March 2010


Most of the time Hollywood offers us a version of a life that we will never live. The fights are articulate, the messes are easy to clean up, and the clothes are rarely wrinkled. But occasionally, like, once in a blue moon, life plays out in such a way that you actually stop and think, “Wow, it’s just like in the movies.”

This happened to me the other day. I was giving Sage a bath and she was singing quietly to her rubber duck when suddenly and playfully she began asking me questions. “Who give me this duck?” she wondered aloud as she splashed about. “Nana” I said and I gave the duck a tender scratch. My daughter cooed in delight. “Who give me this soap?” She giggled. “Oh… I said. I think I gave you this soap. It was me, it was mommy!” I sang. “And who give me these feet?” She asked. “Excuse me?” I said. “Who give me these feet?” She repeated. Now there was intensity in her voice, like she was really getting down to business. “Well…I guess mommy and daddy gave you your feet. I mean if I had to say. Yeah, mommy and daddy.”

“And who give me eyes and ears and a mouth and a face? Who give me a face?”

Suddenly she was staring right at me. We were nose to nose and I was starting to feel overwhelmed, maybe even nervous. I glanced away for a minute, just to get my bearings. She was not pleased with my loss of focus. “Who give me a face?” She repeated with great intensity.

“Mommy and Daddy.” I squeaked, “And how about we wash that face” I continued, trying to change the subject.

Sage was having none of it. She was going to continue her line of questioning come hell or high water. She began bobbing up and down in the water as she shouted:

“Who give me mommy and daddy?”

“Uh, grandparents,” I said trying to keep my cool.

“Who give me grandparents?” She pressed on.

“Great grandparents” I answered.

“Who give me great?” She said as if spitting each word.

“Well” I said attempting to buy some time as I made up an answer, “Great? Like the word great? Hummm…. People. People over the years made words…now the words are in the dictionary. SO the dictionary gave you great.”

And just as I sat back to enjoy a brief moment of satisfaction for having busted out that answer she asked, “ Who give me the dictionary?” That’s when I started to feel sort of desperate, like I’d been spun around and around and could no longer tell which way was up and which was down.

She was not about to give me the chance to right myself. “Who give me ducks and cups and boats and fishes and buckets and blocks?” she persisted.

I took a deep breath “Auntie Jess, Grandma, Big Girl Alex…ummm daddy, no wait, Saba, I think…or maybe mommy, yeah mommy” I blurted out, trying to keep up.

Who give me this bath?” Sage continued.

“The landlord” I shot back.

And then she looked me square in the eyes and repeated, “Who give me the landlord!”

I was completely lost, “The landlord is not yours! The landlord is not yours!” I cried out feeling exhausted and weak.

And that is when it occurred to me: I was in an interrogation scene and it was playing out just like it does in the movies.  In true Hollywood fashion the scene had built slowly to its climax. Just like all the great interrogators she had started out like it was just a game, like she really couldn’t give a damn if I answered her questions or not. Then she had turned on the intensity, revealing the true seriousness of the situation. With her rapid-fire questions she had shown me who was in charge. Now she was preparing to break me.

With this thought I came out of my fantasy only to find my two-year-old standing in the tub. Her tiny fists were raised in the air, water dripped down her face, WHO GIVE ME THE LANDLORD???”  She shouted. And just like the poor victim in the movies I made a last ditch effort to save myself, “The landlord’s mommy and daddy?”  I responded meekly.

Sage sat back down. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this wasn’t going to play out like I thought after all. I lowered my head onto the bath mat and gazed up at the ceiling thankful for the moment of peace. And that’s when she quietly delivered the most difficult question of all; the final blow that would leave me in pieces.

“Who …give…me…water?” she asked.

I was a goner.

I couldn’t answer anymore. Sure I tried. “Um…the sky…or I mean rain…yea rain…nature…maybe nature gave you water?” But she just shook her head. It was hopeless. I was never going to satisfy her with my pitiful answers. If this were a movie there’d be only one thing left to do. She was going to have to shoot me.

And lucky for me this wasn’t a movie. It wasn’t Hollywood with all the glamour and drama and makeup. It was my life, my regular, silly, life. Instead of putting a bullet in my head my daughter ended the interrogation by answering the question for me.

“Mommy.” she said calmly, “The bath give me water.”

