Monthly Archives: August 2014

Five.

Five. FIVE. Happy five years to my first-born Leo, my sunshine child. Five was always the magic cut-off in my head, a clear dividing line between baby/toddler and big kid. And you are. The other day I walked by the bathroom where you were washing your hands, and you were standing on the ground, no stool required. When did that happen?!? “When did that happen?” I asked you. You shrugged and said “Oh Mom, I’m bigger now”. In the car later that day, as you buckled yourself into your car seat, I told you that I wanted you to stay five, forever. You just looked at me with a wise smile, then laughed and said, “Oh Mom, you know that’s impossible”.

Yes, I know it’s impossible. Today you are five years and 4 days already. The march towards six, seven, twelve, will never cease. But today you are five, and you can’t blame me for wanting you to stay. Five, for you, is a joy; a perfect mix of little enough to need me, but big enough to do things on your own.

You are still our little mayor, an extroverted social butterfly. You love people, all people, talking to everyone you see and meet. Recently at your great-grandmother GG’s memorial service, I found you sitting at a table filled with GG’s bridge friends. You were chatting and drawing pictures. I asked you if you wanted to come sit with me and the other kids, and you said “No, Mom, I’m sitting here with my new friend Gladys, I’ll find you later”. And you sat with these old ladies you had never met before for over an hour, telling them about your life and asking about theirs. Then you found some little boys your own age and walked up to them and said “Hi, I’m O, let’s play”. And you did, playing chase and hide and seek for hours. What I love most about all of this is your confidence and complete certainty that everyone is someone to make a friend and that everyone wants to talk to you. You talk to anyone and everyone, with the same brightness and desire to make them happy. It is a true gift you have, and I hope you never doubt it or quash it.

You are mostly a rule-follower and people-pleaser. You are a thinker and a questioner. You want to know about everything, and you want everyone to be happy. You are a way-too generous big brother. Your little sister is two, so she does things like hit and throw tantrums and want every toy you have, and then she mixes up the play dough or colors on walls. And without fail, you are her defender. You tell me it’s ok, you don’t mind she hit you or broke your toy, because she’s only two. You are the first to hug her when she cries. And you like to be the first to go into her room in the morning and you climb into her crib with her and read her stories and make her giggle. She adores you, as she should.

Five is countless hours planning your extensive LEGO city, and countless other hours building and tinkering, making things better. Five is an easier bedtime- a few books, some Willie Nelson music, a chat, and then door shut, with your dog at your side. Five is being big enough to go on Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror at Disneyland, but still being afraid of being alone. Five is endless questions. Why are vampires pale? Why is the earth invented? Why does God only have a son and not a daughter? Why is crap a bad word? Can I say heck? Is hell real? Why are windshields made of glass? They should be made of invisible bricks. And so on. And on and on and on and on.

You love a girl named Emma. You aren’t sure she wants to marry you, but you hope she does. You bring her flowers to put on her car seat, and you want her to be happy.

You are really really really into: LEGOS, police, firemen, the army, play dough, coloring. You have really blossomed this year with coloring and drawing and writing. You got glasses for reading and you look so cute and handsome in them. You work really hard, and tell me you should never give up, always try harder. You were very determined to learn to swim this summer so you could go off the diving board when you turned five, and you did it. You are a fantastic swimmer and I love watching you swim.

You are a true joy in my life. No you aren’t perfect, but every day I thank God and the universe and science that your particular set of genes was the winning combination that became you. I watch you with awe because you are so unlike me, and yet so like me. You are the very best of me and your father, and I think the world is a better place because you are in it.

You are five, and you are a wonder. Thank you for being my most awesome kid, and I love you.

 

 

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August (and everything after)

We were away recently, in California visiting Mike’s family and squeezing in two days at DisneyLand. Feels like I left in the middle of summer and came home to find the end of summer already here. Even though it is hotter now than ever, even though school doesn’t start for another two weeks, even though our local pool is open through October, all of a sudden I feel the shift. It’s happened. I’m always always surprised by it, even though I should expect it by now. August is such a strange month; it feels slow and languid, but starting about now, there is this undercurrent of awareness that occasionally reaches up and pricks you in the middle of a lazy day. It says “hurry up hurry up, my days are numbered, fall is coming, do you feel it?” August is nostalgia for days that aren’t over yet.

