Tag Archives: kids

Birthday Presents

throwing_star.jpgA little friend of A.’s just turned one and his dad got his mother a delicate ring with two arching gold bands like arms cradling a tiny pearl. It’s a reference to their lovely pregnancy metaphor of their baby boy as the pearl growing cradled in his mum. Nice, right?

Early on in my pregnancy, before we knew that A. would be a girl or even an anything, when you need to call your pre-baby something other than “it,” we called her Danger, which would, of course, be her middle name, but would leave room to select the first name later. It seemed like a really good choice. As in, “Danger’s my middle name.” Right up until she was born, I was pulling for that as her middle name. How cool would that have been? Come on, right? On the playground? Awesome, right? Yeah, I lost that argument.

Anyway, I tell the charming pearl story to R.

R: So I should get you a gold throwing star for A.’s birthday.
Me: What?
R: You know: A. was “Danger,” so, you know: a throwing star.
Me: Ah. Yeah, that’s nice. Do that.

So much for nice jewelry later this month. I wonder if gold is effective in weaponry. Seems kind of soft…

Staying at Home

The first member of my tribute band goes into “share care” today, making me think about how lucky I am to be able to stay at home with little A.

Before we get to that though, let’s talk about my tribute band. It might be in my head. But here’s the thing: friends of ours named their daughter Emma. They say it had nothing to do with me – family name, blah blah blah – but I’m just saying, she’s named Emma, I’m named Emma… You do the math.

There are a lot of other tiny Emmas floating around out there too: “Emma” has been a top baby name pick for four or five years now. Some of them are bound to meet up with each other eventually, some of those are going to take up the tambourine and what not, and voila: my tribute band. They don’t have to know me for it to be a tribute band: my influence as the older Emma is just a felt thing, don’t you think? Yeah. It is.

Until that time though, Emma’s headed to a share care while her mom goes back to teaching. (Share care is where two or more kiddies’ families hire a single nanny who watches the kids together in one of their homes.) Most moms I know were upset to head back to work and I would’ve been too, especially since I’d have been heading back to a job I didn’t feel was that important to the world or my identity. (I mean, yes, who doesn’t want a potato ricer? But let’s not pretend world peace depends on it. Also: I don’t like to cook, so there goes the global and the personal relevance.)

I hope most of us believe firmly that moms should be able to head back to their jobs without a burden of guilt about leaving their kids to be cared for by others. (For every piece of research suggesting worse outcomes for kids in day care, there’s another one saying that’s bunk, so clearly there’s no one conclusion.) That set aside, even the moms I know who love their jobs have had a hard time heading back, a lot of them an unexpectedly hard time. Babies are much more attractive than you think they’re going to be before you have them. They’re interesting companions and they need a lot of attention that – surprising to some of us, myself included – you actually would like to give them. So heading out the door for most of their waking hours five days a week is a big adjustment after months of full-time care and company.

I never thought I’d want to be a full-time mother, but that’s mostly because I had a lot of hang-ups about being a mother at all. (“Had” might not be 100% accurate, but the ones I have now are about the “how” not the “at all.”) But through coincidence and choice, I am. I won’t lie: taking on a high-stakes 80-hour/week job with little to no supervision or guidance is a hard transition when you’ve been a successful professional in a completely different field for several years. There are days when the learning curve seems too steep to climb, and it seems like the sane choice for everyone would be to hand off my responsibilities to the real professionals. You know: the ones who like to cook tiny meals and know how to check for broken bones.

But parenting is about the long game, not the six-month project. You’re going for a general target of “happy and healthy” which is tough to define and hard to measure as you go. Mistakes are inevitable, and, disconcertingly, the ones you can identify are rarely the ones that your little ones remember to hold against you. So, as far as I can tell, you’re shooting for generalities, best of the current choices, and constantly trying to loosen your grip, ease up, just be with the baby, let her be who she’s going to be.

