A couple of weeks ago I realized I’d figured out the secret to parenthood. No one knows anything. We are all just guessing. Sometimes we guess right, sometimes we guess wrong but it is all a crapshoot.
I had been thinking about a desperate phone call we made to a friend who we hadn’t talked to in years when T’s sleeping degenerated back in November. Our friend was surely surprised to hear from us after so long, and I’m not sure we were making a hell of a lot of sense, but he was very gracious and rose to the occasion with some suggestions and commiseration. It was a great comfort.
In the last 9 months there have been many times when our friends who are experienced parents have told us they’ve gone through the same thing-that we will get through it, that things will get better. Sometimes we’ll hear “what worked for us” usually alongside “but every kid is different”. The underlying message seems to be who the hell knows? And here’s hoping our fuck ups don’t inflict permanent damage! The thing is our friends have great kids, so even if they didn’t know exactly what they were doing things seemed to have turned out alright. I focus on that a lot when I’m freaking out about T.
T got sick a few weeks ago when we were in NC. His had the highest fever of his short life, it broke for good after 2 days and he seemed to be on the mend. But he hasn’t gotten completely well. As his father says he is shnorfully. He isn’t grumpy, his fever was long gone and I sort of thought eh, kids have runny noses, he’s fine. But in a strange case of roll reversal his dad was very concerned. Z has been bugging me since last week to call the pediatrician and ask if we should bring him in. I broke down and called, really just to get him off of my back. When I explained the symptoms to the nurse I told her I was sure he was just fine, but his dad was being ridiculous and making me call. She said since he hadn’t gotten completely well and it had been so long I should bring him in.
He has an ear infection. In both ears. I guessed wrong. And I feel like a terrible mother. Z on the other hand is clearly a wonderful mother.
[After I put T down for the night I stood in the kitchen weeping, I mean really ugly tears. Z put his arms around me and asked what was wrong. I wasn’t terribly coherent, but said things along the lines of “How did you know?” over and over along with “He seemed fine” and “I’m the worst mom in the world” yup, drama queen, and general “wawawawawa” Z sort of rocked me back and forth and told me I was a good mom, and then very gently asked if I’d taken a chill pill yet.]
To make matters worse he is suddenly in the 5 to 10 percentile in weight. Now I’m thinking, am I starving him? His diapers are very wet. He poops about twice a day. What the hell? Our awesome pediatrician told me not to worry; it could be the extra calories he is burning now that he crawls. And his dad has always been skinny as a rail. But his weight feels like a judgment on my parenting.
A couple of days ago someone guessed that T was 7 or 8 months and it made me feel terrible. I felt like she was saying developmentally my baby was behind. After this visit to the doctors I realize that she probably thought he was younger because he is small. The interesting thing is when I was telling Z how much it bothered me he said it didn’t bother him at all. He assumed that she thought T was developmentally ahead because he can do way more than the typical 7 or 8 month old. I envied his confident way of thinking so much. I know that a lot of my insecurities come from my emotional problems, but I think that they also are par for the course for any mother no matter what her mental state. As a group I think we moms are quick to jump to the conclusion our parenting is being questions or that we are just plain bad at this job.
So yes, I think I’ve discovered the secret to parenting. We have no idea what we are doing. On the days it works out we feel great and on the days it doesn’t we feel like shit. And when moms feel like shit they rake themselves over the coals. On the other hand, dads have a cold beer. I think we should try to be more like dads.
I mean come on, does this kid look sick to you?
Z had a work event that he wanted me and the boy to attend this weekend. It probably isn’t surprising to hear that I dread social events. I mean, I’ve got an anxiety disorder and I’m agoraphobic. There isn’t much I hate more than large groups of people getting together. Except for dressing up. I really really hate dressing up. I have a uniform that I happily wear every single day and there has been little variation since high school. And dressing up means trying to look nice. Being I’m not a fan of the way I look this is very awkward for me.
So I stressed out for a few days over what to wear. And the night before the event I put on a pre pregnancy dress that should have fit just fine. But I could barely zip it up. Why? Am I carrying around a lot of baby weight? Strangely and fortunately no. It was my enormous boobs. The innocent sundress became pornographic with the addition of my horrifying chest.
I’m guessing that some of you are thinking I’m doing the fake complaining thing, because who doesn’t want their boobs getting bigger? Well, before I got pregnant mine were on the large side. During the pregnancy they got bigger and when I stared nursing they got even bigger. There is a fine line between “Wow! You’ve got big boobs!” and “That’s just gross” I passed the gross mark somewhere in my second trimester.
For the event I ended up wearing a t-shirt (full boob coverage!) and a skirt. What with the tattoos and all I was definitely on the scruffy side. Z’s students are almost all sunshiny lovely young ladies (I believe there is one gentleman). The event was a graduation brunch for them and their families. My paranoia was probably on overdrive, but I felt like a walking cautionary tale to the clean cut crowd. And the snob in me wanted to shout “But I’m a Sarah Lawrence girl!” Thankfully I refrained and let’s face it all anyone was looking at was T. I can’t blame them. He is very cute.
Unpleasantly big boobs and chronic insecurity. A pretty unfortunate combo.
But. Before T I would have been trying on outfits all week rather than waiting till the night before. Before T I would have been sure people were staring at me with disgust the whole time. Before T there was a 75% chance I would have just bailed on the event. One of the biggest gifts T has given me is to take me out of my all consuming self absorption just a little bit. I’ve got a long way to go, but hey I’ve got to start somewhere.
