feeling small

No one’s kids are ever as cute as they think. Cute, or smart, or fascinating. No one wants to really hear about their sleep habits or favorite foods. Except grandparents, and even then, it’s just some grandparents. And aunts. Their aunts want to hear. My friends without children? I’d never dream of boring them with the details of my life, not because I believe my life is boring, but my "everyday" simply isn’t relevant to them.

Work is relevant, following passions. Fights, they’re universal. Anyone can relate and give advice and feel useful and a connection. Food. Projects. Vacation plans. Making new friends, even. But no one wants to be around someone who talks about their kid non-stop. I will never hand the phone to my children so they can incoherently blather on to someone on the other line. It’s annoying. I don’t care who you are. I hate having to talk to kids over the phone. At any age. It’s never ever going to be cute. It’s like pulling teeth getting them to talk. I don’t even know what to ask these kids. "How was your day? What did you do? Oh, really? And what did you eat?" I ask simple questions I don’t even want to know the answer to, just so the parent thinks I give a shit. I don’t. I’d rather talk to the adult. "Oh, but it makes the kid feel important." Great. It makes me feel like an imbecile. And it bores me.

Even at playgroup, where we gather with our kids, observing them, chatting about sales and fun new stores and sites, we don’t spend all our time talking about kids. We speak of restaurants, events, and recipes. About birth control and husband stitches. The best skinny jeans.

And then we’re back to our kids, what it’s like. What the hell do I feed them now that their doc says no more bottles? I bought three cookbooks on cooking for kids, through the ages. First foods to sneaking zucchini into cookies. But I haven’t had time. I hand in this book today, then receive more edits at the start of the new year. I hope in the coming days I can relax, cook for my family, and enjoy the smaller moments again. At least the house looks nice. Photos to come… from playgroup, to meals, to the garland wrapped throughout the house. I love this time of year and am looking forward to a breakfast of eggs, caramelized onions, and crisp bacon, at home with family on Christmas day.  But now I must turn in the book, and then begin to plan a seafood dinner (the seven fishes) for Christmas Eve. So to all a good night.



  1. am glad to see some mommies get that. I have no children yet. some of my friends do and even though the kids are cute and I enjoy seeing them, I really could do without the daily updates and the passing the phone to them when I just called to talk to her. It's annoying. the kid can't speak. and what makes them think I have the time to listen to baby noises? at least with video phone, I could see the cute face but just saliva noises…??
    I keep on hearing "wait till you have your own, you'll understand". One thing's for sure though, it'll be payback time….;)

    Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

  2. But … you celebrate Christmas? How confusing – diabolical really. :-)

    Have a great weekend, Stephanie.

  3. Funny. I'm sure your friends appreciate you don't share every dribble and poop story. Still honing my edit button myself it's an ongoing process.
    You must feel elated to be turning the book in today. I say have some of that boxed wine and celebrate!
    Ps- Hope the tree cutting went well.

  4. My biggest pet peeve is when people let kids talk into their voicemail/answering machines. I can't stand it!! No one understands what your kids are saying or wants to hear them yell "Leave us a message". I'm glad not all people with kids think this is cute- because it's just NOT.

  5. Ever feel like you're in a movie with product placement? Is Amazon paying you to put these links in? Really taking commercialism for the holidays to a whole new level of crassness!

  6. When you write with such candor about how you feel about conversations with and about kids, you speak to so many of us who harbour the same feelings.
    There are times that I just zone out when someone is blathering on and on about inconsequential things that 'little Johnny' did. I'm not trying to be cruel, but sometimes I'd like to run screaming or at least talk about something else.

    There's often the assumption that when you become a mother (as I am), you'll automatically drop all interests you had before the baby was born. I always found that frustrating.
    Sometimes, I like to have a conversation about art or wine or books or anything other than my kid, love her as I do.

    Thank-you for being brave enough to be honest about that.

    I hope you have a great holiday filled with art, wine and some great conversation!


