Weighty Matters

I’ve been wringing my hands over a conundrum in the world of exercise and children: the gym day care.

Henry is at the single worst possible age to be let loose in a busy room. At eight and a half months old, he will find every small item and promptly stick it in his mouth (except he’s weirdly slow about it so I usually have time to dive/slide/run/body slam my way over and grab it. He also looks at me, like Baby Can Have Small Game Part?

No, baby. You can not have that.

Also, he pulls up on everything and everyone he can find, even very small children. And then said children run away, and he falls. The gym day care room has a cement floor. Not sure what planning brilliance went into that one, but it’s not even covered with those interlocking rubber floor pieces or anything.

It’s one room maybe 12 x 12. Ten year old boys run around practicing their kung fu kicks and if a crawler gets a knock to the head, well it seems the luck of the draw. They have no cap on the number of kids who can go, and even though I go in the evening at off times, there’s no guarantee there won’t be three crying babies to hold and ten rambunctious eight year old building a teetering tower out of something that will hurt when it falls down.

They have a policy of no chokeable items, but the big kids often bring in their homework, their crafts, their beading necklace sets, their assorted childhood flotsam and jetsam, and if a piece fell on the floor, and Henry put it in his mouth, what are the chances that at that exact moment the caretaker would be watching him closely?

Not good.

He rarely naps/stays in the stroller in there which is another strategy moms of the youngest babies use. This is actually a nice gym that’s not cheap ($60 a month) but the day care is free and since it’s kind of a clique-y place I feel like no one dares complain. Take it or leave it.

So I have a summer workout problem. Running is fine, I can just run at 7 p.m. when my husband gets home and then Anna has two weeks of summer camp so I can run with the jogging stroller then. Then there are lots of vacation days mixed in, and I can do a lot on the weekend, but but but but I need to go to my Monday 5 p.m. Elevated Training class or I will be unfit. It’s like such a must for me. I guess I could pay a babysitter once a week since this little period should be over relatively soon. Once he’s a good walker and out of the peak oral phase the day care will be okay. Maybe by the fall?

Blah. blahblahblah

I guess I can go lift weights at 7 p.m. by myself in the weight room, since I want to focus on gaining strength now anyway.

The weirdos come out at night.

But 7 p.m. is hectic. Dinner, bath, pajamas, family time. Plus I enjoy the time out break that divides up our long days. Without it I’m like killing time and entertaining kids and …. … … …. endless long days and then I’m tired and THEN I have to go work out when I’d rather eat dinner with my husband and kids. It’s not ideal.

But I know this time period is short. It just doesn’t feel like it when you’re in it.

Confessions of a Humblebragger

I’m guilty of the veiled Mommy brag as complaint.

Please consider my extenuating circumstances as you mete out your judgment.

Since my kids were born never sleeping, and my son never napping, and only seldom happy while stationery, I feel justified in distracting myself with any and all positives I can find.

He drew that right before he played a sonata on the piano.

When Henry was a newborn and I had to hold him all day and I wanted to run away hourly I soothed myself by focusing on his beautiful little face and perfection. At least I could dress him up and he could look spectacularly precious in the outfits he would puke on and cry in.

Now that he’s older and not sleeping or napping any better and in fact WORSE I need to find something else to think about, and so I think about and talk about his development.

He’s not winning any baby sleeping prizes? But damned if he isn’t going to walk at nine months. So when I Instagram a photo of him standing alone and then I humblebrag something like “Oh here we go again, guess he’s not happy crawling!” Or whatever stupid somesuch drivel that I type into my iPhone amidst whining and crying and then Anna crying because I said we were going to do something outside today and she “haaaates outside and wants to go to an inside mall” (WTF) and it’s 80 degrees and June and I’m sick and Henry’s sick so we can’t even hang out with friends and I’m so tired I punched a wall the other night (true story) and Henry will only sleep in my arms with a boob in his mouth and I CAN’T GET COMFORTABLE ON MY BACK I need to roll and toss but I can’t because it wakes him up and he’s cranky all day because he’s sick and it’s ONLY 9:47 AM and I don’t know how I will survive until my husband comes home at 7 PM and I CANT EVEN WORK OUT since there’s no more preschool so I can’t run with the jogging stroller and we can’t go to the gym and I was too tired to run last night (I can’t believe that- I’m still so mad) and I want to run away again.

