The Great Cabbage Patch Controversy

My name is Andrea, and I bought my son a doll. There, I said it. You would’ve thought I bought him a machine gun. Wait. Perhaps that would be more acceptable, more masculine.

The Offender

Zach plays with his stuffed animals by cradling them and hugging them as if they are babies, but yet when he gets close to a human, he swats and bats at faces, inflicting pain. I thought about it, and thought perhaps a doll that looked more like a baby would help him. He could do some role play and learn to be gentle and nurturing.

I knew his dad would hate the idea, so I knew better than to buy him a doll that was dressed in a frilly pink outfit or had bows in her hair. That really would have been pushing the envelope. What I needed was a masculine-looking doll. A doll that looked like a boy, was dressed like a boy. A less girly doll. Yeah. Have you ever tried to find anything that has anything to do with traditionl domestic role play that is not pink and frilly and…..grrrrrrr. Toy vaccuums, shopping carts, kitchens. Toy mops and brooms, dishes. All of them. Why? My real vaccuum isn’t pink. My dishes aren’t, either. My stove, refrigerator….none of it is pink. Why in the hell are we doing this to our children?

So  after scouring the internet and finding nothing, I gave up on the doll. Until last week. We were at Toys ‘R’Us when I saw a boy Cabbage Patch Kid. I had been looking at the dolls, reliving memories of my childhood. I had been the first on my block to get one when they first came out. Parents were getting in fist fights over the dolls, and my mom was right in the middle of that. The limit to buy was 10, and she bought all 10 to give to the girls in the family as Christmas presents. But not me. I got one of mine that day. I’ll never forget it. His name was Earl. He had on a blue cuorduroy outfit, was bald with big blue eyes. I was remembering all of this and thinking if I knew a little girl who would want one. As I moved the boxes around, looking at the different dolls, I saw the boy way in the back. A doll. No pink. Big blue eyes like Zachy’s.

And I bought it. The boy doll I had been looking for all of that time. We brought him home and I took him out of the box. His name is Kelton. And I handed him to Zachy, who promptly hugged him and put the doll next to him on the seat of his Cozy Coupe. Success.

Until I absentmindedly posted something on Facebook about, “Yay! I found the boy doll I was looking for for Zachy.”

I started getting e-mails. The phone rang a few times. People, who shall remain nameless and were too cowardly to post anything publically on Facebook, have a serious problem with this. Finally, John, who was with me when I bought it and had no protest then, is making snide comments when Zach so much as looks at the doll. I am going to confuse Zach. I am going to upset the balance. I am going to —GASP!—TURN HIM GAY!!!!! (These aren’t John’s words, but some of the comments I got from others.)

Zach and Evan are growing up in a family where the mom is the breadwinner and has the career, is on the fast track to an MBA. Their dad does the laundry, the cleaning. He runs the vacuum about three times a day (don’t ever get chocolate-brown area rugs, people–they show every speck of lint!) and washes the dishes. We split the cooking. He is the one to taxi Ev to and from school. To the point that one time, we went to a school function and one of the other mothers mentioned that she thought we were divorced because she never sees Evan’s Mommy. I believe there are inherent diferences between men and women. Some of it is put upon us by society. Some of it is hard-wired by biology. Both nature and nurture win. A prime example? I love pink. I like smelling like flowers. I hate getting dirty. You would never catch me fishing because I will not handle a fish. I hate most sports, other than college football. I watch chick flicks and cry when the situation calls for it. My husband can bench press a lot more than I can. But I am driven, aggressive, down-to-business. If you piss me off, I will let you know. If you are wrong, I’ll let you know that, too. I hate bullshit and will not allow you to dish it to me. I multi-task with the best of them.

Do not ever make the mistake of telling me something is not my job because I am a woman. Other than peeing while standing, I doubt there is anything I could not learn to do. Hell, if I were willing and had some practice, I could probably even manage that one. And if there is nothing I cannot do, and it is unacceptable to place me in a little stereotypical box, then it is certainly unacceptable to do so to either of my children at a time when they are growing and developing and learning who they are. At some point, they will choose the paths they want to take. They may be gay or straight. They may  choose to play in dirt or stay indoors and bake cupcakes. They may be construction workers, chefs, teachers, doctors, lawyers. Presidents of the United States. Or they could choose to stay home and be caregivers to their children while supporting their significant other so he or she can go out and kick ass in the world.

Just like I can do whatever I want, so can they. And whatever they choose, it will have not one damned thing to do with a doll I bought them while they were a toddler.

Moving Forward

I’m not sure what it was. Was it the crushed aspirations of becoming a doctor? Was it the fact that it was so unbelievable? Whatever it was, I felt the overwhelming urge to snap a photo with my phone. A photo that says, “I really was here.”

