How to be a Man(ny)
On this sophomore trip to New York to step in and watch the boys again I learned a few new things about being a man, a manny and an authority figure.
1. Be prepared to have your manlihood challenged. By that I mean Joshua’s new favorite thing to do is punch you right in the no-no spot to get your attention. At five years old he now happens to be the precise height to reach out his fist and aim right at the crotch. Of course I gradually trained him to simply say “Levi I have a question” to avert his punching impulse and save myself for future offspring of my own! More importantly we talked about how to swap physical hitting for words to get peoples attention. It’s amazing how physical little kids can get. In between breaking up the usual sibling rivalries we talked about respecting one and another and the importance of communication. I’m certainly not any expert as a parent but the more time I spend with the boys the more I realize how challenging parenting can be. It’s a full time job but the results can be so rewarding (I think!).
2. The birds and the bees really do come up, and usually not at the most opportune time. Ben is now eight years old and growing more and more inquisitive and curious about all things. “All things” is my way of summing up anything that is possibly adult. Let’s just say he is eight years old going on twenty. One day at lunch time I found myself with the two boys sitting at a neighborhood cafe enjoying fish and chips. We were only one of two tables dining and the waitress was super sweet and talkative with us because she was so bored. Literally out of nowhere after a bite of fish Ben loudly asked “Are you gay?” Gulp. This was not a question I was prepared to answer and even less prepared to answer with other people eavesdropping. “Yes, Ben I am.” I replied. I knew his Mother had addressed the question in full support once before so I wasn’t completely shocked that he wanted to talk about it with me. He continued the conversation asking, “So… how do two guys have babies together? I think it’s cool that you like other guys. I don’t have any problem with it. I just don’t understand how you are gonna have kids.” Wow. Not an easy question to answer! I thought to myself, where is Mom, I am gonna need back up on this one. After briefly explaining what being gay means to me in simpler terms I informed him that there are alternative ways of conceiving children or adopting. Right about then the five year old chimed in with “You’re gay!” very loudly so at that point everyone was looking over at us and all I could do was just laugh and smile. Oh the joys of little kids! I’m not so sure if Ben really understood what I shared with him but for me it was so sweet to have such a meaningful conversation about who I am with these little guys. Granted they are so young and may not fully comprehend but I think it’s great that their parents don’t shelter them from the real world and what’s taking shape. It was a very progressive conversation to have with an eight and five year old! Ben continued the conversation with questions about girls he likes in his class, and how he plans to ask them out or go steady. Absolutely adorable. I gave him the best old fashioned advice I could.
3. Set rules and boundaries with love. With Mom and Dad gone so much for work the boys sometimes get lost in the shuffle and forget what the rules are. Enter me. I’m no Super Nanny but I do feel confident as a disciplinarian and being family I think the boys have learned how to listen and respect me. Sometimes kids push your limits, well not sometimes ALL the time. They want to see how far they can push you. I’ve learned how crucial it is to set boundaries and not move them. To keep rules and not change them. Kids need that consistency to understand their place and know right from wrong. I think this kind of training takes place for years to come with kids, until they grow independent and move away into their adult life. As a rookie nanny I’m still learning how to stay consistent. There are so many unpredictable variables that come up with kids so it’s often hard to know what to expect. But the unexpected will always happen so I’ve learned to be prepared for anything! Like the time the kids threw the puppet out of the car window on the freeway, or the time when they shouted expletives on the subway train, the time when we walked by an African American man wearing a large gold chain and Josh exclaimed “Look it’s a rapper!” or the time when I found poop stains all over the living room couch…and it wasn’t from the dog! I’ve learned to love and in so doing, follow with compassion.
This concludes my recent Manny learnings. Although I’m back West now I’m currently still on call to watch the kids so stay tuned for more exciting adventures in baby sitting!
Shakespeare was the theme of Ben’s summer camp. He joined a crew of kids and learned “The Tempest” complete with swords and orange hair dye (that was his idea). I gotta say that the Brooklyn artist community is refreshing and inspiring. It was so fun to watch his final performance! Get this boy an agent, he’s got talent!
And - ACTION! On Saturday we took Ben to the Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene. He was in heaven amidst all of the rare collectibles like these vintage cameras photographed.
The secret to silence (on the subway) is….Music. Thank you Mr. Jobs for creating the iPhone and it’s headphones because without it these boys would be doing…who knows what!
Sometimes when I’m sad I take pictures of these silly faces and it makes me happy! :)
"I feel like John Lennon…" Benjamin sporting Vivienne Westwood shades and a classic Nike tee, what a look! We are back in the city folks which means stepping up your individuality. Ben just might be redefining NY street style for kids ;)
There is no secret recipe to successful Manny-ing but I will say that a weekend outside of the city might just be what everyone needs now and then. Being a shutterbug also doesn’t hurt as taking pictures always seems to soothe my soul! But the wide open spaces, fresh air, farm fresh food and healthy vegetation ain’t so bad either.
This past weekend we spent a few days on the grandparents farm in upstate New York complete with farm animals and lots of open space for the kids to run wild…just what they (and I) needed!
Now that those lovely introductions have been made I can tell you the REAL story of the country. (All caps for dramatic effect of course). I was eaten to death by mosquitos. I didn’t sleep a wink because I had to manage the boys and make sure they went to the bathroom and didn’t pee on grandma’s mattresses. I may not have gone for my usual morning run but I consumed all my energy chasing the boys and breaking up the usual sibling rivalries. Somehow I managed to spend our last day at a Colonial fair complete with candle making, puppet shows, live sheep shearing and then went blueberry picking in the scorching sun where there happened to be MORE mosquitos. I truly didn’t realize how tired I was until we made the three hour drive home to Brooklyn and found myself sitting in TRAFFIC at 12:30 am at the Battery Park tunnel. YES! Twenty minutes left to Brooklyn and we were at a dead stop. Why…..??? As I adjusted the rear view mirror to check on the boys sleeping in the back seat I noticed my blood shot eyes and strewn, greasy hair. I was officially dead. But I had to stop and remind myself that I truly love these boys and am so thankful for the relationship and of course unpredictable lessons they teach me every day.
Aside from all this I will say that taking photos is a stress reliever for me. There is nothing more special to me than capturing that frame, that moment in time that won’t ever exist again. I know, I know…I’m a nerd.
Adventures in babysitting has taken us to the countryside! This weekend we arrived at the Gradus family farm in upstate NY where Grandma & Grandpa Gradus keep a very happy and active farm.
Ben + Trees + Tunnels + Prospect Park = Perfect Summer
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. #cocopuffs #breakfast #brooklynmanny