Yes I Can!

It’s official! I am running for President.

Not because I want to be President, mind you. In fact, given the current state of the country, I think I’d rather have a job cleaning Porta Potties at AT&T Park. And not because I have any great ideas about how to fix things (luckily, given some of the current presidential candidates, that doesn’t seem to be a requirement).

No, I’m running just because I can. Yes, I can! I am over 35 (it’s none of your business how many years over 35). And I am a natural-born citizen, born in a hospital in Griffin, Georgia (no exotic, mysterious origins for me. I’d happily hand over my birth certificate, although I guess that would probably give away that whole how many years over 35 thing). And according to the Constitution, those are the only requirements, other than having been a resident of the United States for fourteen years. Woo-hoo! I’ve never lived anywhere else. See how qualified I am!

So I’m running because, other than running for president, there aren’t many advantages to being over 35. What else do I have to look forward to, birthday-wise? The arrival of my Modern Maturity magazine? Appearing on the Today show when I’m 100?

You don’t have to vote for me. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t (see paragraph two). But I do have some good qualities. I’ve never taken money from any major corporation or lobbying group. Not that they’ve offered me any, but still… Plus, I have absolutely no political experience (unless you count my position on the PTO board of my son’s school, but this is my first year doing that). So I am definitely not a career politician.

I am a mother of two children, which means I’m used to hearing demands and complaints all day long, and dealing with constant bickering. I even have a two year-old, who can be as intractable and unreasonable as any Congressman, but I still manage to get her in and out of her car seat several times a day. I do my best to try to meet the needs of both my kids, and listen to their concerns and requests, without giving in on anything that would compromise their health or well-being. I make sure they have enough to eat, and a good education, and I take care of them when they’re sick. My seven year-old has to do his homework every day, and feed the cat, and do other odd jobs I need help with. He doesn’t get any special privileges just because he, say, made me a picture frame in school last week.

Since I can’t count on any endorsements from the current political parties, I’m creating my own. I’m calling it the Cocktail Party, because after a couple of drinks, a lot of our problems will at least seem a little less dire, and everyone will be a lot more relaxed and friendly (no angry drunks allowed).

Let’s see…What’s my political platform? Hmmmmmm…. I’ll start with things I like. Roads, for instance. Big fan. Not a big fan of potholes, which I’ve been seeing a lot of lately out here in the Bay Area. Let’s do away with those. I love parks and natural spaces. I’m also a huge fan of libraries (okay, I’m a librarian, so I’m a little biased). Hospitals? I haven’t had to use those a lot, thank goodness, but they can come in handy. Same with fire departments and police.

And schools! If I were to be elected President, I would make sure we have the best-funded schools in the world. Because I am tired, so tired, of class-size increases and teacher lay-offs and cuts to the arts and PE. Let the banks and mortgage industry execs sell gift wrap and cookie dough when they screw up. All my bailout money is going to the schools.

If I were President, teachers and principals would all be paid like CEOs, and there would never be more than 15 kids in a class. I’d hire John Williams to lead school band programs, and Stephen Hawking to guest lecture in physics, and Jane Goodall to help us understand teenagers by living amongst them. I haven’t a hope (or desire) of being President, so I can dream big. And what I dream of is a country I can be proud of again, where we have the best schools and the best teachers and the best opportunities for absolutely everyone.

So there you go. That’s my platform. Please don’t vote for me. But I’m running. Just so that when I get my spot on the Today show someday, and they ask me what I remember about my 100 years on earth, I can say that I ran for President way back in 2012.

Thanksgivings in Space

I’ve always been terrified of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. There are too many expectations to live up to, especially because I married into a family of gourmet cooks. And while I know my husband, who is a wonderful cook himself, would be more than happy to help me prepare the feast, I worry that anything I make will be haunted by the ghosts of far superior roast turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the other table-crushing assortment of dishes we both enjoyed in the carefree Thanksgivings of our youths. Plus it’s just a heck of a lot of work.

So mostly I try to get out of the Thanksgiving responsibilities. Over the years we’ve enjoyed many turkey dinners in restaurants. This is always nice because the food just magically appears at your table, and then just as magically disappears, along with all those dirty dishes, when you’re done.

