Thoughtful ThursdayWe have a houseguest right now. He and my husband have been friends and colleagues for many years and speak on an almost daily basis, but he has only met Burrito and Tamale once before, last year. Even so, when he arrived today, both Burrito and Tamale were clamoring to show him around the house. Burrito, who normally takes hours to get comfortable with a new person, within a few minutes was literally leading our guest around the house by the hand.

After the children went to bed, I commented to our guest, “Wow, Burrito likes you so much. He is never so comfortable with someone so quickly.”

Our guest responded, “Children and dogs are crazy about me. Adults, not so much.”

I replied, “I’m exactly the same way! Except for the dogs.”

In fact, neither of our statements is quite true. Everybody likes our houseguest; I’ve never met a person who had a bad word to say about him. Children and dogs just like him even more. A mutual friend had a dog who barked viciously at everyone except her immediate family; the teenaged daughter of the family had a boyfriend who was only accepted by the dog after 2 years. The first and every subsequent time that the dog met my houseguest, she was snuggling him and licking his face.

As for me, I’m also a pied piper with children. Not all children, but most. Recently at a birthday party, a 2 year old who is hesitant around almost all adults was literally pushing my children out of the way so that she could sit next to me.

I’m also pretty popular with older people. I’m calm, listen attentively, show excellent manners. People my age? Hit or miss.

The same principle applies professionally. I’m a great mentor/supervisor. Bosses love me. Peers? Iffy.

Which types of people (or animals) are particularly drawn to you? What types of people are tougher for you to charm?


Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the September Intelligentsia.

#45: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#37: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#27: St. Elsewhere
#25: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#20: Sara from Aryanhwy

Thoughtful ThursdayFollowing up from the last post, I caved. Burrito made a reasoned argument and I couldn’t refuse. “Abel is my friend and he is nice and he is gentle and he is funny and he is good at sweeping.”

So, I added Abel and Tamale’s 2nd best friend (Lilith?) but not Cain or Seth or anyone else. Additional personalized trains are currently en route to my house. 4 guests, plus their parents — in line with the rule that Sara mentioned her mother using of the number of guests equaling the age of the child.

Anyway, on to TT.

In the past two days, Burrito and Tamale have independently discovered the little box in the back of the silverware drawer. I had the same conversation with both of them, almost verbatim.

“What’s in this box?!?”
Chopsticks. They are my chopsticks.
“May I please use them?”
No, they are my chopsticks.
“I want to try them.”
I bought them in Japan. They are only for me.

There aren’t many things in this house that are just for me — quite the opposite. Burrito and Tamale literally eat the food off my plate, on a daily basis. My office serves mainly as the room that has the swivel chair in which they spin each other around. My hairbrush has taken up permanent residence in the playroom. They clomp around the house wearing my shoes.

But, there are a few items that are off limits. B&T are allowed to use almost every dish, bowl, or cup that I have made myself, except for a couple — and there’s one plate that even DH isn’t allowed to use.

I have a few pens that I wouldn’t let the children use; my husband can use them if he’d like, but the pens can’t leave the house, and I wouldn’t recommend that he mess with the fountain pens.

Sometimes I like to buy myself fancy soaps. Even though DH shares my shower, he’s not allowed to use my soap, because what lasts two months for me will last a week if he goes near it. The children don’t use the shower and they don’t use bar soap, so they’re not a threat to my fancy soaps, yet.

And, there are my chopsticks. Though after he kept asking, I told Burrito that if he keeps practicing with the kid chopsticks (they are attached at the top to make them easier to use) that I might let him use them. If he breaks them, I guess we’ll have to go buy replacements… in Japan.

Is there anything in your house that’s just for you?

Thoughtful ThursdayBurrito and Tamale’s 4th (!!) birthday is coming up. We’d planned a party with their two closest friends at one of their favorite places, where we go all the time but neither of these kids has ever been. Eve from the previous post, and a little boy, let’s call him Adam. Both of those kids have been in school with B&T since they were barely 2. We have gone on multiple outings with each of them and their parents. Burrito can get overwhelmed when there are too many people, or when there are people he doesn’t know well, so two kids (with a total of 6 guests counting their parents) seemed very reasonable.

Except that Burrito keeps inviting other kids from school. Every day, I’m greeted with a new request, or, worse, notification that he has extended an invitation. “I want to invite Cain to my party.” “Abel has never been there before!” “Seth is excited to have a cupcake at my party.”

I know exactly where he gets it — definitely not from me. His father’s birthday is coming up too, and I can’t even fathom the guest list. He has plans with some buddies for the night before, and the #1 buddy asked him who else he should invite. DH answered, “I dunno, go ahead and invite everybody.” Everybody. There might very well be 20, 30, 40 people, and he’s perfectly happy with that. Conversely, I have not wanted more than 3 people for my birthday since I was in high school.

