Everything I don’t Know About Boys and All the New French Words I’ve Learned

To hear a full grown woman with a medical degree ask another full grown woman how many “pee-pees” and “ka-kas” she has a day is off-putting. I asked a Francophone and translator friend of mine about this and she said it’s a common French idiom, at least in Quebec. I don’t care how common it is. It’s infantilizing and it makes me uncomfortable.

While on the subject, my friend and I discussed another word, one I have just recently learned: zi-zi, meaning penis. It is similar in tone to the way a child might say wee-wee, but more widely used. I first heard it in a conversation between two of Joanie’s caregivers at daycare, Lise and Esfir.

(I’ve translated their conversation because my French grammar is hopeless.)

Lise: Why is Lawrence wet?

Esfir: He is not. Is he?

Lise: He is. Touch his leg.

Esfir: (With her thumb and index finger around Lawrence fat baby thigh) Eh? It makes no sense I just changes him.

Lise: (Taking Lawrence to the change table. Bursting with laughter after removing the diaper) Esfir, Esfir, comes see. You put his zi-zi to the side and he peed out the leg hole.

Two things strike me about this exchange. One: adults can call a penis zi-zi in conversation with each other and apparently it’s not weird. Two: parents of boys have to worry about the direction of the zi-zi. It has occurred to me that while I have learned so much about parenting, and I understand that gender is fluid, and I believe that most of what is true for baby girls is true for baby boys, there are things about boys that will never apply to girls. I am so glad that I never have to worry about zi-zi direction. That is unless I have another child and it’s a boy. Then I’ll be fluent in zi-zi and speak comfortably about pee-pee direction with all the other full grown adults.

Note: I asked my friend if there was a female equivalent to zi-zi and there isn’t. Any word she came up with was either vulgar or Georgio O’Keefe.

What would I do without free healthcare?

She’d had fevers before. She’s stood on my legs and smiled until the moment before a nurse jabbed a needle into the pudgy rolls of her thighs at which point her small face contorts in agony. I’ve held her close to my chest as she cried a long piercing wail of pain, but when Joanie’s temperature heated for no discernible reason, I was terrified. We were in New York, staying at a modern boutique hotel with a pungently perfumed lobby and nothing was familiar. I woke up early to get some medication at the pharmacy down the road. The air stank of piss and old groceries and the city that was so fascinating the day before now left me skittish. I was eager to get back home where I know the brands of baby medicine, and temperature is measured in Celsius, and healthcare is free.

At home Joanie’s eyes returned to their usual bright state, her cheeks flushed and her arms strengthened, but her fever persisted. Eric assured me she was mostly healthy as I peered down into the crib stroking my little baby’s warm forehead.

“Maybe we should take her to the hospital. Fever’s are dangerous for infants.”

“She’s okay. It’s just a slight fever and she certainly isn’t lethargic.”

“But she’s so small.”

“If it’s like this tomorrow we’ll call Dr. Olav.”

He rubbed my back and stoked Joanie’s soft peach fuzz hair. “Come to bed.”

“I’m going to sleep here.”

“Come to bed,” he repeated, and I did, but only to wake up an hour later and sneak back to the nursery where I curled up on the foam play mat by the crib and slept with my head on Elmo’s tummy, waking up every half hour to check on her breathing.

The next morning Eric laughed and shook his head at the sight of me on the floor with my glasses hanging from one ear. We took Joanie’s temperature and her fever had subsided. She smiled up at us and kicked her legs with the force we had come to expect from her.

“See, she’s fine.”

In our family dynamic, Eric is the one with the calm approach. I tend towards the more spastic and worried. If it wasn’t for him, we would have been to the emergency room at least fifteen times in the last five and a half months.

“Why is she scratching her ear like that?”

“What’s that red mark?”

“She’s coughing! She’s coughing!”

“She’s fine.”

