Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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.

  • The first time that happened my father grabbed the alarm clock and smashed it into the wall. I have been doing the same thing ever since.

  • Woman, sometimes you almost make me wet myself, when I’m in fits of laughter. (And I don’t even have a problem with incontinence.) I’d love to have a daughter half as awesome as yours some day. (PS. long time readerfan, first time commenter, and all that jazz.)
    If you didn’t exist, I think I’d have to make you up. 🙂

  • I generally try to hit the snooze 4-5 times before getting up… I don’t know why, thats just the routine. My wife hates me for that. 🙂

  • Terri V

    Oh the sweet memories this brings back as a mother of a now 22 yr old daughter who at 18 months old thought a box w/ JCPENNEY on it said JEOPARDY and I thought she might have a learning disability! Silly me…and nights when i couldn’t get her to go to sleep because there was NOTHING in the house to read. Such problems.

  • Scottsdale Girl

    Honestly I had to change my alarm to a soft radio noise because THAT NOISE it makes otherwise would give me a fecking heart attack.

  • I was a total bookworm growing up, too. My mother had to force me to hang out with classmates from school every so often, and all I wanted to do was sit at home by myself and read!! To be honest, I think my love of reading helped instill a sense that it is OK to be by yourself every so often. I know many people who need to always be with someone else, or in social situations. As for myself, give me a night in by myself and a book and I’m happy as a clam.

    I can almost guarantee that you are going to have to battle her to stop reading and turn off the light when it’s far past her bedtime when she gets a bit older, if you aren’t already!

  • If my daughter ever decided to skip the movies for a special about the Mayans that would mean only one thing…. the relatives have converted my daughter with their crafty MORMON ways!!!

  • Helen

    Eli ( 5) had a playdate here last week, after 25 minutes Isaac ( 7) said ” Why? Why would anyone want to do this? I want you to know that having other kids here is not fun, let’s not do it again OK?” ( yes, very OK)
    Today Elijah came home bereft saying ” Owen said he is never EVER coming to my house again” to which I relpied ” and he is RIGHT! We are never EVER inviting him again, be sure to tell him that!”

  • Ahhh we dodged a bullet I think since we’re having a girl! And given the nerdiness of my hubs and I, we’re getting a reader, too. But now I’m stressed about playdates… the thought of someone else’s kids waking me up on the weekend – EGADS.

  • Meg

    Right after we bought a new alarm clock, my 10 month old son discovered he could reach it, flip the switches and smash the buttons. We didn’t think anything of it until the alarm started going off at 3am that Saturday night. Somehow he had found the exact combinations of buttons to not only turn on, but set the alarm. So I know exactly how Leta feels.

  • Sesame Street taught me the alphabet, too!!

    I swear by it.

  • Corinne

    The worst is when my husband sets his i-phone alarm clock and snoozed 4 or 5 times. The sound he has chosen as his alarm is a ticking clock… or at lest it sounds like one, you know the sound… like you’re running out of time. During those last 30-45 minutes of sleep, my dreams involve nothing but pure anxiety as I’m “late for something” in my dream. If I were unaware of the cost of the damn phone, or I simply had all the money in the world, I’d toss the thing through the bay window in our room tomorrow morning.

  • Reminds me when my sister pulled into the garage with my twin nieces only to find the door to the house locked. And my sister doesn’t carry a set of those keys. SOMEONE had locked the door. She looked at the two door-knob-height girls sitting in the back seat and asked who was playing with the lock on the door. They looked at each other and said in unison “no one”. Conspiring already at the age of 5.

  • Nis

    Hilarious, all of it… I am always so bummed on the days that you don’t post (really, Heather, you have a *public* to keep entertained so could ya stay on top of it, please?!) because I look forward to laughing with you. At you? Whatever! p.s. just finished the book…loved it!

  • Patience

    Leta, I hate to break it to you, but those kids who cannot read now will be the bane of your existence forever. FOREVER.

    Love, another precocious reader.

  • Happy days of being a young reader, lost in … encyclopedias? At least she’ll be brilliant, your darling little nerd.

  • Jenn

    My husband and I joke that we want our kids to be “slightly nerdy.” Not nerdy enough to get made fun of, but too nerdy to get invited to the “cool” parties.

  • Anonymous

    Honestly.. I am sure people have commented…a lot…but my daughter has aspergers and your Leta reminds me of my Jada. Aspergers is on the autism spectrum but not as scary (to me). Asperger kiddos are highly intelligent but can be very regimented, obsessive little people. We have learned to help our girl maximize her gifts and she is working on her challenges. Biggest challenge is in social situations, but its getting better. She is often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and some visual stimuli. I don’t want to panic you..I just wish someone would have pointed it out in our girl long ago.

