The Big Rumpus is released in the UK today under the title Mama Lama Ding Dong (Snow books), with Mothers on the Verge having the pleasure of kicking off the Ayun Halliday virtual book tour.
Creator of underground parenting magazine The East Village Inky and author of No Touch Monkey!, Job Hopper, and Dirty Sugar Cookies, Halliday excels at pithy observations on daily life, centered around, as she puts it "the complex, absurd wondrousness of being the unpaid caregiver of small children".
Dealing with issues as diverse as the pregnancy-hormone crazed and eggshell-paved spousal battleground of circumcision, trying to recreate Christmas past (the verdict: tricky at best), and the social integration of head lice, reading Halliday is like experiencing a fantasy booze-fuelled no-holds-barred night out with your similarly encumbered girlfriends, without a hint of English reserve (in YLM's case) or any of the social niceties (MM's).
We think we love her.
Here's the lowdown from Ayun on the UK launch of Mama Lama Ding Dong, why being a New Yorker keeps her sane and essential ingredients for the ultimate post-coital breakfast.
How would you describe Mama Lama Ding Dong?
Mama Lama Ding Dong is a self-mocking, no doubt highly digressive account of my first four years in the trenches of contemporary urban motherhood. Much of it was written on the fly, as events were unfolding, with a baby clamped on my titty and a toddler getting into god knows what, in an atmosphere of domestic semi-squalor.
How do your mothering tips translate to the other side of the pond?
That's what I aim to find out. Actually, there are very few 'tips' in Mama Lama Ding Dong, but I'm hoping that the rigors, tedium, frustrations, passion and delight of the office are universal enough to ring chimes in other countries throughout the Western hemisphere.
How would you describe your parenting style – by-the-book or suck-it-and-see?
The latter, definitely, is the only style of which I'm capable, in every aspect of my life, not just as a mother.
Why is being a Manhattan Mama – a city dwellin' mom – so crucial to your saneness?
Actually, I now live in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. But I'm very reliant on the little social interactions that are possible when you live in spitting distance of a cafe, a grocer, a well-used playground, a liquor store, a bookstore, and multiple stoops full of talkative old timers (also, Heath Ledger
lives across the street.) This sense of community, knowing that all I have to do to feel less lonely or stuck in a rut is to get my ass out of the apartment, is my lifeline. It's also important to me that the children grow up interacting with people of different races, cultures and economic circumstances.
What are the top ten things non-parents should know to avoid talking about/ bringing near our kidlets to keep us in THEIR lives?
1. Dead baby jokes, even if we thought they were funny in college
2. Elaborate, complain-y descriptions of babies wailing on airplanes
3. Large plastic toys
4. Anything that emits a tinny, electronic rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"
5. Invitations that state "no kids" (I consider this an absolute for a minimum of the first two years of a baby's life, but depending on the messenger, find that this can be a long term source of resentment)
6. Unsolicited advice regarding discipline / diet / health care
7. Board games that depend on the ability to read, unless every child who wants to play is of reading age
8. To quote the Violent Femmes, 8,8, I forget what 8 was for
9. Alphabetized cd collections that will burst into flames if a single sticky finger print gets on a jewel case
10. Inflexible opinions and ridiculously unrealistic expectations as to how children should behave
If you could travel back in time to hang out with your twenty-year-old self, what one piece of wisdom would you divulge?
Less monogamy while the getting's good.
What is the secret of achieving a tolerable marriage?
Marrying someone who has intelligence and a sense of humor, two qualities that can ameliorate the day-in-day-out quality of a long marriage with, as opposed to between, children. Also, back when I was in massage school, well before Greg and I tied the knot, one of my classmates, a married flight attendant who'd just found out she was pregnant, passed on a bit of advice that her mother had shared with her: Accept the fact that there are going to be some mornings when you'll wake up hating his guts. I haven't seen Amy since massage school graduation over a decade ago, but I think of her mother's advice often, and am grateful to have remembered it.
In Dirty Sugar Cookies, you keep track of all your post-coital breakfasts. Spill the beans – we want to know what your favorite après-shag refueling foods are, and most important, is it possible to continue to do the dirty deed once marriage and rugrats hijack your life, without hiring a gaggle of full-time live-in nannies (and earplugs for the kids)?
Of course it's still possible, especially if all parties keep a sense of humor about both quality and quantity. I once knew a woman who described herself as a "chore whore", dispensing sexual favors in return for laundry, mopped floors, washed dishes and the like. It's funny but it makes sense if the parent who spends the most time with the kids is also the one to whom the bulk of the housework falls. There's nothing sexier than having someone shoulder your burdens for a while!
As for ear plugs, that's another reason to raise your kids in an urban environment. My kids can sleep through ANYTHING! Gun shots, drug busts, taxi drivers blaring Hindi film soundtracks at 2 am. Believe me, there's no sound Greg and I can produce that could compete.
And most important of all: How are you keeping your rabbits from bursting into flames during this world-wide global warming heat wave?
I've been at the summer palace since the day after school let out for the summer. Upon my return to New York, I plan to spend as much time as possible in the Red Hook pool and also drinking beer on the stoop, so my stretched out, flabby abdomen will look its best in a bikini.