I like to eat fruit
and shake my baby brother
I call it dancing
I like to eat fruit
and shake my baby brother
I call it dancing
Last week I was house-bound with two sick kids while Paul was out of town. Both kids had nasty colds, and for Josie that means asthma. The inhalers stopped working and for six days she was on steroids. Go ahead and form a mental picture of Josie on steroids.
One afternoon, I think it was Thursday, I spent 90 minutes in a very small doctor’s office with both kids. K is 18 months old, into everything including the doctor’s cabinets and drawers that were not locked or baby proofed, and he was completely uninterested in the television shows I had on my i-phone for this exact situation.
After the doctor’s office, we went to the pharmacy to get more steroids. The prescription did not have the proper dosage so after much back-and-forth and fussing and delay, we finally got the prescription filled and left 45 minutes after we arrived. By then the kids were tired and hungry and sick. Did I mention they were sick? Sure, sure I did.
I went right to a kid-friendly restaurant to get them fed as quickly as possible. Of course, Josie insisted on filling her own glass at the water fountain and filled it right to the top. Back at the table, she dumped it all down the front of her shirt. As I reached into the diaper bag to get her spare shirt I remembered that I didn’t have a spare for her because I had used that shirt to clean up the vomit she projected all over the inside of my car that morning while I was sprinting to the store in a desperate attempt to acquire more supplies. We didn’t make it to the store that morning and I hadn’t replaced the shirt. So, right there, in the middle of the restaurant, I changed Josie into an old pair of her leggings and her brother’s too-small shirt. Fine. Good enough. Moving on.
We made it home a half-hour after bedtime. I took K right into his room to put him to bed as Josie stood outside his door and sobbed. I’d given K his bottle and was bouncing all 35 lbs of him to sleep when he cough-burped and vomited all over my back and the floor. Did all that really just happen?
The next day when I was talking to my mom, she was expressing her sympathy and said how awful that sounded and by then I was like, yeah, it was really no big deal. I was putting one foot in front of the other, making it happen.
This week we are house-bound again this time due to the snow. Paul is working from the basement office while I sled, build snowmen, shovel the driveway, make kale rice, roasted parsnips and steak for dinner and do the laundry. It’s satisfying and exhausting. I am at my maximum parenting speed. I can do no more and no better. By the end of the day, my parenting skills are completely used up. And, I know these are days I will remember fondly and miss when they are grown and gone. But, I have to say that I have not exactly enjoyed every moment of the last two weeks and I feel guilty about that. I do.
When I read “Don’t Carpe Diem” this last night, the timing was perfect. This is my favorite part:
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers — “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” — those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Now, if you’re one of those well-meaning cheerleaders feeling guilty for trying to be friendly, don’t. This isn’t about you. I know someday I will be thinking the same thing and the next time my 90 year old grandmother comes over and says exactly what is written in all caps above, I will grit my teeth and smile and say that I do, that I am enjoying every minute. This is about giving myself a break and not feeling guilty that some days, okay, most days, I’m dreaming fondly of a time when K will watch television, telling the teenage neighbor that I will pay her ANY amount she requires if she will come and play with my kids, and counting the minutes until bedtime.
I came up with all kinds of delightful and exciting plans for my solo trip to Texas to finalize K’s adoption, but the one thing – the moment I was really fantasizing about was Tuesday morning. With all the important stuff out of the way, on my last morning there, I would sleep in. Then I’d have a big breakfast in the hotel restaurant. There would be a white tablecloth at this breakfast, a scrambled egg, a big bowl of fruit, a slice of bacon, a pot of green tea and a newspaper. I would read the whole newspaper without interruption or the anticipation of dishes. Then I would check out of the hotel and leisurely make my way to the airport for my 2:00 flight.
As planned, I fly to Texas Sunday afternoon and arrive just after dark. Dallas freeways are nasty, a handful of spaghetti thrown on the floor. There are interchanges and spurs and every highway has two names. As an out of towner, it’s hard not to take their interstates as a personal insult – an attack on your intelligence. Finally I arrive at the hotel.
The next morning I need to be at court at 9:00 am for a 9:30 appointment. I decide to take surface streets. Construction. One way’s going the wrong way. Bad neighborhoods of run-down houses and mean dogs. I follow a car in which the driver is pushing a woman out the door while the car is still moving. Finally, I arrive at the courthouse and wait in the specified location. Nothing. At 9:25 I try to call the lawyer but my phone is not working. I start talking to strangers. I find my missing lawyer. At 9:30 K is finalized. Yay!
