Everything I Know About Motherhood So Far

© Pkruger | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Pkruger | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

My son turns eight next week, and since it looks like I won’t be having another child to practice on, I won’t be needing a lot of these hard-earned lessons for my next kid. Therefore, I give them to you, gentle reader.

1. Forget all of those gender-neutral parenting plans you had. Once the epidural wears off, reality kicks in. Nature, schmature, nurture, schmurture. You have joined the MOB. You’re the Mother of a Boy and there’s no turning back. The fart jokes will start in about ten minutes, and eight years later you’ll still be holding your breath.

2. Your child will never appreciate those first few years you spent sleepless, showerless, and adult-conversationless. In fact, he may even laugh loudly at a picture of what you looked like back in those days. If you get a chance for some time to yourself, run, as fast as you can. Sure your one-year-old may whine a bit and your two-year-old may throw a tantrum as you leave, but your seven-year-old will never know the difference.

3. All history happens to a kid, “when I was three.” “I had a really bad dream when I was three, that’s why I can’t go to sleep until midnight, mom.” “When I was three you slammed my finger in the car door.” “I heard you say a bad word when I was three.” Whatever the memory, it happened “when I was three.”

4. The only scientifically documented thing that actually happens at age three is kids become obsessed with their feet. Never accept food of any kind from a three-year-old.

5. Four-year-old boys can get a bit emotional when you deny them things. Here’s my favorite tip: You can say “maybe” and mean “no.” “Maybe” buys you time. “Maybe” helps you avoid tantrums in public places. “Maybe” gives your child a teensy tiny bit of hope he can hang on to for a little while, and he just might forget about what he wanted in the first place. This works with husbands as well as kids.

6. When you figure out how to explain to a five-year-old that some people get pretty offended when you take a certain someone’s name in vain, please, please, please help me explain it to my son. Meanwhile, if you know a way to avoid cussing when you spill a piping hot latte all over your new Coach purse, could you also let me know?

7. I know we haven’t had a rainy day in a long time, but when Koss was five, it rained a lot. Santa Barbara is not a rainy day friendly town–I’m surprised the bowling alley isn’t outdoors. When you coop up 48 pounds of five-year-old boy energy inside a teeny tiny house for too long, something’s got to give–your sanity. My suggestion is to hook him up to an electricity generating treadmill. Viola, no more global warming.

8. Six-year-old boys turn into lawyers–everything is a negotiation or a stall tactic, and you have no choice but to develop your own legal skills. For example, after the 13th time you tell him to brush his teeth/finish his homework/put out the recycling/tar the roof, he’ll finally look up from his whatever game he’s into that week and say, “chill, mom.” This is what’s known as stalling. Forcibly take the game from him and turn it off. Tell him he’ll get it back after he brushes his teeth/finishes his homework/puts out the recycling/tars the roof, etc. This is what’s known as a negotiation.

9. Seven-year-olds can chatter incessantly about mythical creatures and who would beat who in a fight — seriously, my kid can go at least 10 minutes without taking a breath. The trick is to nod your head and think about George Clooney. When your son finally stops talking, answer, with a straight face, “I think the second one is more powerful.” Works every time.

10. If he says he’s “gotta go,” he’s gotta go. And even if he says he doesn’t, make him pee anyway before you leave the house. If he’s two, your best friend’s new hardwood floors will thank you. If he’s seven, his baseball coach will thank you.

11. Seven-year-olds can do a lot of things for themselves, but they need very specific directions. Don’t say, “get a snack” unless you’re OK with him snacking on leftover Halloween candy. And if you let him snack on the fruity-chewy-gooey-not-worth-the- calories-candy, remember, you won’t be able to use it in his birthday piñata in July.

12. Never, under any circumstances, even if you have to push him away from the scale at Weight Watchers, let your child see how much you weigh. Show him your tax returns if you need to distract him.

13. Male Answer Syndrome kicks in early. If you want to know anything about anything, ask your seven-year-old son.

14. Keep in mind; sarcasm is a sign of wit, intelligence, and cleverness…until your kids use it.

Share your parenting lessons with Leslie at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 9, 2008.

Lucky Me

© Zangfubin | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Zangfubin | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

It’s Friday the 13th

The rest of you might be knocking on wood or throwing salt over your shoulders, but today is my lucky day.

That’s right. Friday the 13th is upon us, and I figure if you’re going to believe in superstitions, you may as well believe that good luck is just as likely to be around the corner as the curse of a black cat.