Last week was a whirlwind. I learned so much about myself and about my parenting- traveling does that to you. It somehow amps everything up so that it is all intensified- the good and the bad, the exquisite beauty of parenting and the terrible emotions it can bring out. I swung so quickly from grabbing M’s hand to witness a breathtakingly sweet moment with our kids, to leaving the room due to the sudden surge of anger and helplessness that occurs when both kids simultaneously whine and cry and act so terribly that you wonder why you ever bother to take them anywhere. Traveling is so many of these moments stacked right on top of each other. I can’t tell you if we had a wonderful time or a miserable one. We had both. So many pure moments, and so many hard ones.

The rest of August will be a blur- Mike’s birthday, O’s birthday, last week of summer, school starting for O, I’s first day of preschool. Lots of firsts and lasts. I’m tired of applying sunscreen, but not ready to leave our lazy days of swimming and late sunshine. At our swim club, you have to be five and be able to swim across half the pool in order to go off the diving board. O has been preparing for this since June. He couldn’t swim in June- now he’s practicing his freestyle and backstroke and is a real fish in the water. August 18 (when he can jump off) has felt so far away, and now it’s here. The days of summer have a sameness- an insubstantial repetition, and yet they stack up to so much- the summer O learned to swim, my first summer at home with the kids, the summer we took both kids to Disneyland, and so on. Like always, our life stories are happening around us, and this chapter, the summer that O turned five, and I was two, is almost finished.

 

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These Are Days

It was a hard week, filled with more bad days than good. That Tuesday was a good day. I was up before the kids, which meant I was alert and happy to see them when they got up. I made eggs, and turkey sausage, and the little one helped. She actually cracked the eggs for me (with only minimal shell removal necessary), then demanded milk to add, then stirred. I am amazed at what they know and can do when you let them. While I cooked, the two of them played with play-dough and there was no yelling or whining or pushing. I had the Willie Nelson Pandora station on, and the song “Pancho & Lefty” came on. “This is my favorite song,” my older one said, and sang every word. “It is mine, too”, I told him, and sang along, while the little one reached for me and said “Mama, hold you”. I held her,  and she said “Dance, Mama!”, and so I did. It was one of those moments where you can feel a memory forming, of singing Willie Nelson and dancing in our old ugly blue kitchen, on a hot July day, just an ordinary morning that turned magical. It was one of those days.

That Thursday was a not so good day. I was tired, and slow-moving, and frankly tired of deciding what to feed the kids. They got out the play-dough again, but this time there was yelling and pushing, and after three, four, five times of asking them to stop, asking them to them to sit down, to get their feet off the table, to eat their dinner, to stop giving food to the dog- after all that, I yelled. Loud. Scarily, even. Both kids froze, the older one immediately did what I had been asking (like he always does) and the little one went into hysterics and reached for me to comfort her. Even though it is sometimes the only way they will listen, even though I know that other parents yell, and it does not make me the absolute worst mother in the world, I feel like it. I feel dirty and uneasy and anxious and filled up with all the wrong things. I hugged the little one tight, and took small comfort in the fact that a hug from me is all it takes to make things better for her. The older one came over and put his arms around us, and said he is sorry, and he is ready to listen now, and I felt even worse. Look at these fragile little things, astonishingly mine and left in my care, and how could I let myself get so angry and yell at them? But I did, because it was one of those days.

I have this t-shirt, that says THESE ARE THE DAYS, in bold black letters on weathered white. When I was visiting my parents, there was this moment where we were trying to go somewhere, and we were late, and I finally got the kids in the car. The older one started whining because he wanted to bring his most favorite LEGO ever, and also he needed some water (after I had already asked him if he wanted water) and could he please have a snack? Then of course the little one starts screaming because- well, she’s two, so who knows. I think it was about Cheetos.  I feel the frustration building and just as I’m about to lose it, my mom bursts out laughing and points at my shirt. “What?” I ask her, expecting some remark about how my daughter is just like me. “These are the days, right?” she says.  I look down, and laugh with her. We joke about me putting the shirt on during bad days, looking at myself in the mirror and chanting “THESE are the days, These ARE the days, These are THE days” over and over, in an attempt to remind myself, to make it true.

I didn’t buy the t-shirt as some gauzy reminder of how fleeting these days are, or as a tribute to the song. I bought it because it looked vaguely French and nonchalant and cool, and I thought I would look nonchalant and cool in it, with some boyfriend jeans and maybe a hat, or a braid. Instead I usually wear it with yoga pants, my hair in it’s customary ponytail. I certainly don’t look French. But still, I do notice the words now, and it is true, these ARE the days. Days of what, it depends, but they are the days I am living, the days I have: good, bad, boring, exhilarating, tiring, frustrating, monotonous, magical, everything.