I step out of court to find a text from the social worker that says K’s birth mother has cancelled our evening get-together. She has to work. Guess what that means? Nooooooooo.
Perhaps I’m losing sight of what is important here. Perhaps I should be focusing on the finalized adoption. Perhaps I should be focusing on the fact that I would get to meet the woman who gave birth to my son. But, all I know is that I’M MISSING THE SLEEP, THE WHITE TABLECLOTH, THE EGG, THE FRUIT, THE BACON, THE POT OF GREEN TEA AND THE NEWSPAPER.
I fall asleep early on Monday night and wake at 4:00 am after a terrible nightmare. At 6:00 am I’m in the car for the two hour drive though the dark and the fog on the crazy Dallas highways to Nowhere Texas. To stay awake, I drink too much black tea and without THE EGG, I’m all jittery and amped on English Breakfast by the time I arrive. I’m 20 minutes early and I fully expect her not to show up, but she is there. We have an intense two hour conversation. I know this is huge and what you really want to hear about and I will tell you about some of it another day, but that’s not what I want to talk about today, so you’re just going to have to wait while I talk about breakfast.
Then I have just enough time to use the restroom before hitting the road again for the two hour drive back to Dallas for my 2:00 flight. I spend the next 3+ hours uncomfortably dozing, all gaping mouthed and drooling and unable to get comfortable, and get home just in time for dinner, more exhausted than I started.
Someday, I hope to meet my Tuesday morning breakfast, but for now, today, I think I’ll have to settle for reading the Styles section of the Sunday New York Times while I eat tunafish and grapes and stare down the pile of breakfast dishes. Maybe I’ll linger a minute longer than normal. Maybe I’ll make myself an extra cup of tea or eat a few extra grapes. Maybe I’ll read over the notes from my conversation with K’s birth mother and think of how awesome this little egg will be someday.
Ski trip #1 – I pick Josie up from school. We stop twice to use the bathroom. We’re about 20 minutes from the summit and she starts screaming that her mouth hurts. I pull off the highway and identify it is, in fact, her ears that hurt. At first I think, she must have an ear infection. Then I realize it’s the altitude and pressure on her ears. We’ve never had a problem with her ears releasing before and after much yawning and water drinking, I realize that she must have fluid in her ears from her cold and this isn’t going to work. We turn around and head for home – J screaming her head off in disappointment – and we hit Seattle at exactly 5:00 pm. All together we spend 3 hours in the car and don’t even see snow. Super!
Ski trip #2 – We make it to the mountain. The first few runs are tough. I use the word “runs” loosely. There’s a very gradual slope that frequently requires pushing or scooting and is really only about 40 feet long. Nonetheless, she’s a pile of arms and legs pointing in different directions, skis crossed, screaming that she just can’t do it. There is much crying and frustration. There is some talking about how hard it is to learn something new — that it takes time and patience and practice.
I tell her we can go in at any time but that only makes her scream more. She does not want to go in.
Finally at the top of the run I tell her we will wait until she is ready to try again. She needs to think that she can do this. I tell her to take as much time as she needs. Then I bring out the bag of almonds.
Now, I come from a long line of hypoglycemics and J’s different biological history has not altered the family line in that respect. When my sister first started dating her husband they went to Paris. I didn’t know Steve well at the time but I wanted to call him and tell him that he needed to carry a block of cheese in his pocket and force her to eat some every hour. Oh, here we are at the Eiffel Tower, would you like some cheese? Notre Dame! Cheese? Louve! Cheese! This is what we must do and I was applying the same principle to J that day. We ate rice cheese in the car on the way up. We ate ham in the lodge before started and we ate almonds on the slope.
As we eat our almonds, she is uncharacteristically quiet. It’s strange. I want to video tape her to show Paul because I didn’t think he’ll believe me but it’s pretty uninteresting to watch a video tape of a quiet child. At one point I ask her what she’s thinking about. She says nothing.
Then she says: I like your braids, Mama.
Me: Thank you.
J: I like them so much I want to cut them off and eat them.
Me: Oh. That’s nice, dear, I say, wondering if hair contains any protein.
J: OK, I’m ready.
I help her up, we put on her skis. I give her a push and she is perfect.