Children Get Older, and I’m Getting Older Too . . .

One of my best friends had her first child at the age of twenty. She was only a few weeks postpartum when her parents moved away leaving her living with the father of her new baby, a man she still barely knew. She was soon suffering crippling panic attacks. One day her father-in-law said to her, “You know, it won’t always be like this. You won’t always be shackled down with this little baby. She’ll get older. It will get easier.”

Ten years later I became a mother and on particularly difficult days I would remember those words. The first time I ventured to the store alone worried I’d have to abandon a full cart of groceries to nurse a baby for twenty minutes.

It won’t always be this way.

The first time we attempted to eat in a sit down restaurant only to end up in a fast food drive-thru with a screaming newborn.

It won’t always be this way.

And then there were the ladies at the Le Leche Meeting telling me to “enjoy this time, it goes so fast.” I sat there with a four-week-old baby that still wouldn’t latch half the time, exhausted from pumping every three hours around the clock. I was annoyed but old enough to know, yes, you’re right.

It won’t always be this way.

But god, it felt like it would.

Seventeen months in we finally night weaned my son. I started getting a solid night’s sleep only to find myself pregnant a couple weeks later. Soon I was up every three hours again, to go pee.

Today I sit here with two kids who sleep through the night. They are four and two. Our two-year-old hasn’t pooped in her diaper in weeks. It’s time to commit to fully potty training her. Soon she’ll be in a “big girl” bed. Our house will officially no longer have a nursery. My son is closing in on five. He’s slowly become a reasonable little kid. The tantrums are almost nonexistent, almost. The two of them can now be left alone to play for small periods of time. They can actually talk to one another, share and generally act like kids. Not babies, but kids.

I have kids.

Kids.

It’s so weird.

And for the first time I can see the other side. You know what I mean, the other side of parenthood that doesn’t involve strollers, car seats, sipppy cups and diaper bags. The other side that involves family vacations without the fear of someone crying on an airplane. The side that involves family game nights and trips to the movies. The side that replaces play dates with soccer games, chess club and gymnastic meets.

The side that involves me having a career again.

And I thought I’d be sad. But I’ve passed the curve. We’ve waited too long to have another. It’s getting easier and there might be no turning back. Sure, there will always be that little tug at my heart when I see a little nursling or chubby baby thighs, but mostly I’m excited.

For the first time recently I’ve begun letting both kids out of the shopping cart in the grocery store. It’s one of those milestones that you don’t record in a baby book. Both of them walking around, staying close by and listening to me. It’s these little moments that accumulate one at a time. The first time I could trust my son not to dart out into traffic while walking to the park. The first time I could just hand my baby a sandwich instead of cutting up her food. The moment I yelled down the hall for my kid to put on his shoes and coat only to see that he was already dressed and ready to go. The day I found my baby girl could articulate, “I sad, brother hurt my feelings.”

In a million tiny little ways they get bigger everyday, and I can’t be anything but incredibly grateful.

This past week we realized that our baby girl knows the words for over 100 items in a set of flashcards which we failed to ever use. We were cleaning out the house, taking things to Goodwill and kept the flashcards; we figured she needed them. That night my husband flipped through them as she shouted out each one without hesitation, “Chair! Sun! Octopus! Ice Cream! Bread! Table! Lizard! Pants!”

“Well, I guess we don’t need these,” my husband said laughing.

When did she learn to talk? Like, really talk?

It just happens this way I guess. Father Time has to be a man because no woman would ever steal your baby from you this way. As they say about life with little kids, the days are long but the years are short.

Goddam they really are.

So lately I’m trying to soak it in. And I don’t mean that whole cliché “the dishes and laundry can wait” bullshit. The dishes and laundry have always had to wait in my house. I mean I’m staring at my toddler and trying to mentally catalogue her mannerisms. I’m telling my brain to file away the feeling of my lips on her soft chubby cheeks. I’m wishing I could photograph the smell of her breath, the feel of her silky soft hair as it slips from my hands. I’m laying in Oz’s bed at night for an extra twenty minutes and indulging in the “jump-crash-hug Mama” game, in which he physically attacks me with affection the way little boys do. My heart is breaking as he makes me a name tag to wear with his own name on it and tells me, “This is so people know you belong to me.”

Lid_beach_snuggles

And it’s not that I want more babies. It’s that I want these babies.