The Williams College of Business at Xavier University. Number 14 business school in the nation, all around.

I met with them yesterday. I met with them at a point when I was feeling bedraggled and seriously doubting myself after a week of GMAT Prep-Hell. I had some questions, as I was trying to determine which of their programs is right for me. I took a printed copy of my unofficial transcript with me. I spoke with the admissions advisor at length. I’ll hit the highlights:

I mentioned that I still need to submit my personal statement. She told me not to botherd, that the level of my work speaks for itself.

I mentioned my nervousness, my trepidation at the GMAT, and she told me it is normal as she smiled and told me there is no way my score would be low enough to bar admission.

I spoke to her about the fact that my resume will reflect all healthcare. She said it absolutely does not matter, but raher shows I have worked and managed a career while keeping that academic record–her emphasis, not mine. And my completion of an undergrad business degree will be business experience enough.

And my favorite? As I was leaving, she explained how those with experience in the business world come into an MBA program and try to intimidate those of us coming from a different background. And she told me not to let them, that I will be great and she wants me to put them in their place.

I left there with a bigger spring in my step. Feeling charged and ready. And thrilled with the thought that, if all goes as planned, I only have 8 classes to take to get my MBA.

Little–Yet Mighty–Steps

I am on vacation. I know, right? I never take vacation. The last time I had any real time off of work was when I was on bedrest. But I did it. The plan was for me to spend the next couple of weeks crack-a-lackin’ on the GMAT prep, then take the exam.

Until the GMAT prep made me feel mentally incompetent to even tie my own shoes.

Or my new classes left me with less time than I thought.

And I have had appointments every single day, including some meetings for work. So in truth, I have gotten Jack Crap finished by way of GMAT. And guess what! Jack left town. So we aren’t going to talk about Jack, or GMAT, or anything else that makes me want to scratch my eyes out and beg for Ativan. We’re going to talk aboout what Zach did last night.

He slept without a swaddller. Yeah. Uh-huh. John was at his evening class, and I told myself that now is the time, damnit. It took a gazillion trips to his room to remind him that I was right here. Maybe a couple of pats on the back. And the binky. Yeah, we aren’t even touching the bedtime pacifier yet, in the name of picking one’s battles. But he did it. He slept in his Spongebob pj’s, covered by his favorite blankie, with his little butt in the air. My big boy. Turns out that we aren’t going to have to send him to college with one after all.

What else is Zachy doing? Well, first of all, we cannot go out in public without cracking people up. Really. He gets so excited when he sees something he recognizes. And when he gets excited, it’s the funniest thing ever. As in “Oh! Oh! Oh! OH! Oh YEAH????” Only in that adorable baby voice. Yesterday, I took him to the pharmacy to fill a prescription. Our pharmacy is small, so I usually don’t do this. Well the first thing he saw was a container of baby wipes on the shelf. So here he goes. “OH????? Oh YEAH!”, as he darts to the shelf. Then he saw the body wash I use on him. “Oh-Oh-Oh Yeah?” And so it went, back and forth across the pharmacy,, which is essentally a little room with shelves. And quite the audience assembled to watch him in amazement, because through all of this, he didnt take one thing off of the shelves. He was just excited to see the products we use at home. You really should see him at the grocery store!

He still isn’t really talking, but it is obvious, even to the therapist who came to the house, that he understands everything being said to him. He just won’t speak. Except he said “book” the other day, which can be added to the short list of random words he says. By the way, did you know that the sippy cups with the straws are better for language development because drinking from them requires different muscles and actually strengthens the muscles needed for speech. Well, now I know it and we are in the process of replacing all of Zach’s sippy cups as a result. And though I hate the commercialism of characters on children’s products, I will do anything to get this child talking. So basically, whatever floats his boat…Spongebob pj’s. Elmo sippy (with straw, of course!). Thomas toy. Not a lot of characters, but some.

So that’s it. Little steps. I’m not afraid of little steps. Just like I will be taking little steps to get the GMAT prep finished. All it does is slow me down a little bit. But then again, maybe I needed to slow down.

Delayed

As you may know, I made the call to have Zach evaluated for speech. He just doesn’t say enough to mesh with my ideas of what I think he should be saying. I made the call, and they told me a couple of things. First, he has to be a few months behind in order to qualify for services through our state’s early intervention program. If there is too slight a delay, I can still get him help, albeit privately. Second was that, despite the fact that Zach is almost 2 years old, they are continuing to adjust for his prematurity by subtracting the number of weeks of prematurity from his chronological age, then rounding down the next whole month. So while Zach is 20 months old, as of this next week, they assessed him as a 16-month-old.

