Birthday W/E Part 2

So Day 1 of my miraculous get-back-in-touch-with-self birthday weekend did not exactly go as planned. Between seeing the house that is for rent, going to a baby birthday party, and talking with DH about our moving options, there was basically no me-time. Except now. So I get a raincheck for today. “You deserve it,” my husband just said to me, and I agree! And tomorrow, my 42nd, is all mine. Tomorrow I will try my damndest not to get swept up in tasks and caretaking and new games S likes to play, although I will certainly nuzzle him and tickle him at least a few times.

Life is feeling very stirred up right now. It has felt stirred up for ages. Do I need to own a house in a place with a reasonable cost of living, in a community where I feel I can lay down roots, where S can make childhood-long friends, to feel settled and able to grow? Can I grow while unsettled? Can I embrace the stirrings that have been happening in my life for many years now instead of always yearning for that rootedness? Can I accept the now?

It’s not the easiest. But maybe it keeps me interested. DH and I had this conversation recently about how the things that stress us out also keep us interested and invigorated and in problem-solving mode. Is there some part of ourselves that keeps us on our toes on purpose? So we don’t get bored?

Maybe. People are weird. The brain is mysterious. Who knows what is really going on.

I want to find a center from which I can reliably pull out love and stability for myself, DH, and S. I’ve made a lot of progress. I don’t allow myself to feel the victim like I used to. I actually feel annoyed and bored with myself when I start to bemoan this or that. I think often about how little time I have left in this body, with my beautiful-madman, my intelligent observer, my hearty fun-lover, of a son. And with my husband, who is clearly the person I needed to go sailing and stumbling and exploding and singing and roaring through all of this with.

Today, in the middle of mind-numbing tasks, rushing and stressing, trying to get out the door, I stopped and just looked at DH over the head of our boy. He looked at me back. We both grinned. Then smiled quietly. Ahhhhhh GOD I love those moments! THAT is what it is all about. We melted right into each other. Hugged warmly for a long, long time. “Boh, boh, daw, daw, doh, nnnnaaaaa! Awwoooooowa!” the miniature person between us was saying, looking up at us. The warm energy that zings between the three of us has this way of making my back pain and my headache and my brain fog recede into the distance for at least a little bit.

But it’s not all magic. There is a lot of pain. Stupid pain! I know, I know. The pain has to be there so we can enjoy the pleasure. But why does the pain have to last so much longer than the pleasure? Is that really absolutely necessary? Come on, now.

The pain is physical. I’m old. 42. I’m not old. 42. But I’m just not 32. And I can’t get enough exercise and stretching to feel okay and I often fantasize about becoming a gym rat, salt-and-pepper and buff, one of those glowey ladies with gleaming, taut muscles at age 70. That’s hot. I see those women. I admire their dedication to their bodies and their health. But I’m not them, and I know that. I am a lot lazier than I care to admit. I like to drink and be silly. I like to make art way, way more than I like to do sit-ups…

How can I accept who I am when it comes to exercise? How can I just let myself be? Watching The Mindy Project—tongue-in-cheek, here, but also not—is helpful.

I’m having a really hard time getting naked myself. Well, that’s not true. I’m often naked, I just don’t want to have much sex (even though when we do, it is so excellent, so why? why? what the heck is going on with me?). I walk around naked not to tempt my husband but because we live in a small apartment and my closet is in the nursery and if I don’t get my clothing situ sorted out before naps or bedtime, I’m screwed. So I will literally just walk around naked or in some seriously sour clothes so as not to disrupt my sleeping toddler. Not just for him, but for me (the better and more regularly he sleeps, the happier I am).

He’s a good sleeper, our boy. 8:30 PM to 7:30 AM. You would think I would be able to accomplish all sorts of things, novels, healthy exercise routines, with a sleeper like that. He also naps like clockwork from 10 to 11 and 2 to 3. Of course the naps are maddeningly shifting because of his developmental changes, and I can feel the morning nap slowly and insidiously eeking away…but I hear the horror stories from the moms in my mom’s group of far worse and know I am one of the lucky ones.