It’s a good lesson, that grip-loosening, for someone like me – one I anticipated as being the most challenging and beneficial for me specifically, in becoming a parent. Growing up with as much uncertainty and conflict as I did, I have a preference for “safe and certain” on the home front. I like reliable people. I don’t, in general, like surprises. (At least not in scheduling. Expensive gifts are fine. Parties? Yes. Last-minute changes to plans? No. Unless it’s a party. With presents. Then go ahead. Don’t let me stop you. Really. My birthday’s in a month. Go for it.)

I’m not an iron grip girl. Privately though, between myself and myself, I like to know where my hand rests steadily. It took some years to sort that out and still takes some time and quiet to reassure myself that I’m on-course, especially after a destabilization, a panic, or a surge into new circumstances. I just wasn’t raised to feel naturally steady, so it takes some work.

Babies aren’t big on the steady though, nor on the quiet and reliable. And panic is a big thing when you’re trying to keep someone small, fast and interested in electrical sockets alive. Flexibility is the name of the game. It’s a very hard game. For anyone, I imagine, and especially for people like me. Going back to work, getting my bearings a few hours a day, being in a predictable familiar environment would be very welcome. But I decided to leave the work I used to do and take on something more important to me, writing, and then, almost immediately something else important, parenting. So on we forge, creating a new career, a new set of bearings, while simultaneously flexing (almost flat sometimes) with good-natured A.

It’s a heavy lift all at once. I’m struggling, particularly with the move to a new home thrown in. But it’s a good choice for me, for us, for A., I think. For now. We’ll see what the spring brings, besides flowers and earlier sun, which will both be welcome.

So to the moms heading back to work, bon voyage and good luck. All will be well. To the moms staying home, let’s sort out our schedules to get some coffee because this new job is keeping me up nights.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Aside from the baby herself, one of the most (or least, depending on the day) entertaining things about having a baby is the sudden education I’ve gotten about products and services I didn’t even know existed a year ago. It’s a whole new world of features, hazards and ridiculous claims, and the suddenness of the onset just makes it that much more bizarre.

Think about it: what if you went from having a rotary-dial home phone to being on the market for a smartphone in the space of a week? Or if you went from herding yak in Tibet to selling multi-featured toaster ovens in San Francisco overnight. It’s like that. Kind of. Except for the whole oppression by the Chinese thing. And the weather. And the unrecognizable clothing. OK, never mind: it’s not like the Tibet thing, but the smartphone example was a good one.

Being unrepentantly Type A, I built a spreadsheet for my baby registry from personal recommendations, discussions with salespeople, and on- and off-line research. Heading into a high-stakes situation where I had no first-hand experience, I think it was natural to be nervous. We didn’t want to get a lot of stuff (small place, personal aesthetics) and I knew the temptation to do so would be intense: America’s consumer emporiums would like nothing better than to help you bury your anxiety under a pile of un-needed, over-engineered products. The choice as I see it is like prepping for your first wilderness tour by buying a bazooka, a military-grade GPS, and a bulletproof anorak to protect you from the wildlife, or buying a sturdy bear can and assuming that common sense and the local general store will cover the rest.

Thanks in part to my spreadsheet, we ended up with the bear can plan. Well, and the anorak, but that’s just because a bulletproof anorak is bad ass.

Last month, we decided we needed a baby monitor. We have a basic radio one but because checking on little A. beyond, “Is she crying?” meant making noise in her room, we joined the herd looking for a model with video. This is when things got weird.

There aren’t that many companies that make video baby monitors, so you’d think it would be easy to pick. But no. Apparently, “fewer companies” means “no pressure to make a coherent line of products.”

You know those clear comparison tables in Consumer Reports? Like, ten columns of features and a rating for each company’s offering in each feature category? Forget it. Every goddam video monitor out there has completely different characteristics, so you have to decide which combo you like best without ever having needed or used one of these products, let alone experienced any of their individual features. It’s like trying to compare four French restaurants except one of them serves Spanish food, one of them is only open on Thursdays for breakfast, and a third one burned down last week.