But this year we decided to go to Disneyland. It was a crazy idea, at least for us. We’re both a little phobic of large crowds, and Thanksgiving in the Land of Mouse promised to be mayhem. Plus I had gone to Disney World when I was 10, and the only memory I had was of frantically chasing after my little cousin, trying to catch her before she vanished into the mass of people all around us. She was two years-old, the same age my daughter is now, and I dreaded the thought of reliving that experience. But of course, as soon as I spoke the idea aloud, my son was beside himself with excitement. So we went.

The first day (a Monday) I was worried that we had made a terrible mistake. There were crowds–big ones–and long lines for most of the rides. By the time we had ridden Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the carousel, we were already tired. My son even asked to go back to the hotel.

But then we stumbled into the Enchanted Tiki Room, where at least there were benches and pineapple ice cream drinks while we waited outside for the show. And then we went inside. The mechanical birds began to sing. My daughter’s eyes grew round. She turned her head to look back at me. And then she smiled. And I relaxed.

The rest of the trip was wonderful. The crowds were much smaller the next day, and by Wednesday we hardly had to wait for more than fifteen minutes for most of the rides. And although my daughter refused to ride in her stroller, she did hold onto my hand in the crowds. She even did okay in the lines, although she insisted on climbing every square inch of railing, and then clinging to it like a kudzu vine whenever I tried to move her. (She also clung to the cart of the Go Coaster when we were supposed to get off, and screamed, “No! I try again! I try again!”)

Occasionally I thought about what it meant to be spending Thanksgiving at Disneyland. It wasn’t, after all, a traditional experience, although we did spring for the Thanksgiving Feast in the Disneyland Hotel, which had every manner of traditional Thanksgiving food and then some. The dessert table alone was a decadence bordering on obscenity. The children’s buffet had a carver waiting to personally slice your child’s pizza. If the goal of the Thanksgiving meal is to stuff yourself like a foie gras goose, Disneyland more than delivered.

But it still didn’t feel quite like a traditional Thanksgiving. And I wondered about tradition, and why it matters. Growing up, my family was never particularly bound by tradition. We once had Thanksgiving without the turkey when I was a vegetarian, and one year we had a bouquet of roses instead of a Christmas tree. But I do have a lot of nostalgia for the traditions we did keep when I was a child, especially making hard candy with my Mom, and playing and singing music around the piano as a family. Those memories are indelible: I think about them and suddenly I am five, or eight, or fifteen again. I am all of those ages at once.

I was worried that this was the one element that was missing from our Disneyland trip, unless we could somehow afford to repeat the experience every year (I was afraid of that expectation too, since the happiest place on earth is definitely not the cheapest). And then I found it, of all places, on the Space Mountain ride.

My husband does not like Space Mountain, so I agreed to ride it with my son. He was chattering nervously the whole way through the Fast Pass line, while I laughed to myself about the Space Mountain signs, which were written in that font that was supposed to look so futuristic and high tech to those of us who were born in the seventies. Now it just looked dated.

We got on the ride, and made that slow clicking ascent that always gives you time to wonder if strapping yourself into this thing was such a good idea (what if it’s not just the font that’s outdated?). And then we were zooming in a fast spiral in the dark through a galaxy of stars that appeared to emanate from something that looked very much like a disco ball. And suddenly I was fourteen years old, screaming in the dark next to a friend who had come with me on our eighth grade band trip to Disneyworld. The cool breeze from the ride felt wonderful after walking all day in the sweltering Orlando heat. I felt alive, and scared, and courageous all at once. It all came back, even though I knew I was two thousand miles and over two decades away from the time, place, and person I was in that memory.

I didn’t tell my son about my trip back into the past, but I was happy that we had come. We all had a great week together, and although he was grief-stricken on our last day of the park, my son was already planning our next visit. I don’t know if we’ll be able to manage the trip every year, but we’ll definitely be back. I think it will be a wonderful tradition, and hopefully some day my kids will be able to ride Space Mountain, or some other ride, with their own kids, and remember a time when they sat there next to me, waiting for the excitement to begin.

My Life of Crime

Tomorrow is Election Day, and practically the only things on our ballot are a bond measure to support our underfunded community colleges, and a parcel tax to support our underfunded schools. I have no idea whether or not they will pass. The last parcel tax for the schools, which is expiring, passed by one vote. Without this new one, our district will have to lay off 13 teachers.