    Blessings.

  • jos

    This reminds me of when my father decided, when I was 6, that it was time I started getting up on my own. So he lugged some ancient alarm clock from the 60s out of the basement (it looked like a huge gray brick) and set it for the following morning. Well, when it went off, it was not the subtle beep we get now. It was an ear-piercing bell-like alarm that caused me to wake up crying in terror and him running down the hall like a maniac yelling “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” The next day he bought me a Mickey Mouse clock. I feel for Leta. It’s a terrifying way to wake up.

  • Rissa

    I think I was more excited than any strange woman off the internet should’ve been that your book tour ended and you could begin posting things normally… well, as normal as severely pregnant with a broken toe, a family, a dog, a career, and… yeah, well, as normal as one could expect from YOU, Heather. 😉

    Gosh, I love Leta. I think the same things in the mornings. THAT NOIIISSSEE!!!

  • “I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.”

    as a mother of a small boy, i can unequivocally say: YES. true that.

    ps – in high school i trained myself to wake up without an alarm so that i wouldn’t have to hear that NOISE and start every morning in a rotten mood. though, since i was in high school, 75% of days started out in a rotton mood anyway… heh.

  • I love that the first three comments are all about commenting first 🙂

    This post cracks me up!

  • M.

    I’ve never commented on dooce before, but today I am absolutely compelled to do so. Heather, I was Leta growing up! Leta was me!

    Circa 1985, but still.

    I simply could not read enough growing up. Even as early as Kindergarten, I had blown through all of the “approved reading” for 5- and 6-year olds, and was visiting the library with my mom on an almost weekly basis. After every holiday, be it Christmas, a birthday, even Easter, if I had been gifted a book, silence ensued for hours on end as I plopped myself down and devoured the entire thing. I was that “little nerd,” eventually growing out of my obsessive-compulsive reading and eschewing my nerd-glasses for contacts, but you know what? I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

    Today, I write for a living. I’m a copywriter at an ad agency. And I love that my love for the written word has translated into me being able to play with the written word every single day. I hope to God I have a little girl like Leta (and a lot like me), but something tells me I’m going to get the girl who loves sports and would never, ever, EVER be seen in a pair of heels.

    But this post? This gives me hope.

  • I was the kid with the books; still am actually. (My husband makes fun of me constantly for how much time I spend reading!)

    As for the Snooze button… I am trying to figure out how to grow out of that one! (I still miss EVERYTHING because of it!)

  • I’m with Leta on this one. The noise of my alarm at 6 in the morning is my least favorite sound in the world. Especially since, as a high school teacher in Watts, my alarm is usually followed by a day spent both corralling squirrelly teenagers AND wondering if the drug deal on the street corner will go horribly wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t be so sure about this next little girl. My 5 year old girl is 10 times worse than any boy I know. God, I wish she would just sit still for five minutes!

  • Ha! I don’t think I’d have been able to resist laughing at her either, truth be told.

  • I love the alarm clock idea. I wish I could get that to work on my dog’s howling. SIGH.

  • jef

    i want you for my mom. i’m 38. is that ok with you?

  • Jo

    I love it…LOVE it. I am a first generation ‘book nerd’ and am happy to report that I have passed on this gene to two in the next generation. I swear that my youngest gets into trouble because it gives her an excuse to read instead of bowing to the ungodly pressure of having to play…OUTSIDE with her FRIENDS. Perhaps I should ground from books…(insert thoughtful hmmmm here).

    Call her a nerd all you want. My daughters love it. LOVE it. In fact, I think it’s good practice for then the kids at school get mean. My Katy looks at them and says, “Is that all you got? I get WAY worse at home so perhaps you need to come back with your A game next time you loser.”

    I’ll have to keep you posted about the boy’s opinion as he’s only 5 months old. So far he’s showing very high levels of intelligence as well but it’s too soon to tell for sure… 😀

    Love the blog and love that I got to comment today. <3

  • Jo

    Oh…and before I forget. *kicks poster #32*

    >.>

  • Meg

    My mom loves to tell the story of how she trained me to read their alarm clock before I was two. Like Leta, I was not allowed to wake my mom or dad until the clock had a “7” as the first number. Unfortunately, they were either too poor or hadn’t thought to buy me my own alarm clock. So, every morning they heard “pitter patter pitter patter” as I checked the time on the alarm to see if there was a “7” and “pitter patter pitter patter” as I returned to my room because there was no “7.”

