Tag Archives: mr ben

the only acceptable wall is the London Wall

I am not sure what it says about the times we live in that even my ten year old associates the idea of a wall built to keep people out with our current presidential regime.  However, I doubt anything built by the government contractors salivating to get their modern-day Boss Tweed style contracts for the Mexican wall will last the two thousand years that the Roman built London wall has.

THAT is a WALL.  We visited the Museum of London today to explore the history of the people who built it, along with the other fifteen centuries of people who have lived and changed London.  It amazed me, the people who have come and gone and lived their lives here, each adding to and altering the city in their own ways.  This has been a process that seems to have accelerated in the last century, with mass communications and the amalgamation of the megalopolis, but the consistent ebb and flow of people in London, the shifts in trends and in the city government that alters how those people move and live in the city, it has changed and yet been consistent for all those millenia.  Roman London was likely a polyglot city, on a similar grid to modern London.  How many parallels do we have with our own history in these oldest of cities?

I’ve been here before, of course, in this city that reminds me so much of my own home.  Like all colonials coming back to the heart of Empire, it is culturally familiar to be here.  London is easy for me to exist in.  I could easily live here, even as an expat marked by my West Coast accent, because I understand the English culture, thanks to growing up in the British quadrant of a former colony.  I also now understand what it means to live in a massive global city, everything from moving in a crowded space to mastering a complicated subway system.  London feels like it could well be a home for me.

This is, however the first time I have brought my son, who is both very intrigued by London, and yet slightly dismissive of it in a way that only a citizen of another equally great city can be.

Ben has the extreme privilege of being able to compare London to New York, being able to compare the borough of Camden to his own of Brooklyn, our neighborhood of Hampstead and Belsize Park to Park Slope and Prospect Heights.  He can see the parallels between the great multicultural mosaics that both cities are, now, in the twenty-first century.  He can ride the Tube and admire that it is cleaner and more reliable than the NYC subway, but also note that New York has more people out and about on the streets at any given time.  Ben is a city child – all he knows is New York City – and so he is able to adapt to a city like London quickly and figure out how it works using parallels with his own home.  It’s a knowledge base and context I lacked when I first visited Europe, and a mental process that is interesting to watch.  Ben doesn’t have to adapt to being in a city in the first place; he just has to adapt to the specific place and culture of the city he’s in.

I had meant to write more about what we are actually doing while here, and even went so far as to take my Chromebook to the local laundrette to write while washing our filthy and stinky camp clothing, but got sidetracked into discussions on Brexit and Trump while there.  I blame the one glass of wine I had with dinner, as normally I wouldn’t decide polite arguing (it was quite respectful!) is more important than my own personal priority of writing.  I do not feel I gained from getting into a debate in a laundrette in London, because I do not need to learn more about opposing viewpoints: I know the opposing viewpoints and why the Left is still losing the critical thought arguments.  In this case though, I didn’t want to be rude and just shut down the conversation, which I feel is a uniquely female social obligation to be nice.  Which is a whole other blog post.  But due to that lost time, there will be no lengthy travelogue detailing our movements around London.  Yet.  It’s inevitable, of course, to post about our adventures here, but not tonight.

Instead, I leave you with the photo of my son on Hampstead Heath tonight, after he remarked “Mom, this looks so much like Prospect Park!  It looks like the Long Meadow,” and then went back to playing whatever stupid game he had on the Kindle and ignoring the scenery:

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You can take the city kid to another city, but you can’t make him give up Smashy Road.

i has a tween!

I find it exceptionally hard to believe two things:

  1. ten years have already gone by
  2. the 4’8″ 67lb creature that just tornadoed through the house in search of pants is the same entity who used to be this little angry meatloaf here:

Granted, we do actually have a photo record of him getting larger.

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Also, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t swapped out anywhere along the line because at this point, he literally looks like my face on Paul’s body.

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It is, however, slightly disturbing to think that I HAVE A TWEEN.  This creature is literally a tween.  He is ten.  He is his own person, although that person seems to be a class clown.

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Thankfully, these two awards (received yesterday, 6/18/18) balance each other out.

It’s a weird thing being a parent.  The best description I ever read of it was that it feels like your heart is walking around outside your body. This is my son.  This is the being who is the most important thing in the world to me, whom I would literally do anything I could to protect.  And here he is becoming his own person who is able to walk around in the world without any oversight or protection from me.  Worse, he’s becoming a totally different person all the time as he grows up and becomes whoever he truly is in there.

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Still.  I have a tween now, a boy who is halfway to being a man, a creature who will spend the second decade of his life building the foundation of the person he is meant to be.  My job is to support him as he becomes that person, and then boot him out into the world, because he is a terrible roomate (underwear everywhere, eats all the cereal, leaves dishes out).  It is strange to think that I have been doing that job without any formal training, because helping to create and then raise another human seems almost meta in its vast responsibility.  And yet, we have been doing that job, and we have, so far, produced a fairly decent human being.

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We have a tween.  Ten years ago, when they handed me my son in a bundle at Cedars-Sinai, I could not have imagined getting to this point.  I’m sure I’ll feel the same way when I look back at Mister Class Clown here from his junior year of college.

MR BEN IS ANGRY!!

