No, You Can't Have Another Cookie. (How was that? Did I do that right?)

"Not Honeycomb, Nate."

"What?" he says. "Why not? It's the same as Honey Nut Cheerios."

"It totally is not!" I insist. If there were a prize for being the biggest cereal know-it-all on the planet, I would not win, but I'd certainly sound like a contender. "Honeycomb is totally a sugar cereal. It's like how they changed Sugar Smacks to be called Honey Smacks just so people would think it's more healthy. "

He snatches the box off the shelf and scans the nutritional panel, prepared to prove me wrong and rub it in with a victory dance down aisle 12 of CVS. Did I ever mention that we can manage to debate pretty much anything?

"26 grams of sugar," he reads.

"That's a lot!"

"Oh yeah? Well let's see what Honey Nut Cheerios has..."

I wait.



"What?!" I shriek. "No way. Let me see."

"Oh fine," Nate says, sliding the Honeycomb box back with resignation. "It's nine. We'll get the Cheerios."

So why are we adding a debate about the sugar content of overpriced ready-to-eat cereals to our repetoire? It's certainly not for our own health, as you'd know looking at our decidedly carb and sugar-heavy pantry contents. And while I may still be new at this parenting gig, I assure you Thalia is eating a tad better than either of these options.

For the next three weeks Nate and I are the surrogate parents to an eight-year old boy.

Nate's nephew, Brodie, arrived on Friday. He is a sweet, sensitive, delightful kid who likes Captain Underpants and fart jokes and apple butter on his pb. He's the type who answers, oh okayyyyyy to pretty much any unwanted request, while other kids would whine in protest. His easy disposition is a testament to a loving upbringing by Nate's sister, a very young single mother, and the essential help of many devoted aunts and a grandmother.

Not too many men in that mix, however.

And so, Uncle Nate has stepped up and offered his services in a sort of reverse Fresh Air Fund. Take a kid out of the suburbs, expose him to the hot city for three weeks, and in the process, teach him how to how to throw a baseball, how to take a subway, what to do besides playing GameBoy sixteen hours a day, and why Chicken McNuggets are not something we eat every day.

"Oh my God," one yet childless friend exclaimed. "You're a saint for doing this."

"No I'm not," I said. "He's family. This is what family does." I meant it.

But meanwhile, here I am struggling with a baby, and all of a sudden I'm making the leap to a third-grader. Terrifying! I may seem cool on the outside but inside I'm taking comfort in the fact that hell, he's almost nine. It's not like I can ruin him that much. Still, if his grandmother had packed an instruction manual in his luggage I would have definitely remembered that at Christmas this year.

In my heart I know the yesses (yes, you can pet that dog) and the nos (no, you may not have Sour Patch kids at 10 am) but good instinct is no substitute for the experience I sorely lack.

This afternoon I tried to find something on TV for him to watch.

"Hey, Bob the Builder is on!" I said, happy to click over to a kids show that I actually had heard of.

"Oh nooooo," Brodie says dramatically, "it's the lamest show EEEEEEVER. Oh look...it's been on one second and already it's lame."

"Oops," I say. "Too young?

"Yeah, kinda."

So there's that.

Over the past three days, I've tried to straddle the line between cool aunt, positive influence, fair disciplinarian, and supportive sister-in-law. I feel like I'm standing on that one spot out west where you could conceivably be standing in four different states at once, never quite sure which direction I want to go.

Like when he tells me that he eats lunch at McDonald's most days. Is this true or a bit of manipulation on his part? I'm not sure. But if this is in fact his life, I can't just come out and say, "That crap? Who lets you eat that? Do you know what that stuff does to you? Let me get my copy of Fast Food Nation out and read you a few passages..." Insteaed what I tell him is that it's a special occasion food and besides, NYC is the restaurant capital of the world. If you want a burger, we'll get a damn good burger somewhere else. I mean darn. Darn good burger.

Another thing I have to work on.

This is all good practice for me. Four nights in a row I've said "bedtime!" and I'm actually getting good at it. "Lights out in ten minutes" is another one I can muster with a bit of authority, and if you ask Brodie, I bet he'd say he has no idea I'm faking it.

