the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Play date aftermath

Last Saturday afternoon we invited one of Leta’s best friends over for a play date. She’s the other five-year-old kid in the class who knows how to read fluently, so I like to think that Leta is already cultivating her nerd tendencies, surrounding herself with people who will one day not bat an eyelash when she says, no, I appreciate the invitation, but I cannot spend my Friday night at the movies because that’s when NOVA is airing a special on ancient Maya hieroglyphs. Maybe next time.

Her teacher shakes her head every time I refer to Leta as My Little Nerd, but COME ON. She’s the one who pulled me aside and said, look, I don’t know what else to give her to read, she finished the school’s set of encyclopedias yesterday. And it’s not like I’m going to pull up to the curb at her high school, jump out in my bunny-covered nightgown and start screaming WHERE’S MY LITTLE NERD?! WHERE’S MY LITTLE NERD?! It’s just thrilling to see my own kid excited by the idea of knowledge, and it reminds me of the rush I got as a kid when I figured out how things worked. Although, there have been many times in recent months when I’ll look up and realize that my five-year-old has been sitting in a corner reading books for three hours, and I want to go, sweetie! Put down the literature and come watch TV. Tyra’s on.

It’s been a few months since Leta’s had a play date, and we sort of forgot how that one extra little body can increase the blast radius of destruction by about a thousand percent. Afterwards there were toys sitting in the middle of the room that we forgot we’d ever bought, toys we hadn’t seen in years, and then we spent the next two days trying to figure out where we had stored them in the first place. At one point I was like, wait a minute, how did you guys manage to get this box of games down from the top of your closet, Leta? She didn’t say a word and instead slowly tilted her head to the side while slyly turning up the corners of her mouth. And I knew instantly that I should just carry on with my life without being burdened by the answer to that question. I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.

The following morning I heard an alarm going off at 6 AM, and after a few groggy minutes of pained concentration I realized it was the alarm clock we had put next to Leta’s bed a few weeks ago, the one she’s supposed to look at every morning to see if the first number says 7 and not 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. We grew tired of her nightly 3 AM visits to our room to ask if it’s time to get up yet, so now she’s not supposed to get out of bed until the first number on that clock reads a full on 7, barring crisis or catastrophe of course, and if some emergency takes place while there’s a 5 on that clock, be sure to run toward Dad’s side of the bed. The woman on Mom’s side has a tiny bit of trouble maneuvering her body anywhere these days, and by the time she’s on her feet the house will have burned down or those dudes will have totally stolen the television.

Leta had not ever heard that alarm before, and suddenly there was a blur of tangled hair and gangly arms running madly into our bedroom screaming THAT NOOOOIIIIISE! THAT NOOOOIIIIISE! I hate to admit this, but I could not stop laughing. I don’t know why, maybe because of the many, many mornings ahead of her that will be filled to brimming with THAT NOOOOIIIIISE! The years of her life spent hitting snooze, snooze, snooze, and the ensuing panic when she realizes she’s late for Calculus. Also, it’s obvious that in the commotion of the play date SOMEONE flipped the switch on that clock and turned on the alarm, and here our lives had been reduced to cursing a play date. I mean, seriously. Here a grown man and woman lay in bed on a Sunday morning waving their fists in the air, grousing about preschoolers. DAMN THOSE KIDS AND THEIR NEED TO PLAY! Who do they think they are, being curious about the buttons on that clock? And suddenly we missed those days in LA when all we had to worry about on a Sunday morning was whether or not the drug deal on the roof of our building would go horribly wrong and the police would force an evacuation of the entire neighborhood. SIMPLER TIMES, I tell you.

  • Sarah

    2009/04/30 at 11:17 am

    Being a first-year uni student, and:
    ‘The years of her life spent hitting snooze, snooze, snooze, and the ensuing panic when she realizes she’s late for Calculus.’
    …that’s my life.

  • Anonymous

    2009/04/30 at 11:19 am

    I’ve spent the last couple minutes fighting the urge to post “FIRST! FIRST!” in your comments. Someone’s beaten me to it, surely.

  • Sarah again

    2009/04/30 at 11:20 am

    Woah, am I seriously first to comment? I usually scorn the ‘FIRST!’ people, but wow… I’m experiencing a thrill I have never before felt in my mooching teenager-y life.

  • Jessie

    2009/04/30 at 11:20 am

    Ugh. THAT NOOOOIIIISE is the bane of my existence. No joke. My sister is now turning into a very Leta-like nerd and I have to confirm it really does take a significant amount of will power to not drag the books from her tiny little hands and inject some good old trashy American pop culture into her life.

  • Michelle

    2009/04/30 at 11:21 am

    Sadly, the snooze! snooze! snooze! doesn’t stop when we become adults. Or responsible job-holders. Or parents. Maybe when we’re dead?