This is all-too-familiar territory for me. In my hometown in Georgia, the schools were desperately underfunded too. But whenever anyone so much as breathed the word “tax,” a flurry of orange signs declaring “Say No to More Taxes” would spring up in every public area in town like a crop of poisonous mushrooms. It always puzzled me, as the cost of producing those signs had to have been greater than the $30 tax increase the measure would entail. But the signs apparently worked, because year after year, whatever measure was proposed to help the schools would stand about as much chance as Kim Kardashian becoming the next president (although for all I know, that could actually happen).

One year, when my friends and I were in high school, we went on a vandalism rampage, carefully editing the signs to make them read things like “Say No to More Taxis,” “Say Now to Move Texas,” and “Say NaNoo to Mork.” I’m ashamed to admit it now. It was juvenile and petty, and didn’t accomplish anything, but at the time it was a small and satisfying bit of vengeance on the people who didn’t seem to care about our future or the future of our town.

I’m sad to say that my hometown has not fared well over the years. When I was growing up, it was the kind of friendly, nosy Southern town you see in movies. The biggest front page scandals I remember were someone putting a dead possum in a city councilwoman’s car, and a pair of brothers demanding that a dog named Benji be exhumed from the local cemetery because their grandmother was buried there. Now the local paper is full of drug crimes and murders. The crime index in 2009 was 532, 228 points higher than the national average.

Did the lack of support for the schools cause the increase in crime? Well, I’m sure it was not the only factor. But it certainly didn’t help.

What depresses me now is that the schools in Pacifica, California where we live now, and where my son is a student, arguably need the money more than the schools I attended in Georgia. Growing up, I always remember our school having an assistant principal (usually rumored to possess an impressive number of paddles, some with spikes), an art teacher, and a music teacher, who taught us to square dance. (To this day, I can still remember the calls: “Swing that girl around the square. Swing that girl with the rats in her hair.”) Sure, we often had PE coaches teaching less important subjects like science and social studies, but they were REAL PE coaches.

My son’s school does not have an assistant principal. It has one principal, who somehow has to manage all the problems that crop up on a daily basis when you have 540 students ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade. We have one janitor (you can imagine the state of the bathrooms). The janitor often doubles as the school nurse, which we also do not have. Music, art, drama and PE are taught by parent volunteers, at least in the lower grades. In recent years, the class sizes for Kindergarten through 3rd grade have increased to 24 kids, and they’ve had to create split classes (a Kindergarten/First grade class and a Second/Third grade class) in order to get by with fewer teachers.

And yet, in spite of all of that, it is a great school. The teachers are phenomenal (the only upside I can think of to the current state of education is that you know that all the teachers who are working in the public schools are there because they really care about the kids). Also the parents all work together to do their best to fill in the gaps, which gives our school a real sense of community.

But I can’t imagine what will happen if Measure L doesn’t pass. What more can they possibly cut? How many kids will they cram into the classrooms? 30? 35? If they do, I will be tempted to personally escort 30 Kindergarteners to Sacramento and leave them in the Governor’s office for a day.

These local school measures should not be necessary. They should never have been necessary. No matter what side of the political fence you fall on, if our country is truly to be a Land of Opportunity, education is one thing we should all agree on. We need GREAT schools, not decent schools, not getting-by schools, but GREAT schools, the best in the world, so that every kid, everywhere, no matter what their background, has a chance to succeed.

But, until that happens, I will just have to hope for Measure L. I’ve tried to do my part, in legitimate ways this time, by precinct walking and donating to the campaign. But I have to admit that every time I drive past the one “No L” sign on Highway 1, I am tempted to pull out a marker. If I put a strategic letter “E” in there, it could become a cheery Christmas sign. But I’ll refrain, and hope for the best.

Storytime with the Loud Librarian: Book Reviews

Please share your own reading picks and pans in the comments. Click on the book titles and enter your zip code to find the book in your local library.

I’ve been on a humorous nonfiction jag for the past few years, partly because I’ve always loved trivia, but mostly, I think, because my life has gotten so crazy that it’s hard for me to find the time I need to get sucked into a novel (although I miss that). I find nonfiction books easy to pick up and put down. I can really only absorb so much information at a time anyway. So I’ve been happy to have found a number of hilarious, yet brilliant authors in that genre, especially Mary Roach, A.J. Jacobs, and, most recently, this author:

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Riverhead)

Do psychopaths rule the world? That’s the question that haunted Jon Ronson (author of Men Who Stare at Goats and Them), who began to wonder if this disturbing group of people, which comprises maybe one percent of the population, wields an enormous amount of influence in the world.

