No, You Can’t Have Another Cookie. (How was that? Did I do that right?)

“Not Honeycomb, Nate.”

“What?” he says. “Why not? It’s the same as Honey Nut Cheerios.”

“It totally is not!” I insist. If there were a prize for being the biggest cereal know-it-all on the planet, I would not win, but I’d certainly sound like a contender. “Honeycomb is totally a sugar cereal. It’s like how they changed Sugar Smacks to be called Honey Smacks just so people would think it’s more healthy. “

He snatches the box off the shelf and scans the nutritional panel, prepared to prove me wrong and rub it in with a victory dance down aisle 12 of CVS. Did I ever mention that we can manage to debate pretty much anything?

“26 grams of sugar,” he reads.

“That’s a lot!”

“Oh yeah? Well let’s see what Honey Nut Cheerios has…”

I wait.



“What?!” I shriek. “No way. Let me see.”

“Oh fine,” Nate says, sliding the Honeycomb box back with resignation. “It’s nine. We’ll get the Cheerios.”

So why are we adding a debate about the sugar content of overpriced ready-to-eat cereals to our repetoire? It’s certainly not for our own health, as you’d know looking at our decidedly carb and sugar-heavy pantry contents. And while I may still be new at this parenting gig, I assure you Thalia is eating a tad better than either of these options.

For the next three weeks Nate and I are the surrogate parents to an eight-year old boy.

Nate’s nephew, Brodie, arrived on Friday. He is a sweet, sensitive, delightful kid who likes Captain Underpants and fart jokes and apple butter on his pb. He’s the type who answers, oh okayyyyyy to pretty much any unwanted request, while other kids would whine in protest. His easy disposition is a testament to a loving upbringing by Nate’s sister, a very young single mother, and the essential help of many devoted aunts and a grandmother.

Not too many men in that mix, however.

And so, Uncle Nate has stepped up and offered his services in a sort of reverse Fresh Air Fund. Take a kid out of the suburbs, expose him to the hot city for three weeks, and in the process, teach him how to how to throw a baseball, how to take a subway, what to do besides playing GameBoy sixteen hours a day, and why Chicken McNuggets are not something we eat every day.

“Oh my God,” one yet childless friend exclaimed. “You’re a saint for doing this.”

“No I’m not,” I said. “He’s family. This is what family does.” I meant it.

But meanwhile, here I am struggling with a baby, and all of a sudden I’m making the leap to a third-grader. Terrifying! I may seem cool on the outside but inside I’m taking comfort in the fact that hell, he’s almost nine. It’s not like I can ruin him that much. Still, if his grandmother had packed an instruction manual in his luggage I would have definitely remembered that at Christmas this year.

In my heart I know the yesses (yes, you can pet that dog) and the nos (no, you may not have Sour Patch kids at 10 am) but good instinct is no substitute for the experience I sorely lack.

This afternoon I tried to find something on TV for him to watch.

“Hey, Bob the Builder is on!” I said, happy to click over to a kids show that I actually had heard of.

“Oh nooooo,” Brodie says dramatically, “it’s the lamest show EEEEEEVER. Oh look…it’s been on one second and already it’s lame.”

“Oops,” I say. “Too young?

“Yeah, kinda.”

So there’s that.

Over the past three days, I’ve tried to straddle the line between cool aunt, positive influence, fair disciplinarian, and supportive sister-in-law. I feel like I’m standing on that one spot out west where you could conceivably be standing in four different states at once, never quite sure which direction I want to go.

Like when he tells me that he eats lunch at McDonald’s most days. Is this true or a bit of manipulation on his part? I’m not sure. But if this is in fact his life, I can’t just come out and say, “That crap? Who lets you eat that? Do you know what that stuff does to you? Let me get my copy of Fast Food Nation out and read you a few passages…” Insteaed what I tell him is that it’s a special occasion food and besides, NYC is the restaurant capital of the world. If you want a burger, we’ll get a damn good burger somewhere else. I mean darn. Darn good burger.

Another thing I have to work on.

This is all good practice for me. Four nights in a row I’ve said “bedtime!” and I’m actually getting good at it. “Lights out in ten minutes” is another one I can muster with a bit of authority, and if you ask Brodie, I bet he’d say he has no idea I’m faking it.

I’m learning how to hold someone’s hand when crossing the street. To say, “don’t run up the slide when that little kid is coming down it.” To add a handful of carrots to the sandwich at lunch. I’m learning to live with cookie crumbs in the white chair, 3-D dinosaur puzzle pieces under the sofa, and teeny specs of Play-Doh ground into the rug. My rug! Oh, the rug. The poor, poor, beautiful rug.

Okay, so I still need some practice with the rug.

Best of all, in just three short days, Brodie’s presence has been fantastic for Thalia. It’s even lent itself to her first Play-Doh eating experience. And as I understand it, this is one rite of passage that no American child should go without.

In case you’re wondering, it was blue. And yes, she enjoyed it very much.


An update for those who are so kind as to actually show–or feign–interest in the sleep habits of the baby of a complete stranger on the internet: There has been much improvement! Get out the party hats! I just might become a Weissbluth evangelist after all. The crying is getting shorter, the sleeping is getting longer, and once again I’m remembering what it’s like to slumber alongside someone who doesn’t kick me in the head all night, although lord knows there are some nights I’m sure he’d like to.

Tonight was a bit more touch-and-go, but I’ve still got wine left. Plus the absurd amount of goodwill from all of you which will fuel me through a week of this, if not longer. I am grateful. Good karma–as much as I’m empowered to send–right back to you all.

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