And I laughed, and she laughed and I laughed harder and she laughed harder. “Thank you for the water, bath!” she giggled.   “Thank you bath.” I said. And that was it. I picked her up, I wrapped her in a towel, we read some stories, and she fell asleep on my chest (just like in the movies).

I’ve got one question:  Where is The Chip?

Seriously.

WHERE IS IT?

It was not mentioned in any of the discharge materials given at the hospital. And I don’t have hard evidence, but I’m certain they inserted a “mommy chip” when they were sewing me up. I know this because ever since giving birth I am a different person. I act like a parent all the time and I can’t seem to turn it off, even when I want to…even when I’m alone and there is no child anywhere in sight…ANYWHERE. So there must be something controlling me, there must be something calling the shots.

Like the other night, Sage was asleep and my husband and I were having a tense discussion in the kitchen and out of nowhere I put a pacifier in his mouth. I don’t even know where I got the pacifier. Suddenly it was in my hand and I was shoving it between his lips.

Or at the grocery store, I’ll be standing in line holding a gallon of milk and I’ll just start rocking it like it’s a baby. And I’m not the only one.  I see other people doing it too. Last week I spotted this woman in the express lane swaying back and forth with a bag of pretzels. I asked her “Do you have a kid at home?” and she said “Yeah” and I knew right then that she had the chip too. I wanted to say, “funny how the chip just wouldn’t let you stop. I’m guessing this trip to the grocery store is the only ten minutes that you’ve had alone all day. And here you are spending your break gently nurturing a sack of carbohydrates. Fucking chip! By the way have you seen it? Does it look like a mini smoke detector? Somehow I’ve always pictured it to be round.”

And it just keeps going.  No matter where I’m headed I put a diaper in my bag; work meeting-diaper, date with my husband-diaper. Sometimes I even pack little toys when my kid is nowhere in sight. Who are they for?? Why chip, why???

What I want to know is: does everyone get one or is it just some of us? Do the doctors conduct an evaluation right off the bat? Do they have a little conference?

Dr. #1: What about the lady in 3C?

Dr. #2: The one on the right or the one on the left?

Dr. #1: The one on the left.

Dr. #2:  Chip. She definitely needs a chip. No way is she going to pull this off without the extra help.

Dr. #3: I second that. I caught her reading Entertainment Weekly while her baby was sleeping.

Dr. #2: Well that just proves she might go off duty if given the chance.

Dr. #1: All in favor of the chip say “Aye”

Dr. #2: Aye

Dr. #3: Aye

Dr. #1: Aye

All: Done!

So now I’m destined to walk around saying little things like “Oopsy” and “Uh-Oh” even if I’m talking to someone who is forty-seven and has a PhD is neuroscience. It’s just humiliating.

And the worry… THE WORRY!  Oh how that chip makes me neurotic. I can’t stop the thoughts. I be driving and suddenly I’ll start to panic that maybe my car has a hidden airbag in the back seat and maybe it will malfunction suddenly and decapitate my child. And I’ll have to pull over and check. Then five minutes down the road it will occur to me that while I was checking for the airbag a small coin may have fallen out of my pocket and onto my daughter’s lap where it is just waiting to be inhaled. And I’ll have to pull over yet again to make sure that Sage is not about to choke. A sane person would not do this. I used to be chill. My internal monologue used to be all about cool names for  imaginary bands, not terrible mishaps that could befall my loved ones.

But worse than the worry is the guilt, that damn chip makes me feel so freakin’ guilty.  I feel guilty if I buy my daughter applesauce instead of making it from fresh apples that I picked myself. I feel guilty when I answer the phone while we’re at the playground. I feel guilty when I don’t take the time to let her bum fully air dry after a diaper change.

And I’d write more, I’d write about how the chip makes me cry when I see a pampers commercial or how it makes me stay up late into the night just looking at pictures of my daughter because I miss her while she sleeps, but I can’t.  I must put away the laptop. Even though my kid is out like a light I’m suddenly filled with the need to check on her.  After all what if her crib has silently collapsed and she is lying in a pile of rubble and can’t breathe? I better go in there… and I better bring a wrench just in case I need to reassemble the crib.

DAMN YOU CHIP!!!

