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.

  • I’d give anything for Katie to WANT to wake up in the morning. Getting her up for 9:15 kindergarten, she acts like she’s 16 and I’m waking her up for early morning seminary. And stop complaining that you’re huge. ‘Cause you’re not. And be glad you don’t have to wear maternity garments. Then you’d really have something to complain about. Cry me a river, lady!

  • “My Little Nerd” is cute! I still call my 16 year old, “Genius Boy”. I love that he’s a nerd. It makes life so much easier.

  • Savanah

    Muwhahaha, THAT noise.
    >:]
    Haunts us aaallllll.

  • Oh how I hope my daughter becomes a nerd! Every day I get down on my knees in the hopes that my daughter will become a physicist or an engineer or something really nerdy and wonderful like that. Ha ha! And I’m so glad to hear that I’m not evil for letting my 19 month-old watch Sesame Street. Some people tell me I’m evil for that.

  • One of the best bits of advice I ever received….get a nightlight..a nice big one..that is very obvious when it is on….not one that is triggered by the dark…anyway…connect it to a timer…tell your child that when the night light is on…it is bedtime…when the night lite goes off…it is time to get up! It works perfectly and here is a secret…if you want to sleep in a little late one morning..just change the timer settings!

  • Pam

    My daughter was doing the same thing – asking every morning (middle of the night) if it was time to wake up yet. we tried putting a digital clock by her bed but then she would just say I SEE A 6 I SEE A 6 and it would be like 3:06. So my friend told me about this night light It’s a little pricey but it actually works. It looks like a moon at night and you set it to turn into a sun in the morning and that’s how they know it’s ok to get up.

  • Ah parenthood anoying but fraught with humor.

    I laugh because I’ve been there sista!

  • I think it’s funny how people find themselves “cool” to be first to comment on your blog. But besides that I liked the post, it was humorous and the end brought upon the visual of you and Jon huddled in the tub, crying and rocking back and forth, praying that the drug bust on the roof went Ok. Funny.

  • Reading rules. Alarm clocks suck. Leta is coming to these enduring truths early in life. A blessing and a curse.

  • Marian

    My goodness, my dear, just when I thought your talent could not grow one more inch, BAM, you go and post a great glimpse like this and I am ever amazed. (as you can tell from that runon sentence, the horrid spelling and poor, if any puncuation, I am truly in awe of you every day)

    Your little ones and heck you too (why not, we’ll break open the gin and tonic in the back yard) are welcome over for a playdate anytime.

    I love your mind and am glad you share its workings on a daily basis…
    okay, I’ve got a girl crush and I definately need to get out more
    thanks.

  • Nicole

    So you have a reader. Good for you! Readers are usually very smart.

  • I am so with your daughter – I say exactly the same thing every morning when my alarm goes off to get me out of my nice warm bed and on my way to my chilly and half empty culinary school (and, somehow, the steel prep tables at cooking school seem a whole lot colder than those scratched wooden desks at regular school).

    There has to be a more civilized way to do live!

    Cheers.

  • I love the alarm clock idea, I will have to remember that for when my daughter gets older. She currently sleeps with us because she has night-mares all the time. I can’t even remember what it is like to sleep a whole night through.

  • Amy

    As a mom of TWO boys, one is seven and the other is two, that statement says it all! Just wait until she teaches the youngest to do all the dirty work!

  • Anonymous

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

    No, it does not. As a mother of three boys, I will tell you that you learn very quickly not to ask.

  • Anonymous

    My 6 year old daughter and her best friend spent a recent afternoon pasting fallen feathers from a dress up boa to her bedroom walls with Vicks Vapor Rub…. AAHH playdates. On the bright side, my husbands chronic winter cold cleared up overnight.

  • Wow, giving her a clock to help her figure out what time it is when she wakes up at night is very clever! I’ll have to remember that idea someday…

  • We had to put an alarm clock in my daughters room around that age too. We wrote a big 7 on a piece of paper and pasted it up on the wall above the clock to remind her of what a 7 looks like. The problem was she would come at when there was any 7 showing…like say, 4:07 or 2:57. We put duck tape over the last 2 numbers to solve that problem in hurry.

  • Great story. I have to admit I had a little excited moment thinking that one day these babies of mine will actually be able to look at a clock, and tell the time, and not get out of bed until the correct time.