He interviews the people who study psychopaths, learning that, among other things, they have no physical stress response to the threat of receiving a painful electric shock, and are intrigued, rather than repulsed, by images of extreme gore. He enrolls in a course on how to spot psychopaths, based on a checklist created by the instructor, Bob Hare (a man who seems to regret that he’s no longer allowed to use painful electric shocks in his research). And then he becomes an amateur psychopath-spotter, even going so far as to confront people he suspects might fit the profile, and asking them if they think they might be psychopaths.

For most of this book, I found myself trying my hand at being a psychopath-spotter too, and wondering about various people I knew or had read about. Ronson explains that psychopaths gravitate towards powerful positions, and that current researchers suspect that three percent or more of the world’s CEO’s might fit the profile. He interviews Al Dunlap, who as the former CEO of Sunbeam, delighted in firing 13,000 people. Ronson asks him point-blank if he might be a psychopath, and reads him the checklist. And Dunlap proudly admits to having most of the attributes, reframing each of them as good business tactics.

This creates a frightening picture of the world, and yet one that makes a certain amount of sense: psychopaths seek out power, and are not afraid to make the ruthless choices and take the big risks that make most people squeamish. Is it any wonder that they would be at the top of the corporate food chain? (Ronson points out though, that Sunbeam’s stock skyrocketed every time Dunlap closed a factory, raising the question of who, really, are the psychopaths? Dunlap, or the investors who gleefully supported him).

The book doesn’t stop there though. Ronson is a funny, thoughtful writer, who is always questioning everything, even himself. So he begins to wonder about the business of diagnosing people with psychological checklists, and decides to investigate the psychiatrists themselves. He finds that the psychiatric profession seems to have gone checklist-mad, labeling people (especially children) with all kinds of newly-minted psychiatric disorders, usually with the encouragement of the pharmaceutical industry.

I really enjoyed reading this book, partly because I love to play amateur psychiatrist myself, but mostly because it was such an entertaining read. Ronson has a knack for ferreting out bizarre stories and people, and has neurotic personality quirks of his own, which lead him to constantly turn the psychopath checklist back on himself. Instead of writing a serious treatise on how to identify psychopaths, who may or may not be running the world, Ronson takes you on a wild ride through the “madness industry,” where everything he learns raises new questions.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin; Art by James Dean (Harper Collins Childrens)

If I’m honest about what I’ve been reading lately, it is this book over and over and over and over and over… My two-year-old NEVER gets tired of it.

It’s a simple story. Pete the Cat is walking in his white shoes, which he loves so much that he sings this song: “I love my white shoes… I love my white shoes…I love my white shoes.” But then a tragedy occurs! Pete steps in a pile of strawberries (this happens to me all the time). Now his shoes are, horror of horrors, RED! Does Pete cry? Goodness no. (I have to admit that I never get tired of reading this book, because I love hearing my daughter say, “Gooneh no.” He just keeps walking along, this time singing, “I love my red shoes… I love my red shoes.”

I won’t give away the rest of the plot, although there’s a surprising twist involving a bucket of water. But the book ends with the phrase, “It’s all good,” which my daughter also loves. I’ve read this book at several storytimes, and the kids all fight over who’s going to get to check it out, and then ask for it again the next week, so I’m calling it a hit. There’s a new sequel out called “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes,” which isn’t quite as memorable, but was probably inevitable.

SHHHHHH! Confessions of The Loudest Librarian in the World

There’s a scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Stewart demands to know what has happened to his wife Mary, in the version of events where he never existed. The angel, Clarence, refuses at first to tell him. “I’m not supposed to…” he says. “You won’t like it.” But Jimmy turns violent and sweaty, so Clarence reluctantly reveals the horrible truth: She’s a librarian…

It is this revelation that finally convinces poor Jimmy that his life is important, if only to save his wife from that dreadful fate.

A friend of my parents had a similar reaction when he first learned that I was planning to be a librarian. “Not Ashley!” And several of my college classmates, when I told them I was going to grad school to become a librarian said simply, “Oh…” in a surprised but carefully neutral way, as if I had just announced that I was planning to open an upscale brothel in New Jersey, and they didn’t want to appear judgmental.

But the real shocking truth is that I LOVE being a librarian.

I love answering questions, the more bizarre the better. I’ve also gotten to help people find family histories, apply for jobs, plan birthday parties, choose a college, plant a garden, write a eulogy, plan a trip, fix a car. I never know what the next question is going to be.