  7. My kids are not as cute to others as they are to me? WHAT??:-)

    Seriously though…..I have a group of friends that are like sisters to me. All but one live in other cities and states. Some have children, others are trying to have children, and a couple do not want kids. The thing that ties us together is our love for each other. They do want to hear about my kids all the time, because they know that is what makes me happy. I am not married and they are, but I still want to hear all about their marriages…again because they want to tell me.

    Obviously healthy conversations are not all about any one topic, but I never for one second wonder if my volunteering information about my twins is off putting to them.

    Motherhood is just a new phase of my life. They have always wanted to hear about every jackass I have dated in the past, every heartache that I have had, and luckily they do think that my kids are as cute as I do, though I "get" that we are biased.

    True friendship means no censoring in my opinion.

    Happy Holidays Stephanie. We were once going to have coffee one morning which never happened, but we should totally do that sometime. My twins are 6 months old now, and I finally have a moment to breathe.

  8. Have a safe and happy holiday! I look forward to reading about it and seeing all your beautiful photos in the new year!

  9. I'm in complete agreement with all of you who back Stephanie on how boring it is to listen to other people's kids drool, babble and drone into the phone. And to hear, ad nauseum, how amazing their parents think they are.

    Just requesting some compassion, though: for many of us, parenthood arrived after 20 or more years of freedom, career, dating adventures, travels, whatever. We would LOVE to have more interesting things to report than what our kids are up to; however, it can be extremely isolating at home with babies (mine are twins, so the isolation was very intense and lasted longer than expected due to medical issues). For those of us whose careers crashed, who find ourselves suddenly thrust into a new and often lonely universe … please indulge while we figure out who this new alter ego — mom — is and struggle to become interesting again to ourselves, let alone our friends. I personally could not be more grateful that I had this experience in the Internet era, when e-mail made me feel connected and I could reach back in the middle of the night when it was finally quiet in the house.

    Parenthood is a journey I'm so thrilled I didn't miss (though friends' children were such a turnoff I waited until the last possible moment!). There's no way to imagine what it'll be like until you do it, and no way for someone who hasn't had the experience to understand completely. I would never have gotten through the early years without the generosity (materially, spiritually and otherwise) of my friends — especially the ones who chose to be child-free.

    Please try to hang in as long as you can — your friends will love you the more for it.

  10. I agree with Nicole – I don't mind hearing my friend's kid stories, because I care about my friends. And if all they're feeling like they've got to contribute is that they got their kid to clap or jump, or count to ten in French, then why not. Some days all I've got to contribute is that I got 16 CDs worth of music onto my iPod.

    While I don't want to be put on the phone with a friend's kid who can't speak for five minutes, five seconds is fine. If I care about my friends, then I care about their issues, even if they're somewhat boring or not something I personally relate to.

    You'd never say to a friend, "Look I'm sorry you're caring for your dad who's dying of cancer but I really don't need to hear the details of your day, including what you made him for lunch, that he didn't like it, that you did his laundry, because … that's just not going on in my life." You'd have compassion for what your friend is going through, and you'd be friend enough to listen.

  11. The playgroup in our neighborhood (close in DC suburb) is all about checking out each other's homes, seeing who is having what renovated, which fabrics, best contractors, etc. etc.

    Love your blog! I'm planning to create/scrapbook my four children more in 2008.

    Your kids are cute and so are mine! In fact, I feel like I know you and wish I could mail you a copy of the Holiday photo of my four…

    Merry, merry.

  12. never say never. when they're three and four they can come up with some hilarious shit to say on the phone.
    just sayin… :D

  13. I suppose I am a rare breed- I got almost more excited than her mother when my best friends daughter walked farther than she ever had before in my presence. Of course, this may have a little something to do with being 3,000 miles away from her most of the time, so I relish the silly little updates.

