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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Fatherhood Daze

It's been raining a lot in New York recently. The other day i could have sworn I was in Malaysia - where I have never been - stuck in some sort of monsoon. It happened as it always does. I leave Queens County dry as a bone, but then as soon as I get out of the subway the heavens open up and let the good commuters of the city have it.

The other day - stuck outside Zeytuna which has an outdoor cafe with a roof - I ran into an old friend from school, an architect named Jeff who inquired about my daughter.

"I think she loves me and hates me," I said. "I have a feeling this is how our relationship is going to work out." And that's true. Sometimes Marta seems to find me as odious as a stinky fart. I'll walk into the kitchen and she'll be eating. "No Justin, stop!" she'll yell. "Go away." Or I'll put my face close to hers and she'll just hit me. She doesn't hit others thankfully. My brother's cousin (it's a complex post-modern story of divorces and remarriages) just had a baby and when they met at a birthday party, I was mortified that my daughter would hit the little one and a half month old boy when she got close to his face. Fortunately though, she was as sweet as could be. She gave him a smooch and batted her eyes. It seems that I am the one that safe to abuse.

I don't know what to do about this problem. At first I hit back. That didn't work. Then I feigned deep sadness. That didn't work either. Now I have taken to grabbing her by the wrist and yelling at her. None of it seems to quell this problem. In the tub tonight, as Marta was dumping water on my head - similar to what I do when I wash her head - I asked her if it was revenge. "Yes," she said back, confidently.

Things aren't always so bratty between the two of us. There are times when I feel that beneath her bossy exterior she appreciates it when I go out with her. I have been trying to give my wife - the Tove Janssen/Astrid Lindgren of our family - time to write and I will take Marta to the beach or to the park nextdoor. I prefer the park because Marta always gets sandy at the beach. She just loves to roll around in that stuff. At the park there's a lot of hopping and jumping and smelling of flowers and viewing of ladybugs (she calls all insects ladybugs). I can sense that I am a bit of a rigid father. When we are near traffic I am in double alert/zero tolerance mode. The only problem is that being rigid only makes her defy me more. So I have to be both relaxed, honest (she can sense dishonesty from a mile away), and protecting. It's an interesting challenge.

Overall, Marta's language is growing in leaps and bounds. I was worried when we started this bilingual experiment that she would favor one language. I think that Marta's mother tonguw, literally, is Estonian. "Piim" to her means so much more than "milk." But she is a social creature and she is not afraid to use English. Her Estonian is already better than mine. But she is totally bilingual - she rarely mixes words. This is a great success for us. It would be a shame if 5,000 years of Estonian language speaking ended with her. I am also worried about her academic ability in the linguistic arena. I guess as she gets older we should make sure there are plenty of Estonian language books, etc., for her to read.

Marta is really creative. She LOVES to draw. LOVES it. She could sit for an hour in her room drawing suns and circles and bugs and flowers. I have been encouraging he to diversify her colors to make her drawings more beautiful. Usually she favors a color - orange or blue - but I think the drawings look better when they are very colorful. She also draws all over the apartment. She has autographed a few doors, a few walls, and likes to draw on her arms and even her face. She also likes to decorate her face with stickers.

Marta is also sort of musical. She likes to puff away on the recorder and play the piano. She really likes to get her alligator-shaped electric piano to play automatically so she can dance to it. That's one thing she really likes, dancing. At a party at Vinny's about a month ago, she was moving to Donna Summer and even doing some breakdancing (it's amazing). I have a video of her dancing from when she was less than a year old. I used to dance with her as a baby - maybe that's where she learned to feel the rhythm. I would put on pretty complicated music - like Fela Kuti (afrobeat) or Paris Combo (gypsy jazz) and strut around the room with her. I don't think most babies are exposed to that kind of stuff (I wasn't exposed to it, that I much I can tell you). So we'll see where this leads.

I have a song I wrote for Marta called "Marta Maria" which she absolutely adores. She rocks her head back and forth and smiles. She knows it's about her. At those times, I feel like I am getting through to her and that we have a good relationship.


Blogger Eppppp said...

Seems that there is no right way how to behave when your child hits you.

...But she does not hit that often!

2:03 PM  
Blogger Martasmimi said...

Justin, she hits her Mimi and her Popa not just you!!
I think what it is emotional
She always hits me when she is leaving, when I say good bye.
Perhaps she is sad to be going and
confuses the feelings.
Perhaps she is happy to be leaving and wants to hit me just one more time before she goes(joke).
This is a stage she will outgrow..
She loves her Issi Popa Justin...

1:12 PM  
Blogger Liis said...

Oh, they hit you alright. But at the same time they are so adorable and loving that you'll forget everything.

I still have the scratches Clara (4 years) gave me 2 months ago because she wanted a long-sleeved T-shirt. Maybe they'll stay forever so i can show people, what aupairing really is about :P

11:14 AM  

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