Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Almost Nine

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Almost Nine
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

My baby is almost nine. I’m not sure if that shocks anyone else as much as it shocks me. I feel like I just started doing this parenting thing. Where did this tall (yes, taller than me!) brown boy with the long cornrows and deep thoughts come from? He wants to know how old he can be before he can get an earring. I say 11; his other mom says 13. He decides that 10 is fair. He has worn black nail polish, and worries often about what is “stylish” and whether or not things look “cool.” He, however, does not want to wash anything above his neck or below his ankles, despite my continually admonishment that dirty feet and food stained faces are definitely NOT stylish or cool. My four-year old, always watchful of his big brother, wants to make sure his green stripped shorts look “stylish” with the purple and blue shirt; yes, he dresses himself. He told me the other day that he didn’t like another child in his class. When I asked him why, he said the child wasn’t “stylish.” After a long sigh and utilizing my best psychological hocus-pocus I said, “You know the more you show this child that you really really like him, the more stylish he will become. He needs your friendship to become stylish.” My logic impressed him and now he is now committed to organizing his preschool friends to train the new student in proper “pre-k style,” utilizing his big brother as their mentor.

There is a note on my refrigerator. It says in barely legible scrawl “manas.” This is my shopping list. “Honey, do you know what ‘manas’ means?” I ask. She shakes her head “no,” but she is barely listening. I spend the day wondering about that –manas – saying it over and over again, hoping if I repeat it enough times before I head to the grocery store, I will understand the hidden meaning.

One thing is certain. It is important. If it weren’t very important it wouldn’t be on the refrigerator. Manas.

“Mom, don’t forget I need a blue shirt by Thursday.” Thursday is tomorrow — actually it will be Thursday in about 4 hours. “Why do you need a blue shirt?” I can tell by his face that this question is the last straw in his obviously stressful day. “Because of that thing we’re doing,” he yells, very annoyed. Oh! Well that’s clear. I take a deep breath. “Honey, please listen to me, I don’t know which ‘thing’ this is, or what you need a blue shirt for. I am happy to do whatever I can to help you here, but I really do need some more information from you,” I say, thinking well, that sounds like good parenting. I am met with a sound that is somewhere between a growl and yip, and then a slammed door.

Did I tell you I have an almost nine-old year old?

I made the mistake recently of picking a piece of paper off the floor. After everyone stepped over it for two days, I mistakenly figured it wasn’t all that important. He moved so quickly I thought the shelf was falling on my head. “Give that to me. It is private. You shouldn’t look at that.” And then the best, “Don’t you have any respect for my things?” Silly me, I thought that things on the floor might be garbage, not treasured possessions, and private ones at that. After his melt down, our long talk, and a bowl of ice cream, I learned—after I promised not to tell— that he was making a comic book with a friend. Uh-oh, I think I just told. Wow, I can’t wait until he really has something really juicy to hide.

On Monday he couldn’t find his math homework. On Tuesday he left his lunchbox in school. On Wednesday he couldn’t find his coat. On Thursday he couldn’t find his sneakers. On Friday, he forgot his flute.

The phone rang this afternoon. He politely picked it up and said, “Hello, who is it?” just the way he’s been taught. After talking for a minute, he hung up. “Who was it?” I asked. “Oh, someone, named, oh, I forget.” I guess that’s better than the little one who picks up the phone and says, “I don’t wanna talk to you” and hangs up.

This summer we invested in our son: $2500, in new braces. (Did I say $2500?) His mouth is full of metal, and I can barely understand what he is saying. Luckily he is obsessed with following all the orthodontists cleaning suggestions, so much so that I have to yell at him to stop brushing his teeth. Oh, I guess this is good, because his teeth are above his neck so maybe we are making progress in this hygiene zone. Braces, in case you didn’t know, are both stylish and cool. Maybe anything expensive is stylish and cool? Did you know that tightening braces is now something parents do at home, minor surgery on his mouth, to add to my already busy day, “Open wider, please.” He says it really hurts. I feel bad for him, but I’m glad he will have a nice smile, and be able to get a good job, since I’m paying for his teeth out of my retirement fund, and will need him to support me when I am old and in need to dental work.

Time is passing very quickly; I can feel the rush of wind past my ears. While we were traveling this summer, we listened to old Joni Mitchell tapes, I mean CDs. All the songs from my childhood, my children sang over and over (and over) again. I sang the “Circle Song” with them, as if a prayer, “Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town. Take your time. It won’t be long now, till you drag your feet to slow those circles down.”

I pack a dark blue shirt, light blue shirt, and a blue t-shirt into his schoolbag for this important “thing,” figuring one of them must be what the teacher wants, but knowing that none of them will ever come home. As I am washing out the lunchbox that finally came home after nearly a week, smelling quite ghastly, I suddenly realize what “manas” means. Did you figure it out yet? Manas – Mayonnaise! I need to buy more mayonnaise because someone left it out on the counter. I’ll put it on my shopping list. Oh, right, that’s where we started.

Almost. Almost where we started. Actually where we started was with a large bundle wrapped in a blue blanket, smelling a bit like no one had quite washed him during his week in foster care. We started with big brown eyes that glued onto mine and thankfully haven’t let go much since. We started with a huge bottle of formula sucked dry, and followed with cartloads of groceries, inhaled with gusto, while he mashes the words, “Great Dinner, Mom,” through mouth, teeth, lips, and braces reaching for another helping. He’s always been a good eater.

Nine years have gone by quickly. I loved him immediately, but over time I’ve grown to like him immensely. Sometimes I get a brief glimpse of the man he will be, and I feel something huge swoop up inside me, welling up, whelming up, that fills every inch of my being, love so large, so grand, so fierce …. But my vision is broken by the sound of almost nine year old fury, directed (of course) at the four year old, while driving to yet another dentist, martial arts, soccer, birthday party. “Stop looking out of my window. That’s my window!” he screeches. And, if the truth be known, he has actually been my window, a window with an awesome view, an exquisite view. Nothing is like it was nine years ago.