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Eat breakfast on Mother’s Day

17 May

File_000 (12)The day of mothers arrived like any other Sunday. Our terrier woke me shortly after 7, and I got dressed to take him out, not a peep from the toddler yet. I crept past the room of the baby we kept up too late the night before who seemed to be sleeping in.

Returning from a brief walk to silence inside the house, I prepared oatmeal and pears in a tiny bowl + spoon. Then I walked toward the silence and opened the nursery door to find a standing 21-month-old and the contents of his crib spilled onto the middle of the floor. It was mostly babas [his word for stuffed animal], plus whatever he could reach from the table next to the crib. “I throw shoes!” he announced as I entered the room. Yes, yes, Mommy’s so proud! 

Here’s an appropriate time to speak to non-parents. It seems insane that you could literally think every new phrase your child utters is adorable. And yet before going to bed each night, Aaron and I imitate his little voice, recap his best-of-trying-to-talk hits. I never understood this before I lived it every day. I was perplexed when parents repeated their mispronunciations. Really? That’s what happens to you when you have children?

Yes, that is exactly what happens. And it is a f**king miracle. I will never grow tired of the almost-rights or not-even-close’s. Moonana = banana (or Nana, referring to his grandmothers); Godada = gorilla. His current favorite book involves a godada eating a moonana, of course. The fruit, not the person (oh my, did that cute anecdote take a turn.)

After breakfast and books, the boy wants to watch “Elmo!” and I want to drink coffee and it’s Mother’s Day, so yes to Sesame Street, especially when it’s raining outside. It seems like a great idea until the Letter of the Day song enters my psyche via earworm and three days later I am still spontaneously shouting “Clap! Clap!” and bobbing my head while doing the dishes. And I may tell myself, this is not my music. This is not my beautiful music. 

Once the rain stops and we are preparing to go outside, Aaron is now awake and stirring. I realize it sounds bad that Aaron is still asleep on Mother’s Day, but we have an arrangement where we take turns on weekends getting up early and Sundays are my days because Saturdays I am so sleep-deprived from getting up at 5:30 am. We could’ve switched but I never saw the need. This may have led to several other assumptions on my part that proved problematic. When we walked into the bedroom to greet Aaron, nothing unusual happened, just cute toddler giggling and him rolling around between us. We discuss that our previous plan to go to the park for a picnic may be thwarted because rain = puddles everywhere for our puddle-loving son to sit directly in. Not relaxing, too many wardrobe changes. Also, we have no groceries yet (Sunday is go-to-the-store day) and not enough time to do all of that before naptime (which is typically when Aaron goes to the store). It’s fine, I say, let’s go for a walk.

At this point, the leftover toddler oatmeal and coffee start to wear off and I start to feel how hungry I am under full Florida sun. I then start to realize that not only did I not eat an actual breakfast, but my husband never actually said Happy Mother’s Day to me and it’s after 11 a.m.. After a flurry of realizations on both our parts, we attempt to repair the damage by agreeing to go out to lunch (not brunch!). We choose a place that opens at 12 to avoid the motherly brunch crowd.

We arrive and order and I decide maybe to feel fancy and more celebrated I should order a mimosa before our pizza comes. Nothing says Mom like pizza and a mimosa. While food significantly improved my mood, turns out day-drinking wasn’t the solution when you still have to parent a toddler. Instead of coming home refreshed, I had to take a nap when the baby did. The rest of afternoon felt like a long march until bedtime + Sunday chores.

Laundry, dishes, lunches. *The drudgery*

When I first started making Fox’s lunches, I thought I had entered into some kind of motherhood nirvana. Cutting up foods into tiny portions into tiny containers: It felt so nurturing, so adorable. When he was 8 months old, I remember stacking up his purees, color-coded like an artform, and packing them into a cooler for a road trip. Sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, beets, squash, all stacked in Pantone precision. And then once he got to the 1-year-old class, gone were the purees you could freeze in mass and just defrost–it became something I had to do every night. At first, it was a ritual that I cherished: cutting the grapes, cheese, vegetables, strawberries, hard-boiled egg, the ham, the avocado: the nutrients! I placed tiny containers into a cute lunchbox ergonomically designed to look like a snail. Why do people complain about this?

Eight months in, I had only swears for those f*king grapes.

Wash them, cut them in half, no fourths, maybe eights? These are enormous grapes and the internet and my mom keep warning me about grape choking.

It is routine.

It is repetitive.

It is the kind of thing my husband is so good at.

