrums have diminished now that she is three, she is harder to fool. Her newest phrase is, “It’s not fair.” She says this at any and every time she has to go to bed, turn off the TV or eat a green vegetable. I am not sure what “fair” is in comparison to because she is an only child and sure her 40 something parents are allowed to stay up past 9 pm, the terrible irony is they would love to go to bed at 9, but they have a night owl toddler and lack the energy for “It’s not fair,” discipline.

We are aware that as an only child, there are drawbacks and advantages. She gets at least 20 books read to her a day, we harp on about the important questions in life, like if she ate five or eight green beans, every sheet is clean and her lunch box rotated every three months, she is signed up for gymnastics and swimming three months in advance, she has an album for every year of her life, a drawer for her artwork, framed pictures of every childhood milestone and has at least twenty gifts under the Christmas tree.

At several times we have had those parental conversations about not spoiling her yet it still happens. We decided when she was still in the womb that after her first year we would throw her a birthday party with her friends in the summer so that she would not suffer from having a birthday right next to Christmas, a birthday everyone forgets except for Jesus. This year was our first with a June birthday party, as soon as it was done I thought phew I can cross that off the list but by the time December rolled around, I thought oh lets have a little lunch for family and godparents. So now Eva is having another birthday party tomorrow, complete with cake, a treasure hunt and more and more presents. Opps it just kind of happened perhaps because it takes a landmark in our toddler’s life to get us to host a social event.

Unbeknownst to me, Auntie Zoe threw a birthday party on Wednesday for Eva because several of her friends at nursery were going away for Christmas. That night Eva had a tantrum reminiscent of when she was twenty four months old. I was shocked, OMG she has regressed. The following day when I found out about the party Auntie Zoe and I put together that she was expecting to get her big girl bed that night, but yet again mommy disappointed her. I felt really guilty, confusing the poor child with not one but three birthdays, she probably didn’t know if she was two, three or twenty three.

Tomorrow is her actual birthday, not one of the several “Unbirthdays” and I hope it lives up to her expectations. My mother has already started coaching her for the occasion. My mother just returned from Boston where she purchased a little black dress for Eva to wear on her big day. When she gave Eva the dress, she said.

“Now Eva, when your grandfather suggested black for your birthday dress, my first thought was no of course you cant buy a child a black dress, it needs to be pink or purple.”

Eva did not react and kept playing with her legos.

“Then when he said you would look fabulous in it because of your blonde hair, I reconsidered.”

Eva barely makes eye contact but pretends to be an elephant.

“Every woman no matter what age needs the quintessential little black dress,”

my mother continued.

Eva continued pretending to be a sleeping elephant, a sophisticated make believe play, a clever disguise for I’m not interested.

“It should be multi-seasonal, go from day wear to evening wear, smart casual and dressed up for formal.”

Eva the elephant was pretending to snore.
“Black is slimming, but the material and cut is just as important, and then there is the label, recognizability is a must if you want to be anyone who is anyone.”

“Mom she is turning three not thirty.”

“Never too early.”

I look down at my daughter as she picks her nose and chases the dog around the house.

“Mom, I hate to break it to you but I think she is a tom boy.”

Tom Boy

“Hmphf, you’re the one that pointed out she is only three. I have started her an account at Talbots, they are having a special on tweed.”

“We are having a special on vodka at Eva’s party.”
“Okay good.”

“Okay good.”

“Then we will all be happy?”

“Only if Eva wears her little black dress.”

“I will make sure to wear perfume.”

Happy Birthday to Eva!

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A Relative History

I was never very good at math, and I might be a bit excitable, but my “fiftieth” blog post last week was actually my 49th, derelict I know. So today is my 50th post. I am always early to a party J

I decided to go back to posting about reconnecting with my mother’s American relatives, because it is so much fun to discover more about one’s roots. I posted a lot of videos on my blog in the spring from the “round robin” video I found dating back to 1985, which is now thirty years ago but somehow hairspray and balloon pants seem like yesterday!

I never found any of the round robin letters between my grandfather and his siblings, but evidently they started in the 1940s and lasted through the seventies until perhaps they all got too old or started to die off. I believe my grandfather although not the youngest was the longest lived when he died at 96 in 2004.

With the miracle of Facebook I was able to connect with my grandfather’s brother Harold’s family and meet my generation on that branch, and lovely ladies they are. One of them sent me their mother’s beautifully etched version of the family history, and what she knew of each sibling’s family.

She begins the history with an apt preface, which I will quote:

Nothing would have pleased me more than to have been able to include some famous writer, educator, or statesman in our family tree, but I’m afraid that like most families ours is unexceptional…. Except for the fact that I knew most of these people… and that I loved all of them.

Although none of us are famous, I am sure there are one or two or three Derelict Moms in the family tree, and most certainly, at least one.

The author also says she will tell you about the Youngblood family as much as she “will tell you what I think I remember from the adults’ conversations and from reading the Round Robin letters.” Inevitably oral history will get some parts right and some parts wrong and the difficulty is in looking back and trying to distinguish one from the other. When I read the section on our side of the family, and knowing the difference made me giggle many times over. Here is what it said about my grandfather Curt:

A book could easily be written about Uncle Curtis… he had the most extraordinary life of any of the Youngblood’s. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas and there were two future governors of Arkansas in his class, Sid McMath and Gov. Cherry. He enlisted as an officer in the Navy and served in the legal department of the navy during World War II. He was legal advisor to the Secretary of the Navy and observed nuclear testing in the South Pacific. At the end of the war he was transferred to London, England where he tried court marshal cases and handled lawsuits that had been brought by private citizens against the U.S. Government. He, His wife Ruby, and daughter Jane lived in a huge home with formal English gardens and completely staffed; chauffeured in a black limo with American and Navy flags on the fenders. ( The U.S. Government felt appearances and protocol important.)

