Marta Maria

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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Day in Prospect Park

Today we had the kind of day all Sundays should be. Instead of holing up on the beach we braved the traffic of Brooklyn to visit Prospect Park.

Brroklyn traffic is perhaps notorious. It's a congested borough. But it wasn't TOO bad considering I had driven in Jersey the day before, because New Jersey drivers are the worst drivers on Earth. Brooklyn has little quaint and confusing traffic circles, that screw things up.

We had a hard time finding a parking space.

Anyway, the park is beautiful. Marta took off, she hopped and ran and walked much of the park. She went to the zoo, where we saw prairie dogs, kangaroos, snakes, fish - which Marta calls "Nemo" after the movie, and gross bugs. There was also a sheep shearing festival, and Marta confidently took feed and fed the sheep. She liked it. She is like her mother - completely at ease with animals.

Later we went to the playground, where Marta had fun and met more kids. She seems do be doing well with socializing with others.

One thing I have learned about being father recently is to always have a hand ready for your child to hold. Be there so that she doesn't fall. But the second you grip the hand too tightly, the child will pull away, sometimes aggressively - and that's even more dangerous. So when I spot Marta at the playground, I lurk, but I make sure to make her feel confident and not like her father is controlling the situation too much.

Of course, Marta also went on the carousel with Epp. I think we all had a perfect day.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Shoe Girl

We didn't find out what gender our baby would be until about two weeks before she was born. Before that her long legs were obscuring any view of the crucial area in making such decisions, and so we were waiting either on a Marta or a Paul (that was to be the boy's name, although I wouldn't pick it again).

When I found out it was a girl, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to react. I guess it didn't really matter to me, though I had bet on a girl. I perhaps was relieved that I wouldn't have to teach a son anything about sports or cars, as I am deficient in those areas. I think that if a son comes I will have to send him to his grandfather for automotive courses, and to his uncle for athletic training.

But anyway - what is the difference between genders anyway? Oh, plenty. When we were in Finland I had a home stay with a family that included a litte boy named Veeti. Veeti was as boyish as boys get. I watched him literally drop his trousers in public and begin peeing, completely unashamed. Then there was the time we went to his uncle's house and he found a plugged in power drill and began squeezing the trigger. Yep, he was a boy alright.

And so Marta is a girl, as attested by our trip to the shoe store today. While I was trying to find a running shoe that fit my oversized foot, the little girl was off picking out a rubbery pair of pink shoes with a rainbow motif. I saw her excited little face from down the aisle. She had fallen in love. So we bought her little sandles. When we took them off her feet to hand them to the cashier, she threw a fit.
"Marta's shoes! Marta's shoes! Marta's shoes!" she yelled in faux hysteria.

She got her little pink shoes back and was quiet and content as could be. At home, while her boorish father was doing something so silly as writing a blog about his daughter, she found the shoe drawer. And I knew then that she wouldn't be bothering me for at least 15 minutes as she explored the different pairs of shoes and tried them on. In some ways, it's a bit of a weird obsession to have. But something tells me she isn't the first female to fall madly in love with footwear.

***Asshole Dad***

This second part of my post is unrelated to shoes. Today at the same mall where the pink shoes were bought, I had to use the restroom. There was a line at the main public restroom, so I went into the movie theater in the mall and gained access to their toilet. I was the only guy in there. There's nothing better than relieving yourself in peace when it must be done in public.

But then as I was washing my hands a Dad and his two sons came in. The father unzipped his boy's trousers and pushed him in front of the small, childsized urinal. Alas, no pee. "I thought you said you had to pee!" the father grunted impatiently. The boy appeared (I didn't look directly at them for fear of being accused of being a pervert) to try harder and then give in. It was a false alarm. Then the anxious father said something that made my skin crawl as his other son pulled away from his grip. "If you do that again, we're going home."

Why is it that so many of us Dads are just rigid assholes when it comes to disciplining our children? This guy's kids looked sort of unhappy and sort of anxious to be around their impatient father. Will they grow up to be Asshole Dads too? Will they too threaten to "go home" if someone misbehaves.

I don't know. When I try to discipline Marta (a comedy to be seen) I think I just tell her to stop doing stuff I don't like. Like "Don't do that!" I don't use weird psychological tricks like, "If you do that again, we're going home." When she is in the bath dumping water on the floor with her plastic toys, I just take the toy away. I don't engage in Jedi mind tricks. And why are we dads so uptight anyway? Is it work? Family stress? Rising gas prices? The deplorable tri-state infrastructure (third world-style roads, swamp-like subways)?

Why are we so willing to be assholes to the very kids that we do most things for? That imbue our puny lives with meaning? I am not sure I know the answer to that question. I've been bad too and I know I am guilty as the rest of 'em, but at least I see it. And it's something I really don't want to be.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Are you tired?