Middle School was not my time to shine. I did not skate gracefully about, I did not fit neatly into a J Crew scoop neck sweater. I could not do The Roger Rabbit or The Running Man. Instead, I scurried anxiously. I pulled at my top attempting to mask my training bra. I played drums on my braces with a number-two pencil. And worst of all, I could not, no matter how hard I tried, master the art of conversation with those of the opposite sex. Chats with boys threw me into a panic. I fumbled and floundered. For every coherent sentence that I managed to eke out there were dozens of tangled attempts that I wanted to retract. I’d say things like, “Um… wanna go out with me? I mean not go out like to a place, I’m not allowed to go out to places…I mean I am allowed to go out to places but not with boyfriends.  Not that you are my boyfriend, because you’re not, not yet… but if we went out you would be…do you know what I mean?”

Silence.

Just thinking about it makes me want to puke. I was so grateful when I began to settle in to my skin, when I got the hang of the casual boy chat and mastered The Running Man. Stupidly, I figured I was out of the woods for good. But… as luck would have it, I find myself babbling away once again. This time it’s not a boy who’s making me flounder; it’s my daughter. Apparently, in my case, disciplining a toddler is much like asking a prepubescent thirteen-year-old to “go out”; it’s awkward, rambling and totally confusing.

Here’s how my latest attempt went down.

Sage and I were standing by a bookshelf and she happened to notice a glass of water sitting between “A Brief History of Time” and “Real Meditation in Minutes a Day”. I watched her eye the glass and then make the decision to knock it down. Water shot everywhere. It soaked the nonfiction and began trickling towards the “oversized”. “No.” I shouted as I scrambled for a towel and started pulling everything off the shelf. “No, No, No.” And that’s probably where I should have stopped. I should have handed her a towel, asked her to help me dry, made a quick statement about “never doing that again” and been done with it. But I didn’t. My mouth took over and I launched into this confusing speech about handling liquids:

“We do not spill water. Well, I mean we do sometimes spill water and it’s OK if it’s an accident. But this was not an accident! This was on purpose. That means you meant to do it! And we do not mean to spill water… except if we are watering plants or maybe experimenting outside and that’s not really spilling that’s pouring! You didn’t really spill or pour. You threw the water…yeah you threw it. Don’t throw water. Don’t throw…unless it’s a ball or a balloon, but not water…unless it’s a water balloon. OK you can throw water if it’s inside a balloon but not if it’s in a cup. You know what I mean?”

Silence.

I want to puke. How is it that I am here again? And how can I get out of this babbling stupor. With each awkward chat I’m just confusing my daughter. Soon she’ll be fearful of water and books and maybe even me. If I don’t get it right I worry that these conversations will have a negative influence on THE REST OF HER LIFE.  So despite my better judgment I start looking back to middle school for answers. I conjure my thirteen-year-old self like she’s Yoda and I ask, “What worked back then? What should I do?”

Here’s what she/I/we come up with:

Watch cool people do it. Watch people do it in the movies. Study their actions; write down their catch phrases-learn from the masters and the fairy tale endings.

Practice in the mirror, practice with a pillow, practice on your friends. Practice when the stakes aren’t so high. Practice lots.

Avoid freaking out in public. If you’ve got do it, run to the bathroom and cry- it- out in the stall. It’s not going to help if someone sees you like that. You’re going to lose points if you lose your cool.

Give yourself little mantras like “You are hot and awesome,” “Keep trying,” “Someday you’ll be Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing and live happily ever after.” Remind yourself that you are capable. You are going to get it…eventually.

And it’s the most surprising thing because I really thought there was absolutely nothing that I could possibly learn from puberty but I actually think this is some damn good advice. Suddenly I want to write a book called “Everything I ever really needed to know about disciplining my toddler I learned in Middle School”

You’d read that…right?

Silence.

Before I ended up as a writer/curriculum specialist/early childhood education consultant I spent years working in the theatre. Acting was my THING. I’d walk around saying,“I burn for the theatre.” My journals were full of little messages to myself. “Act with all your soul,” I’d scrawl in big underlined letters. “You must live the theatre.” Whenever someone would ask me how I got into the field I would always tell the following story:

When I was in first grade I played the lead in the Christmas Pageant. I was the lamb positioned just outside of Jesus’ manger and I had the only line in the whole play. I kneeled for an hour in my little felt lamb costume sweating away and just when I thought I would surely pass out the spotlight shined right on me and I gestured with my little lamb paw and said in a quivering lamb voice “Come, let us adore him”. And everyone cheered and the play was over and I was hooked.