Ah life is such a joy with young kids. You will miss these days. They’re so easy when they’re this young. GO EFF YOURSELF NEXT PERSON WHO SAYS THAT.

So don’t hate me when I post some precocious shit my three year old said or drew. I have nothing else, people. Leave me my advanced baby and my photo milestones. Let me humblebrag the day away.

It’s really hard to clean all my stainless steel appliances!

It’s so taxing being a stay at home mom who is financially secure enough to have an expensive gym membership (she can’t even use)!

I wish I wasn’t so damn smart because then I wouldn’t have so many good ideas I can’t do anything with because I’m holding a snotty baby from goddamn sundown to…the next sundown.

I live ten minutes from a beautiful ocean beach and lots to do, but my three year whines when I try to get her somewhere!

Do you feel bad for me yet?

Tough breaks

I do feel bad for myself. At least today. At least this week. Ask me again next and I’ll be penitent and grateful forever.

Splurging

The other day a friend mentioned she’d never gotten a professional massage. That it seemed insanely indulgent, spoiled rotten, a total unattainable dream. That got me to thinking, because see, I view massages as like completely necessary elements of health and wellness. I practically have an unalterable massage budget.

Yet, we drive one budget car for our whole family. We just don’t care about cars, really. Sure, if we had money to burn we’d get something lovely with leather seats, but until then it’s Hyundai Elantra 4 LYFE.

Yet, we spend way too much on eating out, since we like, um, delicious foodstuffs. We are really picky foodies.

Yet, I never, ever, ever, spend money on clothes for myself. That seems somehow decadent to me, to buy something that doesn’t come with a thrift store price tag or from Target or Marshall’s (maybe, for a splurge).

The other day, I bought myself some comfortable pajama shorts to sleep in. I couldn’t believe I was spending money on sleepwear. I don’t think I’ve done that in at least ten years. I usually wear whatever daytime clothes become unwearable in daytime, if they’re comfortable. I remember once as an older teenager, my mother would always buy me pajamas for Christmases and birthdays because she knew I was this weird ascetic teen who was so in my head and saving all my pennies for backpacking to Europe trips that I slept in cargo pants and even jeans.

While I’m not sleeping in jeans these days, I still find it uncomfortable to spend money on certain things and yet easy on other things. I’m lucky in that my husband shares my financial value system. Down the block from the first apartment we shared on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was a Tui Na Chinese massage place, open amazingly into the late weeknight hours. I mean, this place was like four buildings down from us. How could we resist an hour deep tissue massage along with our delicious take out or sushi dinner du jour?

I’ve had mysterious constant kind of muscle/myofascial pain for most of my adult life, so massages are a health must for me, especially as I train more. They can never, ever, ever be too much pressure for me and if I accidentally overpay for a fancy, spa massage with a practitioner lightly tickling my skin, I’m pissed. I need serious knot work, crazy death grip.

Everyone should get a massage, at least once. Maybe I’ll get that friend a gift certificate. So she’ll be forced to use it, and not spend the money on her kids, or whatever.

What do you consider verboten luxury and what do you “give” yourself?

Been There, Done That, Or, A Meditation on Why Everyone Is So Mean to Kourtney Kardashian

On mornings when my daughter goes to preschool, I sometimes pop on the TV for some adult voices as I nurse, change, care for Henry and do things around the house.

Sometimes (all the time) there’s nothing really good on so I kind of half-watch whatever is on. The other day, I found myself watching one of the Kardashian spinoff shows for the first time.

I was sucked in, big time.

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the way Kourtney as a mother to two young children, one a baby, was depicted. Her sisters obviously had no conception of what it’s like to be a tired, nursing, protective Mama Bear mother to a baby. Her husband was off racing cars and the sisters were making fun of her for wearing sweatpants and smelling bad.