    This phenomenon seems to go in reverse with age. As babies, they're much more fascinating people to watch physically develop than as a conversationalist. But then, when it comes to a grandmother or aging parent, a letter or phone call can remind you how much they have to say without appearances forcing us to worry about health conccerns, our own issues with aging, etc.

    Happy holidays, and for the record, your kids ARE adorable :)

  14. *Totally* re: kids on the phone.

    OK for the fun stuff: this is AMAZING and I am making it right now as I type

    Cranberry Sauce with Roasted Shallots and Port
    Bon Appétit | November 2002

    18 large shallots, peeled, quartered lengthwise through root end
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    5 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
    5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
    1 2/3 cups ruby Port
    1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    1 12-ounce bag cranberries
    1/4 cup dried currants
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
    Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss shallots with oil and 3 teaspoons thyme on small rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon sugar in small bowl. Drizzle over shallots; toss to coat. Continue roasting until shallots caramelize, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
    Bring Port, brown sugar, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 1/2 cup sugar to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and currants; cook until berries pop, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Mix in marjoram and 2 teaspoons thyme. Mix in shallots. Transfer to bowl. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

  15. I don't have children and actually don't mind the answering machine messages or doting. However, here in Manhattan, people can be a little kid-centric when it comes to how they handle their children in public. I was on the bus the other day and a very well-dressed Wall Street type got on with his little boy who looked to be around three. Two older (60+) women were sitting and the little boy stood next to his father and them in the aisle. He started screaming, "I want to sit!" over and over and the father explained they were getting off in a minute. The women got up, let them sit. I couldn't believe it. And to make matters worse, this "gentleman" never even said "thank you." I'd listen to 100 kids on the phone gladly instead of this kind of display.
    And Stephanie, your little ones are adorable and I trust you and Phil will teach them manners.

  16. I used to despise talking to my *own* kids on the phone. Finally my 9 year old can hold a coherent and interesting phone conversation, and my 7 year old is getting there. I work daily 40 miles away from home and one night a week, and feel obligated to call them. When they were younger it was all "What?" "Huh?" "You did?" (I had no idea what they said they did) "Fantastic" "Well, see you soon, I love you, BYE!"

  17. I think we should cut all the I-love-to-talk-about-my-kids parents a little slack. Even though I don't have kids, I do have a niece, so I get it. As long as they move to another subject eventually, I'm happy to oblige them. I try to remember that they are talking about the most important thing in their lives…I get that on a lot of levels.

    I'll tell you who's worse than the parent(s) who talk about their kids non-stop…the girl who likes to tell everyone how fat she is or how fat she feels today, or the latest crazy-ass diet she's on. These are the people I truly want to strangle.

  18. @Vicki: the over-indulgent parenting is not just a New York thing, it happens here in Belgium too. Standing in line at the supermarket having to hear a kid scream on top of his lungs 'BUT I WANT THREE TOYS' and the dad answering 'no, just two honey' not only makes me want to beat the kid but the dad even more.

    Anyhow, glad to hear your not one of those moms who think the world revolves around their kids Stephanie. This post reminds me of the SATC episode 'a woman's right to shoe/choose'. The kids also left a cutesie über-annoying message on their answering machine, made me cringe.

    Happy Holidays :)

  19. You can put the contents of the former bottle into sippy cups (milk or formula or whatever you're using) until you feel comfortable they're getting enough nutrition from food. I personally only like the Gerber sippy cups as those valves seem not to leak at all.

    RE: kids on phone. My sis liked to put her kids on the phone with me. I liked hearing their little voices, but they really wouldn't talk much, just breathe, so after an acceptable pause, I'd say "BYE BYE!" brightly. Since kids love to say "bye bye" back to you I'd get out of it likety split.

  20. Any special commentary about in-laws/outlaws (especially during the holidays)? Let me give you a little peek into our life — After 10 1/2 years of marriage, one special needs child & another brainiac mini-Paul Newman, a class M license + my copper motorcycle, & grad. school classes, I will no longer be putting up with the antics of my frigid, closed-minded mother-in-law who would have been much happier if I was simply a frumpy quilter who didn't like "oral". And now, Stephanie, I'm been wondering about your situation?

