Dear Adele,

Here is you. When you want something, or want to be carried in a certain direction, you point with your index finger, your arm straight, and say “Noinoinoinoinoi.” When you’re holding something–a cup, a fork, a plastic drumstick, and someone (like your mother or father, who don’t want you to hurt yourself or pour water into your lap) tries to take it from you, you look up and say “Aaaaaaaaaa” very gruffly–almost like a growl. Whenever you see me or your father or your brother, you raise your eyebrows and open your mouth and smile and show your four teeth, and sometimes you get so excited to see us that you bounce or kick your legs. You are a diver. When someone holds you, she has to be told to pay attention because you could dive forward any second in an attempt to ask to be put on the ground. You dislike lying on the changing table and cry and fuss mildly whenever I change your diaper, but if you sit on the changing table you get on your knees and pound gently on the window with your hands. You finally no longer bite me when you nurse (about damn time–sorry about all the tugs on your hair–what else was I to do?). You love melon. You will not tolerate being fed by other people, which makes yogurt or ice cream the Biggest Mess in the Universe. You have short, thin hair which I am afraid you might always be dissatisfied with if it doesn’t at least become curly, or a little bit fuller. You are turning, sometimes in a whole circle, while in a sitting position on the floor. You are not yet crawling, but you are leaning forward in About to Crawl position, and you attempt to crawl by rolling around or squirming; when you get tired, you simply rest on your belly for a second with your cheek on the bed or the ground, wherever you happen to be. Like this.

Taking a breather.

Taking a breather.

You also clap. You rattle the bars of your crib cage. You are full of energy and love and determination. You strike me as a girl who will take no shit. I feel that you might redefine good-natured as someone who takes no shit. I am so proud and so in love, I could cry. We all could. We all do. (Not really. Just me sometimes, and you, if you’re thirsty and no one understands this.)

Here you are again, preparing for another roll.

I am actually an ass-kicker.

I am actually an ass-kicker.

I love you.


Adele: Mommy, who’s Flannery O’Connor?

Mommy: Someone I’ve always wanted to be like.

Adele: I like you.

Mommy: I’m your mommy. You don’t have a choice, especially while you’re nursing. Of course you like me. You won’t like me when you’re a teenager and I tell you you’re pretty. You’ll probably say, You’re my mother. Of course you think I’m pretty. You can’t take me to the fucking prom. That’s how I was.

Adele: I wouldn’t be so mean.

Mommy: Oh, I don’t know. Mean isn’t always a bad thing. Take O’Connor. She wasn’t mean, from what I gather. But she was biting. She bit people with her words. She said what she thought with figures of speech and euphemisms and self-deprecation. You had to figure her out, she was so smart. You had to catch up to her. She left the rest of us behind because she was so… I think… comfortable with herself and her work and her life. She’s this example, to me, of confidence. (more…)

Adele: Mommy, what’s Wrong Conversation Syndrome?

Mommy: A term I introduced to my African American Studies class last year, Petunia.  Basically, it means “mainstream media” coverage of just about everything, every story.

Adele: My favorite is about the hippo and her belly button.  No one ever writes about that.

Mommy: The example I used for my class was that Supreme Court case about whether lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment.  The case they should have been arguing was how racism and classism shape and drive the prison system in the country (as does cruel and unusual punishment).  Everybody knows our penal system is racist.  Everybody.  From ordinary people like me to legal experts to prisoners to Corrections Officers.  Death row is a Black male death row, for the most part.  It can take anyone with a brain about 10 minutes to learn that this is true.  And yet we’re in the Supreme Court arguing about lethal injection?  Seems like the Wrong Conversation to me.

Adele: I’ve never seen a Black man.

Mommy: You’ve probably seen some, Adele, in the park or downtown or at the store or what have you, but no, we’re white folks, you and me and your daddy and your brother.  And alomst all of our friends are white, especially the ones we see often.   So you haven’t really spent any time with Black people in your 11 months of life.  Your brother hasn’t either. (more…)

Dear Adele,

I am in a slump.  A plateau of lowness that won’t let up.  I can’t think of anything witty to do for a Q & A.  I’m exhausted and sleepless.  I want to try new medication, but you’re breast feeding–and you LOVE breastfeeding, my god–so I don’t want to switch.  I also don’t want to switch because I DON’T WANT TO BE DEPRESSED ANYMORE, OKAY?  I’ve been on and off medication since forever, and I don’t understand people who don’t need medication to get themselves living their lives, who don’t need a few glasses of wine to take the edge off, who don’t have anxiety attacks in the middle of the night, who don’t get hyper upset over being unable to find a jewelry store to replace a battery in a digital watch.  If you’re one of those people who do not get hyper upset about the lack of a place to fix a digital watch, or the loss of your keys, or the fact that it takes you three months to merely schedule a dentist’s appointment, if you’re one of those people who do get upset about such things but do not feel like such things bring into question the purpose of your life and mean that everything is going to shit everywhere… well, I’d like you to please go away.  (more…)

Dear Adele,

For Easter, you and your brother Ian each got a present from your Aunt Dottie: a white stuffed lamb and a big gray bunny. You were indifferent to both. Your brother, though, loved the bunny. The morning after Easter, he had folded it into his collection of stuffed animals and determined its place around his pillow. He also wanted to adopt the lamb, but we explained that it belonged to you, that you’d share it with him in the future.

The days since Easter have been passing fast–good thing, as I am so damned tired all the time from working and raising you that I have actually taken naps on my office floor. When you become as tired as I am, as your father is, you cry hard and loud and insist on being put to bed. The rest of us should follow your lead. Parents in this country work way too hard because we sort of have to. And so I’ve been tired with anger about this, too, in some way, all the time.

But then I sit with you on the bed while you hold your little starfish and your little fishy and then hand each one to me, fascinated by the process of giving something to someone, of the power in your fingers to hold something and then release it. Back and forth, we pass the toy. Back and forth. You laugh and smile. Back and forth. While we play, Ian takes his giant afternoon nap (thank you god). And I kiss you constantly and can’t wait for Ian to wake up so we can all play together.  (more…)

Adele: Mommy, what’s a poem?

Mommy: Palpapble and mute, as a globed fruit.

Adele: I don’t like fruit. Just banana.

Mommy: Just kidding, Petunia. I don’t write poetry, so I don’t have the means to explain it very well. But a poem is an expression that takes the form of writing that most children love. Lots of poems rhyme, and children love that, and lots of poems become songs, and children love that. Poetry is actually everywhere. It’s how we think and feel and are, made into words.

Adele: Like feed me please, feed me peas?

Mommy: Yes, like that. It doesn’t have to rhyme, you know.

Adele.: Nurse me now, Mommy-Cow?  (more…)

Dear Adele,

Your brother is nearly 3 1/2 years old and he does not use the potty. I am a loving and patient mother, Adele, most of the time, even and especially with potty training. But changing the diaper of a toddler is nasty.  (I apologize to EVERYONE who changes the diapers of older children and adults–obviously, I am weak in many ways.  Please know that I know this.)  Changing the diaper of a larger person is just plain nasty. As a dear friend recently said about something else entirely–holy fucking ick.

Your father and I have been asking Ian about the potty fairly consistently, doing what we can but trying to be mostly hands off. And we’ve gotten no meaningful response. By meaningful response, I mean that your brother does not use the potty. The other day, he carried his little plastic potty around the house on his head, a clear indicator that a) he has never used it, and b) he has no plan to use it anytime soon. We might have to resort to bribery or a disturbingly controlling act this summer, though, as most preschools around here require children to be potty trained, and your brother will start preschool this fall. (more…)