Just Wait, a Revelation.

I started this post as kind of a vent about something that bothers me very much.  But then I had a revelation, a brilliant gift from my brain to my heart and it’s helped me reframe the way I interpret that very bothersome thing.

Here’s the vent part:

I rarely use the word “hate.”  I tend to go for the understatement-to-prove-a-point option of “do not enjoy.”  With the proper placement of punctuation you can really drive it home.  “I do NOT. Enjoy. Rachael Ray. One. Bit.”  And, since I rarely use “hate,” reserving it for things I really, seriously can’t stand makes my point quite nicely.

As in…

I hate static shock. (Nothing lets loose the expletives like seeing the spark jump from the light switch to my fingertip.  Nothing.)

I hate being tickled. (The only thing that makes me violent.  I’ll punch.  I’ll kick.  I’ll draw blood.  And I won’t be sorry.)

I hate opening packaging.  (It’s just hummus.  Why is it so goddamned hard to get into a tub of hummus? )

And I hate when people say, “Just wait.”

Man, that one really irks my liver.  When I was newly pregnant, it was “Just wait til you’re nine months.  You’ve never been so uncomfortable.”  When I was nine months pregnant it was, “Just wait ’til he’s here.  Better get your sleep now.”  When he was born it was, “You think you get no sleep now? Just wait ’til he’s teething.”  It is an endless pattern and NO ONE seems to understand how infuriating it is.  It’s just the most unhelpful thing in the world especially if it’s response to being upset.  Telling me to “just wait” for something worse that’s coming down the pike not only doesn’t help me feel better now, but it completely dismisses my present feelings as insignificant, AND paints an even darker picture about what’s to come.  It’s also terribly condescending and assumptive.  Every kid and every parent is different so what makes you so goddamn sure that my experience will be just like yours? Not to mention the very simple fact that I don’t need a reminder to wait for the future.  WE ARE ALL JUST WAITING FOR THE FUTURE!  That state of being is called the present. Why the hell do people do this?!

Then came the revelation:

When two different beloved family members gave me the “Just wait, you’ll see, you’ll feel differently” recently, I was flooded with white hot anger so quickly, it scared me.  I wanted to scream, “But I’m not writing about how I’ll feel in the future, I’m documenting my present, the here and now, and THIS is how I feel right here, right now. DON’T DISMISS ME!”

But then I actually started to think about why people do this….

What are they really saying? I have lovely friends and family who support me and root for me and want me to be happy and successful.  And still, they say it.  So it mustn’t come from a place of hostility.  Maybe it comes from a place of reminiscence.

My present is their past.  Maybe they’re not commenting on my present.  Maybe they’re reminiscing about their own past.  It’s been a long time since they had a six month old baby.  Maybe it’s hard for them to take my difficulties seriously because the soothing salve of perspective and time has worked its magic and healed their wounds from Battlefield Baby.  Maybe advice, unsolicited advice in particular, is really just nostalgia.  Maybe when they say “Just wait,” what they are really saying is, “I miss my baby.”

LIGHTBULB!  Now I have the framework to transform something that makes me very angry into an opportunity to let someone I love (or like, or tolerate, or am standing next to in the produce section) tell me something about themselves.

So when my boy starts to crawl and someone inevitably says to me, “Just wait ’til he’s walking,” I hope I don’t get angry.  I hope I can give them the gift of talking about their journey instead of feeling like I have to defend mine.  I’m going to ask, “When did your child start to walk?  Tell me about your experience.”

And then, if I ever get this fucking thing open, I’m gonna have some hummus.

 

Just wait. Someday you'll say, "Hey, I know that guy!  I watched him grow up on The Truth About Babies."

Just wait. Someday you’ll say, “Hey, I know that guy! I watched him grow up on The Truth About Babies.”

 

An Imagined Conversation

My boy: Mama, I was looking through the virtual storage locker for my e-cleats and I came across something called a “blog.”  Do you know anything about this?

Me: Um, yes.

My boy:  Did you write this?

Me:  I did.

My boy:  And it’s about me?

Me:  It’s about you and me.  Have you read any of it?

My boy:  The first ten or so entries.

Me: And?

My boy:  It seems like it took awhile for us to warm up to each other.

Me:  That’s a pretty astute observation.  Does it hurt your feelings that it took me some time to understand just how to love you?

My boy: Well, kind of.  Isn’t that supposed to come automatically?

Me:  I sure thought so.  But it didn’t work out the way I thought it would.  In fact, very little did.

My boy:  Were you disappointed in me?

Me:  Not for a single second.  I was disappointed in myself a lot.  I was disappointed to discover that the fairy tale of parenthood was just that…a fairy tale.  But never once was I disappointed in you.

My boy:  What is the fairy tale of parenthood?

Me:  The idea that anyone’s experience of parenthood is any better or worse than anyone else’s.  The idea that the preciousness of a baby somehow eliminates the incredible difficulty of having and raising one.  The idea that if your experience doesn’t look and feel like X-Y-Z, that you are doing it wrong or are a bad parent.

My boy:  Was I really that difficult?

Me: Well, maybe it’s not that you were difficult but that I had a very difficult time figuring you out.  How to take care of you, how to understand you, how to love you.

My boy: You didn’t just fall in love with me the moment you saw me?