It’s not just an introvert-extravert thing, though that’s part of it. This “the more the merrier” philosophy seems to go beyond mere extraversion. We have been to the weddings of many extraverts, but there was only one where the groom kept adding people on at the last minute. Three different people were suddenly coming to town — none of them close friends of the happy couple (a friend’s brother, a high school classmate, and a sorta-friend who went to a rival high school), and the groom invited each of them to not only drop by but to attend the entire wedding. Seating charts and head counts be damned, he’d make room for them.

Ironically, that groom was an add-on to my own wedding guest list. One of DH’s friends (previously mentioned on the blog as That Guy) didn’t want to make the 10-hour drive to our wedding alone, so he asked if we could invite this future inclusive groom — who had gone to elementary and high school with DH and they had many close mutual friends, but they hadn’t been close friends since 5th grade. We’re not talking hundreds of people like the inclusive groom’s wedding; this addition raised our head count from 45 to 46. Then, the driving plans changed and the additional guy was going to drive with a different guest. That Guy was once again driving alone. So, he asked us to invite three, yes three, more people: a guy we’d never met who happened to have a car, and two girls with whom they hoped to hook up, who would provide sufficient motivation for the car guy to make a weekend trip to the wedding of people he’d never met. DH and I put our collective foot down. I told him that it was a wedding, not a BBQ. (Note: The previous year, we’d had a BBQ, and That Guy had brought along 5 people we didn’t know, bringing the total head count to 12.) I told him that he was trying to add 4 extra people, the same number of family members I had coming to my wedding. I told him that I was not going to hand-calligraph placecards for people whose names I didn’t know.

Which brings us back to the 4th birthday party. I originally set the guest list at two because it seemed like the best thing for Burrito’s enjoyment (Tamale would be happy with 2 or 20). But, I am resisting expanding beyond two despite Burrito’s repeated requests for selfish reasons: instead of dollar store crap, the party favors I’ve chosen have to be custom ordered weeks in advance (trains where each car is a letter of the kid’s name). I can’t keep adding to the order every day, and I don’t want to switch to different party favors. If Burrito keeps taking after his father, though, in future years I may have to forgo the elegant hand-crafted party favors and settle for the bulk bin. And I might even have to spend the party talking to parents that I don’t already know well and, who knows, make a new friend or two. Who I might then have to invite to my own birthday party.

How inclusive are you when constructing a guest list?

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the July/August Intelligentsia.

#44: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#38: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#36: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#26: St. Elsewhere
#24: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#19: Sara from Aryanhwy

Thoughtful Thursday

I don’t pry into people’s business, almost to a fault. Perhaps because my mother was so bothered by answering even simple questions about herself, even when asked by her daughter, I don’t tend to ask people about themselves. Unfortunately, it makes many conversations rather one-sided. At the end of meeting a new person, they probably know all about me — because they’ve asked — but I know almost nothing about them — because I haven’t asked. My non-nosiness doesn’t usually do me any favors socially, as most people actually like to talk about themselves.

And so of course I never ask other people about their family building paths, even when I can speculate that their road hasn’t been easy. Tamale’s best pal is a girl named Eve. They’ve been classmates for a year and a half, so almost half their lives (and the only half that they remember). Eve has two mommies, and so it’s reasonable to assume that at least some level of special effort went into bringing her into the world. But, I’ve never asked. We’ve spent a lot of time together at playdates and school functions and school pickup/dropoff, but we’ve never gone there.

Then one day a couple of weeks ago while I was dropping Burrito and Tamale off at school, out of nowhere Eve said to me, “My mommy is trying to give me a baby.” Hmm.

And so, I went out on a limb. I was emailing her moms about something else, and knowing that they have no relatives in the city who could babysit Eve at the last minute, I added an offer. I told them what Eve had said, and just in case giving her a baby involved an RE, they’d be free to call me and drop Eve off if they ever had a last-minute appointment. That I’d spent many years “trying to give myself a baby” and that I knew how the process can involve unpredictability.

The next morning at school I saw one of the moms, the one who had given birth to Eve. She thanked me for my offer and then, on the sidewalk, we got into a long talk about IVF and inconvenient scheduling and working really hard to have a baby.

I haven’t seen them since then, and I don’t know if they’ll ever call, but I still feel good about having made the offer, about having put myself out on a limb. Infertility treatments are such a lonely process; I hope that I made them feel a little less alone.

When was the last time you put yourself out on a limb?

Thoughtful ThursdayClosing out the series of questions that I ask Burrito and Tamale about their preschool classmates…

So far, we’ve asked:
“Is she energetic or calm?”
“Is he loud or quiet?”
“Is she friendly or unfriendly?”

Finally, I like to ask, “Is he happy or sad?”

This question is even more relevant for preschoolers than it is for the rest of us.

There’s a girl in their class who, I’m not exaggerating, almost every time I’ve seen her — that is, daily for almost a year — has been crying. It’s not just that I see her at dropoff times, either: she’s cried whenever I’ve seen her randomly at other times of day, and she’s crying in almost all of the photos of the class activities. Best case scenario, she occasionally looks sad without crying. I have no idea what’s up with her.

