Mama Lama Ding Dong

Mama Lama Ding Dong is gracing my blog today on its way from the States, where it’s been known as ‘The Big Rumpus.’

I am the fifth stop on Ayun Halliday’s virtual book tour of 31 mummy (or sometimes mommy) blogs, one for every day in August. You can follow it round via here if you like.

Ayun writes raucously about giving birth (nothing, no really, nothing, is left to the imagination), having a newborn in intensive care, the joys of breastfeeding – ‘nothing beats the plump little hand resting casually on the breast, asking for nothing more than what it’s already getting’ – the hazards of doing so in public, and life with two kids in a Manhattan neighbourhood. Then there’s the issues of amputating her cat’s claws, her son’s foreskin and her daughter’s third thumb, which I can’t begin to describe so you’ll just have to read for yourself. I can only say that Ayan’s writing style would render an account of drying paint totally riveting.

And now for Ayun herself, fielding my inane questions:

First of all – how did you get to be a full-time mother AND write a book or three? (And HOW could you bring yourself to stay awake in your child’s naptime when you were pregnant in order to write? Yes, this is all a bit close to the bone)

I am a very lax housekeeper, and have pretty much everything I need within a couple of blocks’ walk. Also, I was an unathletic only child, who spent many a sunny day, sitting in a tree, reading library books and drawing pictures of elaborate kitty cat weddings. Writing remains fun for me, a way to play with mental paper dolls. I’d rather do that than go shopping or hang gliding or some other activity that another might engage in to relax and reclaim some semblance of their pre-maternal identity. As for staying awake while pregnant, the second time around, when Milo was in the oven and Inky was two years old, I felt like I’d been embalmed! It’s the one time in our fifteen years together that Greg had no choice but to cook. We ate a lot of spaghetti and it’s indicative of just how embalmed I felt that I forked it up without complaint. Nap times were my cue to tap into some secret reserve of energy, a stash for my personal use. The minute Inky woke up, refreshed, I felt embalmed again.

No, please tell me you actually had a full-time nanny, cook, and wet nurse.

Oh, absolutely! Also an in-house stylist and a personal secretary. They’re all thanked in the acknowledgments.

What have your kids done for your writing? Have they:

a) been the muse you were waiting for
b) driven you to the point that you had to write to stay sane
c) prevented you from writing the Great American Novel?

a & b, with a tendency to swerve toward c when I skip lunch.

Your zine, the East Village Inky, is described as an ‘underground parenting’ magazine. (I thought that was a contradiction in terms – then I read a copy.) Would you answer to the description of an ‘underground mother’ or perhaps a ‘guerilla parent’?!? What pearls of conventional parenting wisdom have you found utterly dispensable?

I’d rather leave it up to the mainstream to determine just how “underground” I am. I’ll concede that the zine has an underground feel, if only because it has no ads and looks like it was put together by a smarty-pants eleven-year-old whose homeschooling parents don’t let her watch tv or use a computer, except for research.

As for pearls, I’ll just scatter five of them on the ground and if anyone feels like picking them up off the ground and stringing them around their children’s necks, they’re welcome to at no charge.

Teach politeness as an expression of gratitude and consideration, rather than just something you have to strive for when a crotchety older relative is visiting.

Unless someone’s about to lose an eye right there on the playground, let the toddlers duke it out over everybody’s favorite plastic shovel, rather than intervening with a fifteen minute explanation of how it’s nice to share.

Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep.

Bribes have their place. Do you not occasionally allow yourself a small treat at the completion of a boring, long, or unpleasant task?

It’s okay to have rules about sugar, tv and toy guns and it’s okay for others to have different rules.

Looking back, what advice would you give yourself now as a new mother? Is there anything you’d do differently?

Follow the blood pumping, muscular organ my husband refers to as your heart.

If you’re itching to take your 4-week-old baby to go live in a tent, (I’m not being hypothetical here), there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, unless you plan to slather the kid in honey and leave her out in the open during bear season.

If you want to sleep with your baby in your bed even though everyone and his mother insists that the baby needs to sleep in a crib for both of your sakes, take your own advice, not theirs. Why is it so important to them for you to behave as if you’re entitled to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, at any cost? Who are they, your downstairs neighbors?

Feed the baby, when, where and how you want to, which is to say, exactly how I, Ayun Halliday, want you to. Just kidding! What I mean is, aim high, and don’t let it get to you if someone rolls their eyes in a way that implies that you’re insufferable or are doing something wrong.

If the birth didn’t go the way you had hoped, try to embrace it as a stellar example of how there are often factors beyond our control in this parenting gig.

Are there things I’d do differently, if I had it to do over? Oh hell yes! Believe it or not, there are even sentences I would write differently, or not at all. But I try to remind myself that there’s a learning curve to this, just as there is to candy-making or walking on stilts or neurosurgery. It’s all hindsight and experience. I’m suspect I’ve got some critics out there who are all a-slobber, waiting to see how I’ll screw it up when they’re teenagers…

Finally – a word to us mummy-blog addicts – are we on our way to the next great mummy memoir in print, honing our writing skills daily, or simply indulging ourselves as we neglect our children?

As a rule of thumb, I tend to think that those who spend a lot of time denouncing others’ creative projects as “indulgent” are either jealous or pursuing an unrelated, and not very friendly agenda. In other words, congratulations in advance for the next great mummy memoir and in ’til then keep on honing, baby!