Joanie is a very healthy baby. She amazes the ladies at the daycare with her strength and energy. Even when she’s coughing or feverish she is happy and vivacious. Still, even though we haven’t used it yet, it’s nice to know we can take her to the emergency room and not be charged the equivalent of our life savings. Those few hours in the States with a sick child reminded me of how lucky we are to be born in a country with free healthcare. It blows my mind that people have to sacrifice so much just to get their kids basic health services. Our system in Canada may not be perfect but at least it helps more people than it cripples.

The Magnificent Exploding Baby

Dedicated to the very nice lady with the mystery novel and the red bookmark.

When I started this blog I wanted to stay away from poop humour, because it’s gross but also because everyone already equates poops with babies. There’s nothing more to learn. Nothing, except the extent to which parents are acquainted with poop. No honest account of motherhood would be complete without a poop story.

Last weekend was Joanie’s first excursion into air travel and despite the stigma of terrible babies on planes, and aside from a few spats of tears, she was quiet and well behaved. The horror show was the lead up to the flight. On our last day in New York Joanie and I came down with a cold. I struggled through a fever, headache and runny nose to pack while she wailed. We had done some shopping and had acquired a whole new bag of stuff. We were also running late as people with young babies perpetually are, something my previously maniacally punctual self has recently come to terms with. Frantically, I packed, crawling on the floor to find socks (I celebrate the minor victory of all our socks returning in pairs), throwing all of Joanie’s accessories into whatever bag was closest.

We arrived at Laguardia airport with a large bag on wheels, a diaper bag, a computer bag, a canvas bag of souvenirs, our coats, Joanie and the car seat she refused to sit in. On top of all this I am a nervous traveler who insists on having my passport and boarding pass in my hand where I can see and feel them. Immediately after checking in Joanie started crying her long loud hunger cry. “Let’s just get through security and then I’ll feed her at the gate.” I figured that as long as we were there with our bags checked and our passports ready everything would be easy. We would have time to feed her and ourselves. We’d board early and comfortably. We would only have an hour flight and short cab ride. Then we’d be home. Boy was I mistaken. The great explosion of 2014 was awaiting me at Gate 15.

As soon as we got to the gate, Eric left to find us some tea and sandwiches while I settled in to feed Joanie. Just as she started to feed she looked up at me with wide eyes and then surprised herself with the thunderous noise that came from her little innocent looking bum. Everyone looked as I smiled and continued feeding her. I couldn’t take her to the bathroom until Eric got back to watch our bags. Anxiously I waited, until another thunderclap cracked. This time I felt wet seeping in my hand. Joanie, uncomfortable for obvious reasons, started crying. I sat her on my lap and streaks of greenish brown appeared on my jeans. I grew more and more impatient as the mess in her diaper became unbearable. “Oh hell,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear, unfolded a mat and started to undress my gross little daughter. Joanie, who loves having her diaper changed, smiled wide as I struggled to remove her shirt without smearing anything onto her face. She reached up to put her poop-covered fingers in her mouth and I fought to keep them down by her sides. A very kind woman in the seat next to me took notice of my catastrophe and offered to help. Embarrassed, I declined but she knew better and insisted, grabbing Joanie’s hands and entertaining her with silly faces. Together, in a frenzy of poop and limbs and diapers, we were able to wipe her down using the rest of the wipes I had and a few tissues I’d stuffed in my pocket. The woman, her heroism complete, left to wash her hands that were now covered in a stranger’s bodily fluids. Just as I was strapping Joanie into her diaper and singing her changing time song, Outkast’s So Fresh and So Clean, Joanie let out her third and final thunderclap. Without any more wipes I used the diaper to clean her up and dressed in her last diaper, the others I had brought were stupidly stored in our checked luggage.

Eric came around the corner to find me holding his naked smiling daughter with my elbows, my fingers spread wide and away from her. He put down the two camomile teas and two sandwiches he had brought for us and took over while I left to scrub my hands and clothes. When I returned Joanie was shaking her stuffed Elmo and babbling away as if nothing had happened. Eric borrowed a spare diaper from a family nearby and we ate our sandwiches.

In the end it was just another day.

That’s my poop story.