There’s also a kid that we knew when Burrito and Tamale were babies to toddlers. She is the daughter of DH’s friend and is a few months older than B&T. I never saw her cry, but I also never saw her smile until she was 1 1/2. As an infant, she was what you’d charitably call “serious.” Her parents and brother are all extremely expressive people, so it was striking that this little girl expressed no positive emotion. She wasn’t actively sad, more just sort of perpetually disgruntled. About a month after Tamale started smiling, we spent time with the girl’s family. I genuinely felt bad when the mother remarked on Tamale’s constant, dazzling smile. It was as if things were okay as long as all babies were perpetually disgruntled, but when Tamale burst that illusion, the mother looked heartbroken.

Most kids, of course, are not as miserable as those two girls. Tamale is shockingly, startlingly happy. Huge, huge smile. Pure sunshine. Until she was 2 1/2, non-stop joy. Then, joy interspersed with age-appropriate dissatisfaction with her wishes being thwarted and, occasionally, tantrums. Even so, every kid in her preschool class would easily identify her as a very happy kid.

Happiness and sadness aren’t the only emotions, of course, as illustrated by Burrito. When he is happy, he is very very happy. When he is not happy, you might see anxiety or sadness or rage. He feels big feelings, in all directions.

I have a clear preference for happy children, but back in my days as a mopey teen, I expressed a preference for brooding, pseudo-depressive, black-wearing, poetry-writing, deep-thinker types. I got over that by 17, because seriously, it gets tiresome. Pollyannas get tiresome too. My real preference is for people who know the score but, despite the crappiness of the world, make a choice to be happy anyway.

Do you prefer to be around people who are happy or sad (or something else)?

Thoughtful ThursdayBack to the series of questions that I like to ask Burrito and Tamale about their preschool classmates…

“Is she friendly or unfriendly?”

Burrito and Tamale readily answer this question, but I don’t think their answers are always accurate. If a kid is usually friendly but has ever wronged one of them, the child gets declared unfriendly. Other kids that I have observed to be unfriendly get labeled friendly. The default label seems to be friendly.

This is clearly not the case for adults. Most people are fine, but not as many seem to be genuinely friendly. I am decidedly not friendly. I am extremely helpful, but I do not come across to strangers as friendly. I’m not unfriendly either, just neutral, at least I think so.

I think part of the problem is my smile. I have a small smile, and my natural “how are you” smile is really barely a smile. Burrito also has a small smile, but his exciting personality means that he’s often beaming rather than smiling. DH and Tamale have giant smiles, and not coincidentally they are both perceived as very friendly. It’s not only the smile that makes them seem friendly, but it definitely helps.

DH has a friend whose smile lights up the room. He is calm and quiet (to use the descriptors from earlier in this series), but his huge, warm smile makes you feel like he is truly happy to see you.

As much as I enjoy dazzling smiles, I am also drawn to people who are amusingly unfriendly. Sarcastic curmudgeons. They can be a lot of fun. They can also be annoying and draining. But at least they’re genuine.

DH’s closest-in-age sister (Murphy‘s mom) is extremely friendly, but in a totally fake way. She used to work at the front desk of a spa, and she’d totally pour it on with customers. “Oh you are going to have such a wonderful time today! Mitzi is the best, you will be sooo relaxed.” Ugh. My mother was always dubious of her: “Why is she so friendly? I don’t like it.” I think I care less about friendliness than genuineness.

Burrito and Tamale aren’t old enough to detect genuineness. I guess when they get older, though, I’ll have to change the question from “Is she friendly or unfriendly?” to “Is she genuine or fake?”

What kind of friendliness do you like? How friendly do you seem to others?

Thoughtful ThursdayWe’ve just discussed how we’d summarize our mothers and fathers. During Lori’s Listen to Your Mother show, I thought about not only how I would describe my mother, but how my children might someday describe me.

Right now their descriptions are limited to features like, “Mommy has brown hair like me,” or “Mommy wears sunscreen,” or “Mommy never wears flip-flops.” Someday, though, they’ll presumably have more to say. The version of me that they see at age 3 will not be the same version they see at 13 or 23; I can’t even imagine that far into the future, so all I can speak to is the present. Though they may not be able to recall enough to articulate it later, I’d like to imagine that Burrito and Tamale would describe the 2013 version of me as something like:

Our mommy puts a lot of thought into her parenting. She works really hard at giving us special presents and experiences. She is very patient, most of the time, except when she was on Prednisone. She sings to us every day. She makes the cakes we eat and the dishes we eat them on. We’re not allowed to do a lot of things that most kids do, like watch TV or eat candy, but she always gives us reasons why. She doesn’t approve of toys that make noise or light up, so we don’t have any. She always tells us the truth, even when it conflicts with what most people tell kids. She takes a lot of pictures of us on her phone with the cracked screen that’s held together by electrical tape; we like it because the tape is bright red.

How do you imagine your children might describe the 2013 version of you?