After several days of boggling around, I whittled the choice down to two models. One would let us pan and zoom the camera remotely, like Big Brother in a black helicopter. The other had a talk-back feature. To clarify, “talk-back” doesn’t mean the monitor makes smart alecky remarks when it hears you discussing your dinner plans; it lets you speak to your baby without going into her room, like a walkie talkie. Both of these options are pretty high on the creepy scale if you ask me. You’re already spying on your child, and these let you do it in close-up or while providing disembodied narration, your choice.

I thought the pan/zoom would be more subtle and less likely to cause her to grow up schizophrenic, so we went for the black helicopter. I haven’t set it up yet, since in our current apartment, we’re usually sitting not more than twenty feet and one glass door away from where she’s sleeping. I’ll let you know how it goes in the new house. I can imagine us going upstairs and sitting on our bed just so we can play with the camera like some single-feature video game. Shut up – we are not losers.

FAO Bear

polar_bear_standing.jpgI was cruising around the FAO Schwartz web site last night hoping to preclude actually going into their mayhem of a store when we’re in New York in two weeks when I found this: a five-foot tall polar bear reared up on its back legs.

I’m sorry, but what parent in his right mind is going to get his kid, presumably a small kid, something this large and terrifying? Actually, not even: what person is going to get something this intimidating to live in his home? You don’t have to watch Colbert to know that bears are a threat. And from what I hear, polar bears are especially unpredictable and mean. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be – extreme cold makes me crabby and I don’t usually have to hunt my own lunch further than the ski lodge french fry line in those conditions. Yes, their little cubs are adorable, but I’m just saying, I wouldn’t invite one into my home, even if it is fake and frozen in position.

When I was eight and went to swim in my grandmother’s swimming pool, I was convinced there was a shark in there. I couldn’t see it, but that was because it had seen me and swum down to the other end of the pool, camouflaging itself in the refracted light. Maybe I was wrong, but who’s going to take that chance? Just because no one had lost a limb yet didn’t mean it wasn’t there. It was like Bush’s WMD. Or that joke about elephants painting their toenails red so they can hide in cherry trees: the fact that you haven’t seen one just means it’s working.

My point is, how do you know it’s really a fake polar bear? And if you say you know because it’s smaller than real ones plus obviously made of synthetics, I would say, “Tell that to your brain’s fear center when you see if out of the corner of your eye on the way to the bathroom at 2AM.”

I know whereof I speak. A few years ago, in the middle of a margarita-soaked afternoon, I bought an almost-life-sized cardboard stand-up Aragorn. He hung out in our apartment just barely within my line of sight when I was lying in bed. I had to evict him a few months later because my nerves couldn’t take the strain of waking up to a short-ish, tunic-clad, long-haired intruder in the foyer.

(By the way, why are all these things almost life-sized and not actually life-sized? Aragorn and the bear are both just shy of real height. I say, as soon as you pass “half-sized” you may as well go for the full monty. Really, what is up with shaving off 6-12 inches? That just makes them look short, not “not real.”)

My point is this: the world is intimidating enough when you’re knee-cap height on the rest of the household and dependent on others to provide your Cheerios. You don’t need a giant bear in the corner to keep you in your place. That’s all I’m saying. Shout out to the little people.

Full-Fault Divorce

slip-hazard-sign.jpgI get a lot of paranoid email. Some of it’s spam, but the other some isn’t. It’s mail from parenting sites about all the risks and hundreds of horrible things that can happen to our child at specifically her age. Next month will bring a new crop of “information” for that age. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate a good piece of paranoia as much as the next guy and am aware of how it’s improved all our lives. For instance, I’ve completely stopped licking the walls of my apartment in case the paint has lead in it, and I make it a rule to no longer eat any toys made in China, which was a big shift.

Honest to God though, some of this stuff definitely falls under the, “Don’t be a $(&#! idiot,” clause and some more of it makes me wonder why the people who raise the Alarm of the Week choose to live on the mean streets of San Francisco and not in a hermetically sealed bubble, which would be more in line with their anxiety levels.