I'm learning how to hold someone's hand when crossing the street. To say, "don't run up the slide when that little kid is coming down it." To add a handful of carrots to the sandwich at lunch. I'm learning to live with cookie crumbs in the white chair, 3-D dinosaur puzzle pieces under the sofa, and teeny specs of Play-Doh ground into the rug. My rug! Oh, the rug. The poor, poor, beautiful rug.

Okay, so I still need some practice with the rug.

Best of all, in just three short days, Brodie's presence has been fantastic for Thalia. It's even lent itself to her first Play-Doh eating experience. And as I understand it, this is one rite of passage that no American child should go without.

In case you're wondering, it was blue. And yes, she enjoyed it very much.


An update for those who are so kind as to actually show--or feign--interest in the sleep habits of the baby of a complete stranger on the internet: There has been much improvement! Get out the party hats! I just might become a Weissbluth evangelist after all. The crying is getting shorter, the sleeping is getting longer, and once again I'm remembering what it's like to slumber alongside someone who doesn't kick me in the head all night, although lord knows there are some nights I'm sure he'd like to.

Tonight was a bit more touch-and-go, but I've still got wine left. Plus the absurd amount of goodwill from all of you which will fuel me through a week of this, if not longer. I am grateful. Good karma--as much as I'm empowered to send--right back to you all.


Blogger What's so funny? said...

This is exactly how I feel when I toggle between my 4 yr old and her older cousins. I find it easier in the long run to have her with older cousins, as opposed to her younger cousins which make her regress. (Although you have slightly more of a gap).

We too hosted an older cousin once. I was terrified. Once I relaxed, even the simpliest activites, like making our own pizza, were fun. And we sent her home with a photo album of her stay which she still looks over.

7/4/06, 12:18 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

If you are still looking for things to watch with an 8 year old, my boys (7 & 9) highly reccommend the Discovery Channel - anything on it, they're especially fond of Deadliest Catch!!! Movies? Eight Below (added bonus for you, a hottie in the lead). Food? Pirates Booty (it's like healthy cheeto puffs). Have fun, sounds like you don't need any help at all!

I am sure that he helps tire Thalia out too, which has it's own rewards!


7/4/06, 12:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It is great that you are hanging with the nephew for a few weeks. How cool for him to get to experience the big city and I agree it is so good to have a surrogate dad type around. I didn't grow up with my dad and I looooooved my grandpa and uncles. I couldn't get enough of them.

I'm so glad to hear about Thalia sleeping better. I remember the first week my daughter slept through the night. It felt like I had little cartoon bluebirds singing around my head in the morning!

Have a great Fourth of July!

7/4/06, 12:33 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

You so totally are the coolest aunt, ever.

7/4/06, 12:51 AM  
Blogger Cristina said...

It sounds like you are doing quite well in the auntie department this week. Sounds fun for all of you. By the way, I'm all for Honey Nut Cheerios over Honeycomb anyway!

And congrats on your progress with Thalia! I see many long nights of restful sleep in your near future.

7/4/06, 2:11 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Dude, I had my 9 and 11 year-old nieces (they are cousins to each other, not sisters) at my house for 24 hours and I was ready to plunge forks into my sternum and run from the house screaming by the time it was over. Of course, one of them is kind of a whiny, selfish, pouty, I-don't-eat-anything-unless-it's-cheese -with a side of cheese please, brat. That could be part of the problem.

7/4/06, 7:44 AM  
Blogger ms blue said...

By the end of his visit you will be masters of the art of negotiation. Isn't it wonderful to be able to explain with language and you got to skip the tantrum phase!

I'm sure you are the super cool Aunt and Uncle.

7/4/06, 8:10 AM  
Blogger susan said...

A big *quiet* "hooray" for how well the sleep-training is going!

As for your nephew, just keep reminding yourself that for the first week or so whatever you do will be "normal" -- it's a new situation for him and he hasn't yet formed expectations of what it's supposed to be like! It's next week when the testing will start... :)

Sounds like an amazing opportunity/experience for all of you!