    At 23 weeks pregnant with a girl who is likely not going to want to stay in bed, I will be getting her an alarm clock for her room at a very early age. Thank you for reminding me.

  • That’s the exact same reaction I have to the alarm clock.

  • jen

    Your best post of the year, and my first comment ever.

  • Taylor

    We have the same rule at our house. You may not come out of your room until there is a 7. My four year old wakes me every morning screaming…THERE’S A SEVEN!!! THERE’S A SEVEN!!! Nice to know I’m not the only one.

  • We had that happen at our house except it was MY clock that had the alarm flipped and it was new and I didn’t know how to turn it all and I was all Leta-esque crying “turn it off, turn it off, that noiiiiise!”

  • TwirlyGirlie

    Playdates? Meh. Why go to the trouble of having REAL children over when you can just go buy one of those life-sized kid dolls? You know, the ones where you pull the sting on their back and and they say a bunch of charming things like, “I like you!” or “Mama!” or “MINE!”.

    I can even pull the back string with my toes so I don’t have to put down my cigarette and gin. It’s the best $2.00 I ever spent at a yard sale.

  • We have two kids and like to invite over a set of triplets from time to time. Great kids, great parents, and they always help to clean up afterwards… but before any cleaning, it looks like the mob tossed our house looking for the secret microfilm. A pure explosion of kid stuff.

  • Ray

    “…and I want to go, sweetie! Put down the literature and come watch TV. Tyra’s on.”

    ^^LOL! Loved that part. It’s great that Leta likes to read. If I ever have children they’ll have a whole library of books to look forward to before I even give birth. ;o)

  • My oldest daughter, 16, was always a book worm like me. She grew up in book stores and libraries. While I was teased for being a book worm, she was not. She is now a straight A student who wants to go to Stanford. I love it when I catch her reading the New Yorker and she asks me if I’ve read David Sedaris’ column. Every stage of parenting is a joy and you are in for so much more. Just wait until you have to teach your kids to drive. I have five children. Next year all five of them will be teenagers!!

  • Liz

    Can’t wait to see who baby #2 best resembles. Will she be the book reading nerd or gutter-TV watcher of the family?
    (We all know whose side of the family she’s going to take after, but still, ya gotta wonder.)

    The biggest fool is the parent who casually says “yea, we’ll watch your kid for a couple hours. They’ll play!” Hello, Department of Destruction? I think you left something here and you need to come get it right now!

  • I don’t know what’s worse. Being woken up by a blasting alarm clock on the weekends, or being woken up because you just realized you HADN’T been woken up by a blasting alarm clock on a weekday. Life is full of evil.

    ~ Katie

  • Catherine

    I take it the play date wasn’t Tall Hannah, then. She could have gotten things from the top shelf!

    Also, my spam prevention codewords are “landscape coeds”. I like to think it’s a job description.

  • Me

    I worry about my five year old son. I set the loudest alarm in his room so I HAVE to get up and turn it off. He sleeps through it like it was a lullaby.

    He doesn’t stand a chance of waking up at a decent hour. Hope he likes third shift.

  • i used to sit in a quiet corner and read for hours at that age too. i’m not sure my parents were quite grateful enough…

  • I am late finding your site, but I am loving every minute of browsing the old posts. Thanks for the entertainment!

  • My four year old wakes me every morning screaming…THERE’S A SEVEN!!! THERE’S A SEVEN!!! Nice to know I’m not the only one.

  • Christina

    As the mom of three boys I felt just a tad bit defensive on the boys comment…then I sighed and thought “well it’s true.”

    Love Leta posts, she’s awesome. ♥

  • Me2

    My now 17 year old is also one of the book people and it surely has made his life easier. However, I will never forget the playdate with a non-reader little boy who thought that books were bad and should be put in jail. In this case jail was our stall shower. It took the little darlings about five minutes to completely clear two huge bookcases. The shower was filled about halfway with all the books, and it took me about three hours to sort them out and get them back on the shelves. Luckily the bookcases were firmly attached to the walls as the boys had to climb them to get to the highest shelves. And where was mom while this was going on? Putting out snacks…

  • Brenna

    You are sooooo lucky! You have a beautiful daughter that likes to read and freaks when the alarm wakes her. I have a son that can take ANYTHING apart, I mean anything, and he’s only 20 months old. I have no cupboard doors in my kitchen because the little shit has figured out EVERY SINGLE baby proofing device, so I took them all off and put everything in a room with a lock! And yes for all you naysayers, I tried proactive parenting, boys are immune.