I got a note yesterday from Baby Center telling me that 7 million Fisher-Price children’s tricycles, 2.9 million Fisher-Price infant toys and 1 million Fisher-Price high chairs have been recalled. That’s a big oversight down at the Fisher-Price factory. But it was the last thing on the list that really caught my eye: the Fisher-Price Stand n’ Play Rampway has been called back.

While I am understandably disappointed that I will not be able to get my hands on one of these to test out my ability to entertain myself with one leg higher than the other, this recall doesn’t come as a big surprise. Why? Because if you develop a recreational product for a segment of the population who can barely keep their balance while standing perfectly still (that’s toddlers, not me, thank you very much), and your premise requires them to be able to both stand and play while on an incline, I’m going to go out on a limb and say your idea is ill-conceived. I’d even go so far as to guess that it will be source of injury and ridicule. Much like Anaphylactic Kiddie’s Snack n’ Stab Peanut Butter Stand with Epi Pen and Wonder Bear’s Wiring for Tots Motherboard and Bath Toy.

I’m just saying, some of this stuff does seem obvious, that’s all.


baby_dove.jpgYou know how, when you get pregnant, one of your friends can’t wait to tell you horror stories about her nine friends who had their babies in the back of cabs or were in labor for, like, a week or gave birth to the antichrist, but how she’s sure you’ll be fine and none of that will happen to you? For all you pregnant and pre-pregnant women out there who were thinking that your magnetism for negative input might diminish once you had your baby, brace yourselves. There’s a whole herd of parents out there waiting to tell you how you should cherish every second while they’re little because (insert disappointed sidelong glance at their own offspring who are standing right there) everything is downhill once they can run around and talk.

This is disconcerting for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that that tyke who’s listening to his mom diss him to me is going to need a dumptruck of therapy. After one such mother stopped by our table at a restaurant, the little girl – maybe seven years old – said, “Yeah, my mom tells us all the time how she wishes we were still babies.” That’s some solid parenting right there. Little shout out from your kid, mom.

It’s also weird, isn’t it, to walk up to a stranger (me) in the coffee line, ask how old her baby is and then indirectly reveal that you don’t particularly like your ten year old? For Pete’s sake, my FedEx guy chatted with me the other day about how he wishes his five year old were still five months. That’s kind of a lot of Oprah-ing to tack onto the, “Sign here, please,” moment, don’t you think?

I have two theories about why this keeps coming up.

First, people like to complain. I do too. It’s a non-threatening way to bond: “I hate my boss,” puts you into a conversation with just about anyone. Opening with, “I love my job,” is more dangerous. Not a lot of people do, so you’re putting yourself in the minority, plus you risk sounding, well, lucky. Lucky feels…vulnerable. Also maybe oblivious or dim-witted. Coming from the northeast (Puritan, understated) and a difficult family situation conditioned me to be very aware of the negative potential in any situation. It takes a lot of work some days to let that lie and pick up the equally possible positive thread instead. Maybe these parents are letting the anxiety of a negative outcome overwhelm their enjoyment of who their kids are turning out to be: a talking, walking child with an extending track record of preferences and skills means limits on your infant’s previously unlimited potential. Complaining may feel like a socially acceptable and safe, if indirect, outlet for that anxiety.

I don’t mean to be judgemental of course. It is also possible that their child is exhibiting distinct terrorist tendencies (stockpiling weaponry, a prediliction for holidays in desert training camps) and is deserving of parental disappointment early in life. That could be. Maybe that seven-year-old girl is disconcertingly adept with a handgun and kidnaps other little girls on the weekends. In that case, yes, her mother should be worried and I take it back all my analysis. Ma’am, you can disregard that previous paragraph.