Though most people scoff when accused of being superstitious and insist they’re too mature to believe in such hooey, you don’t catch a lot of people purposely walking under ladders, and people don’t really seem to be considering that those rabbit’s feet key chains didn’t bring much luck to the poor bunnies that owned them, unless of course you count being eligible for disability.

Bunny scam–I smell a Pulitzer.

Friday the 13th is one of those days that cues the Twilight Zone music for me, but in more of an “Ooh, this could be the day I win the lottery” way, rather than an “Uh oh, the crows are swarming above my head” kind of way.

Although, Alfred Hitchcock was born on Friday the 13th, so if you see the birds swarming it’s probably just a lucky homage. Besides, crows love Hitchcock. If it weren’t for the residuals from The Birds, they’d have to sell their feet or something.

While I may be in the minority, apparently I’m not alone in thinking that today just might be my lucky day. In China and much of Asia, Friday the 13th is considered a fortunate date, and in Australia, lottery agents reportedly sell 50 percent more tickets than average on these lucky Fridays.

I thought I’d give Friday the 13th a warm and fuzzy name like Timmy, Barney, or Snuffleupagus, so that more people would realize that this is actually a lucky day. Unfortunately, thanks to the wonders of phobia.com, I found out that there’s already a name for this superstition: Pararkevidekatriaphobia. It’s a combination of three Greek words–Paraskevi means “Friday,” Dekatria means “Thirteen,” and Phobia means “Fear.”

Just trying to pronounce Pararkevidekatriaphobia brings out my fears…parasailing, parasites, the paranormal. Talk about paranoid! Friday the 13th has nothing on phobia pronunciations.

Yet even engineers and architects struggle to soothe our superstitions. Skyscrapers and hotels have no 13th floor; airplanes have no 13th aisle. I say bring on the 13th row. I’d be happy to have the extra legroom.

It’s estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute (Wouldn’t that be a fun place to work?) estimates that more than 17 million people are affected by a fear of this day.

In fact, some people are so paralyzed by fear that they are simply unable to get out of bed when Friday the 13th rolls around. Yes! No traffic!

Still feeling a little superstitious? After you’ve adorned yourself with garlic and walked around the house 13 times to ward off evil spirits, you might want to get rid of those unlucky one dollar bills by sending them to me. Take a look: there are 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 Latin letters above it, 13 stars above the Eagle, 13 feathers in each of the Eagle’s wings, 13 leaves on the olive branch, 13 arrows, and 13 bars on the shield.

I bet you can’t wait to get rid of those unlucky dollars this Friday. Happy Snuffleupagus. I told you this was my lucky day.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on July 13, 2007

Raise Your Hand for Right Hand Rings

© Evaletova | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Evaletova | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Your left hand says “we,” your right hand says “me,” according to a recent ad campaign sponsored by the Diamond Trading Company, the world’s leading diamond sales and marketing company. The “women of the world raise your right hand” campaign encourages modern women to buy themselves the diamonds they deserve. According to local jewelers, many of them already are.

“Absolutely, right hand rings are certainly something a lot of women are looking at,” said Scott Harwin, sales associate for Bryant and Sons. “That left hand is kind of reserved for the engagement ring, so that right hand is open.”

“People buy right hand rings all the time for different reasons,” said Laura Givertz Gibbings, owner of Fibula Daniel Gibbings Jewelry. Gibbings said that about 80 percent of her customers are women buying for themselves, while Harwin estimated his sales to be about evenly split between gifts and purchases for self.

“Typically women will buy more of wider band to compliment what they are buying (on the left hand). People tend to put more color on the right hand as well,” said Gibbings.

Her customers do collect rings, “a lot of them,” along with necklaces, bracelets, and ensembles. “Generally they want to get a whole set and they tend to buy in color coordinates.” Emeralds and pink sapphires are very popular, as are golden colors.

Women are buying just about everything, from watches to diamond stud sets to three stone pendants, said Bryant.

In addition to the ad campaign, celebrities are also driving the right hand ring craze. Cynthia Nixon, Debra Messing, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Garner, Joan Rivers, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Louise Parker, and Sarah Jessica Parker sported right hand bling at the Golden Globes, while music divas Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Madonna, Ashanti, Sharon Osbourne, Patti LaBelle, Faith Hill and Mary J. Blige were among those “raising their right hand” with diamonds at the Grammy’s.

