Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bird Boy of India

Since the original premise behind this blog was to give motherly advice, and since I have blogged on anything but up to this point, I figure it’s about time to address this intimidating subject. My son, Yack, is 2 years old. His Nena – the angel from heaven who is helping my raise my son (it takes a village) - is from Guadalajara. She speaks Spanish as if ribbons of white chocolate are streaming out of her mouth. I am jealous. It sounds so much better than the sticatto twang that comes out of mine. Nena is also my son’s God Mother, a decision we made internally the minute we met her, which was about two months before Yack was even born. She is everything I am not: nurturing, patient, diaper savvy. I love Nena. I would not be the mother I am today if not for her.

The only downside to having a Spanish speaking second mother is the fact that I don’t understand Yack half the time. His first word wasn’t mama or dada, it was pelota. I had to look that up. I have also had to look up the following words in my trusty pocket dictionary:

Ventana – window
Cameon – truck
Palomitas – popcorn
Coma la mierda – I’ll leave this one alone.

I predict a very touchy situation when Yack is 12 - I will ask him to clean his room, he will sputter a flurry of foreign words I won’t comprehend and I will be forced to admit that my son is more cultured that I. Think back to when we were kids: wouldn’t you have taken advantage of telling your parents to kiss your ass if they truly didn’t understand a word you were saying?

If only there were dirty word dictionaries. Someone get on that. I will even let you use my idea for a title, “The White Parents Users Guide to Understanding your Latino Teens”.

Dropping Yack off (thank goodness his name is not Jack) and picking Yack up from Nena’s everyday makes me reflect on the role I play as the working mother. I feel a little like Disneyland Dad, wherein I have to make every moment with him meaningful. We cram every possible fun activity into a 2 hour period before he passes out at 7:3o. This practice is typically more beneficial and fulfilling for me than for Yack. Sometimes he just wants to be left alone. I can’t let that happen. He typically falls asleep in the middle of our ball throwing in the living room or tennis racket guitar jam sessions on his highrise bed. I have to shake him to keep him going if I think we haven’t had enough “we” time.

On weekends, I have a tendency to cram as much “fun” time as possible. We hike in the mountains (he has outgrown the backpack, but I think I can get another 3 months out of it), we play in the snow (he isn’t too keen on the cold, but I am getting him used to it by forcing him to dodge my high flying snowballs), we go wine tasting (he is starting to enjoy the free dark chocolate samples when we are sampling the ports), and he absolutely loves going to conferences with me (those hotel babysitters are actually licensed, who knew?).

I am the kind of mother who feels it’s important to expose your child to as many experiences as possible so he can grow up to be a well rounded, well adjusted kid. For instance, on Fridays I try to bring Yack into work with me so he can learn the value of a dollar. I set him up in my office on the floor with some crayons and paper and tell him to do what mommy is doing, and keep to it up for the next four hours. Sometimes he gets antsy, but I politely remind him that it wouldn’t be called “work” if it was fun.


I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: this mom thing is really growing on me. I am starting to understand my full potential.

Our next adventure with Yack will be a trip to Burning Man at the end of August. Now, I have never been, but have heard quite a bit about it from friends and family. In fact, my husband has gone a couple of times. (We will refer to him in this particular segment as The Birdman of India). My continued reluctance to bite the bullet and attend this desert hippie fest lies solely on the fact that I attended UC Santa Cruz. For those who are unaware of UC Santa Cruz’s surroundings, let’s describe it this way: take a pinch of Burning Man and add it to a bowl of redwoods and ocean, hand stir until smooth. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, or if you have an outdoor solar oven, even better. Wait to consume until cool and then let the rush pour over your soul. Warning, though. Don’t call home in an effort to impart. Mom and Dad may not appreciate your experience as much as you.

So, many may be wondering why I would want to take Yack to this dirt hugging love fest. My reasons are twofold. First, I want to prove to my impressionable son that Nena isn’t the only one who can teach him things. Sure, she may teach him how to count to 20 in Spanish, to tie his shoes and use the toilet, but I can teach him about the true meaning of bartering for a meal, how to use body paint, and how to make jewelry out of dried fruit. These are all skills that will be important to his overall growth. He will look back on this when he runs into these similar situations later in life and think, “I have to hand it to Mom. She taught me how to deal with this issue – I now know how to give a massage for a pancake.”

It’s like an endless classroom, this Burning Man. I can’t wait.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.. it’s six months away, but the anticipation is eating me whole. In fact, tonight I got on the website and reviewed the Burning Man guidelines for kids. It had some useful parenting tools for our trip. For instance, they highlight that that children have needs that are different from those of adults (news to me). They require special care and attention (this I pretty much had figured out). In order to meet these needs, the first and most important requirement is that parents communicate with their children (like how? Yell? Whisper? Sign? Please be specific). Burning Man is like a kid's cartoon (Yo Gabba Gabba – this image gets me really geared up for our trip). While its content is not nearly as violent as most children's entertainment, it certainly is jam-packed with novel images and new experience (nothing compares to Yack’s reaction to our movie night selection last week: Scareface). This is why we ask all parents to consciously take the time to talk with their children about each day's experience (I think I’ll put together some charts and graphs). Such daily debriefings can be very rewarding — far easier, in fact, than trying to discuss the more hermetic worlds of school or television (what does hermetic mean? I am going to have to look that one up). This is because Burning Man is an experience that both parent and child can actively share and create. (Watch for us in our Cruise America RV Rental).

While perusing the Burning Man website, I did come upon a rather disturbing piece of information I wasn’t quite prepared to read. I am pretty sure this won’t deter the Bird Man of India and me from taking Yack, but it did make me step back a minute and rethink our choice. The notice read as follows: In the spirit of radical self reliance it is your duty at our event to assume complete responsibility for your child at all times.

You mean there are no Nenas at Burning Man? Hmmm....

This could be trouble for you, little Bird Boy of India.


  1. Look, you and Birdman might want to rethink this Burning Man thing. I don't think Yack's ready yet. Hallucinating naked women might mean something to him when he's a teenager but Burning Man is no Yo Gabba Gabba. I've never gone but I'm sure of it, and I speak for your best friends(don't you dare call us your college friends). Let Yack hold onto his innocence a little longer and you already work all the time anyway - why make yourself work so hard on your vaca?

  2. I have a novel idea. Leave yack with his grandparents while you travel to Burning Man.

  3. Do NOT take Yack to Burning Man. He'll be miserable, you'll be miserable, and Child Protective Services will likely be called.....

  4. Two things: I totally have that naughty Spanish book, if you want to borrow it. It has proved very helpful on trips to Tijuana. Otherwise I will be sharing it with Yack when he turns... eh... four.
    Second: If you and the B Man go to Burning Man, my brother would love to hitch a ride. He's a pro (he's gone the last three years) and he knows where are the good barter places are. And he has fun costumes.