Mom Stays in the Picture

She’s mean.  Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean.  She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat.  She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness.  If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless.  If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.

She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head.  And she can be a bitch on wheels.

Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful.  Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.

When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.

I’ve always been chubby.  I took to food as comfort at a very young age.  Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.

One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs.  How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are!  Double chin!  Flabby arms!  Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker.  I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it.  This has been a pattern for my entire life.  See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch?  Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it.  Feeling particularly large on a given day?  Avoid the camera completely.  Stand in the back.  Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind.  I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.

Then I had a baby.  Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before.  Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed.  My clothes are always covered in barf.  And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?

And then it occurred to me.  In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.

LIGHTBULB!

When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there.  I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn.  I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes.  I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him.  I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.

If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that.  Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love.  If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow.  I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is.  And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are.  I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.

So, shut your face, Little Voice.  My son doesn’t care what I look like.  My son cares what I smell like.  He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it.  He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy.  He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land.  I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell.  I could learn a thing or two.

 

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm.  Little Voice is so blind!  Look at that fucking kid!  And the look on my face says, "I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such."

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm. Little Voice is so blind! Look at that fucking kid! And the look on my face says, “I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such.”

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too.  But it was Boyo's first swim ever!  I don't want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too. But it was Boyo’s first swim ever! I don’t want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

 

 

 

 

 

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!