There are lots of blog posts and essays out there imploring us parents to make every minute count, to enjoy every.single.minute, because these days as a parent with small children are so precious, because we will miss these days when they are too quickly gone, because I am lucky to be their mother, because because because. And what I feel like saying to these people is WE KNOW. We know how precious and how fleeting and how messy and how beautiful and how hard it is, because we are down in it, living it every single day. We are aware, even in the moments where it gets to be too much or we let ourselves yell, we are aware of the privilege and pressure of parenting. We don’t ever forget. Life with small children is so interminable- intense and insistent. It is always pressing on you, the knowledge of your children, even when they are not there. The absence of their presence is equally pressing. It is always, always THERE.

Another day that week all of us went to Toys R Us to make a birthday list for O. All was well until it wasn’t, and I began what is so far the worst tantrum of her life. I tried to ignore her, I tried to cajole her, I tried to distract her, I tried to bribe her, I tried everything. Her screaming only grew louder and then she began hitting me and yep, we became those people, with that kid. I picked her up and took her outside to sit in the car, where her tantrum continued for another ten minutes at least. As I was sitting there, waiting her out, I thought of the “enjoy every minute” people. I wanted one of them to be sitting there with me, in the passenger seat, witnessing this little miracle. How, exactly, do you enjoy every minute of a tantrum? Hold your significant other’s hand, lean into each other and smile, proud to be witnessing it all? Take a picture or a video for Instagram? No, it sucks and it’s okay that it sucks, and it’s okay to be annoyed and tired and overwhelmed in those moments. It was just one of those days.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the yelling, because it was been a yelling week. And I have a few friends that have had some hard days as well, and we talk about it, and we promise to do better and we laugh and send each other “enjoy every minute” quotes. I hate it, I do, but…well, I have to find some way to understand it, so here goes. What if the frustration and yelling, the bad moments, the lessons we learn, is all part of the privilege as well?  It’s part of what makes up the shared territory of parenting, it’s what makes us all part of the same tribe, part of the secret language and sorrow of this world. We know it’s going too fast. We know that every day is another last, another step away from us. I feel it in every moment, yes, even in the angry ones. When I give myself a break, I think that perhaps the angry moments are just as profound as the beautiful moments- these are the moments in which I grow and learn, where I am forced to confront the things I don’t like about myself and try to hide in the dark corners or under the bed. These are the moments in which maybe I can make a choice to do better. And also to teach forgiveness, and how to comfort and maybe how to handle anger.

At the end of that week,  we we were finishing our day at the pool. O had a swim lesson, and then the littles were eating dinner. I was tired and ready to get home and end the day, still had showers and bedtime ahead of me. I just wanted them to be quiet and let me enjoy the fading sunlight. And then O asked to sit at another table, alone. He has never done that. I said no, of course not, and he started whining. And I gave him my grown-up, reasonable answer which made him cross his eyes at me and growl (this is his version of rolling his eyes, I think). And in that moment, I realized how even though it will be nice to sit quietly at the adult table when the kids inevitably move over to their own table, I intensely did not want that to happen yet. “Well if you move over, then what about planning your birthday party? And didn’t you want to talk about what to put in your LEGO city?” He perked up, and said “Oh, yeah, of course” and then continued on talking, his words spilling over themselves as they always do, the familiar cadence of his particular phrases and mispronounced words soothing me, reminding me that right now, this is exactly where I want to be.

It’s like this, at the end of these days. Every day is a new chapter in our story. And only you get to decide how to tell that story. What I chose to remember and hopefully have time to write about, the moments that I describe and the lessons I take away, those are the stories of my life. If you remember the magic of your morning, that’s your story. If instead you want to dwell on the yelling and the mess, and how you are always always late, then that will be your story of parenthood. For me, I will remember the magic, but also recognize the mess. Because the mess can contain it’s own magic- the magic of noticing and awareness. If every morning we were singing Willie Nelson in the kitchen, I wouldn’t notice it. But after a messy day, a little kitchen dancing can break your heart and fill it back up again in one moment.

So yes, these are the days. Days of boredom and lightening giggles, of dancing in the kitchen and blowing bubbles in the bath, of hitting and screeching but also of unprompted hugs. It is days filled with gymnastics and swimming and art camps, and then a stormy day spent entirely inside, the older one creating intricate LEGO cities by himself, and the younger one sitting on my lap, eating Cheetos and yelling “Oh no! What happened!” at the soap opera you are secretly trying to watch. It is two hour long epic bedtime battles one night, and the peaceful perfection the next. It is shockingly well-executed family dinners one night, and frozen pizza and wine at 9:30 pm the next, thankful for Mindy Kaling otherwise you’d be crying instead of laughing. It is all of it, the mess and the magic.

 

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