Of course it was all played up for laughs and giggles and the sad sap mom, in her apartment-hotel just breastfeeding and covered in spit up, was the comic butt of the show’s overall joke. It was interesting to see how motherhood was depicted in the least mother-y of settings…high-flying celebrities, partying Miami, beauty, flash, conspicuous selfishness…how far from the self-sacrifice and all-encompassing nature of early motherhood.

Yet…Kourtney seemed to take it all in stride. She seemed completely confident in her choices, to breastfeed, to care about her little family pack above all else, to just hunker down and BE a mom in the face of her family’s ridicule. It was kind of cool.

Credit: CelebrityBabies

I guess I’m having a lot of deep thoughts about an E! TV reality show because that juxtaposition between what it means to be a baby mother and the non-understanding larger world around is kind of resonating with me right now. I remember before I had my first baby, how annoyingly been-there-done-that moms were, with that whole “you just can’t understand until you’ve been there” attitude about what it’s like to give birth, be a mom, be up all night for a year, to have your whole world and priorities and universe shift, irrevocably.

There are groups I circulate in who will just never understand. Most men, for one (Sorry, guys. I know many men are equal parenting partners, but…). Pre-children people in their 20s, or of any age. Weirdly, people whose children are long grown also seem to revert back to a hazy innocent un-remembering about it all, too. Babies are recalled as sleeping and perfect angels by grandparents. It’s a forgetting of time and an inevitable scrubbing from the memory of the bad, the stressful, the difficult.

But I think that does a disservice to the moms of now. If you can’t understand, or remember, or try to understand, you can’t support them.

I HATE HATE HATE when well-meaning older women post things on friends’ Facebook statuses about their babies, how they are struggling with lack of sleep, or baby fussiness, or whatever it may be, and then here comes a nice middle-aged lady, saying something like “These are the best days of your life,” or “This is the easy part, just wait until they walk/run/drive the car,” or “My kids are 17 and 19 and I still don’t sleep at night.”

NO. No no no no. Let’s please stop lying to poor women in shellshock from their first weeks with a new baby. They knew it would be hard. They didn’t know they’d have to shed their old skin, lose their self before they regain a better, tougher, harder, Mommy snakeskin.

They didn’t know the chrysalis would be like this. By fire.

Don’t admonish them on Facebook to appreciate it. I understand that from a twenty-year-long vantage point, these ARE the  best days of our lives. That never again will our homes be so full of children’s laughter, joy, sounds, family. We understand that. But these are also the hardest times. Don’t scare new moms into thinking they will be this sleep-deprived forever.

They won’t. It gets better and better. But support helps, especially for those of us who have been there, done that.

Something Worse

Wait, what was that number one lesson of parenting that I should have learned by now, a year into the gig? Don’t complain, because it could get worse? Yup, that’s it.

Anna got roseola, which actually wasn’t that bad. She had a fever which Tylenol helped, and didn’t want to eat but she still managed to mostly sleep at night and we continued on our merry weekend way, going to a Fall Festival in our town, the playground, dog park, and trying to relax. But her crankiness just increased. Hourly. By the end of the three-day weekend, I was completely drained. Walt was home, luckily, and helped. But I was really starting to learn what the extreme, desperate end of my patience reserves felt like, and it wasn’t pretty.

It would start as soon as she woke up. Whining. Hysterical crying over terrible injustices, such as: Mommy and Daddy taking away the cereal box that she was slowly emptying into the dog’s mouth but mostly onto the floor; setting her down, lovingly, with an array of musically engaging toys; offering her tidbits of food and drink (the incorrect tidbit of food or drink, obvs!) and inanimate objects that refused to move or function exactly as Anna wanted them to in that given moment of time.

Throwing her body on the floor when an injustice was particularly injust was another theme. Toys, cuddling, holding, sleeping, distractions, outings, were all found to be highly inadequate at the job of getting Anna to stop crying, whining, or tantruming.