  • Milla

    2009/04/30 at 11:21 am

    just do us all a favor and keep the danielle steele books away from that little nerd.

  • Braidwood

    2009/04/30 at 11:24 am

    From now on when I my alarm clock goes off, I am going to run screaming out into our living room with my arms flying above my head yelling, “That noise! That noise!” Ahhhh! Its going to be a fun summer.

  • Jo-Jo

    2009/04/30 at 11:26 am

    People who like to read a lot often end up becoming good writers. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.

  • amber

    2009/04/30 at 11:28 am

    i loved this post. and for the first time, i am commenting in time to actually make it into the comments, so i’m really wishing i had something more clever to say. (yeah!)

    i think, “THAT NOISE!” every morning, that’s for certain!

  • jenny

    2009/04/30 at 11:29 am

    kill the television!
    nothing about it benefits children, they have the rest of their lives to veg with it if they want. go, leta!

  • dooce

    2009/04/30 at 11:32 am

    Jenny, Leta learned the alphabet from watching Sesame Street. When she was 18 months old.

  • Kristi

    2009/04/30 at 11:33 am

    All I can say is I wish *MY TWELVE-YEAR-OLD* son would sit in a corner reading books for 3 hours!
    And “I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys” hits the nail right on the head. *sigh*

  • Kath

    2009/04/30 at 11:33 am

    Imagine how hard her little heart must have been pounding when the alarm went off! Poor kid. Congratulations on having a reader … I wish there was enough time for me to read all the books I want to read or if we could just drink them then I could consume them faster. Have a great weekend.

  • Belly Girl

    2009/04/30 at 11:33 am

    I think it’s going to be SO interesting when the new babe descends upon your life. Leta is going to teach that baby some seriously insane things. You’ll walk into her bedroom in like 3 years and they’ll be hunched over boiling vials, rubbing their little hands together like the sneaky scientists they will become. And you will need to back…..out…..slowly…..

  • Alex Awesome

    2009/04/30 at 11:34 am

    You know you’re evolving as an alarm snoozer when you realize you’ve hit snooze twice not because you’re tired, but because you just don’t care about getting to work on time. Laying in bed for an extra twenty minutes is so worth living with bad hair for one day.

    Who am I here to impress, anyway? My cubicle? I think not.

  • Kristal

    2009/04/30 at 11:36 am

    This is the perfect opportunity to introduce her to the Sonic Boom Alarm Clock that I sent ya months ago! Hahahahah

  • Bria

    2009/04/30 at 11:37 am

    When she’s old enough that you don’t mind her asking what it means to “make a two-backed beast”, try Gargantua and Pantagruel. It’s long, very funny, full of fart jokes and the best, best, best insults. I mean, can you think of a better way to describe a kid:

    “For he was a fine boy, had a burly physiognomy, and almost tenchins. He cried very little, but beshit himself every hour: for, to speak truly of him, he was wonderfully phlegmatic in his posteriors, both by reason of his natural complexion and the accidental disposition which had befallen him by his too much quaffing of the Septembral juice.”

  • D

    2009/04/30 at 11:40 am

    When I had to wake up before my ex-girlfriend I’d go into the kitchen and put a tea kettle on to boil. I’d then come back to my bed room and read the news until the water was boiling for coffee. One time the whistle of the kettle woke her up but she was obviously still half asleep. She rolled over and groaned and then said “Noiiiise. Noise!” I found it hilarious.

  • Jane

    2009/04/30 at 11:41 am

    “I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.” I have one of those boys. He is only 15 months old now and such a handful, I can only imagine what the next 17 years will bring.

  • Yolanda

    2009/04/30 at 11:42 am

    Wow. It just occurred to me that Leta is probably going to kindergarten this Fall. THIS Fall?! Wow. And the registration is usually right about now, no? I hope you’ll have a post soon telling us what that’s like.

    (I finished your book last night. I just felt so proud of you when I was through. No other words for it, because with al these years of reading the story was very familiar; but I was very proud hold in my hands the result of all of your hard work here.)

  • Tracey

    2009/04/30 at 11:42 am

    There are no words to describe how much you rock at times. I just adore your writing.

  • Tina

    2009/04/30 at 11:43 am

    I hope my future children are little nerds. I was one as a child, although when I was in 4th grade and reached for Alex Haley’s Roots because it looked like it was long enough to entertain me for awhile, my mom started forcing me into more outdoor activities. Be careful with the encyclopedia reading though–that coupled with seeing part of Jaws on TV gave me a lifelong anxiety around water (including swimming pools) out of fear that a shark would eat me.