We had Paul’s mom visiting us for three weeks this month. Nancy came in to fill the childcare gap between the end of Paul’s leave, and the start of Ben’s daycare. Of course, we only have a two-bedroom apartment (and a big one by L.A. standards), so we gave Nancy the nursery, and put Ben in with us. We figured because he was sleep trained, he’d stick to the established schedule: waking up at 3am for a snack, but otherwise sleeping from 7pm to 6am.

Wrong.

As soon as Ben figured out we were there, he started waking up more often. He found out quickly that we were RIGHT THERE, ALL THE TIME, and would grab him quickly. So instead of settling back into sleep like he did in his own room, he woke all the way up every time his REM cycle ended, and demanded we pick him up. Which we did. Then we would put him back down once he was fed and soothed, and he would demand we pick him up again. And crying it out, which we had him doing in his own room, was a more difficult option because:

a) he knew we were there, so he thought we were being total jerks and
b) we had to listen to him yelling at us

To make matters worse, it was COLD in our room. We have French doors that lead out onto the patio, and no heat in the bedrooms. When there’s a cold snap in L.A., it gets down to 60 or so in our room because those doors leak heat badly. We put Ben in an hooded blanket sleeper (which was actually meant for an outdoor outfit), over his footie pajamas. But even though his body temperature was fine, his face and hands were still exposed, so he noticed the chill and woke up. We tried putting him into our small walk-in closet, but it’s even less insulated in there, and too small to keep a space heater going in. So half the time, he ended up sleeping curled up next to me, because I was worried he was cold.

We eventually started running the space heater more, leaving him in his own bed, and letting him cry it out again because we were just exhausted. He had been waking up more and more each night over those three weeks. I was getting less than six hours of broken sleep by the end, and I need eight hours, because breast-feeding is draining. Paul was only slightly less wrecked, because he was re-adjusting to working – and working late more often than not.

Still, we muddled through. I upgraded to a higher end concealer to cover the bags beneath my eyes (the under eye concealer from Make Up For Ever is AWESOME, and totally worth the $23) and started using liquid blush to look healthy for work. But I couldn’t cover how spaced out I was from lack of sleep. “Mommy brain” is really, after all, just sleep deprivation.

Finally, we were able to put Ben back in his own room. But he kept waking up three times a night even after he was moved back. It was only this week that we managed to get him back to “normal”: a 7:30 bedtime, a snack at 2am, and a 7am wake up time.

But we still have rough spots. Like last night. Paul went into Ben’s room to get a blanket for our bed at 11pm (I totally spaced on moving the sheets and blanket to the dryer after washing, and we needed to find clean ones to put on the bed). Ben woke up when Paul came in. I went in to nurse him, and he drained both sides and then dozed off while eating. I put him down, and went to pass out from exhaustion myself.

Ben woke right back up and started yelling. Paul tried feeding him a bottle to top him off (he stays full & sleeping longer if we give him formula PLUS breast before sleep) so I didn’t have to get back up. He drank less than an ounce. Having established he was not hungry, Paul put him back down – and let him yell. Usually, if Ben’s needs are met – he’s warm, not soaking wet, full and has been soothed a bit – he complains a bit and then goes to sleep. He knows the drill. But last night, he Just. Kept. Going.

Ten minutes later, I was awake again, and Ben had ramped back up into Full Nuclear Mode. Worse, he was sobbing in between screams. I can handle him shrieking in anger at me, I can’t handle the sad little sobs in between. So I got back up and went in and put him back on the boob. He settled down immediately, and started drinking like he was starving. “OK, this was the problem,” I whispered to Paul when he came in to check on us. “He was hungry, and just didn’t want formula.” Then Ben fell asleep and I put him back in his crib. And although he was chuntering a bit, I walked away.

But he didn’t STOP chuntering. He ramped up. Again. So Paul went in to change his diaper. He was damp, not wet, but it eliminated the last possible thing that could be wrong with him. He was dry. He wasn’t hungry. His room was warm. He himself was snug in multiple layers of sleeper. So we put him down and let him cry.

And cry.

And cry.

The crying became screaming soon enough, and he just kept going, and going, and going. He ramped up to shrieking. He was ANGRY. I lay in bed, next to Paul, with a pillow over my head, hearing Ben’s muffled cries through the pillow, running through options in my mind. Should we go get him? And if so, what would we do with him? Would we have to bring him into bed with us? Or stay up with him in his room? And wouldn’t that just be reinforcing his learning that every time he wants to hang out & party in the middle of the night, we would repeat the scenario, because he would expect it? In fact, wasn’t the situation already this bad because we had been in and out of the room three times already?

“Are we doing the right thing?” I asked Paul, repeatedly.

“Yes, we are,” Paul reassured me. And, according to the sleep books we decided to go with, we were. Ben was fine. He was just yelling because he wanted us to come get him and play with him. But still, even Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child said to go get your baby if he cried for more than an hour.

And then, fifty minutes in, Ben finally fell asleep.

Tonight, when we put Ben down, he opened his eyes as I put him down, let out one little cry as I walked away, and then fell asleep promptly. Hopefully, he will repeat that behavior, and not last night’s, when he wakes up for his snack in the middle of the night.