Watch Your Language! Moms Talking Dirty

We interrupt this week of Grandma Power to get down and dirty with some real Confessions of Motherhood. Well, it’s scripted, but based on reality, the new web show, “Benchwarmers,” co-starring my friend Katie Goodman, from Broad Comedy.

Its premise: Ever wonder what those women on the park bench are talking about as their kids play in the sandbox? Lots and lots of sex.


I must have raised my kids at the wrong park.

When they were babies, I was one of those parents hovering in the sandbox, damaging their psyches (another blog for another day).

Now I’ve graduated to the bench, while one child plays basketball or baseball, the other plays tag or caveman. I sit with a book, or sometimes get conscripted into the game of tag if there’s no one better to play with. But so far nothing comes close to Benchwarmers.

I’m gonna find a new bench.


Easy Peasy Resolutions (To Make Me The #1 Most Hated Mom)

Resolution #1: More patience.

Even if it’s the 15th time I’ve asked them to do something (get dressed, flush the toilet, turn off the TV), I would just feel so much better about myself if I did not turn into a witch in the process. Instead I could, for example, gently unplug the Wii and throw it in the black bin, gracefully smiling with a glowing peaceful aura surrounding me through it all.

Resolution #2: Less worrying.

Even though worry is in my DNA, I am always happier when I let it go. Let it go…

Resolution #3: More dinner parties.

By which I mean more time with friends. Even if that means ordering pizza on the spur of the moment. I resolve this every year, but routinely let it slip away. I’m getting too old for that.

Resolution #4: Less video games.

Imagine: If I had the nerve I would throw out the Wii, melt down the cell phones, short circuit the computers. In their place I would provide stacks of jigsaw puzzles, a chess board, Scrabble and Rummy Cube, with music playing (any kind, I’m not a total control freak) and lots of crafty things to glue and build. In short, I would be the world’s most hated mom.

I’m not brave enough to go there yet, so I’d better really work on Resolution #1.

Happy new year, one and all.Image

The (Great Big Parenting) Book

As some of you know, I’ve become something of a Torah study geek of late. Weirder still – my sister is now hooked, too.

It’s something I never ever never pictured myself doing. I thought it was for people who, you know, believed that Torah is the word of God, and that we’re supposed to do things because the Torah said so, unquestioning. Not me. Never me. I am a Reconstructionist Jew who sees divinity in the miracles of the universe — like the tides, sunsets, and the way my brain is telling my fingers how to move so I can express my ideas to you. I can get a little spiritual, but don’t begin to tell me that God wrote us a story or that, come Yom Kippur, he is taking names.

So how did I become a Torah Study groupie?

Read all about it in this week’s Jewish Journal, available in print for you traditionalists, too.



In the distance, an empty nest…

My poor little out-of-the-box Emmett. Every morning, the moment he awakens to the realization that it is not the weekend, that he will have to spend several hours sitting at a desk in his first grade classroom, keeping his mouth and his mind quiet, we have tears: “I don’t want to go to school!” and “Can you call a babysitter?” and “Why did they have to invent school?”

Emmett catches a frog

This morning, and for the past two days, compounding his trauma is the fact that his brother is away for two nights at Astro Camp with the entire 5th grade. Emmett has had this to say about it: “It’s not fair” and “Fifth graders have all the fun” and “I wish they called it ‘2 days of doing boring projects’” and, the bottom line, “I wish I were at Astro Camp.”

Nothing I said could comfort, so I tried not to say too much. Occasionally I couldn’t help myself, and offered motherly wisdom like, “Aaron had to wait until 5th grade to do Astro Camp, too.” Emmett’s woeful response: “But he didn’t have an older brother, so he wasn’t as stressed out about it!”

I couldn’t argue with that.

Aaron, for his part, had been excited for Astro Camp. It is a rite of passage, filled with mystery, and a very big deal. In the days leading up to it, it was he who suggested it was time to pack, he who picked out his clothes, he who stuffed them in a duffel bag. On the morning of Astro Camp, there was no expression of reluctance, no worrying, no timidity. We left the house early; he was eager to be on time for the bus.

This was the boy who, at four years old, would not let me leave him at pre-school, who begged through anxious tears to come home with me, who would only play at another child’s house if I stayed, even when all the other four-year-olds were separating without a wrinkle. I had tried to comfort myself then, that one day that would change. One day we would have a painless separation. One day he would be confident to leave me. One day.

That day had come.

When we got to school, we threw his gear onto the bus, and he went inside to meet his classmates. I waited outside with a smattering of other parents, lingering until the buses were loaded and gone. As the fifth graders emerged from the schoolhouse marching toward the bus that would carry them over the hurdle of Astro Camp into the home stretch of elementary school, we each looked for our triumphant hero. I saw mine, and my heart beat faster. I grabbed a photo with my phone as he approached the bus, then he did something unexpected. He paused in front of me.

Only when I heard a mom beside me say, “Aw, you still get a hug?” did I realize what was happening. He was initiating a last embrace. I quickly hugged him, kissed him, dropping my phone in the befuddled process, then stepped back as he disappeared into the dark-windowed bus. I waited until the bus pulled away, not knowing if he was looking for me, but waving just in case.