Until I got the letter.

I thought it was just speech.

They said no, that he is delayed in communication and fine motor skills.

AND  that he is delayed enough for services.

They weren’t supposed to say that. They were supposed to tell me everything is just fine and I am just a worrying mother. Not that my worrying is right on target.

Here in a few minutes, I am going to get up from this desk and do a quick dusting in the living room and maybe vacuum because the case coordinator is coming by today to meet us. To explain how this all works–physical therapy and speech therapy for Zach. Further testing, even, to ensure that it is only prematurity that has caused this and not some other issue. And about a million thoughts are swimming in my head.

What was it? The breathine? Mag Sulfate? Indocin? What about the damned pain medication that I didn’t want to take but had to in order to survive that ordeal? And not only am I wondering which drug I was given, but which dose? Which injection, pill, dosage increase did the trick? Or what if I would have been tougher and held on a little longer? And if so, how much longer would have been enough? A day? A week? Where did we fall short of that threshold where everything woulld have been okay.  I thought it was all fine. Zach is almst 2 years old, and I thought I was finally past all of this. That we made it through, completely unscathed. This is so fucking unfair.

And Evan. Having a child–any child–with an autism spectrum disorder makes you much more likely to have another with an ASD. Are both of my precious miracle boys disordered?

I cannot even think about it now. Right now, I am going to put down the textbooks for a little while and pull myself up by the bootstraps. And help my Zachy.

Dear Me: A Letter to Myself on My 35th Birthday

Dear Me,

You know, there is something surreal about turning another year older as the clock strikes midnight and the calendar starts over again. As if one is given a fresh new start, every single year. And every year, you swear it will be better than the year before. In the veritable shit storms you have endured, you have said that it has to get better. And for the most part, it has. 2011 brought stagnation, sort of. No big career moves. No earth-shattering events. No big changes. Just life. Work and school, kids getting older, John by your side. Though 2011 brought the great Asperger drama with Evan. Still, nothing earth-shattering.

How fucking boring.

You are getting older. 35. It is time to shake things up.

What do we hope 2012 will bring? Finishing the undergrad degree, already. Grad school. That damned GMAT. Failure is not an option for any of those if you ever want to get the things out of your life that you have hoped for all of this time.

You need that Audi you have wanted. You need a damned MBA and an MBA salary to get that, you crazy bitch. So do it.

And you know those bad habits you have? Yeah, those. Well, what once was cute and quirky in a 25-year-old is no longer cute with the addition of a decade. And the problem with your bad habits is that they will eventually kill you. Your habits are a reflection of irresponsibility now that you are older. It is time to fix them so you can be here when the kids grow up. You bitch and whine that you never get time off, but there you have it. When they are grown, you will have time. If you survive. Fix that shit right now.

This year you will work harder. You will be better. At parenting the boys. At being a wife to John. As a therapist. You will because you need to be. You know how we get when we get bored, and in order to prevent boredom, you need to find some sort of a challenge. These are your challenges. While you need to prepare for the future, you need to bank some of your time and energy on the present. Before the present is the past and it is too late to do anything about it.

You will write better. You will read more. You will get fresh air. Maybe your stressed ass needs to take up yoga again before you kill the planet.

And speaking of the planet, maybe you could recycle a little. Isn’t that your duty as a citizen? Why don’t you? It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless. No more excuses.

Learn to crochet or something. Maybe you can make tacky doilies for everybody or something. No, really. Everyone can do it. You are a smart bitch. There is no way you are incapable. Just teach yourself. And then don’t get all extra Andrea-OCD on the shit and refuse to stop until a project is finished. It really is okay to put something down and come back to it later. This will teach you patience and give you something to do that will distract you from breaking those bad habits.

The treadmill is not a clothes rack. Take it out. Use the damned thing. All of that studying you do? Well the beauty of the treadmill is that those enormous textbooks perch quite nicely on that rail right in front of your face. Quit being lazy.

Some people are pretty. Some are thin. Some come from money. Everyone has some sort of advantage in this life. And life is a game of learning to exploit your advantages to get what you want out of life. Your advantage, other than big boobs, is that you have a brain. You can figure shit out. And that is what you need to do. You have survived some hell that we cannot even speak of right now. You can overcome these shortcomings.

And you will. Because you are now 35-fucking-years-old. And it is time to quit playing and get real.

Peace Out, Yo.

Andrea

 

And to the rest of you, sitting in your homes, reading this crazy shit that is sure to get me committed:

Happy New Year. May you have a wonderful, full, amazing 2012.