My mama friends rock. I realize, now, how fortunate I have been to find them. These are women I actually like. Not like because I have to, not like because they are the only options. But because they are cool!

They have become an important and fulfilling part of my life, and I never would have predicted such a thing. Their support and love is makes me feel connected and sane. It doesn’t feel quite like family, but it is the next-best thing. I often feel awkward and bumbling because it is so difficult to actually connect while you are distracted re: your kid (you can see him out of the corner of your eye, during playdates, and you wonder if he is putting something in his mouth that he shouldn’t, while your mom-friend is telling you something personal and emotional…the tension between wanting to be a good listener, wanting to connect to another adult, and wanting your son not to die from swallowing something sharp is, er, a bit disruptive). But I had a bunch of them over to our place for cocktails, after baby bedtimes, one night, and it was nice not to have those little people pulling us away from one another.

I read Anne Lamott before S was in my utero, but I of course didn’t really understand the stuff about how brain-numbingly tired and bored you get, taking care of a baby all day long. And how bizarre it is to feel so stressed, tired, bored, and personally unfulfilled (in terms of your own, adult stuff you used to get done or pursue) while at the same time feeling the sun rising in your belly from happy love-joy feelings for the crazy cub running about at your heels.

I love to take stock, reflect, write. It gives me a sense of story. Story gives my life meaning. I’m not used to having to wait and wait and wait for the time and energy to reflect and write. I’m not used to such delayed gratification. All the many stuffs get piled up inside and I feel like I can’t get it all sorted out.

S is an easy dude to hang with. He is loving and hilarious and insatiably curious and the cutest toddler I’ve ever seen. He walks like E.T. All he wants, all he really needs (after his basic needs are taken care of), is to be close to us. It’s so hard to deny him my company. But it also impossible to be the mom I want to be without denying him my company sometimes. In The Tao of Motherhood, the phrase I love is: benevolent neglect. 

I don’t feel guilty when I leave the house, go to yoga, to the store, and he’s not in sight. I miss him, but I don’t feel guilty. I often just feel on-the-clock, looking at my watch, while trying to enjoy the simplest pleasures: walking down the shop aisle by myself, lingering over a display of shampoos, and feeling ironic about my enjoyment of such lame things.

But I do feel guilty when he wants to be in my arms and I am laboring over a pile of cruddy dishes. All he wants is to be in my arms, to see what I’m doing, or to run giggling as I chase him, while I’m scraping crappy crud off of plates, my back aching.

Or sometimes, I just want to put my goddamn makeup on in peace. Sometimes, I want to manage to get it ALL on my freaking-fracking face, not just the basics. I want to look prettier, less tired. And my little son is tugging at my leg, crying. My trick of giving him his own makeup brushes in his own little plastic container has lost its allure.

“I just need a minute,” I said to him the other day, my tone serious. “Please go into the living room while Mama finishes.” His face crumpled. He looked…wounded. I usually talk to him in the bouncy-lovey voice that his cub-ness inspires. I watched him go into the living room and quietly lie on his back and look up at the ceiling. I wanted to cry. I held my eyeliner pencil in my hand. Do I finish makeup or go galumphing in there and do yum-yum belly kisses on his sweet little baby belly? I took a slow breath. I decided to stay in the bathroom and put on the eyeliner. And then I went in there and read him approximately five hundred books while he curled up like a kitty in my lap with his favorite blanket.

He loves to do that now. He’ll go get the book he wants, plop it in my hands and crawl into my lap with his blanket. It is, by far, the best thing that has ever happened to me. I swear it is that beautiful, every single time.

We have one book, this ducky bath book, and there is a page on which all of the little animals are giggling and rocking back and clutching their bellies, having a gay old time. One day, I decided to do all of their different types of laughs, hoo hoo hoo, ha ha ha, hee hee hee. My toddler cracked up. Now, all I have to do is pick up that book and open to that page, and he starts cackling.

Tonight, DH explained how S is beginning to understand the concept of hide-n-seek, and that they played it for an hour, cracking up, while I was at the store.

