Tag Archives: danny

Forcing Friendships

26 Aug

Sorry for not updating in a while – I spent all my writing energy in those last two posts and quickly ran out of good stories to tell. I’m trying to think of more memorable moments to share, but I can’t promise that they’ll be nearly as entertaining as those two. 

In the meantime….

Today was Daniel’s first day at a new school. We transferred him mainly to have him closer to home in the hopes that he would make more friends in the neighborhood. It went well enough this morning – we actually left the house on time – and the drop off was drama free. For the rest of the day, I was on pins and needles at work, anxiously waiting for the phone call as to how it went. So when I saw my mom’s cell calling, I jumped on it like a duck on a bug.

Unfortunately, it was hard to hear what was going on over the crying.

It’s got to be the worst feeling as a parent – when there’s nothing you can do for your kid to make it better.

Granted, Daniel tends to focus on the negative, and so his report should be taken with a grain of salt. But he said none of the kids would talk to him, that they acted like he wasn’t there, and, even more upsetting, the teacher expects them to read and write cursive.

The cursive thing I can work on at home. The kids? I can’t fix that for him.

And it’s not that I haven’t tried. When we finally decided on transferring, I reached out to the local moms groups on facebook and asked if anyone would be willing to meet up. Some very nice and friendly moms responded, and one organized a meetup at a local park for fellow fourth graders.

But I can only do so much. When we got to the park, Daniel did not interact much with the other kids at all, saying he preferred to play by himself. Nerves? Shyness? Anxiety? By the end of the playdate, he was playing with some of the other kids, but I was anxious the whole time. Why doesn’t he approach the other kids? Why doesn’t he fit in?

I wish I could direct the movie of his life. I’d write a thoughtful, heartwarming, uplifting script. I’d cast kind hearted people as both supporting players and lead roles. I’d make sure it had a happy ending. But I have to accept the fact that, at best, I’m a character in his drama, not the director.

The reality is, you can’t make friends for your kid, any more than you can force people to be friends with you. It has to happen naturally, and it takes time. You can’t force connections, you can only put yourself out there and hope for the best. But what do you do if your kid doesn’t even want to put themselves out there? And what do you do when you’re worried that your kid will never fit in, thanks to his ‘issues’?

I didn’t mean for this to be so negative or depressing. I was hoping that I would have a “Daniel transferred and everything is going to be perfect!” update. But life just doesn’t work that way. I have to sit back and let the movie happen.

He’s a pretty handsome leading man, if I do say so myself. 

In other news….

We celebrated the last days of freedom by going to the beach. I insisted on slathering sunblock all over Daniel. He squirmed and fidgeted and yowled like an angry cat. Exhausted, I put the sunblock aside and watched him frolic in the waves.

Guess who’s now sunburned all over the right side of her body – and not at all on her left. 





Rats! Foiled Again!

22 Apr

What do you do when your kid is smarter than you??

Danny lost a top tooth on Saturday. I was really relieved, seeing it stick out of his mouth at a crazy angle was really grossing me out. He wrote the Tooth Fairy a little note and added as a ps, “What do you do with the teeth?”

This created a quandary for me. I also questioned the Tooth Fairy as a child, but it never occurred to me to ask what she did with the teeth. Based on my interrogations, I knew that her real name was Tooth Fairy, her phone number was 55TOOTH, and she lived in Dubuque, Iowa.

I also knew from my past experiences that I should at least make an attempt to disguise my handwriting. My father has many wonderful qualities, but good handwriting is not one of them. He switches back and forth between cursive and print within a sentence, even within a word. His handwriting is the most distinctive I’ve ever seen, and led to my early discovery that he was the Tooth Fairy. I still left my teeth under my pillow, but some of the magic was gone.

So I was going to at least make an effort for Danny. Once he was finally asleep, I carefully printed a response in all caps, thanking him for the tooth but sadly informing him that what the Tooth Fairy does with the teeth is a Tooth Fairy Secret. I was really proud of myself.

Early the next morning, he snuck into my room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him grab a file folder I had written on, and then sneak back out. I thought nothing of it.

I got up, went into his room. “Did the Tooth Fairy come? What did she say? What does she do with the teeth?”

He just looked at me with pity. “Mama, I know it’s you. I compared your handwriting.

What do I do with this kid? And who wants to volunteer to write his letter from Santa this year? I don’t think I can hold up to another handwriting analysis!

Worlds Cutest Detective (with WonderSchnoodle sidekick in the background!)

Define ‘Inappropriate’, Part 2: Danny and the Library Book

12 Oct

I’m not trying to brag, but Danny is smart. Really, really smart. He taught himself to read at an early age. He devours books. I love coming into his room and seeing him holed up under the covers with a chapter book. He reads anything and everything. He really likes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, the Boxcar Children series (which is how Benny got his name), and the “Stink” books (all about Judy Moody’s kid brother).