It was oh-so brutal. I resorted to my primary self-preservation strategy: Googling, which taught me that some babies act totally fine while suffering from roseola, and others can be a bit clingy and cranky. So when I put that information through the Anna-Translation-Presto-ChangeO-Machine, the output is that we must suffer the wrath of the crankiest baby ever in the history of the world to the point of death. There’s a mathematical formula for that, the Anna factor. It’s coincidentally probably also the same factor that explains why the stars in the universe are getting further apart from each other, contrary to rules of gravity and such.

So then, of course, the only next thing that could happen would be a turn for the worse. The fever broke, the roseola rash appeared, good I thought, we are moving on. Then came last night. She cried. At 9pm. She screamed in pain. She writhed. She moaned. She hysterically melted down. She couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t sleep. We got a snatch of sleep around 1 am until 3 am. Infant Motrin was liberally applied. Our bed was tried, the crib was tried again, sleeping upright in the rocking chair was attempted. Thunder and lighting added to the hellish effect.  The dog cowered in the nursery, equally terrified of Anna’s screaming which was the most piercing we’d ever heard in her life and the crashing and booming outside. At one point he shivered on my lap, all 50 pounds of his awkward long coonhound body contorted on top of me.

Finally at 4 am another snatch of sleep. My poor husband had to wake up at 6:30 and go to work. I slept, fitfully, with the intermittently moaning and thrashing Anna until 10, blessedly, mercifully. A trip to the pediatrician this morning didn’t show an ear infection as I assumed must have been the case. So the mystery continues which means tonight is a scary prospect.

It can always get worse.

Toddler Without a Cause

Do you know those times where you find yourself wondering whether you are truly insane or actually the only sane one amongst mass delusion? Like a Kafka high school 1984 moment? Well, I experience this every Wednesday morning from 10 am to 11 am, at my town’s local Mommy and Me program.

Now this class sounds great in theory: ages 6 months to 2 years, one hour Mommy and Me class, babies play for 20 minutes to start, then circle time with singing and hand games, then craft, then snacktime and a story. We’ve done plenty of classes from the library storytimes to the corporate funfest that is Gymboree. Anna loves them, I enjoy the structure of having somewhere we go every week and see the same parents and children. We’re old pros, in fact.

But something in that last paragraph really should have stopped you in your tracks. It was the word “craft” used in relation to the phrase “ages 6 months to 2 years.” What the frig, Snookies and Situations?

We are supposed to sit on little chairs at little tables with squirming, crying, tantruming, mouthing 1 year olds, and then glue little pieces of cut out paper to form cutesy shapes, then glitter crap and add eyes and write our names and draw embellishments. Then take it home and put it on the fridge because of course everyone wants to display something Mom made, that she didn’t even come up with on her own because the whole thing was already created for us. With predetermined pieces of paper to form a predetermined scene. Of a pumpkin with googly eyes.

My daughter had nothing to do with this. In fact, she raged mightily against the making of this construction paper art. She tried to throw the crayons against the wall, she tried to eat the glue, she tried to dive bomb off of my lap head first if need be to escape the enforced lap sitting. So I’m going to take this home and frame it? She didn’t even draw squiggles on it. What the friggggggggggggggggggggg?

So the “Unabomber I should live alone in a cabin because the world is fucked” feeling really descends on me when I see the other mothers seem to enjoy this! Their kids sit like stupid lumps on their lap. They’re not doing the craft either but at least they sit there. Lately I haven’t even been attempting this craft time. I dutifully wrangle Anna during circle time because this child does have a mind of her own. She has enough mind for a small African nation. She has mind. But the poorly planned mind control craft I just cannot abide. I make a few half-hearted stabs at gluing before Anna goes ape and tries to throw everything off the table before I just go in a corner and feed her some Goldfish she’s desperate for and wait for snacktime to roll around.

The lady who runs the class gets upset when we let the kids wander from the activity at hand. So needless to say there is a ton of crying and throwing of small bodies on the floor at any given time. Except for about half the kids, whose temperaments are such that they don’t mind just sitting there.

