Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dash? Or Slash?

This morning, before breakfast, Munchkin demanded I place her snowsuit on the kitchen floor for her. I did. With twenty minutes of effort, she managed to get most of the way into it. Sitting here on the floor, wrestling with her mittens, she called out to me: "Outside! Tape! Boots! Out ... SIIIIIIDE!" Calculating groggily, I figured she hadn't left the house since Friday.

Then, we ran out of milk and bread and bananas and Christmas oranges.

To solve problem number two, we did a family after-nap grocery shopping expedition. To solve problem number one, I proposed that I would walk Munchkin home from the store, in her stroller, stopping for a snack and some fun at Starbucks on the way. It's that part of the story I want to write about, and where I get stuck.

Is it a mother-daughter adventure? Or a mother / daughter adventure? Dash? Or Slash?

I'm intrigued by the semantics of the syntax: it seems to me the hyphen connotes something different than the slash. For me, "mother-daugther" is a conjunction, a two-become-one, a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts proposition. "Mother / daughter" is a tension, an uneasy balance, a teeter-totter of managed expectation. Many of the activities we undertake together could go one way or the other: errands in the car, usually mother / daughter; brunch at the local diner, often mother / daughter; trips to grammas, always mother-daughter.

We buy our week's worth of food, and we wave Pynchon away and set off into the wind. "In, in, in!" yells Munchkin as the iconic sign comes into view over the sidewalk horizon. I park her stroller in a corner and drape our coats and hats and mitts on it, as she lines up her Little People--"Hippo! Tiger! Boy!"--on a hard wooden chair. We order, and settle in, and I drink my "yatteeee" and she sips her cup of ice water and munches on goldfish crackers and grapes. She dances in her chair, and I dance too. She flirts with nearby people and I try to teach her to be friendly but polite. She points out objects and names colours and counts crackers and I praise her and reinforce her. She shares crackers with her little people and asks me to help her put her shoe back on.

Today she was pretty crabby: stormy ups and downs and cuddles and tantrums and frustration and boredom and overexcitement and tiredness and clinginess and fierce independence. I was, by midafternoon, losing patience and running out of ideas. Our trip out for coffee and crackers cheered us both up immeasurably: we became again the charming and kind versions of ourselves.

"All done!" she hollers, brushing her fingertips together vehemently. "All done!" And so we pack up for home, putting the high chair back into place, collecting the fallen goldfish and removing them to the garbage. We walk the final four blocks home, and I sing "Jingle Bells" to her and she fills in all the words that occur to her, cheering a loud "Yay!" when I finish.

Today, for this outing, I'm leaning toward mother-daughter.

18 comments:

bubandpie said...

Definitely dash not slash. (I love the distinction - I think I've done both.)

bubandpie said...

Hyphen, really, of course - but dash rhymes so much better. (Does anything rhyme with hyphen?)

Mimi said...

D'oh! Busted! I was going for the sound effect. Don't get me going on the many subvarieties of dash--emdash, endash--and their uses and misuses ...

Karen said...

Little Bear sings that same version of jingle bells!
I think you are right - it must be the dash, though I have no personal experience to base this on - my mom is great but doesn't do "relationships."

Omaha Mama said...

Wow that's a great post. I love all things mother-daughter. Today we (my mom and I) took my daughter to the mall. It was fantastic.

My kids get all kinds of bitchy if we don't leave the house for consecutive days. Mason just starts chanting, "Out. Out." And I can hardly blame him.

Your snowy walk and trip to Starbucks sounds so fun! We'd have to do about a three mile hike for such a trip. :-) Happy New Year (a little early).

Debbie said...

What a great post, and a wonderful sounding afternoon. Definitely a dash. :)

We too broke out of the "cabin" today for a little release.

Our oldest also sings "Jingle bells, jingle bells" but the tune is more like "Spiderman, spiderman".

Mad Hatter said...

Miss M and I do coffee and rice krispie square at the Second Cup every now and then. It is always a dash and never a slash. I think we both relish in feeling grown up.

nomotherearth said...

The Boy now asks "What coffee store we going to today? Second Cup? Starbucks?" I'm a Bad Mother...

Amy U. said...

Dash, baby! For me, the dash seems like an "and" while the slash is an "or".

Sounds like fun! I wanna eat goldfish and flirt at Starbuck's.

Assertagirl

Beck said...

I frequently think Boy/Girl about the older two, since they do NOT get along much of the time. But the rest of the time? Dash.

Mimi said...

Nomo: my first word that I read aloud, according to my mother, was 'Visa' out of the Sears catalogue. I think Munchkin's is going to be 'Starbucks.' Oh well ...

Amy: you're welcome to join us whenever you like. I'll even supply the goldfish!

Bon said...

i think definitely the dash...the slash is more either/or in my mind, but then i usually try to skip out of teaching those punctuation classes because i'm a little slapdash in that regard...

i think the outing, either way, sounds sweet.

and i wish you and Munchkin a very happy 2008, with much Starbucks in it.

the new girl said...

love-love it.

ewe are here said...

I like the dash, too.

I'm always a little amazed, and relieved, how taking my 2 1/2 year old out for tea when the baby is asleep can really put us back on track for a while. It's the time and attention he wants, and feeling like he's being treated like a big boy. Tea with mommy.

Lovely post.

Dawn said...

Your Sbucks has high chairs? I'm so jealous. The one nearest our home does not and when I recently took my one-year old there, the snotty grad students studying all looked at us like were the vilest thing they could imagine. Heavens! A breeder and her spawn! And my baby was being good, so it wasn't like I brought in a screaming banshee.

I definitely say hyphen/dash. I agree that a slash connotes an "either this or that" relationship although as your describe it, it would obviously connote conflict.

I'm just jealous that so many of you know the joy of mother-daughter-ness.

I love mother-son, but it's just never going to be the same.

Mimi said...

dawn -- gosh, my starbucks is FULL of babies, all the time. um, and grad students. I live in an area full of young families next door to student rentals. And yeah, mother-son is something different. Something that will probably make the teenage years easier than mother-daughter, non?

Jenifer said...

Mimi, I love this post. As I try to be the mother I want to be I fear I am slashing much too much. I want to be the dash Mom more.

One of Rosebud's first words' was "double-double" and a great make-believe game in our house is 'drive-through' and 'coffee house' so um I kinda get what you are saying!

kittenpie said...

B&P - what about siphon?

I love this story. Those times of bonding are so great, especially when they come during or after times off strife, as they sometimes do, and feel like a reunion.