Whenever I told this story people always said, “aw that’s so sweet,” or “you must have been the cutest Jew in the pageant,” or “that’s amazing that you found your passion so early in life.” It wasn’t till I told this story to my husband some twenty plus years after it happened that someone gave me the appropriate response to that tale.

“Why would a lamb have the only line in the play? What about Mary and Joseph? What about the Wise Men? I know you’re not a Christian so maybe you don’t know this but the lamb is not the central figure in the story of the nativity. There is no way that you had the lead.”

At first I argued for the story that had so shaped my identity, “Well I know in the bible version a lamb is not that important but ‘Come, let us adore him’ really sums up the whole story, don’t you think? The play only needed that one line! They gave it to me because I had a gift for public speaking and pretending to be a lamb! Everyone else just stood there looking holy while I carried the play!”

But there was no way I was going to win this argument.

He was right.

I absolutely could not have had the lead in the play.

They whole story was my myth. Maybe I felt like I had the lead, maybe that moment did indeed change my life, but there is no way it happened like I remembered it.

In thinking about my daughter and the fact that she has now entered an age where all the experts believe she will begin having conscious memories I wonder how she will look back on these time. I wonder what kind of mythology she will create.

Like, maybe she’ll be a drummer and when someone asks her how she got started she’ll say, “Well, when I was two my mom took me to this amazing concert, I think it was Bob Dylan…yeah, Bob Dylan and he called me up on stage and I played the drums and I felt the rhythm in my whole body and the crowd went wild and I just knew right then.” And the experience she’ll actually be remembering is the weekly sing along at the local library and the invitation made to all children at the end of each performance to come up, wait in line, and bang on The Surdo drum.

Or maybe she’ll be a chef and when someone asks her about her culinary influences she’ll say, “I owe it all to my mom. She made this incredible pasta dish that was just transcendent. That dish hooked me on cooking, I mean, really all my adventures in the kitchen are just an attempt to match that pasta.” And I’ll stand up and bow to wild applause knowing that the dish she speaks of is actually Annie’s Mac and Cheese and that my only contribution to the meal was adding two tablespoons of milk and a sliver of butter.

It’s really kind of exciting to think that at any point we could stumble upon an experience that will become the mythology that shapes who my daughter is. And it is actually kind of liberating too. No matter how I navigate through any given moment. No matter how many times I fuck up or manage to do something amazing, the experience is really hers and hers alone. It’s her story. She will tell it the way it unfolds in her eyes.

And it occurs to me that this must be the same reason why I write at the end of each day. As a mother I want to build and savor my own stories, my own version of how it all went down. Like the first time she said, “I love you mommy” and the whole house shook and the sky lit up and my heart just broke into a million pieces right there on the floor. And though there is no hard evidence of this occurrence, there was no structural damage done to the apartment, no reports of a strange flash in the sky, no medical record of my broken heart that is how it happened for me.

That is my mythology.

And I’m sticking to it.

In my early twenties my life was quite literally a mess. Not the kind of mess that requires a therapist but the kind that requires a broom and filing cabinets and multiple trips to the Salvation Army with trash bags full of crap. At the time, I felt that I must absolutely hold on to every flier, book, recipe, tool, prop, and gadget. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life or who I wanted to be so I collected and kept everything just in case. Whenever I attempted to downsize I’d start to hear this little running monologue in my head.  It went something like this: “Where to begin…well I definitely need to hang on to that long flowing skirt because that is the exact skirt that a high school art teacher would wear and maybe I will want to be an art teacher. And I need to keep those piles and piles of beads because I think with a little more practice and some better clasps I could sell necklaces at concerts. Or maybe I could be the one performing at the concerts and in that case I should hang on to this guitar and that tin whistle and all this sheet music. And speaking of music I must save all the old mix tapes from all the old boyfriends in case I get dumped and I need to remember that I have been the subject of much attraction by many attractive people. Oh, and if I do get dumped that mini blowtorch for making Crème Brule might be important because I could end up dating someone French. Or maybe I will date no one and instead become a Hare Krishna. So I must hang on to all the books and fliers that the Hare Krishnas have given me over the years. Hmmm…do they take women? If not, maybe I will have to take that up as my cause. If I am going to have a cause I will definitely need to keep that clip board and that mini suit just so I can look professional when I go to testify on behalf of the aspiring female Hare Krishnas…” And on and on and on…

Somewhere in my mid to late twenties, as my life came into view, I was able to downsize. I cast off the “what if” items and enjoyed having a bit of negative space in my life. Suddenly I had room to do some yoga or dance. I could walk from one room to the next (even if the lights were off) without tripping on a bag or box. I even had a filing cabinet that was dedicated to actual files and not takeout menus from towns I was never going to live in. The experience was absolutely lovely and incredibly short-lived; because as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I ran full force back into the world of crap collection.