That case excepted, this brings us to my second theory: that it’s incredibly easy to project onto a baby and having to stop is challenging. I know. I do it. At five months, your baby can be the next President or the next breakout Olympian. Losing that option when your baby turns into an actual person with her own interests has got to be a disappointment if you didn’t think about how to manage those unconscious expectations before your kid got all back chatty and able to run away from your conversations about electoral politics and the luge course in Calgary. Babies are 100% potential. We were too. I remember thinking when I was twelve that, barring sudden advances in bionics, the door to becoming a professional gymnast had almost definitely closed for me. That was quite a blow. Also very disappointing: realizing that my increasing physical similarity to my “family” probably meant that I was not the lost fourth child of the Swedish monarchy.

Here’s the thing: a kid who wants to wear rain boots and only the top half of a bikini out to run errands is very different from an infant you can dress up in that adorable outfit with the matching hat. Sure you can pick up a baby and put her where you want her and she can’t really object. You can talk to her about your day – you’re supposed to, in fact, to help her language skills develop yada yada yada- but there’s a good chance that once there are really two of you in the conversation, you’ll have to start making room for her preference for talking about edible paste and not how unbelievable it was when your one friend didn’t show up on time after you went to all that trouble setting up a nice lunch and everything at that place that’s hard to get into and what the hell was she thinking anyway bringing her new boyfriend who doesn’t know how to chew with his mouth closed when you were hoping for a nice afternoon out? Which is a big shift.

So we’re back to anxiety. You just don’t know what’s next. It’s a legitimate fear that the narrowing of your kid’s options that goes along with developing a personality and a voice (literal and metaphorical) will result in the option that’s left being “mid-level office manager.” Or “crack whore.” So yeah, it’s nerve-wracking. But here’s the thing: what am I going to do about it? Nothing different really. Aside from not forcing her into intensive early training on the violin, the tennis court or the half pipe, I plan on loving her (of course – as I’m sure these other parents love their kiddos), and focusing on enjoying her for wherever she is, six months or six years or sixty, and getting to know who she’s turning out to be. (Which will be even better advice the older she gets, right? Who likes going home from college and being reminded of the braces you had when you were fifteen rather than seen for the sexy sophomore you are now?)

Displacing my unconscious anxiety about who she’ll be or, worse, who I wished she’d be, onto her little self is a bad choice for both of us, I’d think. There’s no way to control for where she ends up – that’ll be a combination of her choice and circumstance – so I’m just focusing on providing her with self-confidence, a great work ethic, a clear playing field and as many self-regulating skills as I can to help her approach her options with a calm heart and clear vision.

So anyway, that’s my Monday Theory. I hope all these parents who keep wishing for babies are also spending a lot of time enjoying their actual kids. Or making more babies. But lay off the reminders if you would. I need that coffee I was headed for when you stopped me. Really. A lot.

I am that guy

exit.jpgRemember that scene in When Harry Met Sally where they discuss how guys can’t get out the door fast enough the morning after? This morning, as I was lying next to little A. trying to get her to go to sleep so I could get up and get going on my morning while she naps, I realized: I’m that guy. I just wait til she falls asleep and then bam, I’m out the door.

“Come on, sweetie, time to sleep. Yeah, that’s right: close your eyes. I’ll be here when you wake up… well, maybe after you wake up… if you cry a little to let me know you’re up… yeah, then I’ll definitely be here. If you just hang out in bed wondering where that nice person went who was there snuggling with you when you fell asleep, the one who seemed sincere about sleeping next to you and keeping you cozy, well, then it might take me a while to get back to you. I mean, I didn’t know you were up and thinking those things – what was I supposed to do? Not go clean my andirons?

… Huh. Well, that’s true, I don’t have a fireplace, but you didn’t know that for sure until I just said it because, let’s face it, you only know the parts of the apartment that I’ve showed you, right? … No, I didn’t mean that I’m keeping things from you. It’s just…we haven’t known each other that long, so there’s still some things you don’t know about me. You know – I’m sure you have those things.

… You don’t? You’re an open book? You’d spend all your time with me if you could? Well, I don’t know what to say to that. Of course I’m flattered, but…what about my andirons? You don’t really want to clean them with me, do you?