The parenthesis are the author’s. I am not sure if all those details are true, but I don’t think they had a staff- I must ask my mother. The early history is spot on, but as it gets farther and farther away from the common ancestor the story gets farther and farther from the truth and more and more entertaining of course.

Curtis held court in Ireland, Scotland, Italy and France where they collected furniture, art etc and many friends who visited them in the U.S. including the author of “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (this part is of course not true) . They continued to travel throughout their lives…

The parenthesis are mine this time… they were actually friends with the author and mastermind behind, The Man Who Never Was, Ewen Montagu, not John Le Carre the fiction author. Mere trivial details!

She continues:

Upon returning to the U.S. he was assigned to the Pentagon and placed in charge of the Navy’s offshore oil well and for the first time they were able to build their dream home… it is right on the Potomac River. The three story house which boasts a fireplace so large you can stand in it was built of brick made by slave labour (purchased when an old federal building was torn down.) When Uncle Stan viewed it he said it was so impressive it looked like the first National Bank of Texas.

I remember this fireplace and it was a pretty normal sized fireplace, which only a toddler could stand in, but that is from my perspective and I did grow up with electricity, parents, shoes, and multiple fireplaces. Of course I also grew up with the family trait of telling tales and never letting an even truth get in the way of a much better exaggeration.

Here is where the story gets funny:

When Curtis retired from the navy he went to work for a publishing company handling their legal affairs. His daughter Jane married a young English Barrister (lawyer) named Rob Spurling and they live in London with their son and two daughters. Rob’s father was Lord Spurling and Governor of the Bahamas, where Jane and Rob lived the first few years of marriage. ( A position the Duke of Windsor held during the Second World War… when the Royal family wanted to exile him for marrying Wallis Simpson.) Oddly enough Jane did not meet Rob in England but at Washington and Lee University. I have probably told you more about Curtis than you really wanted to know but he truly had an interesting life. And yes he did meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip though not in England.. but at a Garden Party at the White House.

I just love the asides, despite the fact that it is totally hilarious, it would have been nice to be the granddaughter of a Lord and grow up in London, with a sojourn in the Bahamas, but alas none of that happened! and my parents met—oddly enough— at William and Mary University. My dad’s name is Rick, we live in Bermuda, my grandfather was a Sir and was never Governor of Bermuda or the Bahamas for that matter.

Particularities what do they matter? I wonder if they got these details from my grandmother’s Christmas letters, which tended like my Mother’s Christmas cards to be a more glamorous telling of the year’s events than an even truth. We are working on the 2014 version as we speak so I will be posting about that soon.

What amuses me most about the family history is that although Curtis “had the most extraordinary life of any of the Youngblood’s,” his life story is told through all the people he met or didn’t for that matter: Sid McMath and Gov. Cherry, John Le Carre, The Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, and the Queen of England …. Not to mention the fireplace.

It’s pretty funny just think if he or she had written a memoir.

Xx Derelict Mom.images-7

I am Published : A Real mother!

MEMOIR LAUNCH FLYER

This week’s blog is more of an announcement. I am now a published author, as my story “A Real Mother.” is part of a newly released anthology of memoir called: Take This Journey    With Me edited by the author Rachel Manley. I haven’t been published before, except for my unedited weekly self published blog which is often “maudlin and full of self pity” but also equally “magnificent,” so this is a big deal for me even if it isn’t for other people 🙂 This piece was written about my experience before I had Eva before I discovered that a real mother is actually a derelict mother. I hope you enjoy a little preview below, and will join me at an event that is free to the public, a reception for the book launch on May 15th at 5:30pm at the Bermuda Society for the Arts where you can hear me and a few other contributors read excerpts from our work. Hope to see you there! Must sign off before Eva smears my entire body in butter.

A Real Mother excerpt:

As a child my vision for my future looked like something out of a Merchant Ivory film: romance, drama and lots of horse riding. There were no jobs or children or responsibility but then somehow I woke up married, 35, pregnant and working full time. Real life had dawned and another person’s life was soon going to take priority over mine and I was in both shock and denial. I was able to waddle through life quite happily thirty plus pounds overweight, but every day when I picked up my prenatal vitamins I was relieved by the sound of the pills rattling around inside representing all the time I had left before her birth. On one particular day I looked down at the mother and baby on the bottle and was sure of only one thing: that was not what was happening to me. Call it a premonition, but I knew what I was facing would not be the vision of smiling maternal bliss on the vitamin label. My fingernail picked at the corner of the picture hoping it would peel off. Did the woman have to look so thin and perfect, be dressed nicely and have perfectly straight hair? The mother looked like she had been eating lettuce leaves for nine months not chocolate milkshakes. I brought the bottle up really close to my eyes, and squinted at the detail; I was horrified to realize that she was a model. It was a lie; this woman was posing; she was getting paid; she wasn’t the babies’ real mother. She wasn’t real like me. I wondered what that meant, what made me a real mother? Swollen ankles, cellulite, chocolate milkshakes, a scowl and the other speechless things that happened to you in pregnancy? Then I looked at the baby in the picture and down at my stomach, and realized that part of the picture wasn’t real yet either. I had no idea what a real mother was.