One mom I talked to totally didn’t get what the hell my problem was. She was all “Oh, it’s so good to get them ready for preschool. They have to learn how to do what they’re supposed to.”

Do they really? They are 6 months to 18 months old. Her son was 15 months, mine is 12 months. Do they really need to sit quietly and do some crap that makes no sense? My daughter was engaged with the singing and dancing and playing and exploring, which makes sense. I don’t really feel the need to force her to sit and watch me glue crap because we are supposed to. Am I raising some kind of nonconformist toddler? Will she never learn how to act once preschool, kindergarten rolls around?

I think she has time. And so far my parenting style seems okay to me. My daughter is lovely, affectionate, advanced for her age. She just doesn’t sit quietly.

Maybe I don’t want her to sit quietly. She isn’t joining the Industrial Revolution any time soon.  She doesn’t need to learn how to sublimate all independent thought so she can be more easily wrangled into punching a time card just yet. She’s 1. There is so much more time for soul killing.

Breakdown

So did I mention that by day we are a happy family, visiting friends, reveling in our daughter’s recent BG (Big Girl) accomplishments of almost completing one year on Earth, eating from a spoon relatively successfully, and gesturing 75% of the Itsy-Bitsy Spider song, and frolicking in the late summer/early autumn sunshine, and one big loony breakdown-frantic-recurring-meltdown by night?

I have an urge to take the above sentence and plug it into one of those “what famous writer do you write like” gizmos and see if I “write” like David Foster Wallace meets John Milton as I suspect.

Let’s try:

Oh, okay. Note to I Write Like developers: add more writers to your database. I’m onto you.

So the reason for the double life is the same old reason everything that has gone very wrong has gone very wrong for the past year. Our daughter just doesn’t effing sleep like any human baby you’ve ever heard of. She spends half the night alternating between laughing like a baby monkey on Jolt Cola and crying because she wants you to come laugh with her like a mama monkey on Red Bull and vodka. She isn’t eventired half the time. I guess one day she will be able to hang out and read books in her crib or enact make-believe sagas with her stuffed animals to pass the time at 2 am when mere mortals are sleeping (is she a vampire baby per Stephanie Meyer?) but for now, when she doesn’t sleep, well, we don’t sleep. Sometimes when she sleeps, we don’t sleep either because intermittent crying is part of Anna’s sleep regimen.

She’s pretty astonishingly beautiful, though, so maybe it’s a beauty sleep trick. Laugh, cry, create porcelain cheeks and sparkling green brown eyes.

A Full Life

One year ago, I was getting ready for my baby shower, nesting, ironing my curtains, resting my aching sciatica, walking my dog every night as if that would somehow bring the baby sooner, convinced that sooner is better, for everything, always.

I always wanted to be three steps ahead. When I was in high school I frantically wished for college, thinking all my problems would be solved with some freedom (turned out I was right about that one). In college I pretended I was in graduate school, shunning the gaucheness of the undergraduates and their social scene, hanging out with the PhD students who lived off campus. When I was 10 I ached to be 14,16,17 and have my first boyfriend and first kiss. When I was 23 and single, living in Manhattan, I stayed up all night, laying on my Ikea slat bed, with my laptop overheating on the mattress, reading strange granola stories about women who went to cabins in the mountains and gave birth to their babies alone under the moonlight, cutting umbilical cords with rocks. I wanted a baby – I felt it physically – even though I had just ended my first serious relationship and was going out every night, dating for fun.