  21. I just realised I did that exact thing the other day – I actually put my one year old on the phone with my uncle. And your post made me remember how much I HATED it when people put their kids on the phone to talk to me. Yikes, I've become one of those moms!

  22. Good morning – I've been thinking about this post for a few days and must agree, listening to other people's children, or stories about them, is eye-rollingly boring. But then there are my children – who I find to be fascinating. So if you hate other people's kid stories – please forgive and move along.

    I've said it a thousand times – I really only like *my* children, with an occasional exception along the way. Now that they're teenagers, however, I have to put my dislike for their friends aside, because suddenly, I'm in the midst of hard-core, big-time parenting.

    Son out with his girl to his first high school party last night – and it's my job to keep those lines of communication open whilst not being a harridan. I learned a lot about his date – he opened her door, met her mother, went to the party where there were a lot of video games and movies, she hates her mother, is a good student, and he got her home by curfew…

    Middle daughter has a boy with a twinkle in his eye when it comes to her- so helping her draw the fine line between having a friend who's a boy, and not a boyfriend for 4 more months until she's 16 is a tricky thing. And then, what having a boyfriend entails – keeping in mind that the goal in life is college degrees, not weddings and babies. He came over to bring her present last night and hung out with the fam – kept a reasonable distance, and I think allowing this contact will prevent the 'sneaking and hiding' contact that could lead down the wrong path for her.

    Little daughter had the big news – her friend's brother tried to commit suicide, has been institutionalized, and mama's not handling it well (how could she?), but is lashing out at her daughter…setting her up to follow his footsteps…calling her names and comparing her to him…yikes. Reassuring her that home is her safe haven, and if her friend needs a respite from the madness, she can come here too.

    So, there I go. Everyone hates hearing about other people's kids, but I can't seem to stop myself when it comes to them. They fascinate and intrigue me.

    And they're with their dad until tomorrow at noon, and instead of moping around and being a boob, I'm getting a facial, going to lunch with my best friend and going to a movie by myself – and then last minute gift wrapping. A well-earned respite before the holidays begin in earnest.

    Happy holidays to you and yours.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Ugh, I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's friend's brother. How horrible. Also for your daughter's friend. Happy holiday's, Miss Laura. You sound like a splendid mama.

  23. I don't know. This is so typical of Americans. They either swing too far one way, or too far the other. Either their entire life is their children and they can't fathom why you might have a career–or they can barely tolerate children whether at weddings, or Starbucks. There are places in the world where children are a seamless part of reality, interwoven into the fabric of daily life. People as easily tolerate the working mom, whose children are lovingly cared for by nannies, or daycare, as they do the stay at home mom, who brings all her children and packages to the neighborhood cafe.

  24. The children of my friends are fantastic…their pictures cover our fridge, along with pictures of my 3 year old cousin. I love to hear about them, but make an effort to ask about other things going on in my friends' lives as well. I like to spend time with them [the kids], but sometimes it's a relief to give them back to the parents.

    Sign me up as one of "those people" with no interest in having kids of her own. I'll get my kid-fix by borrowing them from friends and family!

  25. Perhaps the best post ever. I do not yet have kids. My sisters do. I have no idea why in G*d's name they would think I would want to hear their baby coo or talk jibberish to me over the phone. Even the older neices and nephews. The last time I willingly engaged in a conversation with someone 1/4 my age was, um, never.

  26. The kids-on-the-phone thing is one of my pet peeves — especially when the call is on my dime. I always said that if my friends start putting their kids on the phone with me, I'll put them on the phone with my dog.

    Sounds like you've got a great perspective and life-balance, Stephanie. Kudos to you! Although I have no kids at the moment, I fear being a completely kid-centric mom who loses all sight of herself (and thus, her friends), and honest posts like these from you give me hope!

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