Jewelry trends follow the award shows, according to Gibbings. “Chandelier earrings were very popular (after last year’s Academy Awards show) and Indian jewelry.” She expects this weekend’s Oscars to set some new trends.

“Platinum is not as strong right now. Besides the fact that it’s gotten incredibly expensive, things are just swinging toward a little bit more dramatic statements in jewelry. … And I think people are tending to be more sentimental about their jewelry purchases,” Gibbings said.

Women of the world, raise your right hand.

Why a right hand ring? You’ve earned it!

Your Left Hand Feeds the Family

Your Right Hand Takes the Cake

Your Left Hand Knows the Limits

Your Right Hand Knows no Boundaries

Your Left Hand Holds the Keys

Your Right Hand Drives the Car

Your Left Hand Weeds the Garden

Your Right Hand Picks the Flowers

Treat yourself… you’ve earned it!
– From a generousgems.com advertisement for right hand rings

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

A Long Way Baby

You’ve come a long way, baby … but you’ve still got a long way to go

“I’ve often thought there is nothing that makes a man a feminist faster than becoming the father of a daughter.”Peggy Orenstein

© Amysuem | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Amysuem | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Title IX had its 35th birthday last week. It’s hard to believe that the statute designed to level the playing field by banning sex discrimination in federally funded education programs is now officially middle-aged. From my over 40 vantage point, 35 doesn’t seem even close to middle middle-aged, but that’s another subject for another column.

What I want to talk about today is women in sports, and the maddening fact that despite the past 35 years of progress we’ve made, it was three little words from a radio talk show host that got the most attention for female athletes this year.

The statute itself is only 37 words long, but those three words Don Imus spewed about the Rutgers women’s basketball team managed to generate a lot more ink than the fivefold increase in the number of women participating in intercollegiate athletics today; and the tenfold increase in the number of young women competing in high school sports.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to join the dogpile on Imus. I think he should be free to say whatever idiotic thing he wants–with the exception of yelling “fire” in a crowded room–just as we should be free to throw tomatoes and boycott anyone who advertises on his show.

But here’s the point: without Title IX, it’s doubtful that the Rutgers women’s team would have even had the opportunity to play basketball, let alone make international headlines.

When I was a kid, I remember being mesmerized by Billie Jean King‘s trouncing of Bobby Riggs in “The Battle of the Sexes.” At the time I thought it was just another example of the “Girls Rule, Boys Drool” battle we played on the playground. I had no idea that part of King’s motivation was to inspire the enforcement of the law.

She recently said, “I wanted Title IX to succeed so badly. I was trying to change the hearts and minds of the people about it. This had nothing to do with tennis; it was about social change.”

To a large degree, it’s working. A poll by the National Women’s Law Center shows overwhelming support–with 82 percent in favor of preserving Title IX and 88 percent in favor of girls or their parents utilizing Title IX to legally challenge disparities of treatment of boys and girls.

But the battle for equality has still not been won. “In 2002, women made up 54 percent of college students, but they only comprised 43 percent of college athletes. Meanwhile, men received 36 percent more athletic scholarships than women. Women also receive only 20 percent of computer science and engineering-related technology bachelor’s degrees, and only 39 percent of all full professors at colleges and universities are women,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in a statement celebrating Title IX.

At the same time, as the mother or a boy — Really? Only 46 percent of college students are men? Maybe my kid’s going to need that athletic scholarship. Although, after watching him barely hold his own during the Fourth of July WWF smackdown with Dr. B’s daughter, I’m not holding my breath. He would have been fine if the other Dr. B’s daughter hadn’t leapt in and put him in an illegal choke hold, the nappy headed… Oh! Sorry. Carried away. Well, he’s good at math and science. Maybe that will carry him.

Besides, it’s not just about scholarship opportunities; it’s also about access to competition, an essential piece of being in the work force, and succeeding in life. By now, research has established beyond doubt that girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem, lower drug-abuse and pregnancy rates and better odds of attaining a college degree. Then there are the intangibles: lessons in teamwork, winning and losing gracefully, and rebounding from failure.

Girls today assume they have a right to athletic opportunities–even girls who cheat at wrestling just to humiliate my child. Let’s make sure to keep working so that those playing fields are truly level.

Inspired by the women at Wimbledon, and despite her middle-aged knees, Leslie recently dusted off her tennis racket only to brush up on the art of losing gracefully. Share your athletic adventures with her at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on July 6, 2007