    Now if someone could just teach that to babies…

  • Two days ago my four-year-old showed her playmate her anatomy book, pointing out where your urine is stored. At least it was a break from princess play. I love nerds.

  • HA! How right you are Dooce Momma, how right you are..

    glad she had fun!!

    Did they bug you for snacks constantly?

  • Jennifer

    Hilarious!
    We have twin 5 year old girls so we have “Play Date Aftermath” everyday — ;o) Count your blessings now – just wait until your #2 & your #1 play together & pull everything out every day!!

  • Abby in MA

    A teacher I work with had an AMAZING idea to keep her 5 year old in bed in the morning…..

    Small Christmas lights on a timer!! She’s not allowed to come out of her room until the lights turn on in the morning. =)

    Genius, no?

  • Dawn

    My five year old future nerd is also reading (so is her best friend, which is nice). Her preschool has a kindergarten and the kindergarten teacher and librarian have been great about working with them to find books that are a little challenging for their reading level but not so long that they get discouraged before finishing, etc. At any rate, my daughter has been reading the “Magic Schoolbus” series for the past couple weeks and they’ve been pretty good. We also have her read story books out loud at night to her 18 month old sister and we’ve started reading longer books (the Little house series, for example) with her, one chapter at a time.

    I am totally with Leta about THAT NOISE.

  • con

    I totally get the proud reader parent, I feel the same way about my 6 year old who is working his way through the Harry Potter books. But I don’t go the my little nerd route, now that he is in school we have to play it really low key about how everyone is good at something blahblahblah. So they don’t turn into superior little sh*&s ya know.

  • cattitude

    I have always loved your blog, and smiled at the many adventures of Leta and your adorable family.
    Today I have a tear rolling down my face as I type this, because for the last six months I have been through a living hell with my 16 year old son, who used to do the many adorable things Leta is now doing. I’m a single parent, my ex husband is pretty much useless in his “help” either financially or emotionally. My son fell into a “bad crowd” before Christmas, and I have tried everything in my power to reach him, get him help, communicate with him, but it has spiralled into a hellhole into which he was arrested a month ago for shoplifting, and then again for doing drugs outside the school during lunch last Thursday and possession of marijuana. He was suspended from school for 5 days, and has to do a drug program through the police. I almost wish the consequences could be scarier as it doesn’t seem to have fazed him one bit. I’m heartbroken when I still see the boy I adore and am so proud of inside this stranger who now finds it acceptable to call me a “stupid b—–” and last night told me to “s— his d—” I can’t believe he can be so disrespectful and I’ve been crying non-stop for days.
    So heartbroken.
    One minute he’s running to me with a picture of a unicorn he drew for me and it seems like the next he’s smoking a bong twenty yards from the school.
    *sigh*
    I hope for your sake, Leta never changes.

  • Liz

    In the 6th grade, my teacher basically stopped grading my english assignments and gave me some weird random english book from the 1950s or something, and i started to diagram sentences to my hearts desire. so you can call her “your little nerd” if you want, b/c face it, that’s what she is. (and clearly from this post, i’ve done away with much of what we like to call “grammar”.)

  • Leta sounds wonderful. I can only hope that my own (possibly growing) spawn has just as big a thirst for knowledge as Leta. I was ahead of the game at that age, but not as far as Leta. 😉

  • Liz

    to cattitude-

    if it’s of any hope to you, i have an older brother who sounds a lot like your son and what you’re going through, and he came out okay, all things considered. it sucks and unfortunately b/c of his age and his own issues with life…well, yeah, it’s probably just going to suck for awhile. just realize that your son is his own person and is responsible for his own decisions. and it might take him a little longer than you like for him to realize the consequences for his decisions. anyway…good luck, and i’m sure he knows you love him.

  • When I was in 6th grade my mom let my best friend come stay with us for a week during the summer break. She brought like 20 Nancy Drew books, and got out my 20 and we spent the entire week reading. That’s right. We spent our God-given summer break reading.

    God, I was such a nerd..

  • linuxchik

    great post! ribbons and bubbles!

  • Aah the illustrious snooze button. Has taken many women better than me.

    Good laugh… as usual.

    Thanks Dooce.

  • I hope I never have boys! I do hope my girls are slightly nerdy, though. Your masthead this month is very pretty!