For months, he made our week’s lunches on Sundays. That man loves to chop things en masse. He ordered a 30 quart bowl online to make the task easier. Yes, the bowl is so comically large that it is nearly impossible to wash in our sink, but eating fresh food for lunch every day is such a blessing. When left to make my own lunches recently, I made toddler food. Tiny containers with hard-boiled eggs, shredded chicken, peas and carrots with a side of fruit and cheese. My lunch preparation brain is so wired for child portions, I flounder when asked to cook for myself. Every since Fox was born, Aaron has shifted to doing most of the adult meal prep. I lost that part of my routine–I donated it all to my son, so when Aaron’s not home, I end up eating hummus and carrots or fruit and cheese for dinner: a meal of appetizers!

There’s a line in a book Fox used to love to read that says “some Daddies take care of Mommies so they can take care of you.” The illustration is of a family of foxes, no less. While Aaron also regularly takes care of Fox, there are these routines that I complain about that don’t even make him flinch. He just grabs that planet-sized bowl and chops and stirs and portions while I am folding laundry or putting food into tiny containers.

So when Aaron falls asleep the night before Mother’s Day before putting the card out on the table for the morning, I forgive him.  What he does every other Sunday is far more important.

Next year, I will be more clear that I do, however, want to eat breakfast on Mother’s Day.

Helplessness means you’re doing it right

1 Oct

file_000Picture it: Baby is napping, the laundry is running and I finally have a chance to take a shower before our neighbors’ barbecue. At the end of the shower, I hear a gurgle. Water is slow to drain but I think we’ll have to get a coat hanger and clean my hair out of the drain later. (Not my first clogged drain.)

I am drying off and then it happens.

The rising.

A darkened sludge starts to accelerate its pace from the drain upwards, carrying with it the wriggling legs of a thousand cockroaches.

The horror!

Just as I’ve come to grips with what is in front of my face, the toilet water joins the assault and spills onto the floor. I race to the closet and throw down Aaron’s strangely XXL-sized towels to stop the water from gushing down the hallway. I send a bunch of emergency texts to Aaron because as I gaze upon this sewage attack, I realize I have no idea how to make it stop.

I am instantly helpless and grateful.

That turns out to be the perfect way to explain how parenting feels.

When I think back to those seemingly endless nights of my son NOT sleeping, I was brilliant at spinning it into a positive to maintain my sanity. Here’s an actual thing I said to Aaron one night after sleeping for an hour and over-reading about infant sleep: “He just needs our help more than other babies.”

HE NEEDS US. THIS IS NORMAL. I AM AT PEACE WITH THIS SLEEP DEPRIVATION. NO ONE IS HELPLESS HERE.

This mentality led me to sleeping for, at one point, 30 minutes a night. There’s no spinning that: my demise was near. So I broke ALL THE RULES and slept with him for two months until he was ready to transition to his crib (which remained right next to our bed until he was 7 months old because ARE WE SURE HE’S READY?)

He was ready. He immediately started waking up less when we weren’t right next to him waking him up. Turns out he’s a light sleeper.

Sleep eventually became a dependable commodity in my house, but there was a period near the end of the school year when my stash of frozen milk was dwindling and I wasn’t pumping enough at work to keep up with baby’s appetite. It was May. I had almost finished six months of pumping three times a day and teaching six periods a day with 25 minutes of planning and no lunch because pumping. To be that close to the end and not make it induced panic. Had I started supplementing with formula several months before, this probably wouldn’t have fazed me. But one more month might as well have been a broadsword dealing the final stroke against working moms.

At the time, Aaron was buying formula just in case and reassuring me that it would be fine. That’s nice, honey, but I am too deep into crisis mode to hear rational thought, so just hand me some pumping supplies at 10 p.m., so I can do this for the 5th time today instead of sleeping. 

It became a weird challenge for myself–another moment of helplessness I was trying to control. If I just do more, I can conquer this. Fox would have been fine either way–this was about me. I needed to win this one. The whole school year had been a blur, me trying to balance this thing that kept me connected to my son while away from him, while also trying to do right by my students.

I decided I would not be taken down by 30 days on a calendar, and so I doubled down.

Pump. Teach. Pump. Teach. Pump. Teach. Pump. BABY! Pump. Dinner. Dishes. Grade. Pump. Sleep. Repeat.

Day by day, the helplessness faded and the formula stayed on the shelf.

The cockroach water receded, the towels were washed and a Roto-Rooter visit later, we could flush the toilet again.  It was as if nothing had happened here.

Before bed that night, I gazed down the clean hallway past the door of my sleeping baby and the only thing I felt was grateful.