All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Story of Sebashka

Wrote this for an iVillage submission request for stories of your kid's favorite stuffed animal. Hope you enjoy!

Sebashka is one of the dearest members of our family, even if I'm not entirely sure how to spell his name. My older son is 13 years old now, and Sebashka has been in his life for almost nine ... as long as we have. Sebashka was the first present I brought my son, at a point when he wasn't yet mine legally. (My son legally, I mean. Sebashka was legally mine. Ask American Express.) Sebashka was one of the two bright white & tan stuffed dogs I schlepped from New Jersey, 1/2 across the world to Novorossiysk, Russia, to the orphanages in which a certain precious 4 yr old  and his equally precious 2 yr old brother were living. I was told to bring a toy or treat to play with when meeting the boys who were our adoption "referrals." I was cautioned that the toys would not be theirs alone but rather property of the orphanages in which they resided, for all the kids.

My younger son, Son2, was a little overwhelmed at first meeting. He enjoyed the dog I brought him, while I simply fell in love. We then drove on to meet his brother, my Son1, with dog2 in tow. He loved it. Loved loved loved loved it. He starting screeching like I thought only 13yr old girls could, "SEBASHKA!!!" I was told by the translator he has yelling "DOG! DOG!" When we left I hoped the boys remembered me when they saw the dogs. I hoped they were able to play with them after that day, but never expected to see the plush pups again. My heart was sealed in love for these two boys, and we counted the days until they would be "ours."

Fast forward two months, to the date we went back to pick up our sons after our court hearing. We picked up the younger Son2, and then went on to pick up Son1. Imagine our surprise when down the hall came a little boy escorted by two adults, grinning ear to ear, with this gray, drab, squashed bit of fuzz under his arm. It wasn't some random dingy, matted stuffed toy. It was so loved, it was literally having the stuffing squished out. It was the Velveteen Sebashka. And it was coming to Jersey! My son somehow managed to do the impossible. He had hung on to that dog for two months. He played with it and slept with it and did Lord knows what to keep it near him. He had taken possession of something in a place in which the kids had no possessions. Now, he was bringing it home. They were each getting a home, for the first time, together.

As the years and countless other stuffed animals have come and gone, Sebashka has stood the test of time. At some point, to protect this special memento, Sebashka was moved from the bed to the dresser. A few months ago, we split our sons' bedrooms and my oldest now has his teen lair. But, no matter how much lacrosse gear lays strewn all over the floor, now matter how many texts are sent from the cell smuggled up at bedtime, Sebashka sits and watches from its favored perch on the top shelf. On occasion, I've walked in and found it sitting on the bed and I know it's still loved by my son. To this ratty-looking little dog, I say thank you for all the comfort you've given to him. Thank you, собака, for becoming so much more than a stuffed dog.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Schizophrenia of the American Tween

I don't remember ever being referred to as a tween. I think it's a marketing term that emerged when kids started growing up at hyper speed. When I was a kid we were allowed to play flashlight tag and run around and (GASP!) have actual free time instead of highly choreographed afternoon schedules. Now the term is everywhere, and it really is amazingly accurate. These kids are straddling two developmental groups. There are some easy signs aside from the number of candles on a cake to tip you off. I'm watching my "little" one, 11 yr old Son2 enter the phase and it is like watching Jekyll and Hyde, were Hyde like 4.5' tall. The tastes of the age group are truly schizophrenic, flaunting the confusion that lies in the divide between childhood and adulthood.

These poor kids are so heavily marketed to (Abercrombie push-up bikini, girls size 10 anyone?) that there is pressure on them we never faced to grow up fast. Son2 always seems to be hurtling into teen years too soon, overstimulated and confused, and then left reeling back to childhood comfort. We hear classic assertions like, "I'm in 5th grade. I'm a man now." And then he cuddles up to his stuffed German Shephard that "just happens" to show up on the bed.

On the off chance you're living in denial that this age is upon your (not so) little one, or in the event you'll soon be visiting with a family member who up until two months ago was fine with Scooby Doo pajamas,  I've put together some warning signs/shopping tips for you to face tween-dom in all its glory.

At the movies:
Within the same month, you'll be asked to see the cinematic triumphs "Hop" and "Prom." The King's Speech they are not. Moving along....

Night time entertainment:
Make sure you have MTV blocked, and prepare for full on tantrum that you are the most evil person ever for not allowing Jersey Shore as bedtime viewing. As the crying subsides, you then be transported back to childhood and asked to read Shel Silverstein.

Being alone:
Your child will beg you to go to sleepaway camp, yet not want to be sent upstairs alone without every light imaginable turned on. We started calling Son2 Garbo, with his moody "I want to be alone" brood up to his bedroom. But then he gets up there and just shouts down the stairs to us. He's bored to tears being by himself, but in his mind, shaped by countless hours of Disney Channel & Nick shows, kids hang out alone without their parents. God help me if he tries a webshow like iCarly.

Family Guy will pop up on your TV, in the same 24 hour span as Tom & Jerry. Did you ever listen to Family Guy? It's funny, but proof "cartoon" does not = "kid show."

This one is boy related only, since this is my only frame of reference. I've noticed that my son went from soccer printed Old Navy briefs or underwear with spaceships and dinosaurs on to manly-man looking boxer briefs. They are preferrably solid color so they do not look to "stupid little kid stuff." (his words) Son1, being a whopping 13, and into the American Eagle/ Aeropostale/ Hollister/They-all-look -so-friggin'-the-same attire now whines for boxers with space ships, dinosaurs, and sports prints.  (huh?) Apparently, once a teen and emulating what you think guys dress like, cute prints are ironic or hipster. But when you are a tween trying to dress like what you think a teen would, there is no place for hipster sartorial irony. Shoot me now.

So these are my big highlights this week from the Land of the Tween. I would love to hear the girl-family perspective as I'm sure there is fodder galore. I've been told the hormones already start creeping in with girls in tween years too. Boys have hormones and mood swings, but not on par I don't think. Well at least not on par with my own mood swings but I digress really. From Son1 at 12 while singing Eminem while wearring his Darth Vader costume to Son2 assuring me he could ride to QuikCheck alone just before asking for a bedtime story, I always get a chuckle out of the attempts to be so very grown up while still clinging to the childlike reality they always knew. So what was the funniest tween moment you saw?