… Oh. You do. Well, I’m just not there yet, I guess. Plus they’re kind of sharp and you might hurt yourself.

… No, I didn’t mean to imply anything about your motor skills. I’m sure you’d be fine – I’m just trying to look out for you and now you’re crying again. God.

… OK, I’m sorry. Really, I’m sorry I said that. But it’s a little early in our relationship to be having this conversation, don’t you think? I mean, it’s been less than six months. What’s next – you want to move in together?

… You do? Oh – ’cause you left all your stuff all over my living room already so now I guess you live here??”

See what I mean? Like that. I’m definitely that guy. She is awfully cute though. I’m probably going to cave. I mean, she’s right – all her stuff is already here…


cris_notti_sleepmask.jpgThis weekend was sleep training weekend. If you don’t know what that is, chances are you haven’t had a child in last ten years. I don’t know what people did before that. I guess kids just slept. Weren’t those the days.

Or maybe not: I still don’t sleep very well. Maybe if I’d had some sleep training when I was little, I wouldn’t have to take Unisom every night. Or maybe I was just the designated baby on watch. You know, to protect against tiger attacks. And Huns.

Sleep’s a skill and I don’t have it so I’m eager that A. develop it early and practice often. That’s a parent thing: your child is going to get first what you didn’t have. You’ve been promising that to yourself since you were an angry teen. Don’t deny it.

Also on A.’s list, courtesy of my childhood of privation: an EZBake Oven, a rock polisher, and backwards somersaults. (How do you not break your neck when you roll over yourself backwards? I don’t get that.) Oh – and as little anxiety as possible and the skills to manage it. That too.

Of course, I don’t want to deprive her of the opportunity to make her own list of dos and don’ts for her own theoretical children, so I’ll make a point to fail in some areas. For instance, I’ll try to listen to a lot of 80’s bands to give her a fighting chance at developing hip musical taste. And maybe I should get some Birkenstocks so she doesn’t turn out to be a hippie. I’m not sure I can grit my teeth that hard though. Please God, protect her from hippies and jazz. That’s all I ask. And the anxiety thing. And let’s cover her basic safety while we’re at it. Well, really, not just basic safety. All safety. I don’t want her having to saw off her arm with a pen knife. That’s an edge case but still pretty unwelcome, so let’s make sure weird hippie accidents are covered too.

I digress.

Sleep training comes in all brands – brutal (let them cry as long as it takes) on down to the excrutiatingly drawn out, how-is-this-really-training-at-all?, “never let them cry” method. We chose the “let them cry a little” middle route, also known as the interval method. The only thing I knew about intervals going in was that it might be some misguided method of birth control or the super-painful intervals my coach made me run in high school track practice. This is different and not just because A. can’t stand up on her own, so she’d never make it to the 100 meter mark, let alone back ten times. Although if she tried, she might fall asleep immediately from exhaustion, so there’s a thought.

Here’s how it works. On Thursday night, we put A. in her crib around 7PM. An hour later, she started to cry. The plan kicks in. R. goes to her for a minute and then leaves. She’s still crying. In another minute, he goes back for a minute. Still crying. In three minutes, he goes back for a minute. If she hadn’t stopped – which she didn’t in the 9PM window – he’d up the interval to five minutes. Then ten minutes, then every fifteen minutes up to the point where she’s been upset for an hour.

That hour was our pre-set limit, the point at which all our nerves have shattered on the floor and I’ll do about anything to comfort her, including going out to buy her a pony at 9PM on a weeknight. In a city. In our Prius. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad errand: it would take me forever and I’d rather spend those hours tracking down a pony, which, let’s face it, I’d be riding myself for the forseeable future, rather than being in the apartment listening to our excellent baby weep, which is awful no matter which way you slice it. Way more awful than finding a pony.