Before I’d even given birth I began gathering little scraps of felt and ribbon and popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners just in case my kid came out hankering for a craft project. I’d pick up any flier that even vaguely referenced kids and began a mad search for all the children’s books that I had ever loved. And that was before I’d even met my daughter. That was before I stared into her eyes and held the child who’s future I was going to help shape. That was before I was filled with the insane ever-present urge to make everything a possibility for her. Everything.  Now when I go to reach for something to get rid of, my mind actually takes hold of my arms and renders them useless. “STOP!” it shouts, “YOU CAN”T GET RID OF THAT! That kazoo is important! So what if you have four other kazoos? What if your daughter feels musically inspired? Do you want her to have to run around the house looking for an instrument to play? NO! You must hang on to all five and keep one in every room. You don’t want to be responsible for squelching her creative impulses DO YOU? And don’t you dare throw out those paper towel rolls and milk cartons! Soon she will need to start honing her sense of spatial awareness and building little villages out of recycled items is an ESSENTIAL way to do that!! And don’t you dare even dream about tossing the twenty-five to thirty pictures that she drew today. What the hell kind of statement will you be making about her self worth?”  And as far as I can see, this frenetic collecting is not likely to stop any time soon. Before, I was in the process of narrowing the field of possibilities. I was free to cast off “what if” items. Now, I find myself actively attempting to keep the field as wide as I can. I try to kick open all the doors, raise the windows, clear the path and say with each new day, “anything is possible!” I am quickly discovering that when anything is possible EVERYTHING must be kept. “You want to pretend to be a postal worker? Good thing I’ve been saving old envelopes for the past two years just in case this day should come. You want to find out how clocks work? Well look at that, I just so happen to have a collection of broken clocks right here! You want to learn to juggle? Here’s a dozen ping-pong balls, a hacky sack, and a three plastic bananas! Go to town!”

So, I guess I’m officially resigning myself to wander the earth gathering dress-up clothes and things made of cardboard and PVC piping and old luggage tags and on and on and on… And when all the crap has been collected and we sit there in a giant heap of “possibilities” I will just have to remember to keep a small passage that leads to the front door so that we can still find our way out into the big wide world. Where a whole other land of possibilities awaits.

I’m frying a grilled cheese as Sage sits in a little fort made out of an ironing board and a bed sheet. Though I can’t see her I can hear her chatting with her stuffed cat. They are making plans to “fly on a airplane.” I hear her mention that they are going to “eat beef all the way home.”  It sounds way more appetizing than the lunch I’m attempting to assemble.

“Screw the sandwiches!” I think to myself. I turn the burner to low so that I can buy myself some time to consume imaginary beef and pilot an invisible plane.  I crouch down and ask, “Can I come too?”

“Yeah!” Sage pronounces excitedly. “You get a cat and we can go.”

I run to the den and grab a stuffed cat. As I head back clutching my toy I suddenly feel giddy, like I’ve just been invited to a slumber party with the cool kids.

“This will be so much fun,” Sage shouts as I squeeze myself into the fort.

“The most fun!” I say, and I mean it.

Lately, I have found myself calling my two-year-old “buddy”. We spend hours under the covers whispering stories. We dance to The Beetles and look through old photo albums while sipping smoothies. We give each other nicknames and high fives. Sometimes we exchange a knowing glance from across a room. “Let’s blow this sing along,” I say with my eyes.

“Yeah,” she implies with a lift of her brow, “let’s roll!”

I feel like we’re The Pink Ladies from Grease except instead of talking about boys and smoking cigarettes we giggle about Elmo and eat goldfish.