And it’s a challenge, finding age-appropriate, but challenging, material for him. I want to expand his horizons, expose him to new things, but I also have to be wary of how sensitive he is. He feels things very deeply, he’s very empathetic, and he internalizes things that others wouldn’t. He’ll watch something, or read something, and seem fine, only to have nightmares a week later. For the most part, he lives in his own little world. He has an imaginary Formula One race going on his head and he gives me updates on the standings every morning. He has written several imaginary tv shows in his head, including their theme songs. (My current favorite is “Pillow House.”) He’s a sweet, sensitive, brilliant little boy, and I’d like him to keep that innocence for as long as he can.

And every once in a while, he does something that just really creeps me out. This week, it was his library book selections at school. I reached into his bookbag and pulled out Curious George. “Aw, come on Danny, you can do better than that,” I thought. And then I pulled out this:

Don't worry, they're... laughing?

Totes appropriate.

What is this I don’t even whaaaaaaat?

I asked him about it. He said he wanted a book about war. Well, I’d say he got one. I wanted him to challenge himself, read a book above his current level, but this?

I texted the picture to my sister, his godmother, who understands him. She called back right away with concern. “Maybe you shouldn’t let my sweet little Dan read that. Isn’t that going to give him nightmares?”

Yes, probably. But… I don’t want to discourage him. I’m proud of him for going beyond his comfort zone. Still, I think this is waaaay too far out of the comfort zone. I did a quick skim of the book last night – it’s long, wordy, and full of horrible death and dying. I want to let him make his own choices, but I don’t want to deal with the nightmares that will result.

My current approach is to read it with him and talk about it. We read about 20 pages last night, and stopped right when the British lost the naval battle and the captain chose to go down with the ship. He didn’t seem too upset, and he didn’t have any nightmares, though that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming eventually. He didn’t seem too perturbed by it at all, which I guess is a good thing. My hope is that, by reading it together, he can process the concepts in a safe and encouraging way, while continuing to expand his vocabulary and knowledge.

Still… wtf? Why did he pick this book? And why didn’t the librarian say something when he checked it out, like, I don’t know, JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL, FIRST GRADER.

But that’s the thing about Danny. He zigs when you expect him to zag. He is full of surprises. He pulls out a Curious George, then a book about death and destruction. He is a paradox.

For example, one day we were driving and he was chattering away in the backseat. Usually he talks about his imaginary Formula 1 drivers, so I figured it was safe to tune out. My ears perked up right away though, when I heard, “It’s simple really. All you need is a dead body, a pocketknife, and an ostrich.

I nearly crashed the car. When pressed for an explanation, he stated that he learned that ostriches have very small brains. “True,” I said. “They’re smaller than their eyes,” he said. “Ok…” I replied. “Maybe that’s why they act so crazy,” he says. “Their brains are so small, they can’t help it.” [There was an incident at a petting zoo when he was 4.] “Probably true,” I conceded. “So they just need a bigger brain,” Danny continued. “You can take one from a dead body, and give it to the ostrich.” I explained, “But that won’t work. Your brain stops working when you die. And it would kill the ostrich to take his brain out.” Danny thought about that for a minute. “Oh… well.. in that case, I guess I could just teach an ostrich some tricks to make him smarter.”

I was relieved. I went from fearing I was raising Dexter, to fearing I was raising Dr. Frankenstein, to realizing I was actually raising Dr. Doolittle.

Still, I’m keeping a close eye on him. And hiding my World War II movies. And I might have a chat with the school librarian.

p.s. Assuming he does really want to learn about WWII, are there any kid-friendly books you’d recommend?

Just a quick one

1 Oct

Sitting in the parent gallery of Danny’s first tennis lesson. The couple next to me seems very nice, conversing sweetly with each other. In Polish. I picked up a few phrases from Danny’s biological father. I’d like to show off, smile and say ‘dzien dobre’ but the only sentences I can follow it up with are (spelled phonetically):

– koham ciebe (“I love you”)
– moja mawa kohanya (“my little … baby?”)
– Sto lat, Sto lat, nyeah dziea dziea dem (sung at birthdays)
– die me dupa (“gimme some ass”)
– kourva (“whore”)
– tak (“yes”) and nie (“no”)
– las i lis (“The fox is in the forest.”)

I… think I’ll stay quiet. Though I like the last one. I could lean over all conspiratorial, whisper ‘the fox is in the forest,’ smile, put my finger on my lips, say ‘shh,’ and nothing more.

can you define “inappropriate” for me?