Plus I get the fun but delicate job of pairing people with books. It’s a little like being a matchmaker: What are you looking for in a book? Would you like a serious book, or one with a good sense of humor? Are you looking for a hot new bestseller, or a book that’s been around the block a few times and knows things? People are much more promiscuous with DVDs, which they check out by the dozen, without ever asking for recommendations. But books are such an intimate thing. They get inside you. So you want to be careful which ones you bring home.

Aside from reference and reader’s advisory, I also do storytimes, which means I get to stand up in front of a crowd of grown-ups and their children each week and be absolutely ridiculous. I jump up and down, and sing silly songs, and pretend to fall asleep so they can scream, “Wake up!”

I am not a quiet librarian. A patron once complained that my storytimes could be heard in San Francisco (which isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds since the library is only about eight miles from the city.) But I love storytime. For that half-hour, I get to be a magician, watching the kids fall under the spell of each new book. It’s addictive.

Oh, there are parts of the job I don’t like, especially collecting overdue fines. It always feels so punitive. In those moments I do feel like I should have my hair in a tight little bun, and be peering at the offending library patron through thick-lensed angular glasses, possibly while holding a riding crop.

There are your nice patrons, who say, “I’m always happy to support the library,” as if they had deliberately kept their DVDs an extra day just so they could give us a quarter. And then there are your not-so-nice patrons, who will argue six-ways-to-Tuesday that they never checked out Tori Spellings’ memoir, much less kept it for two years under their pillow, even though there’s a note on their library record saying that they kept poor Tori out too late once before in 2008, and denied knowing her then too.

Then there are my professional pet peeves, the biggest of which are parents who try to legislate their kids’ reading choices: “That book looks too easy for you.” Or “You’ve read enough Garfield. Find something else.” I’m always sorely tempted to counter with, “Oh dear, I’m afraid that new Janet Evanovich novel is well below your reading level. How about this nice new Stephen Hawking? MUCH more appropriate.” A big portion of my job involves helping parents find something, ANYTHING, to appeal to their reluctant young reader, so if your kid is excited about a book, even if it’s Attack of the Booger-Coated Angry Birds, consider yourself lucky.

But these are minor complaints in a job whose biggest perk is that it never gets boring. This is mostly because I’m working with the general public, and never know who’s going to walk through the door, but also just because of the job itself. Some of my more unusual duties (none of which were mentioned in my job description) include: kissing a pot-bellied pig in front of a large audience; rescuing a lost parakeet that appeared in the parking lot; checking out a library book to a robot made from an unnatural alliance between a laptop computer and a Roomba vacuum cleaner; and spending an afternoon leading a Potions class while dressed as Severus Snape from Harry Potter.

So every Christmas when I see “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and watch poor Mary coming through that library door with her big glasses and her sensible shoes, I think, “Leave her alone, George. She’s a librarian now. And I bet she’s having the time of her life.”

Deserted

When my son was in first grade, I would often make the mistake of asking him what he did at recess. There were rarely more than 2 possible answers to this question. Either a) he played with his friend, Mary Ann (whose name has been changed to gratuitously reference “Gilligan’s Island”) or b) he played by himself.

I was dismayed. While I was happy that he had a friend to play with most of the time, I didn’t like that he didn’t have anyone else to fall back on. His teacher observed the same thing. And then I’d try to ever so subtly suggest that maybe he could find someone else to play with if Mary Ann decided that day that she’d rather, say, get into a coconut-cream pie fight with Ginger. It never worked.

One of the most painful things I’ve discovered about parenthood are the inevitable “Oh…” moments. Those are the times, when in the middle of being absolutely mystified by something my kids do, or don’t do, I suddenly think about my own behavior. Because when I stopped to think about it, I had to admit that I play by myself a lot at recess too.

Oh, it’s different, of course. I can make small talk with the best of them. There’s this whole mingling scene after school, while the kids are playing, and I can usually find a cluster of moms to stand awkwardly with, while trying to keep my two-year-old daughter from a) doing a triple gainer off the play structure, or b) being mobbed by a gang of overly-enthusiastic second grade girls.

But when it comes arranging play dates for myself…well, there I tend to rely on my own Mary Anns.

I’ve been lucky all my life to have found Mary Anns every place I’ve lived. They’re the women I find down-to-earth and easy to talk to. The Gingers of the world have terrified me since middle school, and still have a tendency to make me feel about as feminine and glamorous as old meatloaf.

