Tuesday, July 29, 2014

damn straight.

i don't give a damn. 

say it. 

no, not like that. 

think of something on which you don't want to spend your valuable emotions.

now, say it again: i don't give a damn.

if you're an average human who feels sympathy on a regular basis, proceed to not feeling guilty. just feel free. 

recently i expressed that i didn't think a particular something was a big deal. it indirectly related to children. i was quickly provided with information that said it is a big deal—to people who have particular concerns. their particular concerns are valid; however, they are not my particular concerns, and in this case i found that to be a reasonable observation, so i said my original opinion was unmoved. i was promptly, passive aggressively told i'm ignorant. harsh! off the mark, too. if i become any more aware, my brain will probably unravel and slither out my ear in defeat. i was also told that i'm among the type of parent who is seen in public ignoring her child's cries or telling her kid to buck up. an insensitive parent, that is. the poor public parent, at the mercy of unforgiving eyes and ears of strangers. i've certainly judged mothers in public—like the one with a lit cigarette hanging from her lip while feeding her infant or the one loudly cursing her toddler for not walking fast enough. right or wrong, i feel justified in that. i'm less inclined to judge the parent not tending to cries and the like. maybe mom is frazzled. maybe dad is too. maybe the kid is a master tantrum thrower. i don't find it impossible to think a child could in fact need to buck up. unless there's some straight-up meanness happening on the part of the parent, i'm not bothered. too much coddling or not enough: we're all doomed to screw up our kids somehow. welcome to parenthood.

i'm not mad that my character and my (assumed) parenting style were insulted. i was at first; then i decided to respond with sarcasm, and it felt very me, and i liked that. then i went more into me, writing and thinking and writing. 

my initial goal for parenting was to be calm, always. then i had the baby. oh. there's way more to this than feeding and diaper changes and making sure i don't drop him on hard surfaces or smother him with my newly giant boobs while night-nursing in a state of semiconsciousness. when he was an infant, i tended to his every cry. as he got older, i let him cry without immediate attention, because i began to realize the positive correlation between taking good care of my emotions and taking good care of him. now that he's two and a half, i look for teachable moments. now, i look at parenting as not a relationship between baby and caretaker but a responsibility to build a healthy relationship between two individuals. my standards are up with the eagles, and while i'm proud that i don't fail often, i do fail. i have yelled at my son during 1 a.m. battles of wills and naptime power struggles. i have been less than loving toward the little creature i created, whom i cannot kiss and hug enough. i have hated myself for it. then comes "forgive yourself. start anew. be better." 

i want to equip my son to deal with his own emotions. i don't want to send a human off into the world thinking his problems are for other people to fix, nor do i want to cultivate in him the belief that other people's problems aren't important. i want my boy to be resilient, because if he's anything like his mother—both brave and
emotional—he'll need it.

my mind is easily provoked and often burdened to analyze things that really don't matter. in that light, i think i should say i don't give a damn more often. when used wisely, that five-finger phrase can be freeing. it reminds me that i'm here to be good, not perfect. giving myself permission to not care about my problems plus yours feels like the best of these summer days, when my beloved blinding sun sits suspended in a bodacious blue sky, and there's me and my boy and my dog with the foulest-smelling breath on earth and there's nothing wrong. sometimes you simply have to step away from the big, complicated world and enjoy the smallness of your own. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

death to an initialism.

lol. that little initialism is currently sitting on my mind, dangling its skinny legs over the edge somewhere near my temple and giving me a tension headache.

