Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Number One and Number Two: It’s Elmo’s World

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Number One and Number Two: It’s Elmo’s World  
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev 

Having experience is supposed to give you some kind of an advantage in life, but it’s not really like that in the parenting universe, otherwise known as Elmo’s World. Having one kid, doesn’t necessarily give you any skills or hints on how to raise a second kid.

I think we did okay, with Son Number One. I mean he’s mostly well-adjusted, and somewhat socialized; people seem to find him pleasant and enjoyable, in that sticky-hand kind of way. I would like to think that I learned something in nearly 6 years of being his mother. I can change diapers with one hand if necessary, and create an edible lunch from the contents of an empty refrigerator. I have learned how to act really excited about Suzette’s pigtails, described in excruciating detail, complete with long hmms and umms, after just finding out that a friend has breast cancer, or that I’m out of a job that was paying for daycare. I have learned to sleep when waiting for elevators, and to pack up 20 loads of laundry and cart them to the pay-by-the-pound Laundromat without hardly any shame. Mostly I think I’m a good mom.  

Then came Son Number Two. Weighing in at 30 pounds, at 15 months he walks where he will. He has learned how to scale a wire-mesh fence by watching his older brother, who’d probably never even touched a fence at 15 months old without a thorough hand-washing. Son Number Two has an impressive vocabulary and is rather easy to understand once you realize that he drops the first letter of every word and adds an "a" sound followed by the word "Elmo." Elmo, in case you didn’t know, is a red God-head figure for the under 3 set.

The first sounds I hear as the sun breaks through my window in the morning is "Elmo," followed by "Bye-bye, Elmo," "Baybe Elmo," Up Elmo," and "Bottle Elmo," which is my clue it’s time to make the donuts. Son Number One is clear that he was never "into Elmo" when he was young (centuries ago), but then again in the old days (before being the mother of two children) I didn’t need to listen to stories about Suzette’s pigtails and make dinner while trying to occupy a screaming infant–hence, the Elmo video plug-in.  

Son Number Two, let me be frank, is a bruiser. Being the child of mostly hippie parents, he has just had his first taste of chicken recently (infant baby food jars with pees and beef–what’s up with that?). While I am breaking off small slivers of meat and putting them on his high chair, Son Number Two, starts screaming, throwing his body across the table. He grabs a chicken wing hot off the barbeque and begins tearing off the meat with his 6 new teeth. I mean shredding the damn thing. I say, "No, sweetie, bones," trying to pry it out from the vice grip that is his clenched fist. He pulls his hand away from mine while still clutching the chicken wing and nods, giving me direct eye-contact. With mouth full says, "Bones, Elmo," and keeps tearing at the chicken flesh.  

I’ve been told that Son Number One is the artistic and "sensitive" type–a code word, I think, for "You dykes are raising a queer kid, aren’t you?" Now, I have very little agenda for my children, except the basics–be a good person and pay your own bills. I certainly have no agenda about who they love, and as a femme I’m not really clear that all tomboys are dykes and all sensitive men are queer, but if Son Number One continues down his sensitive and artistic road, I’m at least glad that his baby brother is watching out for him.

Let me explain. After dinner, I am tackling and tickling my older son on the kitchen floor in an attempt to ward off a pre-bed time temper tantrum, when I am suddenly aware that I am being pummeled in the head, by a 30-pound beach bully, screaming, "NO." Suspecting that I am hurting his big brother (who is barely second in line for the official God-head title), Son Number Two is swinging his arm at my head as if he’s been working a punching bag for years. "Sweetie," I scream, ducking out of the way, "You’re hurting, Momma." He nods again, "Bubba," he says, his word for Son Number One. "Bubba, Elmo," he says, letting me know where his loyalties lie; I’m raising a miniature thug.