7/4/06, 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like it's an enjoyable learning experience having Brodie stay with you. I know I would struggle with having an 8 year old (boy, especially!) at home -- I don't know anything about the interests and needs of an elementary school kid. Good thing my girls and I can learn together as they grow!

7/4/06, 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When our 15 year old goddaughter stayed with us while our Okapis were only about 1.5 years old, the shif was pretty intense. But it does provide some really interesting insight into what it will be like in a "few" years. I'm sure he's lucky to spend that time with the three of you. You may even feel lucky to have spent some time with a young boy. I hope you have a great time.

7/4/06, 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How awesome of you and Nate to take your nephew for three weeks. And the parenting a kid a different age stuff? I swear, he has no idea you don't know what you're doing, and every time you "mess" up, he'll just think you're slacking off on purpose. Big points with the kiddo. Funny (or not so much) that my post is about my son mostly, but both my kids not really having a male role model. Exactly when would you like them to arrive in Brooklyn? ;-D

7/4/06, 9:16 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

An instruction manual would be helpful for sure. Sounds like you will go down in his history books as the cool Aunt Liz and Uncle Nate that gave me the best three weeks ever in NYC! But oooh the rug...

7/4/06, 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a saint of the highest order.

I'm glad to hear it's going well - I'm sure Thalia is enjoying the company - and who knows - maybe it's really tiring her out!

7/4/06, 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I am happy to hear things are getting better with the sleeping. I'm in it right now too. It's great to be able to read about how other people cope/feel/get through it.

That is so funny about Bob The Builder, I laughed when I read that part. My son was all about bob the builder when he was 2. As soon as he turned three he was too cool for Bob. I don't blame your third grader adoptee.

7/4/06, 10:39 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

This is great. Good for you guys! We're into Bob and Thomas at our house, though our son is 2.

Yay for sleep!!

7/4/06, 10:48 AM  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Happy 4th, Liz.

Glad to hear you're getting more sleep.

7/4/06, 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How absolutely (insanely?) fun. I'm sure that not only will Brodie learn a lot from this visit... but the lot of you will as well. :)

-Clicked over from BlogHer.

7/4/06, 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will it make you feel better if I confess that I still fake it most of the time?

Congrats on the play dough eating milestone. I banned play dough several years ago. Along with glitter, glue, glitter glue and finger paint. I'm mean like that. And isn't that what pre-school is for?

I am so glad that Thalia is sleeping better...and that you are too.

7/4/06, 11:52 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yeay You and Thalia -- sounds like the sleep situation is much better already.

Having a boy around the house will be an eye opening experience. But fun.

7/4/06, 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8 year olds know more than you think, and not as much as you think they *should*. (doesn't make sense, but neither do they) still... it sounds like a fun time is, in fact, being had by all... and i suspect this will turn out to be a memorable (or traumatic) part of Brodie's life!

and Good For You for fighting to keep those Honey-Nut Cheerios in the cart. my "cereal struggle" with my boys was always over Cookie Crisp. who makes a cereal called Cookie Crisp, anyway? i'll tell you who... Satan.

glad you're finally getting some well-deserved sleep... i'm gonna bet Thalia is, too. (funny how that all works out)

Happy 4th of July!! xoxo

7/4/06, 1:59 PM  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

Good job Auntie! I've had my nephew stay for long weekend visits and once for a whole week and it was a blast, but also a bit challenging at times. He was 10 years old when he flew in from another state to stay with us.

I'm glad to hear that Thalia is sleeping better. It's so hard to let them cry, isn't it? We've been there, done that with our son!

7/4/06, 2:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Wow, has is been like living two lives? May your sleep continue to be sweet as well as your entire household!


7/4/06, 2:07 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

An 8 year old is a good test. And it sounds like you are doing great. 8 is a great, mostly easy age. And because he's visiting he may not whine as much as he probably would for his mom. McDonald's was probably a lie, but an innocent one that most kids would tell you. We have several neice's around his age who visit on occasion.

The real test will be to borrow him at 12. Now that will be scary. ;)

Have a great 4th.

Oh and....you might want to get rid of the rug. Ot get used to it being filled with glitter and play-do.