God, that photo really does seem two years old, at least. But it sort of captures how I feel most nights, especially Monday nights: tired.

Yesterday one of my big stories fell through and I had to work late and start again early to meet my deadline. It took my about two hours to get home, instead of the usual 1.25 hours, because there were big rallies here in New York yesterday and all the trains were full.

So I was pretty irritated by the time I got home. And my daughter wanted to play. She was excited to see me. She wanted to take a bath and jump on my chest. And I could barely function I was so exhausted. Epp wanted to talk to me and I couldn't really react or respond. All I did was lie on the bed and wish I could somehow withdraw from all of these different demands and relax. Not do anything else - no other priorities here - just to breathe without thought for a few precious moments.

Even through the night I woke up every hour, knowing I had to rise at 4 am to write more for my issue. Work, you see, is often more important than family.

I wonder, will this be my child's impression of her father as she grows up. Of a guy that was fun on weekends but shuffled home every evening to pass out and groan on the couch? Yeah, everybody works hard I guess. And I work near a lot of hard workers in lower Manhattan that don't look so hot.

In some ways I feel I am denying her something. It doesn't feel good.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Miss Petrone goes to Washington

What is there for a 2-year-old to enjoy in Washington, DC, a city known for its museums and antiquities and khaki pants? Plenty it seems. My child, for example, enjoyed running this way, then that way, then back this way, then towards emme, then away from emme, and then into some strangers leg.

Then when I grabbed her arm forcefully - with only good intentions - Miss Marta decided to tell Washington in a language it doesn't understand that I was bothering her. "Ära Kiusa!" she cried. "Emme, Isse kiusab!" which means "Don't bother me - Mommy, Dad is bothering me!" And I was just trying to keep her out of traffic.

DC offered Marta lots of things to learn though, and no, how a bill becomes a law wasn't one of them. Instead it was the small things. Like discovering a ladybug outside Au Bon Pain, a breakfast cafe near my old university. It's so rare that I can point out an actual character from many of her children's books in real life and say "This is a ladybug, emme says lepatriinu, issi says ladybug." Without these real life introductions, the ladybug would be just another funny character with a smile. Pure fiction.

Patrolling my old school stomping grounds with Marta Maria felt good though. It felt good to return to the streets which I had stumbled home upon with a small child holding my hand as if to say, "I've really made it! I am totally NOT stuck in college." It also reminded me of the things I need to do in life, that life is precious, et cetera, et cetera.

Marta had a lot of fun at the Cherry Blossom Festival. She thoroughly enjoyed making me chase her while she ambled along, only yards from busy DC traffic. She also liked the Museum of the American Indian, where we atched Cheyenne, Ojibwa, Paiute, Blackfoot, and other creation stories that were illustrated in ways that only Native Americans can illustrate cartoons. They were breathing with life and creativity, and I felt glad I brought Marta there.

In the hotel Marta locked herself in two of our rooms twice, shutting the door behind her and causing my parents to majorly freak out. For some reason I didn't panic though. I know my daughter - she's usually the one in control of a situation. Anyway, we had a good time. Many thanks to all who were involved.

We're Welsh?!?

If you haven't figured it out by now, genealogy is a major hobby of mine. That's because I naturally distrust what people tell me and have a very real desire to find out the "truth." I guess that's why I am a reporter.

Doing genealogy is not a sort of "all fun" business. It's actually pretty interesting, but also intimidating. You don't want to tell your Irish grandmother that she's actually a little bit English (!) or tell your Dad that, yes, his grandma was Greek, but her family had been probably living in Italy for at least 100 years before she was born. People don't like to hear that stuff. Americans want to wear national flags on their coats the same way people have the patches of sports teams on their jackets in the subways.

So, then it shouldn't surprise us that two of Marta's ancient ancestors hailed not from England, as I was told, but actually from Wales. You know, Wales - that sort of lumpy bit on the west side of Great Britain where Tom Jones is from? Where they speak that weird Celtic language with all the "l"s and "g"s and "w"s. Where "Welsh" in Welsh is "Cymru."

My grandmother's maiden name was Margaret Elizabeth Howell Pittman - and she comes from a long line of Virginian and North Carolinian cousin-marrying farmers. But the root ancestor of Pittmans in Virginia is actually a man named Thomas Pittman - who was born in Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1614 and came to Virginia in about 1650. The common ancestor of Howells in the area is a man named Etheldred Howell, who was born in Flintshire, Wales, in 1668. In fact, many of his descendents also bore the name "Etheldred" - shortened just to "Dred."

So, like, we're a bit Welsh too. It gets so messy when you deal with the UK and Ireland. It seems like everybody's a bit of everything.