Me: No, I fell out of consciousness the moment I saw you. But I had had a rough couple of days.

My boy:  Yeah, I know.  You’ve mentioned that once or twice.

Me:  Well, only when you irritate me.

My boy:  Yeah, it’s a good way to measure how pissed you are.  The madder you are, the more detailed an account I get.

Me: Remember when you stood me up for our Mama and Me date?

My boy:  That was an epic ass kicking in the form of detailed storytelling that I will never fully recover from.

Me: Well, you have to have something to tell your therapist.

My boy:  Something to put in my memoir.

Me:  Something to scream into your pillow.

My boy: Something to scratch into the walls of the nuthouse common room.

Me:  Good one.

[We share a contented silence.]

Me: I didn’t fall into my love for you.  As it turns out, my love for you is so deep, so profound, so important, that in the beginning, I had to ease into it slowly, making sure that I gave it the attention it deserved and demanded; making sure it didn’t overwhelm me.  There is an awful lot to learn as a new parent, and while it surprised me that I had to learn how to connect to you, that it wasn’t automatic for us, once we clicked, our connection was solid and true and flexible and strong and for-absolutely-ever.  That blog is an honest, truthful record of our difficult and wonderful journey to that connection.

My boy:  Okay. I think I get it.

Me: I love you, Boyo.

My boy: I love you, too, Mama.

[I watch my beautiful boy walk away and I thank my lucky stars that I never made good on my hundred promises to drop him off at a fire house.  He’s a good boy.  And he has a good mother.  And that will do.]

Don’t Touch That Clock!

I am sitting at my dining table and when  I look over the top of my computer, I can see my beautiful boy in his beloved bouncy chair.  Behind him, the big sliding glass door is letting in the light of this glorious Florida morning through our screened-in lanai.  Wait, what?  Florida?  Oh that’s right.  We have completely uprooted and packed up our entire lives, bid teary farewells to friends and family, driven 1500 miles, spent every dime we had, and landed soundly (and happily!) in the shade of the hundred or so palm trees that dot the property of our new apartment complex.  All that in just over two months.

On June 19th, my husband was offered a position at a local university.  He has been out of academia for over a year, working a retail job to make ends meet.  It was the very best retail job out there, and it acted as a lifeboat when stormy seas sank the ship in which our little family was navigating life.  (Thank you, Fruit Stand.  You saved us.) Ten days later, we were down in Florida looking for a place to live.  Three weeks after that, we had movers booked.  A week after that, the house was packed up.  And six days after that, we pulled up to our new home.  Time is the only thing I know that moves faster the fuller it is.  If these past two months’ Time were a person, it would still be laying on the couch with its pants undone wishing it had passed on seconds, let alone thirds.

Something else wonderful happened in these crazy two months.  My boy turned a corner.  He’s figured himself out or his synapses have started firing correctly or the planets aligned or something, because starting at five months old, I’ve caught myself actually enjoying his company.  I can’t properly express the gratitude and relief I felt the first time I realized I was enjoying my son and not just coping with him.  Since my boy was born, I have struggled with the vast difference in what I thought the experience was going to feel like and what it actually does feel like.  I have been dumfounded at every turn to find that the experience of raising a child simply cannot be predicted or, it seems, accurately described (although there are many, including myself, obviously, who try.)  Over the course of my life, I have heard hundreds of times, “Kids grow up too fast!” or “Stop the clock!  I want to slow down time.” or “I can’t believe it’s been six months!  It seems like just yesterday that he was born!” I imagined I would feel the same way because I thought that’s just how parents feel.

Well, it isn’t how I feel.  My boy is six months old and I feel every single second of that six months.  It doesn’t seem like yesterday that he was born.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  These six months have been the most intense and challenging of my life and while I would never wish them away, I certainly don’t wish to go back and live them all again, and I especially don’t want time to slow down.  I am endlessly proud of my boy and the growing, learning, exploring, discovering, and facemushing that he’s done.  (Oh, god, the facemushing.  My fave!) I am also endlessly proud of myself and my husband. Not only for not having sold our precious little asshat to the gypsies like we swore we would, but also because we have upheld our promise to not take our frustrations out on each other.  We take care of us and our relationship first, so we can be a stronger parenting team for our boy. (That’s the Oxygen Mask Theory at work!) I celebrate my boy, my motherhood, and all of our accomplishments and milestones not in wishing we could stay in this moment, but in wondering and looking forward to what else is in store.

Things are finally getting better (like everyone promised!) and I want to keep heading towards better rather than sit still in “not awful anymore.”  This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the present.  Even in the Dark Days, there were moments of glory that I savored like a hard candy.  In fact, those moments might have tasted sweeter given the terrible darkness that oozed around them.  I appreciate those moments, take pictures, make mental notes, share and brag and herald and celebrate, but I don’t wish for Time to stop so I can stay in them.  Surely, there are moments like them and better ahead.

Maybe life is like a set of monkey bars.  I would be missing the point (and ruining Recess) if I just hung on one bar.  I’ll keep moving, swing forward, and trust that when I grasp a new moment, it will be one that will lift me up.  Or, I’ll come crashing down and skin both knees and swear I’ll never get on those stupid monkey bars again.

At least, not until some Time has passed.

How I love a wet, sloppy facemush.  The best!

How I love a wet, sloppy facemush. The best!