Since A. doesn’t cry that much in general (lucky us), we have almost no practice tolerating her weeping. Also, letting her cry seems especially mean when you have a good-natured baby. If she cried all the time for no reason, it would still suck, of course, but presumably we’d have a tolerance for that particular suckage. We decided to go ahead with the sleep training despite her excellent temperament because, after a month of traveling, she’d gotten into the habit of getting up every couple of hours instead of sleeping five or six in a row the way she did before we left. Yes, you’re right, we broke our baby by flying her all over the place, and now it’s time to clean up the mess so all of us can get some rest.

The training went well, if by “well” you mean, “The baby now sleeps longer at night and can fall asleep on her own in the crib.” If you mean, “The baby’s mother is still functional and does not break down in tears for no reason,” then you would be misusing the word. It was a difficult process and we’re still recovering our own sleep and fractured nerves, but, after nearly a week, I’m willing to say that it worked and we’re back on track.

If you need me, I’ll be out hunting down that pony. What? You don’t know – she might start crying again any minute. I’m just covering our bases.

New York in Summer


A. on the High Line. Homesick Sunday.

To The Mean Lady in the Bathroom

dark_light_clouds.jpgI noticed you before in the gallery. You were being loud and sounded angry even though it was a Maira Kalman exhibit. She’s not loud or angry. She’s all about being good-natured and wry and taking things in stride. And being amused. You didn’t seem amused.

I don’t know what’s up with you today. Maybe it’s every day. You are in a wheelchair so maybe it’s that. That would be difficult. I don’t know what I’d do if I were in a wheelchair. I hope I’d be one of those inspirational people who take up extreme skiing or sailboarding and get profiled in People or on Good Morning America. I think it would take me a really long time to get there though. I mean the being great about it, not the sailboarding. The sailboarding might take me forever. (I’ve never had very good balance.)

Whatever it is that’s bothering you though, it’s not nice for the rest of us if you take it out on a stranger who didn’t know you were waiting for the mom-with-kids/handicapped bathroom stall in the really nicely designed ladies room at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Honestly, I didn’t know you were waiting when I took my time sorting A. out. Do you think I would’ve kept you waiting on purpose? I hope not. That would be a tough way to go through your day, thinking people who don’t even know you are purposely being rotten.

Not to sound like a mom, but you really didn’t need to take that tone with me. If you’d just politely said you were waiting or made your presence known – a slight cough, an amusing note under the door – I’d have been just as obliging, I promise, but you wouldn’t have put that little bit of unpleasantness into the world by making me and little A. feel bad. I know you can’t feel good about it either. No one does when they’re mean, however justified they feel they are. It backs up on you. I know. I’ve been there.

Please, next time give me a little more credit for being a person who doesn’t knowingly inconvenience strangers. And remember: other people don’t think about us as much as we’d all like to think that they do. Which means that when they drive by you in their cars, even if they seem like they’re looking right at you, they probably didn’t register your amazing ensemble, the one with the alluring hat and the matching socks that you wore specially. (Don’t worry: the people who love you did and that’s what matters.)

But it also means they didn’t mean to cut you off in traffic. They were probably thinking about something else entirely. Like how their boss yelled at them this afternoon or that maybe they married the wrong person. Or maybe they’re rushing to save a kitten, one of the really adorable ones.

Of course, there’s a very slight possibility that you’re right, that that person really did mean to intentionally rain on your day. I’m sorry if that happens to you regularly. That has to be difficult to bear. But take a moment, just today, to consider whether that’s really true, even if you really, really believe it is deep down inside. Think hard. Is the world really not on your side on purpose? Between ourselves, I doubt it. You know why? Because I wasn’t, even though you thought I was.

We – everyone, all of us – are exceptionally bad guessers. It’s the scared part of us that thinks we’re great at guessing and tells us our worst guess is the correct one. The fact is, most of the time, we just don’t have any idea what’s going on with other people, so we may as well decide to believe the nice thing, right? Because in the end, it will make everyone’s day, including yours and mine and tiny A.’s, a little brighter. And we can all use a little sun.

Have a nice afternoon.

Thanks to numupdraft for the photo.