When I was 5 I read the newspaper with my father, instead of my board books. When I was 9 I crept into the Young Adult Section of the library and then read every single book they had, over those long summers that only existed when you were a kid, laying in air-conditioning on a blue carpet, in our high ranch. Sprawled on a towel at the public pool. Chlorine, yearning. All I wanted was for time to pass, rushing me into that next place. Feeling like I was meant to be somewhere else, already, fast. I quit smoking cigarettes when my friends were just swinging into their pack a day habits. I was 21 and I threw my almost full pack of Parliaments onto the highway, the only time in my life I’ve littered from a car. I taught college courses at 24, the boys snickering as I walked in the first day, exchanging glances that I knew meant they would never listen to me, no matter what I did or how thick the rims on my black eyeglasses were. I’m almost 30 and I’ve had more jobs than most people have in a lifetime, two abandoned almost-careers. I don’t know what I want to to do or be besides a mother to my daughter. The rest will come, or it won’t come, because I still have a lot of time left.

When my daughter was one month old, I wished she were 4, 5, 6 months, thinking that she would sleep, I would sleep, life would be a dream; when she was 6 months, I couldn’t wait for her to walk. Now I’m ready for potty-training, preschool, family vacations where we talk and play games in the car, conversations. She’s not a year yet.

I think I’m ready to stop time, at least for myself.

Other People’s Kids

So we all know we go around coveting our friend’s hair and our cousin’s house and our husband’s ability to eat only refined carbohydrates to no apparent bodily harm, but children too? Aren’t our children perfect beings that we would never change and serve as a vehicle for all that is God and holy and miraculous in our lives? Well, yes. But:

Scene: storytime. Subject: wanton jealousy.

I am jealous of moms with babies who Just Sit There. Wherever There is, I want Anna to once in a awhile Just Sit There. Not run to the nearest dangerous location, not attempt to climb objects, not steal things out of other diaper bags and purses. I want to look at a book and have conversations about Danielle Staub’s memoirs with strangers.

Some mothers I know compare their placid, happy, Just Sitting There babies to Anna, and wonder why she or he doesn’t walk, run, climb, and generally be all over the place at 10 or 11 months. They actually say things like “Look at Anna, why can’t you do that?” to their baby. Trade-offs.

Some moms want their child to be out-going and friendly. Anna runs up to strangers in the bookstore with her arms up, asking them to pick her up. She toddles up to other babies and thoughtfully pokes their cheek. She loves everyone. Especially when they pay attention to her.

Some moms want nothing more than to have a child who goes down for a nap easily. Anna refuses to let me feed her anything with a spoon or fork. Even birthday cake. If I was holding the most delectable morsel of food in the world, she would not let me put it in her mouth. Instead, I must put it in her hand for her to feed herself. I’ve met women who plead with their one year olds to pick up a single finger bite, and must spoon 100% of their baby’s sustenance into their mouth.

Do we get what we deserve in a cosmic circle of gene expressions? Or is every child a particular challenge we happen to receive, as we look wistfully to our left and right, at that baby hanging out in the stroller with not a thing in their hands to occupy them, not even crying. WTF? We think. Why me?

Worst Ever

Sleeper, that is. I have her. I birthed her and I care for her. Along with my tired husband.

She is 10 and a half months old and she has never slept through the night.

I don’t know what is wrong. But something is wrong. She doesn’t want a bottle  in the middle of the night and she’s not calling for us. Because she cries in her sleep. And if she cries long enough she wakes up. Then she tosses and turns. And cries. Then she comes in our bed. Then she tosses and turns and cries. The she goes back in the crib. Then she cries. Then an hour later she cries again. Then I cry. Sometimes I throw myself on the floor in my bedroom in desperation. Then she cries. Then she screams. Then we give her a pacifier and she sleeps a bit. Then she cries. Then she wakes up at 6:30 am for the day.

I just described every night of the last two months. Before that the waking was once or twice a night. That was liveable. Before that was the horror of the first two teeth. Before that was just horror. Two hour round the clock wakings for the first six months of her life.

Did I use the word “horror” enough?

This is (almost) ruining our lives.

Tomorrow is Monday. I’m going to call her pediatrician and ask about allergy panels, any physical reasons for sleep problems, anything we can look at, test, investigate, do. Then when she is over her cold, and doctors say she’s fine, there might be a terrible period of letting her cry and seeing if that helps. I don’t know if it will. My daughter doesn’t cry herself to sleep: she cries herself awake.