25 Sep

This past weekend, Danny was horsing around in his pj’s, bouncing on our bed, being his usual wild self. To my surprise, he settled down and asked me to sing to him, like I used to. He actually let me sing lullabies to him, probably for the last time. It was so sweet, the three of us laid on the bed as I sang. I’m not a good singer, but I did my best. I went through all our old favorites, including the songs I remember my parents signing to me. It was really nice…

…until Ken started really listening to the lyrics. He raised one eyebrow at the second verse of “Danny Boy,” he made faces at the verse in “Wild Colonial Boy” where “a bullet pierced his brave young heart,” and he lost it completely when I got to “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” It’s a great song, all about an Australian soldier who gets sent to Gallipoli. Ken started to protest when I mentioned the “blood, death, and fire.” When I got to the point in the song where the singer’s legs get blown off, he sat up and said, “What the hell, Sheilah?!”

I can’t help it. These are the songs I know, the songs my father passed down to me. Irish ballads aren’t exactly known for their happy cheerful fun times. They all seem to involve death or dying, and I’ve sung them all to Danny, as my father sang them to me. When Danny was barely two years old, he could belt out “The Fields of Athenry” with the best of them, another charmer set during the Famine. To my father’s beaming pride, Danny would loudly and proudly sing “Michael! They are taking you away!” in his little baby voice. For the chorus, he would go “lo! lie! fee-ulds! wyyyyye!” It was adorable.

It never occurred to me that Danny was actually listening to the lyrics of the songs I sang, just as I don’t remember paying much attention to them when I was younger. Still, for Ken’s sake, I switched to songs from The Muppet Movie. Which, upon repeat viewings as an adult, had totally inappropriate moments that sailed over my head as a child. My personal favorite is in The Muppets Take Manhattan, when all the Muppets are chattering at once in Pete’s restaurant, then they all get quiet. You can still hear Janice, though, as she says, “So I told him, I don’t care if it’s art, I’m not taking my clothes off!”

My parents exposed us to tons of inappropriate things, and it never bothered me. When I was 4? 5? years old, my mother wanted to see “Moonstruck” in theaters. For whatever reason, she took me with. Why not? My father would snort and deride whatever my sister and I watched on tv as ‘claptrap,’ then turn around and teach us songs like “Come Out Ye Black and Tans” or “The Men Behind the Wire,” which weren’t exactly happy songs. Swearing was frowned upon, unless it was in the context of “Rock On, Rockall,” where the singer enthusiastically sings “may the natural gas burn your ass” to the invading British.

There’s also what I would term the ‘sanitizing’ approach. I vividly remember my oldest sister showing “Dirty Dancing” to my other sister and I, and fast-forwarding through a few scenes. The explanation, “She can’t dance because she’s sick” was accepted without question. My brother showed us war movies like “Empire of the Sun,” fast forwarding only the goriest death scenes.

On the whole I don’t think I’m any worse for being exposed to things that others would deem inappropriate. In fact, the only movie I remember being scarred by is “The Sound of Music.” Those goatherd marionettes gave me serious nightmares.

It gets harder as your child gets older. They’re exposed to a lot more than a few lullabies. I try to screen what Danny watches and listens to, but it’s impossible. This kid loves to read, anything he can get his little paws on. One of his favorites is the daily newspaper. When he was 2, he thought the Cars section was just for him. Now, he skims through the news, looking for the comics, and picks up some things probably not appropriate for his age level on his way to Garfield [insert obligatory joke about how only 6-year-olds still find Garfield funny].

And sometimes I totally drop the ball and have to turn off the television or the radio in a hurry. “Whoops! Guess you shouldn’t be [listening to/watching] that!” is said a lot in our house. I can no longer assume that things are over his head. I want to be vigilant, but not overprotective.

What inappropriate things have you exposed your kids to, inadvertently or not? Where do you draw the line? How much pre-screening do you do? Just how sheltered should he be?

On a final note, my husband should not criticize my lullaby choices. He and Danny love to watch Top Gear (the UK version, not the inferior US knockoff), to the point where Danny wanted to name the dog Jeremy Clarkson. I thought this was fine, perfectly family friendly, until last night, when Danny repeated a question to me that he had heard on Top Gear. “Mom, what can you change faster, a gear box or a woman’s dress?” The sneaky inappropriateness is the worst.

Picture of Jeremy Clarkson, on the set of Top ...

Picture of Jeremy Clarkson, on the set of Top Gear (current format) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually, he does kind of look like the dog…

Bennett, on the set of my parents’ porch. When he gets wet, and his hair gets all curly, he *really* looks like Jeremy.

Additional Links:

Lyrics for Wild Colonial Boy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Colonial_Boy

About ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,’ which actually isn’t Irish at all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_the_Band_Played_Waltzing_Matilda

The second greatest scene in Muppets Take Manhattan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQgfgB-vgT0

Confessions of an un-cool Mom

17 Sep

This past weekend, I finally achieved a life long dream of mine. I was officially pronounced “cool.” Granted, the honor came from first graders, but I don’t think that should diminish my accomplishment.