7/4/06, 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How awesome you are welcoming you nephew into your home. He will remember the visit for a lifetime! I used to hang out at my Uncle and Aunt's and totally loved it! No worries, he so does not know you are flaking it!

So good to read you are getting a good sleep more so!

7/4/06, 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys are the poop. I bet this visit means the world to Brodie (even though he'd never admit it right now).

My cousin - raised by a single mom almost exclusively around women - stayed with us for several weeks during two summers. Kyle gave her plenty of indian burns and I took her to a Mets/Yankees game where some maniac streaked across the field. Now THERE'S culture.

7/4/06, 3:55 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

Ahhhhh, 8 year old boys. They are such funny little creatures. Whomever said fart jokes is right.

Good on ya for taking Brodie in this week!

7/4/06, 4:29 PM  
Blogger Namito said...

Glad to hear things are getting better on the sleep front!

And what a wonderful thing you are doing for Brodie. He sounds like a pretty fun 8 year old.

7/4/06, 6:50 PM  
Blogger Perstephone said...

Now that's an age I know! This baby stuff? I'm so clueless about it. However, I was an au pair to three kids aged 6 and 8 for a year during college. That is the best age and I used to always say that if it were possible I would have given birth to a child that age.

I think it's really cool that you're having him. I can only imagine how much Thalia loves it, because Hugo loves it when his big cousin visits.

7/4/06, 7:06 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

Well done you, Auntie!

OMG, I would have LOVED even a weekend in the city when I was that age. I'm so a city girl at heart even though I was born in the sticks.

And yes, I agree, he won't know at all those times when you feel as if you don't know what you're doing. I live with a 7yo full time and so far she hasn't figured it out. ;-)

7/4/06, 7:15 PM  
Blogger Amy Jo said...

Hooray for sleeping babies! I'm sure that the universe is rewarding you for the kind gesture of watching your nephew!

7/4/06, 7:29 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Cool Aunt Liz. It has a nice ring to it. I think after this visit, your titles as cool aunt and uncle will be set in stone forever. Your nephew will never forget this visit.

7/4/06, 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I am really lucky in that respect... All of my children's cousins are older. In fact my sisters children are 13-14 going on 3 and forty LOL.. I kind of grew up with them if you will. My sister had her oldest when I was seventeen and she was living with us. Good practice for when i had my own:) When we moved into seperate residences her kids demanded to come visit with me on a regular basis. Since I had lived with them I had a good idea of what was done at home and they learned fast enough what I allowed in my home.

Sounds like your doin a great job!!! Good luck and glad that the little one is sleeping better.. it will get easier;)

7/4/06, 9:03 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

My wife like to mix Honey Nut Cheerios with regular Cheerios. She's kind of crazy like that. The rest of us scream bloody murder, but she just plays the "Mom" card and we suck it up.

Hearing about a little boy with a young single mother who plays way too much Gameboy and eats at McDonalds all the time kind of hurts my heart a bit. I'm happy that you're exposing him to another kind of life... although it's only for a short time by comparison. Keep it up.

7/4/06, 10:05 PM  
Blogger K. said...

I have a period of adjustment every time my step-daughter comes to visit. Right now she's 3. So I understand that when you are used to your own baby at whatever age, it takes a little faking to pretend to know what you are doing for the older child. ;)

7/4/06, 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All that stuff is what it's really like except you have time to grow into it and it feels natural. It sounds, however, like you're faking it pretty darn well. In writing, it sounds very believable!

Have fun with your new charge and high fives on the improved sleeping :)

7/5/06, 12:56 AM  
Blogger Kelly Wolfe said...

Wow, love your blog.

I have a two year old and a 14 year old step son. your experience with your nephew reminds me of how I felt when I first became a stepmom straddling four states -- cool friend? second mom? crazy uncle? disciplinarian?


7/5/06, 1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually think that 7-10 age group is really fun. Sometimes they're quiet but they usually are interested in trying new things and learning stuff; great to go on outings with and help around the house. Have fun with your nephew! And a TV hint? All the Nicklodeon channels and some of the Disney stuff is just about the right age group, as long as it's not first thing in the morning. The early morning stuff is for the little kids. Also, superheroes and Yu-Gi-Oh are still pretty big. Enjoy your time together!