These babies forever and ever.

I belong to them.

You’re Cordially Invited to a Women’s Retreat

Before I published my blog I quietly started doing research on Instagram. I stumbled upon these women that have accounts dedicated to their goddess-ness. They post these otherworldly images of themselves in flowing skirts and jangly bracelets while baby wearing using their own homemade wraps woven from alpaca fur. Ok, maybe not alpaca, but whatever this shit is it’s definitely conflict free. They post pictures with captions like, “Here is the pic of my aura we got taken at the metaphysical conference.”

I followed them with curiosity, watching as they celebrated the winter solstice while wishing each other “love, truth and light” in the next lunar cycle. They were having gorgeous drum circles while nursing their babes in front of a teepee from Pottery Barn, wearing the Navajo inspired blanket ponchos they bought at Anthropologie.

There are frequent quotes about revolution. A revolution from what exactly is never really specified.

They give birth in their bathtubs, and post pictures of the organic smoothies and salads eaten by their crystal necklace wearing toddlers. Every image is flawless and professional looking. All of them thin and willowy with long wavy hair. The backgrounds nearly as whitewashed as the women, with the rays of sun filtering through palm leaves. One time I spotted a moderately overweight woman, nursing a baby in the background of their drum circle. I’m not sure how she got there. Perhaps she was an interloper or just an apparition.

I know where you think I’m headed with this. You think I’m going to call bullshit on it all.

Nope.

I want in.

Sign me up for the crunchy pagan Mama spiritual retreat. Let the sage burning, chanting, herbal tea and trust falls begin! Let’s sync up our menstrual cycles and have long meaningful conversations about mother earth and astrology. Let’s wear our babies around in printed fabric woven by someone in Rancho Cucamonga who claims to be a shaman.

Only I’ll need to make a few changes, just a few.

First instead of traveling to some Burning Man-esque desert paradise and setting up teepees we’ll just stay right here in the suburbs. I know, I know, we’ll lose a lot of the charm and authenticity (whatever the fuck that is) but let’s face it, long car rides with small children and pregnant ladies are no fun.

Secondly, the drums and sage burning we’ll replace with another ancient spiritual tradition, tequila. But only the purest most organic agave shit, blessed by a high priestess. Perhaps Cabo Wabo?

No corporate shit. No basic bitches here.

And speaking of “high priestesses,” I get to be one. Just sounds bad ass. Ok fine, you can be one too if you want. But you have to bring your own handmade, velvet, hooded cape. (Seriously when are velvet capes coming back in style?)

Now that I think about it the ceremony we’re going to perform is not really suitable for babies, small children, large children, or men of any kind. So no kids or husbands. This would just mess with our natural female power, our “juju” if you will.

We’re going to form a large circle and begin by joining hands and thanking the goddesses that came before us. Then the high priestess will begin with the formality of introduction. The first goddess called to speak will put on the headdress of some ethnic group she doesn’t quite understand. Then she must announce her name, age, favorite gangsta rap song and from which tribe she hails. By tribe I mean which residential neighborhood you live in. Here’s an example:

“I’m Sarah, from the noble Whispering Pines subdivision overseen by the ever powerful Warren Management HOA. I’m thirty-six years old and the song that most embodies my journey is Westside Connection’s “Get Ignit”

At this point the goddess shall take a swig of the blessed Cabo Wabo from a golden chalice purchased at World Market (if there isn’t one in your area a Pier One Imports will suffice) and pass it to the right along with the headdress. Actually, two swigs.

tequila

Sip, sip, give bitch.

We’ll continue this way all night until I eventually text someone’s husband a picture of my boobs while we sit around the kitchen eating nachos and talking about sex.

Spiritual as fuck.

I may even whip out my Celtic Tarot card set I purchased at Barnes&Noble when I was seventeen. Don’t worry it’s totally legit, and it tells the future with 100% accuracy. The cards are left up to your own interpretation of course.

In the morning we’ll awake to the warm sun on our faces, refreshed by mother earth and her sweet kisses of morning dew.

Actually, that’s just for those of you who passed out in the front yard, and you’ll most likely feel deep remorse and aching joints.

I’ve been told Our Lady of the Waffle House can fix that.

Come on, who’s with me? Also, do you have a Ouija Board we can borrow?

I’m kidding, I totally already have a Quija Board. Obviously.