Friday night, I took Danny to FisherFest, the carnival at his school/church. We were waiting in line for the Scrambler, and Danny found two other kids from his class. The three chattered excitedly and decided to ride together. Unfortunately, they were all well below the height limit to ride unaccompanied. No problem, I said, and squeezed all three in with me. Two minutes later, my ribs were aching and my head was spinning, but it was worth it as I heard, “Danny, your mom is so cool.

I have never, ever been cool in my life. It has always remained an elusive quality, despite my efforts to achieve it, along with its evil twin, popularity. I was forever doing or saying the wrong thing.

The most glaring, and embarrassing, example immediately comes to mind. Junior year. First day of school. Chemistry class. A brand new, very sweet teacher. She wanted us to go through the rows and say our name and our favorite tv show, and repeat the people who came before us. Simple enough.

I sat and racked my brain as another part of me kept track of the answers. (“Katie, Friends. Julie, Seinfeld. Ashley, Friends.”) I had spent the summer watching late night Doctor Who reruns on PBS. I recognized that, while it was my favorite tv show, this was decidedly uncool and an unacceptable answer. I raced trying to come up with an acceptable substitute. (“Shannon, Friends. Mary, Friends.”) I thought of another show I liked, and I swear, my thought process was, “It’s on NBC! That’s acceptable!”

And so it was my turn. I blurted out my name and favorite tv show. I will never forget the look on the face of the popular girl who sat in front of me as she turned around with what can only be described as horror, possibly revulsion, with a tinge of pity.

She repeated, disdainfully, “Sheilah … Homicide.” Even worse, it was repeated, again and again, as each person had to name everyone who came before them. Each classmate said my name, then paused, and repeated “Homicide” with disbelief, possibly even fear.

Sadly, my chronic uncoolness and awkwardness did not improve as I got older. It only seemed to get worse. At parties, bars, any social situation, really, you could easily find me by the small crowd backing away slowly. “That’s… interesting,” they would say. “Excuse me while I now desperately avoid you.”

I have been extremely lucky that I have found someone who not only tolerates, but embraces my uncoolness. My husband acknowledges and respects my quirks. He watches geeky tv shows with me, and has expanded my knowledge of the world of geek dom. I made a Star Trek reference without knowing how or why (I’ve only seen one or two episodes), and he was unbelievably proud.

Still, my husband’s acceptance and tolerance is not the same as recognition from the general demanding audience of first graders. I held my head high, proud of my new cool status. I felt confident, even happy.

And then I cried on the Ferris Wheel. I may be cool, but I’m still terrified of heights. And the confidence ran away like a blind date.

They say we live our dreams through our children. I hope Danny will be cooler than his mother, maybe even popular. But if not, that’s okay too. Another person to watch Doctor Who with.

Secondary Infertility: Fun For No One

5 Sep

This morning, as I was getting my little slowpoke ready for school, he told me all about the dream he had last night, which involved him getting a second mother, and several siblings. Two brothers and a sister, to be precise. He described them in detail throughout our morning preparations, including the drive to school.

I finally jumped in and said, “Danny, you’re not getting another mommy. I’m it.”

He immediately countered with his best friend, who has two mommies.

I explained that her mommy and daddy were divorced, and her daddy got married again. And that daddy and I are not getting divorced.

“Great,” he said, and started crying. “I’ll never get a brother or sister.”


It’s really, really hard to not feel guilty at times like this. I know, rationally, that it’s not my fault, that Danny probably likes the idea of a sibling much more than he would the reality, that he’ll be fine.

But reason only gets you so far. The rest of me is crying on the inside with him. I’m one of four, Ken is one of five. I love my siblings fiercely. My sister is my best friend. My brother is my role model. And my oldest sister is my hero, the bravest person I know. I can’t imagine life without any of them.

I want to give Daniel that. And it hurts, it hurts so bad, that I can’t.

The one thing that makes me feel better, at times like these, is my cousin Jim. My aunt raised him on her own, and did a fantastic job. She empathizes with my situation, and says she always wanted more kids. She said she talked about it with Jim one time. He said, “Are you kidding? I love being an only child.” My aunt worked really hard to provide for him, and the two of them have traveled just about everywhere. I think they’ve been to every major league ballpark. It works, and they’re happy.

So I’m going to try to not feel guilty. Instead of a sibling, I’m going to give Danny a passport. I will focus on the things we do have, instead of the things we don’t. He may not have brothers and sisters, but he has cousins and friends.

I can’t promise it will be easy, I can’t promise it won’t suck sometimes, but, we will make it work.

I like this better than Danny’s solution, which was, “Well, when are you and Daddy going to get divorced?” Nice try, kiddo.

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