  • Alicia

    2009/04/30 at 11:43 am

    I was one of those “give me books or give me death” kids. And when I was a teen and “sassed” my mom, she grounded me from BOOKS for a whole week!
    Let’s just say it works in case you are collecting arsenal for the future.

  • amy j.

    2009/04/30 at 11:44 am

    I love your Leta stories since us moms all know all too well what you’re talking about with these kinds of situations. I can’t believe she woke up to it! Both of mine slept through our burglar alarm going off about a month ago at 1 a.m. I nearly broke my neck going down the stairs to shut it off…they never even budged. I wasn’t sure if I should be ecstatic or very worried about their hearing.

    Just today I wrote this on Facebook about my seven-year-old.

    This morning as I was brushing her hair before school, Sarah told me she needed a new backpack. I told her we’d get her a new one for next school year since there are only three more weeks left of school.

    She said, “You’ll have to help me pick it out…I know you don’t like Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers and stuff on them, right?”

    Me: “Nope. I wish they had ones with like the Beatles…the Ramones or the Pixies on them.”

    Sarah: “Pixies? Like Tinkerbell? Cuz they have those.”

    Me: “NO. Oh, nevermind, I’ll just wait until you’re in high school…you’ll be begging me for one then.”

  • Trina

    2009/04/30 at 11:46 am

    I’m trying to contain my histerical laughter in the middle of my conservative office.

    Simpler times. I miss those!

    My alarm is my husband’s cell phone that my 7-month pregnant body cant reach so he’s now used to my morning beatings and my own version of “THAT NOOOISEE!!!!!”. SHUT IT OFF!!!!

  • Katherine SOLOdotmom

    2009/04/30 at 11:47 am

    Aaaah, reading… good for Leta! And yes that alarm will begin to be the very noise that she detests if she loves her morning sleep as much as I do… Even now when it goes off, sometimes my brain does a double take and it says… no that’s not an alarm, it’s just your imagination… pay it no mind… ignore it, and it will go away!!!!

    Great blog – love ya Dooce… really do.

  • Lynn

    2009/04/30 at 11:48 am

    That dreaded noise..ugh! I will always cherish the day my daughters learned how to use their own alarm clocks.

  • Julia

    2009/04/30 at 11:49 am

    Nerds rock. I hope to birth future nerds one day.

  • Wendy

    2009/04/30 at 11:49 am

    Wait. You actually allowed comments on a post again?

    And there are ONLY 26 comments ahead of me (as I type; probably 60 people are also typing RIGHT NOW)? Usually I’m somewhere past 600.

    THIS is the second horse of the Apocalypse. I’m getting worried.

  • Lorena

    2009/04/30 at 11:51 am

    Haha first time commenter. I loved this post. I was totally a Leta when I was a kid (since I’m so old now that I’ve reached 18). I identify completely with the little girl who loves to read and to learn. My family and teachers had a hard time keeping me stocked with reading material. But I grew up and now watch hours and hours of America’s Next Top Model, so I think it all balances out in the end. 🙂

  • nelking

    2009/04/30 at 11:52 am

    As a mother of two teenage boys, I find little boys are compelled to answer any question you pose, and odds are pretty good it’s the truth. They take longer to get to the smile and stay quiet stage.

  • Doggy

    2009/04/30 at 11:53 am

    Jeeze your posts are getting boring.

  • Amanda

    2009/04/30 at 11:53 am

    Your Leta and My Alexandrea would get along Just Great!! She hasnt put down her Animal Encyclopedia since she got it.

  • DTDorrin

    2009/04/30 at 11:53 am

    I love stories about Leta and how perfectly you describe your everyday life with her and Jon (and Chuck and Coco too). I’m sure years from now we’ll all be benefiting from Leta’s incurable nerdiness.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2009/04/30 at 11:54 am

    I have often said to my lovely bride that it astounds me to think there once was a time when we would wake at the hour of our choosing on a Saturday or Sunday morning and speak the words, “So, what would you like to do today, honey?” “I don’t know, honey; what would YOU like to do?”


  • Cherie

    2009/04/30 at 11:54 am

    lol Thanks for that! I am having a hard time typing this because I am still laughing imagining your sweet Leta. We have a little one who cant resist the buttons on the TV. Especially the one that when pushed causes the volume to increase a thousand decibels and catapults said child across the room in the same hair and arms panic. I have to hang my head feigning disappointment (because this is what good parents do when they are disciplining…right?) to hide the smirk I cannot resist making when I see that utter panic on his sweet face….I am going to hell!

  • Wendy

    2009/04/30 at 11:54 am

    Wait. Maybe I meant “horseman” and not “horse”. I’m not sure.

    Don’t mock me. I’m running fever. And so are both kids. I’m too screwed up to even comment on how great it is to be a nerd, and be raising nerd children.