The Winter of My Discontent: What I’ve Been Up To

You ever feel like you’re just gliding through?

Everything’s going smoothly. And so I ask myself, “Wait, is it going too smoothly?” And my self replies, “Oh no, we’re not doing that shit. That fatalistic shit’s too good so shit’s going to go bad nonsense. You’re too old for that.” So I just relax and cruise through with my currently healthy kids and husband who’s home more during the slow season.

And dammit if he’s not really helpful when he’s not tired from working seventy hour weeks. He’s playing board games with the kids and having them help make homemade pasta. He’s researching Lego pirate ships online. He’s making waffles from scratch after dinner. He’s forcing everyone to go sledding. I’m arguing that it’s too cold, that there’s not enough snow. I end up having a fantastic time.

After the kids are in bed I have a glass of wine. Later in the dark I reach across the bed and stroke his winter beard and say, “I love you. Thank you for being such a good Daddy.”

In the slow pace of winter I feel like I’m not doing enough. I’ve gained weight. I’ve been letting the kids watch more TV than usual. I started out feeding them only organic food and now McDonald’s has worked its way into their vocabulary.

I remind myself it’s December.

After the holidays we’ll get our shit together, or rather, I’ll get my shit together, I tell myself.

My brother comes to dinner and asks, “So what have you been up to?”

My mind goes blank.

I know I’ve been doing things, all the things. Preschool drop off, mixing pureed spinach into the boxed macaroni so I feel less guilty, I’m at the gym, I’m at Target again, I’m drinking Starbucks in my minivan, I’m eating far too much hard salami and cheese, I’m cursing how the dirt from the car rubs onto my pants, I’m changing Lids into her leo at ballet, I’m shuttling Oz to gymnastics on Saturday, how is it Saturday again already? I’m hating winter, I’m doing the scary yell while the kids whine, I’m realizing it’s 3:30 and I have no idea what to feed anyone for dinner, I’m feeling bloated and useless, I’m realizing my two-year-old has learned the F word, I’m screwing around on my phone while the kitchen sits filthy.

But this is not the answer to “What have you been up to?” So I just say, “I don’t know really. The usual stuff.”

I’m wishing I had my own income. My husband sits there with his sexy beard and his mad sledding skills with his pockets full of money. But it’s his money. He is unconsciously smug in his financial contentment. Technically his money is “ours” but I want my own. I want to feel that contentment again. I wonder how the power balance would shift if I won the Pulitzer. I wonder how J.K. Rowling feels sitting high atop her game. I wish he was a little scared by my hot body, by my ability to support myself, but he’s not because I don’t have either of those things. If I complain about anything or want to “check-in” on our marriage he obliges me by listening and replies, “Hey, things are great. We’re good. The business is doing great. The kids are gorgeous.”

“Damn it, they really are gorgeous, right?” I’ll reply.

Conversation over. Mentioning how cute our kids are will end pretty much any argument or discussion. Check and mate.

Well played sir, well played.

But I do this. Every few months I feel the need to check-in. He does not have this same desire. I’ve come to realize it’s not the marriage that makes me antsy. It’s me. It’s my utter lack of direction outside of the kids. The clock, it ticks. Soon the little one will be in preschool and I’m expected to do something with my time, once I have time again.

Oh, and I feel old as fuck. Have I mentioned that? I know dropping weight would make me feel younger. I lost seventy-five pounds in a year once. I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t feel amazing. I was swift like a fucking ninja. Running and jumping over shit just because I could.

finger_skinny

Like a fucking mountain ninja.

I could sit here and tell you I care about that, about how I look, about being like a ninja. And I do, but in my mind there’s part of me that will always be the old lady doling out advice to young pretty little things. This has always been my personality. It’s easier to drink wine in front of the TV, it’s easier to be invisible to all the white boys who don’t know what to do with all that ass.

[I don’t do vapid.]

It’s always been easier.

Easier to spend his money and convince myself that it’s ours because marriage says so, because the law says so, because I’m the mother of his children dammit!

But I want my own shit. This is the problem with staying home. Perhaps my goal for 2016 should be to get paid to write, or finally decide what to go to grad school for.

Oh yeah, and lose some weight. You know, because America hates fat women and empty resolutions are fun.

So the next time someone asks what I’ve been up to I’m going to say, “You know, just fuckin’ hustlin.”

But you’ll know what I mean…