  • Stella

    you actually make me want to have kids and me wanting kids-ever- is a rare moment. your stories about her make me smile. thanks!

  • LOL. Dooce, I love you.

  • Jeanne

    am i the 1st or millionth that has said it should be “Mayan”?

    cheers! i had a bottle of wine tonight, i hope i wrote that corrcetly!

  • I absolutely loved this post. Our one-year-old is notorious for setting her alarm for some ungodly middle-of-the-night hour because she loves to push buttons. How she managed to actually set a time and turn on the alarm in her random pushing of buttons is beyond us. But after it happened twice, we finally moved it to the top of the dresser where she can no longer touch it.

  • oooh …look at your new disco header …and just in time for may! fab. I have to go back and read now.

  • well, that’s exactly what I do every morning when my alarm goes off

  • I love how you piece things together. Your daughter is definitely a blog-worthy individual.

    As usual, love the new header!

  • Becky Young

    My daughter Halley was a kindergarten reader, too. I have a picture of her that year where she’s leaned all her Laura Ingalls Wilder books against the TV and she’s pointing to them like she’s Vanna White.

    My friend Sid started a book group for a group of our daughters when Halley was in fifth grade. Her daughter was in middle school. There was a three- or four-year age range. I think they met all the way through high school.

    Sid used to call them our happy, little nerds.

    I’d post a picture of my daughter if I could. She’s 23, a newspaper reporter and gorgeous. All those girls are, and accomplished in a number of areas.

    (But I know you’re not seriously worried about the nerd thing.)

  • I think of my child as ‘my little weirdo.’ And like you, I shocked some adult by proudly saying: “My kid is weird.” She has many different personalities. She asks questions like: “What if everyone dies? What if everyone in the whole world dies.”

    Then if we say–this won’t happen she is like: But WHAT IF IT DID? Also, what if people stopped giving birth? Like she’s already envisioning the post-apocalyptic future.

    I think a nerd has more income potential than a weirdo but it is one of those amazing things when you see that apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree and your child is going to be listening to whatever version of Joy Division they have in 2020.

  • Dora

    She’s like Roald Dahl’s Matilde. Can she move stuff with her eyes as well?

  • Anonymous
  • Margie

    You should introduce Leta to the Ramona book series by Beverly Cleary . . she would love them I am sure.
    Ramona Age 8 is a good one !! You will find her sitting quiety reading and giggling every so often with these 🙂
    Happy Reading Leta !!! (by the way, my older sister was/is a reader, now a doctor and I am the 2nd child and was/is nothing like her at all!! I was my parents challenge for many years!! only warning you about the “2nd child” syndrome 🙂

  • *raises hand* I’m another Sesame Street reader! My mom is a librarian and always read to me, but never did any sort of focused teaching; I watched Sesame Street religiously, though, and one day when I was about 4.5 I pointed to a word and said “does that say doctor?” and of course it did. I used to go straight to the book corner in my preschool/kindergarten…I even have a picture of me reading to my pre-k class…
    Of course, I was never into non-fiction, so I dunno if I can really classify as a nerd although I’m good at math and science as well. I’m a proud romance novel junkie, have been since age 11 (yes, I brought romance novels to sixth grade. My grandma still thinks it’s scandalous!), and only rarely venture into other genres. During middle school and high school, and during breaks from college, it’s not unusual for me to go through a book or two a day. In middle school I once read 800 pages in one summer day!

    Anyways, enough about me. This post made me literally laugh out loud, which doesn’t happen a lot for me in general! I’m so glad Leta’s off to a such a great start, I hope she sticks with it…

  • Australia

    This is going to sound random but I just had a thought. You need to call this baby Maya. Leta and Maya. Works. Think about it. Word.

  • Look at that new masthead! It’s all about embracing the pink!

  • And I’m sure you aren’t finished finding all the things those two were into.

    Wait until you start looking for a spatuala……….

  • Kathy

    I am in LOVE with your blog. You’re such a good writer.

    I’m curious as to how you think Leta’s going to react to the new little bean when she arrives? Do you think she’s going to be jealous? Is she excited? Does she know what’s about to happen?

    Ah, I run from THAT NOIIIISE every morning at 5 a.m., Monday through Friday too.

    Sigh.