Two weeks ago T started crawling. I was thrilled, proud, excited, all that jazz. Yes, I’d heard experienced mothers say that I would rue the day he began to crawl in their world weary way, but I thought of them as party poopers with mothering superiority complexes.
To the experienced mothers: I AM SORRY.
Thankfully T was a relatively easy baby. But let’s be honest, the most perfect baby in the world is pretty boring for the first few months. All they do is sit there. And eat. And poop. And sleep. At least I’ve heard they sleep with they are little. T didn’t do so well in that department. But at about 6 months with the sitting up and actually playing with toys going on they become a delight. You loved them before then, but you realize it is so much cooler to see them discovering the world. From 6 to 8.5 months I was in heaven.
And then crawling. Dum dum dum dummmmm.
T now has the means to go exactly where he wants to go. Those places include but are not limited to the houseplant on top of a large pottery piece, anything on the bottom shelves of our many bookcases and tables, the braided rug that is falling apart (he likes to pick pieces out of it), the trash (both in the kitchen and in my bedroom), the cat food and water, electrical cords, etc. etc. etc.
I used to be able to walk away from him for 3 minutes or so and know all would be fine. With frequent checks on him I could prepare his lunch, do dishes, tidy, clean the litter, do laundry, go to the bathroom. Now to do any of these things he must go into the pack ‘n play or the exersaucer. And I feel like a jerk. So yesterday I bought him this http://www.diapers.com/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?productId=25830
The North States Industries Superyard XT Gate. There was an extender option that was 50% off and I got that as well so he’d have even more space to crawl around in.
T doesn’t understand the word No yet and I figured this gate thing would be a good compromise. When I needed to do laundry or cook or pee he would be in a safe place with all his toys in which he could crawl to his heart’s content.
Well, that was the idea. Today I was running around so we could get to a work event for Z and I tossed T into the, well I’m just going to call it what I think every time I look at it, the cage. And little man crawled right up to the side and grabbed on to it and wept like I’ve given him a life sentence.
After we got home from the event Z hopped into the cage with him and the two played happily until it was time for T’s nap. I can see it now. The three of us spending all our time in the cage while the cat meows in fury from just outside.
It would be so easy to let T get his way. Or to always put him in the cage and ignore him. One of my biggest fears as a mother is acquiescing to his every whim because it is easier for me in the short term instead of teaching him that he can’t always get his way. I am not going to let him spend the bulk of the day in the cage. We will do plenty of hanging out, but I can’t let him run amuck either. And until he learns No he can’t hang with me in the kitchen as I cook unless I’ve got him strapped in somewhere.
Bottom line, coping with crawling has brought us closer to the meat of the parenting matter. How do you raise a kid who isn’t running your life or a tremendous brat? I don’t know. But I do know that I’ll be paying a bit more attention to what those experienced Mamas have to say.
PS Thought I’d try spicing things up with a picture at the end. This is T a week ago. The recently added header picture is the most recent one I have of the three of us, but T was only 3 1/2 months then. So this is what he looks like now.
Back in June when I was 7 months pregnant I posted a note to facebook outlining my concerns about what parenthood would do to my marriage. Although I recently had delusions of grandeur involving people I don’t know reading this stuff, I was quickly brought back to reality through a FB status update. Oh well, at least I don’t have any trouble laughing at myself. So to my dear friends who are reading this I’m pretty sure we are friends on FB and if you wouldn’t mind giving that a gander it’ll give this post some context.
Here we are almost 11 months after I wrote that note and 9 months since T was born. And I miss my husband.
Some of the concerns I wrote about came true. I don’t depend on Z’s calming touch to get through difficult situations now. My hands are full with T. Other concerns seem ridiculous. Like waking up after a year and not knowing Z anymore. I know him better than I know anyone else and I don’t think that will change. But I miss him so much.
It’s funny how things hardly ever turn out the way that you think they will. When I was writing that note and trying to imagine what parenthood would be like I don’t think it occurred to me that I would end up missing Zeke. We live together, how can I miss someone I see every day? But during our brief moments alone that is what we say most often to each other.
It hurts to miss him so much, but I realized today I’m not overly worried about it.
I have a crippling fear of change that Z thankfully does not share. I often wonder where or what I’m going to be doing a year from any given moment, but I don’t get pleasure from the daydream rather I’m filled with a sense of dread. Part of the reason I didn’t want to become a parent is the whole gig is one change after another. Damn kids don’t stay the same for two seconds.
But I’ve suddenly realized a great part of all the change in terms of parenthood is the possibility exists for things to get better rather than worse. In 9 short months so much has improved. The days last fall when T was new and I felt like all I did was nurse and rock him feel like a very distant bad dream.
A huge contributor to my momentary and unusual lack of fear concerning change is my current state of mind. I’ve been really burnt out and at the end of my rope lately, but we had family here this past weekend and I was able to get some serious alone time while others watched the boy. And I will tell you what, I feel like a new person. If I had finished writing this when I stared it a few weeks ago I think the tone would have been much more desperate.
But in this moment I feel like Z and I know a relationship takes an enormous amount of work. And we have never shied away from doing that work. Look at me being all hopeful. Wonder how long it will last?