    Or how hard it is to be two giant nerds & be raising one nerd & one non-nerd. And have to stuff down the commentary about how we really need to be actually answering the questions on the test, not drawing butterflies on the test. And that yes, you do have to actually DO the test to prove you know the answers, because thinking, “I already know all this” is not a good reason to draw butterflies instead.

    And to have a 5 year old who can read just as well as the 8 year old, and to know it’s not a matter of brains but a matter of having no give-a-damn when it comes to school.

    And now I’m rambling and must go back to bed. *snore*

  • Dee

    2009/04/30 at 11:56 am

    My little nerd fight is getting her to put the books away at night so “That Horribblee” noise in the morning won’t rip her out of bed in morning. She was reading at 3 and at 10 is working on her first novel this summer to earn her own spending money. Some kids sell lemonade, mine sells words. Kudo’s and Way to go Leta!

  • Jacki

    2009/04/30 at 11:56 am

    My daughter learned her alphabet from Sesame Street also, read fluently by kindergarten, and yesterday found out she has a full scholarship for her Jr & Sr year in college……
    GO NERDS!!

  • Kate

    2009/04/30 at 11:58 am

    This post is hilarious! I wake up almost every morning because of that damn NOISE…

  • Vanessa

    2009/04/30 at 11:59 am

    That noise was the worst part of my days for many years. It is soon a part of my day again, but now at least I’ll have a cute story to think of.

    And I can’t imagine it would wake my sleeping monsters. They slept through a fire alarm once.

  • Lara

    2009/04/30 at 12:00 pm

    These occurrences go on in our house on a daily basis; having four kids ranging in age from 2 to 13 is like living with the Eight Is Enough clan on an acid trip.

  • katie

    2009/04/30 at 12:02 pm

    our daughter can work the alarm clock better then either of us. scary. and i’m damn proud she’s growing into a little nerd, too.

    my parents forced me to complete a read-a-thon of their own devices when i was 9 so i could get my 10-speed bike. i was on my 3rd of 4th go of all the nancy drews in the library and they were concerned i’d never read anything else…so i had to read so many autobiographys, so many non-fiction, etc. till i reached a certain number of pages and then i got my bike. worked like a charm, i think i earned that bike in a fraction of the time they expected!

  • Jamie

    2009/04/30 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for embracing your nerd. I lived through YEARS of my mother complaining that it wasn’t *natural* or *healthy* for a girl to read so much, and wouldn’t I much rather play dolls with the girl next door? Nope. You’d think she would have been happy, but no. Rock on Leta!

  • jen

    2009/04/30 at 12:03 pm

    i beg my youngest, cora, to just watch 10 minutes of tv. please! she won’t … instead pulls EVERY book off the shelf “reading” …
    my oldest, stella, told me “5 more minutes … puh-leez” … this morning when i attempted to wake her up. seriously … the life of a five year old.
    my favorite part though?? “and we sort of forgot how that one extra little body can increase the blast radius of destruction by about a thousand percent”
    no kidding.

  • Marla

    2009/04/30 at 12:03 pm

    That is my reaction every morning when my alarm clock goes off. I never understand what that noise is!

  • tracy

    2009/04/30 at 12:04 pm

    I hope that I can instill in Ellis (turning 1 on Sunday) that it is cool to be nerdy, that those are the people who are going to make it in life. Although, if her propensity to examine in great detail everything that comes into her line of sight is any indication of her future nerdiness, I think we’ll be okay. And if at age 1, her desire to put things away (where they actually belong) is any indicator, I think I’m also raising a little clean freak. And I couldn’t be happier.

  • Chris

    2009/04/30 at 12:04 pm

    A little nerd is much better than a little hooker. Lots of those, these days.

    We miss “SIMPLER TIMES” too – fighting over who had to clean up the mess the morning after the “Bloody Mary” party I thought was such a great idea. V8 stains EVERYTHING.

    Hope you’re feeling well. Take care.

  • Caitlin

    2009/04/30 at 12:06 pm

    I hope someday I have a couple nerds of my own. And maybe a cheerleader to balance it out 🙂

  • jayne

    2009/04/30 at 12:07 pm

    Oh, it’s such a good thing Leta and my daughter are separated by many, many miles! The chaos they could create! My daughter, who turns 5 next month, has given me that same sly, tilted-head smile when I ask her how something happened. I’ve also got a son, and you know, I don’t think I get that response from him half as much as I get it from her. She’s the one who, last summer when she was shorter, put a step stool on top of a dining room chair so she could climb up to the counter and get the sunscreen off the top of the fridge. And apply it herself, to her own face and body AND the chair. And then deny it completely.

    It’s never dull, is it?

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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