But Ginger-phobia aside, I have to admit that I’ve never been good at cultivating new friendships. When dealing with other people, I often find myself back in the lunchroom in eighth grade at my new school, hoping someone will ask me to join them at their table. It never occurs to me that I could just have a seat and ask someone else to sit with me.

But ever since that unfortunate “Oh…” moment last year, I have been trying to branch out more and make new friends of my own, and try to see my other good friends more often.

Meanwhile, my son has found a new little buddy at school named Gilligan. And maybe that’s enough. As long as he can get along okay most of the time with the Howes and Professors and Gingers of the world, I’m happy if he only has a few really good friends.

We grown-ups are so hypocritical sometimes, demanding, for example, that kids always share their toys, even with other kids they barely know. If a stranger showed up at my house and demanded to take a turn with my car, I’d probably look for a nice way to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier.

So I’ve tried to stop asking my son what he did at recess. We’re both much happier for it. And as long as he’s not complaining, why should I worry?

Not that that’s ever stopped me before.

Pampered!

Last year, on my brother’s birthday, I ordered a box of disposable diapers to be delivered to his house once a month from Amazon.

This was an accident. Somehow I had selected his address as my shipping default for one-click shopping. It was a horrifying mistake on my part, and I had to call up my sister-in-law to explain why she was about to receive a box of 152 size 3s, just in time for my brother’s special day.

I owe a lot to my brother. I don’t think I ever realized how much until I had kids of my own.

My brother was 12 years-old when I was born, and my earliest memories of him are tinged with a touch of terror. He used to try out his new wrestling moves on me on the stairs, until I learned to lie still and play dead. Often he would dive to the bottom of our lake when I was swimming, and then grab my foot and pull me under, or dump a greenish mound of pond slime on my head. Worst of all, when I was six or seven, he would try to teach me math concepts he was learning in college. Playing dead wouldn’t help me here, so I learned to nod intelligently while singing the theme to “Green Acres” in my head. This has proven to be a valuable life skill.

But aside from those moments of terror, I have happy memories of him teaching me to whistle (another valuable life skill!). He taught himself to play the banjo and harmonica when he was ten, and I loved to follow him out on the back porch after dinner and watch him play (and yes, make a pest out of myself by putting my fingers over the strings).

My brother skipped his junior and senior years of high school.  He took a job far away in St. Louis immediately after graduating from college at age twenty.  My older sister had left home for college by then too, so for many years I enjoyed being an only child. Ah, but I had it even better than that. I was an only child with youngest child benefits.

I’ve only recently begun to realize how hard it must have been for my brother. Because now I have an eldest child of my own.

Even before he was born, I worried constantly about my son: I don’t have morning sickness.  What does it mean?! I’m not having contractions. What does it mean?! And then of course, once he was born, it got even worse: He isn’t rolling over yet. What does it mean?! He doesn’t sleep through the night. What does it mean?!

Being a youngest child myself, with little exposure to babies, I had absolutely no frame of reference for what was normal. I wish I could say that things have gotten better as my son has gotten older, that I’ve learned to relax and just be happy to watch him grow and develop into his own unique person, but no. Every new age and phase brings a new cause for panic: He threw sand at somebody. What does it mean?! He likes to play alone at recess. What does it mean?!

But my daughter…with my daughter everything is so much easier. When she was a baby, I was never worried about how fast she was progressing. It’s really crazy how kids all learn to roll over, and crawl, and walk and talk. It seems impossible, but I had seen it happen before, so I knew she would get there. Also, my life had gotten so much busier that, instead of waiting anxiously for each milestone, I was often caught off guard: Hey, look! She’s rolling over! And instead of “What does it mean?!” it’s “Oh, she’s just being two.” Even when she was 16 months-old and throwing herself on the floor of the airplane we were waiting to unboard, and scooting backwards under the seats while screaming her head off, she was “just being two.”

It’s so unfair. I know it is. But my daughter is slowly teaching me to be a better parent to my son, just as he taught me to be a better one to her. And just as my big brother, (and my big sister too), taught my parents to relax and let me grow at my own pace, without worrying too much about my difficult phases.

This year, for my brother’s birthday, I told him thank you. (Also that he was getting old, but mostly thank you). And if he ever does need those disposable diapers, I’ve got him covered. It is the least I can do.

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