A case in point

Mookie had been sniping steadily all the way from music class to the BART station.

Mama: No scootering on the platform.
Mookie: Why?
Mama: Because it’s dangerous.
Mookie: Why?
Mama: I’m not answering that.
Mookie: Why?
Mama: Because you’re in one of those moods where you argue with everything I say.
Mookie: Not everything.

At that point I cracked up and said I had to share this conversation with the world. She helped me transcribe, giggling the whole time. I love that she gets what was funny.

“Do you know who that one person is?”

We are having a bit of a tussle about hair-brushing. I brush Mookie’s hair almost every morning, and while it is a pleasant ritual much of the time, I would like it to be something I do now and then to be close, not something I do because she can’t or won’t do it herself. This morning, I handed her the brush when we got in the car, because we hadn’t had time before then. She showed no signs of brushing. So I gave her my Appearance is Communication speech, the first of many, I’m sure. I said that what we wear and do with our hair expresses something. The man who wore old jeans and an untucked shirt to his mother’s memorial service (I may never get over this) seemed to be saying that it was not a very serious and special day, the way you would expect of the day someone says goodbye to his mother forever. When you don’t brush your hair for school, it seems like you’re saying that school and the people there and the things you do there are not very important to you. This all went over about as well as you would expect.

Mookie: What I’m saying when I don’t brush my hair is “Hi! Want to play?”

Mama (after getting laughter under control): Well, it’s true that hair and clothing aren’t very precise communication. Some people might take it just that way. Other people will take it as a sign that you don’t care about school.

Mookie: You know how many people will take it that way? (holds up one finger, looking all the world like an experienced litigator) One! And do you know who that one person is? You.

Seven years old or 37? You decide.

I decided I might get further with the pragmatic argument: if you have long hair and you don’t brush the knots out at least once a day, you will end up with huge knots that don’t come out no matter what, and you will have to cut your hair off above the knots. She saw some logic in this, but insisted, “It’s just one day!” Yeah, well, kid, if you don’t do the brushing this one day, and then you don’t do it the day after because it’s even harder, then before many days have passed, the hair is going to grow a rat’s nest of a knot. I told her that to keep long hair, she needs to show me she can brush her own hair, and that means that when I run my fingers through it, I don’t hit any knots. She did not achieve that level of prowess this morning. We’ll keep trying. Anyone know any romantic movies that show the heroine giving her hair a hundred strokes with the brush?

Which Star Wars character would you be?

According to Geekcraft, the creator was "Mayamagination"--I have not been able to confirm with her.

Darth Vader Princess in action. According to Geekcraft, the creator was “mayamagination.”

Earlier this summer, Mookie and I walked by a camp program (not hers) that clearly had a Star Wars theme, as all the kids were in costume. Among the boys, there were a variety of Star Wars characters. Among the girls, there was one: several versions of Princess Leia. It was kind of like an Elvis impersonator contest, with a wide variety of complexions, hair colors and sizes all in flowing white gowns and cinnamon-bun hairdos.

I said, “That’s a lot of Leias!” to the counselor, who gave a wry shrug–“They all want to be the Princess.” Now, Princess Leia is a badass, so, they could do worse for a role model. But as we headed home, I asked Mookie what character she would be if she were in that camp. She considered carefully and said, “First choice, the big hairy thing.” Chewie? I said. Yes. “Second, Darth Vader. Third, Princess Leia.”

Sounds like a plan!

Cursive love note

My mom gave Mookie an alphabet border such as you’d see up in a classroom, with all the letters in cursive to show kids how to write each one. When it first went up, she got very excited about cursive, copied them all, wrote a bunch of stuff in cursive; that was months ago and we haven’t seen much about it since. But this morning, the note on the left was slid under my door.


Mama! I love you! Momyy!

About a minute later, she slid me the note on the right. The matter was too urgent for bothering with those joined-up letters, I guess.


Mookie wrote a plural with an apostrophe-s yesterday as she was working on her homework. She can go ahead and become a grocer, but if she does, she’s going to be one who knows how to write plural nouns, damn it, so I told her that you don’t use an apostrophe there. I wasn’t sure if she was ready to hear more, but I thought I’d make a try at it, so I explained that there are only two times you use apostrophes: to show that something belongs to someone (Mookie’s room) or to be in place of missing letters as a kind of shortcut (don’t). Here, Mookie cut in to say, “Or, like, lunes, martes, miercoles . . . ”

Lune’s, marte’s, miercole’s? I thought with a shudder. “No, honey, you don’t need it there. Lunes is just l-u-n-e-s. No apostrophe.”

“No, but after the word. Lunes . . . martes . . . ”

Aha! “Oh, you mean when it’s down here,” I said, pointing to where a comma goes. She nodded.

“That’s called a comma,” I said, and, realizing they look exactly the same, conceded, “When it’s up here it’s called an apostrophe, and when it’s down here it’s called a comma.”

She gave me the world-weary look that says, “What idiot grownup thought that was a good idea?” At least I could tell her she was right about the use of a comma. One of them. We won’t tell her about the other 20 comma rules just yet.

Three conversations

I was reading Mookie the instructions of her favorite pages in Puzzle Buzz.

Mama: Circle the one with the even number of fish.

Mookie: One, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two. This one.

Mama: I didn’t know if you knew what “even” meant! Do you know what the opposite is called? What do you call a number that you can’t count off by twos?

Mookie: Bumpy?

I thought that was an excellent guess. I laughed and said so, and told her the term is “odd.” That made her laugh. “That’s very odd,” she said. “What an odd thing to say.”