The laughter. That’s the gift. It injects all of these endorphins into the system to make up for the physical pain and the brain atrophy. I realized the other day that I have never laughed this much on a daily basis. Nor have I danced and sang this much. That’s why these children are living angels.

 

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14 Comments

  1. I can sooooo relate to ALL of this. Every single line just about. The guilt. The on the clock feeling if it’s not guilt. The love. The moments with books and cuddles. I love your posts! And happy birthday!

    Reply
  2. Last paragraph was, like, whoa (feeling all your feels) and, in general, I’m so happy to hear this happiness even amid the imperfection that is real life.

    Reply
    • wow, thank you—i felt that way while writing it. the last line a moment of sharp clarity, seeing, feeling. thank you for reading, as always.

      Reply
  3. Happy birthday friend. <3 It's lovely to see two updates from you, although it's tough to see how you have to juggle all these things and decisions. What's with the landlord??? Anyhow, I just love to read about your interaction with S, and how you handle the dance between having your me-time and balancing it with meeting his desires and needs. It's all so real, isn't it? As I read, I imagine you and S reading,dancing, singing, laughing. It's such a beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing and wish you a day of love and peace.

    Reply
  4. sylvia

     /  January 31, 2016

    I say “freaking-fracking” when I’m frustrated with my kids! You’re the only person I’ve ever “met” who also says that :) Had to de-lurk to tell you that!

    Reply
  5. You do such a good job of putting into words my current state of being. I’m struggling sooooo much with fatigue, the achy body, lack of motivation, and that feeling like I never get space to indulge in the creative stuff that does good things for my soul. But then the sweet stuff. Our bedtime routine now ends with both my girls curled up in my lap. I tell stories and sing. They’re fave is Over the Rainbow and when I finish one or both will say in a sleepy voice “bay bow?… Bay bow?” Till I sing it again. It’s heaven! I can’t even believe it sometimes. And yet at the same time I feel like I’m walking through mud all day.

    Reply
    • Ha! Laughing out loud. Through mud, heart exploding. Who would have thought such opposites could co-exist. Bay-bow…oh little munchkins. The innocence is just too much.

      Reply
  6. “I of course didn’t really understand the stuff about how brain-numbingly tired and bored you get, taking care of a baby all day long. And how bizarre it is to feel so stressed, tired, bored, and personally unfulfilled (in terms of your own, adult stuff you used to get done or pursue) while at the same time feeling the sun rising in your belly from happy love-joy feelings for the crazy cub running about at your heels.” THIS. THIS IS EVERYTHING. I so needed to read this right now so I know that I’m not alone. Q is such a busy little guy, it’s so hard to strike a balance between keeping him entertained/letting him entertain himself/taking care of me. I swing wildly between talking to him and playing with him while he explores and touches everything and then just sitting there listlessly while he climbs the stairs for the hundredth time and it’s all I can do to keep him from accidentally killing himself. Thank you.

    Reply
    • It’s kind of just so awful sometimes, isn’t it? And then wonderful. Then awful. Then both at once. What is a person to do but stir up a cocktail at night. This morning I was trying to play boisterously and then I ended up just staring at the wall and taking deep breaths. Yes, the swinging wildly! Everything is hilarious fun, I’m tickling him and roaring like a bear, I am this mama he loves to joke and play with….and then I am depleted and confused and wanting to just put my pants on and I’ve stepped in cold noodles and the smallest thing is so hard. I’m glad it helped. Helps me to read your comment!!!

      Reply
  7. I’ve been enjoying this series of three (and happy – belated – birthday!). You sum up so, so well what it’s like to parent a small child, especially the ‘swinging wildly’ as you and Aramis phrase it above. Honestly, I’ve heard people talk about parenting, but this post is about as good a description as I’ve ever read. And it’s good to know that I’m not the only one feeling it, both the highs and the lows.

    Reply
  8. Loved this post. I can’t technically relate…yet. But I know myself and my inner dialogue and I can see feeling similarly. 😀

    Reply

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