For two days and nights I checked my e-mail hourly for photos sent by friends who had volunteered to chaperone the fifth graders. (Aaron had emphatically told me that I was not allowed to come.)

Friday afternoon brought much joy all around: a weekend reprieve from school’s structure for Emmett, and Aaron’s return. I hugged Aaron too hard and too long. “Too much love, Mom,” he counseled me. I let go reluctantly, and grasped my hands together behind my back. He casually wore his new Astro Camp sweatshirt and regaled us with stories of bravery — climbing high towers and ziplining and traversing pitch dark mazes with the help of friends. Emmett listened intently to what the future held in store for him, if he could only survive four more years of the classroom.

I think of all the things that will happen in those years that will lead my boys deeper into the maze of maturity, sometimes groping through the dark, building their bravery with the help of friends. I feel with bittersweet pride my primacy receding. I watch and wait on the side, hoping for that small grace of a kiss, before they roll away.

The X-Rated Birds and Bees

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the moderately-guilty).

As much as we like to think we are our children’s best teachers, it’s the time they spend with friends that provide them with the most “education.” Case in point: the few days our 8-year-old, let’s call him Huck, spent at baseball camp last month. At camp, the counselors teach batting, fielding, throwing and chewing bubble gum. The campers teach scratching, spitting and singing rude songs. Huck comes home singing about Batman peeing on the wall, Scooby Doo eating poo and a word-play game that he generously teaches his five-year-old brother: “Hey, Butch,” he whispers to him with a sly smile, “say ‘X’ really fast, over and over.”

Butch, pleased to be enlisted in his brother’s game, says: “X X X X X X X.”

Huck giggles uncontrollably. “You said, ‘Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex!’”

Butch is unperturbed. To the contrary, he thinks it is the pinnacle of humor. They keep at it. They sling “X X X X” all over the neighborhood. It’s getting a little out of control. My husband, Stud, decides he has been handed a “teachable moment.” It is time to Talk About Sex.

It’s not like we haven’t talked with our children before about where babies come from. They have long known that a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg, leading to the development of a baby. They have had long chats about the games they played together as lonely eggs in my ovary, waiting to become zygotes and begin their cells dividing. A sleepy, sluggish three-year-old Butch once commented, “I’m not feeling very fertilized right now.” (Truly, I could not make this stuff up.)

They also know that babies, including them, come out through a woman’s vagina, or sometimes her stomach.  But they have never asked The Big One: how do the sperm and ovum end up at the same party?

I always expected to be the one to have The Talk. After all, two years ago Huck asked my husband, “Daddy, how do babies get inside Mommy’s tummy?” and his wise father replied, chin in hand, “Good question. You should ask Mommy about that some time.”

But this time, amidst the chorus of “sex” reverberating through the house, Stud decides to step up to the plate. “Do you know what sex is, guys?”

“Yes.” Butch replies. “It means kissing.”

“No,” Huck counters, “it’s naked cuddling.”

I listen from the other room as Stud takes a swing. “Sex,” he explains, “is when a man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina, because they want to make a baby.”

Silence. No laughter. Shock has set in. For all of us.

I listen for a sound, anything. Finally, Butch speaks: “I’m hungry.”

And so we move on . . . .

The next day the four of us go to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. We are sitting in the dark movie theater waiting for the previews to end. Two on-screen characters kiss. “That’s sex, right mom?” Butch asks.

Thank goodness I overhead their dad’s explanation yesterday. I repeat it, adding for good measure: “ . . . because they love each other and are married.” I consider adding that the man and woman have Ph.D’s, but let it go for now.

“Oh yeah,” Butch says, and the movie begins. Sexy girl chipmunks fawn over Alvin, Simon and Theodore and shake their rumps singing Beyonce’s Single Ladies. Horny teenage boys threaten Alvin because species-blind teenage girls have swooned and sighed over these rodent rock stars. Sex is everywhere.

Walking home later, Butch explores every leaf on every plant. I watch him, marvel at his concentration, wonder at his inner conversation. Out of the silence he asks in the slow, articulated voice he has, “Can I play with Kevin tomorrow?” He considers the leaf in his hand. “I want to tell him what sex is.”


I envision him becoming the scourge of the pre-school, the playmate to avoid. “Well, honey,” I try to appeal to his sense of propriety, “that’s something his mommy and daddy want to tell him about. It’s not for friends to tell.” I almost add, “Kind of like Santa Claus,” but that would just complicate matters. Butch seems to understand, but his eyes betray significant disappointment. “I wish I could tell him,” he adds.

“I know, honey. But please don’t.”

We get home and I e-mail Kevin’s mother an advance apology for the things my son will no doubt teach hers, not just in pre-school but over the next thirteen years. I get a frantic reply from her, wanting to know exactly what words she should be prepared for. When I tell her over the phone the words we used, verbatim, I hear the now-expected silence, and wonder if the phone has gone dead. Then I hear her breathe. “Wow,” she sputters. “You guys left nothing to the imagination.” Yeah. We figured it was best that way.

And I wonder as we say goodbye, if maybe we’re all going to be on the “playmates to avoid” list for a while.