And so as I sit under the tent, clutching my cat and pretending to land a plane, I start planning our adventures as friends. Like maybe we’ll take a cross-country road trip. I’ll trade in the Volvo for a Chevy convertible. I’ll throw out all our maps so that we can get lost the whole way! We’ll just put the pedal to the metal and follow our guts to California. We’ll make the ultimate mix tape to blast as we cruise down the highway. Track one: “Wheels on the Bus”, track two: “Old McDonald Had a Farm”, track three: “(You Gotta) Fight For your Right (to Paaaaarrrrttteeeee)!!” When we get there we’ll pitch a tent on the beach, build a bonfire, play Bob Marley on a boom-box, find two sticks and load them up with marshmallows and…what is that smell? Oh shit, the grilled cheese! I set down my imaginary beef, ditch the invisible plane and tear out of the fort to turn off the burner. Lunch is lost. I open the fridge and scan for a replacement. “Avocado…turned brown. Turkey…just an empty package…must make a trip to the grocery store.” And just like that I’ve returned to mommy mode.

I look back at Sage in the fort, drinking a pretend apple juice and singing to her cat, and I suddenly feel a grey sort of longing. It’s a sadness I remember having each August as I left camp and began the long drive that would lead me home to another September and another year of school. Part of me wanted to just play and play and never stop. “I wish I could have camp all the time,” I’d think as my summer disappeared behind our station wagon.

And as I’m reliving this memory I hear Sage begin to whimper from the fort. She’s hungry and imaginary beef and apple juice isn’t cutting it. “I NEED grilled cheese,” she moans.

“That is not a nice way to ask for something,” I say in my firm “I mean it” mommy voice. Then I begin a conversation about patience and manners, and though this chat is certainly no trip to the beach, it reminds me of why I would not, despite the fun, hit the road as my daughter’s BFF. It’s my role as MOM that sends me to bed every night feeling like I’ve had an amazing adventure. Not because I’m trying to navigate my way to California, but because I’m trying to guide a person who is just getting to know the big wide world and I’m attempting to show her how to be polite and decent and open and trusting and secure and optimistic and yes, adventuresome. And though there is no convertible, it is an astonishing journey and I do press hard on the gas and just follow my gut. And if I pull it off, if I manage to raise a kid who is polite and decent and open and trusting and secure and optimistic and adventuresome, she will likely be a kick-ass friend to some really kick-ass friends and they will take a cross-country road trip and maybe, just maybe, they will visit me along the way.

The sweat is pouring down my face and I can feel my calf muscles begin to burn. I have a puppet on one hand and a paper bag on my head. I’m bouncing Sage on my knees as she pretends to conduct an imaginary orchestra. “Faster,” she shouts, “faster!” And I obey the tiny maestro. “Bigger,” she shouts, “bigger!” And I lift my knees as high as they can possibly go. “Yeah,” shouts the conductor. And hearing her enthusiasm gives me a little surge of energy that will make it possible for me to continue this game just…a…little…bit…longer. “More,” she says, and I reach for the ipod and press repeat. The Black Eyed Peas begin once again… “I’ve got a feeling,” they sing. “You know… I’ve got a feeling, too,” I think to myself. “I’ve got a feeling that I have once again been convinced to do something exhausting and mildly painful. I’ve got a feeling I should stop.” But I don’t. I continue to bounce but now as my daughter pops into the air and giggles tirelessly I start to analyze the situation “How does she get me to do these things? What are her methods? How is it that this tiny being is so freakin’ convincing?”

I spend the next few days watching her extra close as she works her magic. I take note when she begins her negotiations. I log her tactics. I watch her use her skills on others. I see them cave. At the end of a weeklong intensive study I have a breakdown of how she works it. I number each of her methods and I see that she has four primary ways of getting what she wants. As I stare at this list it suddenly dawns on me that maybe these modes of persuasion can be repurposed. Maybe they can be put to use for the good of the country….for the good of all  humanity.

And so I am putting them out there for all to see. I am specifically hoping in fact that The President of The United States will read this and will learn a thing or two. Specifically I’m thinking he might adopt my daughter’s methods of persuasion as he attempts to get the Healthcare reform bill passed through congress. Seriously…Mr. President, you have tried everything else, what have you got to lose?

So here it is. Here’s how my daughter makes all her dreams come true. It’s a four-tiered approach and can be applied to any situation. Pay close attention (Mr. President).