Last night at dinner we were talking about a kid in school, A., who is what is euphemistically called “a spirited child.” Smart, sweet, can’t hold still for five minutes to save his life.

Mama: Some kids need to move around a lot and some kids like to sit very still for a long time. You’re kind of in-between.

Mookie: I used to be more like A. In kindergarten I was. Now I like to sit still more.

Mama: Why do you think you’ve changed?

Mookie, with feeling: Old age.

I had had a theory as to the reason for the change, and had almost asked her, “Do you suppose that’s because you like to spend so much time reading now?” I’m glad I held back and asked the open-ended question instead, or we’d have missed out on that immortal answer.


For tonight’s homework, Mookie had to interview us about what countries she, we, and our parents were born in. (Friday is the international flag parade, a school tradition which kids carry a flag of their family heritage, so they’re preparing to make their flags.) The questions were in Spanish but she wrote “United States” all three times. I figured that was okay, but asked, “Do you know how to say ‘United States’ in Spanish?” She responded by saying “United States” in a convincing Mexican accent.

When I laughed helplessly, she laughed too and tried pronouncing it as if it were actually Spanish: “Oo-nee-ted Stah-tees.” But really, there was no improving on her first response. I’m pretty sure “learn how to imitate recent immigrants” is not in the school’s goals for its students.

One of those conversations

There is no way to prevent Mookie from encountering people’s strange and hurtful ideas about her parents. It’s all part of the lesson that when the world tells you you need to be different, that’s usually because there’s something wrong with the world, not you–but it is hard to have to begin learning it so young. We try to immunize her with a strong affirmation of who she is, our own refusal to hide or be ashamed, and of course, lots and lots of love. I try not to let her know how my stomach clenches when the issue comes up, such as during this exchange with her yesterday:

Mookie, putting wombat stuffie* under her shirt: We’re a wombat family and I’m going to have a baby. We already have Mustard** and he’s eight, and I’m going to adopt him.
Me: Oh, exciting!
Mookie: You be the daddy.
Me: Can’t we be two mommies? And you be the mama who’s having the baby.
Mookie: But then we’ll be teased.
Me, dropping out of character, but trying to keep it light: Have you had teasing about having two mommies?
Mookie: Yes. People say “that’s weird.”
Me: We can handle that. We know how.

(a few minutes later, post-birth, amid much jubilation from the delighted older brother)

Mookie: I don’t want there to be any teasing in this game. I think you should be a daddy.


Mookie, age 2

So we talked some more about who had said “That’s weird.” She said it was not just the kid in her class who did it in the first month of school, but other friends, more recently. I hugged her, asked her to bring these things up as they happen because there’s things we can do, and resolved to talk to her first grade teacher on day one about some proactive education about Different Kinds of Families, since some of them clearly still don’t get it. I added that kids tend to say “That’s weird” about things that are new to them, which is very annoying. And we ended with this reassuring bit of sweetness.

Me: Of course, I am weird. (makes weird noise)
Mookie: You are not!
Me: Yes, I am. And so is Mommy. She goes like this. (makes another weird noise)
Mookie, throwing herself into my lap and her arms around me: No, she’s not. You’re perfect.

Got that, heteronormative world? You’ve heard it from the world’s foremost expert on Amy and Joy, Queer Moms: We’re perfect!

*Yes, we have a wombat stuffie, brought by Australian friends. Thank you, Tabouli and Pilgrim!
**Mustard is a cat stuffie. Maybe the multi-species thing explains the adoption?

Counting sheep

Mookie wanted to know how you count sheep. I had never really considered the technique, but I took a shot at an answer. She asked, “But how do you know how many there are?” It stands to reason: counting, for her, means counting objects that are there. The idea of just conjuring things up and counting them indefinitely doesn’t match her experience of counting (nor mine). She didn’t seem too troubled, though, because after a few moments’ thought, during which she appeared to be looking at something in her mind, she said, “There are seven.”

I said that some people count sheep to fall asleep, but that that’s not what I do when I’m having trouble getting sleepy, and I told her the two things I do. When I was little my mother once told me to think of green things, and that still works for me; I picture rolling hills of forest, oceans, and fields as if I’m in an airplane, flying low above them, and it almost always calms my mind. The other technique, paradoxical intention, I got from Viktor Frankl: concentrate on trying not to fall asleep. It’s like magic; as soon as I start thinking that way, sleepiness overpowers me. Mookie thought about that for a moment.

“He was a psychologist,” I explained.

“Did he write the stay awake song?” she asked.

Wow. The connections this child makes. Of course she knows about paradoxical intention: it’s the basis of the lullaby from Mary Poppins that I often sing to her (as with so many of our songs, tip of the hat to our friend Abbie, who put it on a mix CD she made for Mookie upon her birth). Remember it?

Stay awake, don’t rest your head may 7 2012 074 (Small)
Don’t lie down upon your bed
While the moon drifts in
the skies
Stay awake, don’t close your eyes.

Though the world is fast asleep
Though your pillow’s soft and deep
You’re not sleepy as you seem
Stay awake, don’t nod and dream
Stay awake, don’t nod and dream.

I could tell her with confidence that Frankl did not write it, but I said that the people who did (Robert and Richard Sherman, FYI) might have known about his idea.


Or, as Mookie pronounces it, “poblem.” She wanted to know if she had a great-great-grandmother. We talked about that for a while and then she seemed to be focused on the real point of her question, which was about the grandmother she had who died before Mookie was a year old. She wanted to know her name, since she calls her “Grandma C.” Then this:

Mookie: And she saw me when I was a baby, but I can’t see her.

Me (sighing): That’s true.

Mookie: That’s the problem with dead people.