7/5/06, 1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BossLady has a few nieces and nephews in the 6-12 age group that have stayed with us in the past. The Central Park Zoo, Serendipity, Chinatown, Coney Island, Mars 2112, and The Circle Line were all huge hits. You might want to try some of those for your newest roommate. It's always great fun seeing their enthusiasm of the city. Good luck!

7/5/06, 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are awesome, girl! And you're right, this is what family does (or should do, when capable of it). Good for you and Nate both. Oh, and try slipping "SuperSize Me" into the DVD and just let it run while he's wanting TV - although, I haven't seen it myself so cannot attest to possible swears and other stuff you don't want an 8 year old to see - but I'll bet he'd be impressed with how sick that guy got while eating only MickeyD's for a month!

:-) Keep having fun - 8 is a great age! (just like all the ages I've experienced so far :-) )

7/5/06, 11:51 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

This is a wonderful thing you and Nate are doing. And please keep us informed how it goes. I for one am taking notes.

And the sleeping thing? I'm so glad it's working! I know it's heartbreaking to hear those cries, but if it's what works for you and Nate, and most importantly for Thalia, then I say stay strong, and don't beat yourself up so much. You're doing what you need to do for your family. Let the naysayers try your life on for size for awhile and then come back and see what they say.

7/5/06, 12:30 PM  
Blogger Kit said...

Good luck with the eight year old - I remember when my son was a baby that seemed like light years away on an alien planet, but now he's reached that advanced age himself. He likes watching Animal Planet best but that could be cos we don't tell him about Cartoon Network.

Good luck with the crying it out too. There was a great article by Anna Wahlgren on a similar approach http://www.annawahlgren.com/english/101.htm
A Cheat Sheet. Sounds good. I never tried it myself her way but we did have to invent our own version for two of our children and you have my sympathy - it's so much harder on the parents than the babies.

7/5/06, 3:52 PM  
Blogger J said...

You feeling like you're faking it with your nephew reminded me of once when Maya was 5 or 6, we went to visit my dad. I went out to a movie with my sister, and my dad and step mom watched Maya. She wouldn't go to bed, so my step mom started counting to three...1...2....and off to bed she went. She later told me, I'm SO GLAD she went to bed, because I didn't know what I was supposed to do if I got to 3! :) Funny.

7/5/06, 3:53 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Was all set to say something thrilling about play-doh, but am all distracted now by your sleep accomplishments! Send good sleep karma my way! Please! Sharesies!

7/5/06, 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're doing great with the 8 year old. I love to say "lights out in 10 minutes", it's the best part of the day. 8 year old boys are messy, but oh so quirky. My almost 8 year old likes to call me WOMAN. As in, "can I please have a drink WOMAN". It's driving me crazy, but it's hard to tell him to stop when it cracks me up everytime.

7/8/06, 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an aunt to an almost 10 year old boy, who belongs to my single brother, I say, "Kudos to you and your husband." Believe me whatever you think you are doing wrong isn't half as memorable as what you are doing right.

My nephew was three when I met my now husband. The little guy was used to having me all day almost everyday all to himself. You can't imagine the guilt of moving out of the house and trying to explain to both the child and the new boyfriend why I was sad I couldn't be in two places at once. And the rivalry between the two (my husband hasn't let me forget that my nephew used to hit him when no one else was looking) was jsut something else for me to worry about.

But in the end, it all worked out. I married the boyfriend. My nephew and I are still really close even if I can't live with him anymore. And the rivalry between the two has turned into a lot of love and respect. My nephew thinks Uncle Larry is the coolest and tells everyone his Uncle Larry knows everything. My husband has shown me that he's fabulous with kids especially when I can't think of another cool activity to keep a growing boy interested.

The more time you and Nate spend with this child the more comfortable you'll all feel and trust me, years from now it's the good things he'll remember about you and not whether you know all the latest hip TV shows.

7/9/06, 4:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home