About Me

San Francisco, California
I am Ethan and Chase's Mama and my man's Sugar. I have flown a plane, driven a race car, and been pushed out of a train. I have swum with dolphins, climbed the Untersberg, and thrown tortillas in more than one location. I have great arms and a law degree. I hate housework. I can't iron. I love my dustbuster because I occasionally allow my kids to eat off of the floors. I wish I were taller and for my boys to grow up in a peaceful world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Books and Bites

The day I was back in a law library, I was so happy. It was quiet. I had a sturdy chair. I sat behind a desk and could see stacks and stacks of multi-colored books with bold titles on their spines. I was so calm. The books made it seem possible to control damn near anything! It felt like I could boil any problem down to its smallest parts and then follow the steps to solve the whole of it. There were answers.

The big books chunked life into digestible pieces. CONSENT TO TREATMENT, a practical guide. SPORTS LAW PRACTICE. LABOR LAW – BASIC TEXT. I felt grabby. I wanted to pull the books off the shelves with my whole arms and have them. I wanted to lay them open, each book overlapping the next, and reference and cross-reference. I wanted to inhale the information. Internalize it. Have it at my ready disposal so I am never unprepared.

The boundaries were so clear. The carrels marked proper study spots. Beyond the front desk was the space for Art Law. Land Use belonged in the next aisle, next to Gender, Justice & Law. It felt like I was where I was supposed to be. And everything else was too.

In my daily life outside of law libraries – way outside of them, so far away from them in mind and body that I wonder how the attorney part of me can continue to exist – there is so little order. Instead, my darling, love-of-my-life child colors my world with smashed bananas and randomly placed Cherrios. He twirls in loopy orbits and flaps one arm like a chicken wing for good effect. He pulls me. On my hair, on my thoughts, on my heart. He holds on, holds on, holds on to me tightly so I do not put him down. He is in constant motion, climbing up and climbing down, yanking clothes from drawers and heaping them into piles, scattering clattering kitchen utensils on the floor. He drops drumsticks in the bathtub and phones in the trash. He takes laundry out of the laundry basket and puts himself in.

Despite my son’s comfort with the chaos, I am rocked by the unpredictability. I feel entirely unprepared to parent well. No matter how many parenting books and articles I read, I can’t find the Good Parent answers. Boundaries are smudged away by sticky handies.

Today Ethan and I were in a different kind of library, listening as a librarian read about Maisy’s Nature Walk and other toddler tales. Afterwards the little kids tripped around the room, clambering up chairs and onto book shelves. Ethan played with the spring lid on the trash can. I thought about stopping him, but then engaged in chat with a parent on the other side of me. I took my eyes off my son. As I did, a bigger kid bit Ethan hard. Really hard. This kid looked like he was younger, unable to express frustration or control his impulses, but huge for his age. He towered (and teetered) over the other kids like a baby Andre the Giant.

The teeth marks were deep and purple in my son’s skin. I was shocked by the damage. How did that kid have so many teeth?! It was like Ethan had been chewed by a bear. Another mother commented that I should have him checked for rabies!

Ethan was hurt. I was so upset. Andre’s mother apologized sincerely. I said, “it happens” as I hurried my son into the bathroom. His skin was unbroken, but I gave his arm a lengthy washing.

I should have protected you from that big kid, I said to him. I’m so sorry. I should have known he might hurt you. I wasn’t watching when I needed to. I let you play with a trashcan for chrissake.

I think I did the right thing by letting Andre’s mom off the hook. Little kids bite. They hit too. It happens. But where are the proper boundaries? Part of me wishes that I had stood up for my son. I really hope that when it counts I can give the offending child’s parent hell. I am, after all, a lawyer even if I spend most of time reading books like Thomas the Tank Engine in a library very different from the legal kind.


  1. Sugarmama,
    I just love your honesty - as a mother of 2 boys I really appreciate it.

    I can tell you from experience this certainly won't be the last time you feel you've let your son and yourself down. It's part of being a parent. It also won't be the last time your son gets bit or has some other aggressive behavior come at him - that's part of being a kid.

    Keep up these blogs - it certainy makes us moms out there feel good.

    Take care,

  2. Sugar Mama, you did what you could, and you rightly gave Ethan the freedom to meet friends on his own. (I have been bit by and bitten other kids too.) It is not the last time the lil' man might get a little hurt, don't blame yourself! But, I totally blame that other kid. Give me his address and I will bite his Mom!

    (Also, you can get green papaya at Ranch 99 or in Chinatown!)

  3. PE you kill me! You are right. I should have bitten the other mother. :) It's all about frontier justice in the children's rooms of public libraries!