#1. She breaks out “the cute”. I remember being at a park with her when she was about 16 months old (she is now two). There were about twenty people all sitting in lawn chairs in a big circle. Salsa music blasted from a large stereo and there was a buffet table full of food and presents. Bunches of birthday balloons hovered above the setup and seemed to be bobbing playfully to the music. It all made for a very festive and inviting feel.  So much so that Sage decided that she was invited to the party. She walked straight into the middle of the circle and started swaying her hips. Then she got her shoulders involved and began this little shrugging shimmying sort of dance. Before long she had the entire party clapping along and laughing in delight. Around this time I started noticing that every so often she’d stop and point to the balloons and shout “ball, ball” and pump her fists into the air. Then she’d go back to her wiggling and shimmying but with even more passion and vigor. After a few minutes of this routine one of the onlookers said, “I think the baby wants a balloon”.

“Yes,” another agreed. And they were off to find a pocketknife or pair of scissors to free one.  When they couldn’t find one they resorted to gnawing one loose with their teeth (That’s how much they wanted to please my kid). They walked right up to her and presented the gift that she had so coveted. But as soon as they dangled the string towards my daughter’s hands she stopped dancing.  She ceased her festive clapping and her smile vanished. She was all business. She grabbed hold of that balloon and bolted as fast as Secretariat running for the Triple Crown. She had gotten what she came for. She had charmed the crowd. She had prevailed. Nothing more was required of these partygoers.

*Note to Mr. President: I in no way expect you to be as cute as my daughter. We must be realistic. But you have your own version of charm and it is quite astonishing. Use it! And maybe re-circulate those pictures from your vacation in Hawaii- very nice, very cute!!

#2. She empowers the people. You’ll just be doing something together and she’ll pause as if you guys are mid conversation and YOU, not she, just thought up some brilliant plan. Like the other day, a sitter came back from a walk with her and reported that at one point Sage just looked up at her and said “Oh…you…you want a muffin?…OK.” And guess what? They turned around and got a muffin. Genius! And she’s done this with me too. Sometimes we’ll be lying in bed and she’ll say something like… “Oh Elmo…Elmo soo funny. Lalalala Elmo’s World. Sing that mommy (I do). Oh, you wanna watch Elmo’s World…?Yea? That’s good mommy! We could do that! We could watch Elmo.”

*Note to Mr. President: I know you can rock this one. Back during your campaign we all felt like WE were standing in the spotlight right along with you; you brought us in, you empowered us. Just plant the seed, water it, and give some other dude the satisfaction of thinking that it’s his flower. It will be worth it. My daughter did indeed get Elmo’s World.

#3. She hypnotizes. Now this one is new and it still has a few flaws but give Sage a few more months and she’ll have it down. She looks you dead in the eyes and just sort of chants her request. Like she’ll say “boobies yes, boobies yes, boobies yes.” Until suddenly you find yourself nodding along and saying “boobies yes, boobies yes” and before you know it you are unbuttoning your shirt and whipping out the boobies. “I mean boobies NO” you squeak at the last minute as you come out of the trance but it is too late. She has latched on.

*Note to Mr. President: This is totally a good one for you. I mean don’t go stealing my daughters catch phrase “boobies yes” it is not likely to win many people over to your side, but “yes we can” certainly worked for you. So grab a pen and start playing with good healthcare reform phrases, you’ll have them signing their names in no time!

#4. She embraces the balls-out tantrum. I don’t have to say much about this one. We’ve all seen them, we’ve all heard the astonishing lung power of a toddler in need. We’ve witnessed the violent thrashing about. We’ve felt the floor shake as tiny fists pound tirelessly away.

*Note to Mr. President: Now this one does not actually work on me. Because I know that if I fold to a tantrum just once I’ll be toast for all eternity. But if you can get it to work on congress…think of the possibilities… I mean, talk about filibuster proof, try getting even one sentence out when you’ve got someone writhing and screaming on the floor. So…if you want to end a debate, if you want to just make everyone so desperate to get out of the room that they will literally sign anything-throw a tantrum. I know you have two children, you’ve seen how they go down, and you’ve felt the furry. Now own it. Make it yours!

**And one more thing….do it quickly.  I am an inch away from not being able to afford healthcare for my family (toddler included). Warning: I’m bringing her down to Washington if this goes on much longer and SHE will have a word with congress!!

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