i've never used lol. from the start, i found it irksome. maybe i thought i was too cool for it. i'm not above thinking i'm too cool for things. (<—some of you will catch what i did there. that's because you too are occasionally too cool.) as i saw lol more and more, i started resenting its existence entirely, like i do the group nickelback. it was on facebook. in emails. soiling my text messages. people i loved used it: my friends. family. my boyfriend. the transmission of such an abhorrent term from the man in my life would inevitably propel me into an existential crisis over our relationship. when we finally broke up for the final time, he told me i had cellulite and that i looked like a meth head without makeup (did he mean a meth head not wearing makeup? do meth heads even wear makeup?). neither of these things were incorrect, by the way. i do have cellulite. but i still look good, gurl. and there was a time when i looked terrible without makeup: when i was a stressed out new mother raising an infant whose crying fits and sleeping habits were more indicative of ingesting red bull than breast milk. alas, i had broken this man's heart, many times over. so insultsboth to my physical appearance and my personal lexicon—were his revenge.  fair enough lol. 

kill me. 
let's keep in mind what lol stands for: laughing out loud. some of you would have us believe your every move is lol-worthy. for example: "long day think i'm gonna rest now lol." no. unless you're resting with a mitch hedburg CD, you resting is not hilarious. also, not only are you not hilarious, you're not literate. use some punctuation. (yes, i'm admonishing lack of punctuation while typing in lowercase. it's a stylistic choice. or i'm too lazy to reach for the shift key.)

lol is not a period. so stop putting it at the end of every sentence. in fact, stop everything right now: stop and remember the last time you laughed out loud. appreciate that in that moment, nothing else mattered. see? laughing out loud is a precious state of being. it is rare and elusive, like unicorns and bridge trolls. each and every belly-borne gust that bursts free from your lips and forms the morpheme ha is a moment of transcendence. it is you rising beyond every crap thing that happened today or last week or this year. every time someone overuses lol, they're spitting in the face of nirvana. for shame.

so please, take care with lol. give reverence where it's due.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

bedtime stories.

this week my window a/c beeped on and off all night long, and my two-year-old son woke up three times most nights. most mornings i would wake to joints aching like i'd climbed a mountain in my ... sleep? nonsleep.

is calgon still on the market? i'd like to take a vat and dump it into the river and float away.

for most of my adult life, the worst thing that happened to me was heartbreak. lots of it. so many times, firey, upward-bound me fell into a pile of flesh and tears. in hindsight i feel embarrassed, although only for the times when others witnessed it. that kind of pain should be expressed privately, i've learned. learning, for me, seems to be less a ha! and more ouch! after i became a mom, i learned that no breakup in the history of my life has mattered as much as the one i've had with sleep.

when you have a newborn, he will wake up every two hours, on the mark. the baby will want to eat. for me, that meant propping myself up on a layer of pillows carefully placed so i'd be upright enough but not too upright for fear of drowning my baby with a downpour of breast milk. i also had to arrange one arm such that it would rest on a pillow while cradling the baby's head, because i learned that an awkwardly dangling elbow turns into a muscle spasm after a few short minutes. this placement took some doing to get right every time. he would nurse for about ten or twenty minutes, and then i'd put him on the other side and reconfigure the elbow-pillow situation. then i had to hold him upright for 15 minutes because reflux befell my poor little suckling. in the throes of superexhaustion, staying awake for 15 extra minutes was the height of unfairness, but for those first few months it felt normal. it all felt like what was supposed to be happening.

after those first few months, i began to wonder when i'd get to sleep longer than an hour at a time.

"he'll start sleeping longer around three months old." liars.

then: "he'll definitely sleep through the night by six months." filthy liars.

my baby slept with me. this was not as cozy as i'd imagined. every night, rolling over invoked the same terror as parallel parking for my first driver's license: ease over, an inch at a time. slooooowly. oh no! did i get too close? ease in some more. not so fast! okay, you're in. whew. if i had a sniffle, i wanted to rip off my nose for endangering the precious silence. if my covers fell off, rather than chance movement, i lay in a frozen ball, expecting my goosebumps to eventually explode through my skin. my son would wake up two, three, four, five times a night. my eyelids were the alarm for his: when mine fell, his snapped open like the window blinds in my junior high homeroom.  

i was beside myself with exhaustion misery. at this point, i was on straight decaf. my mostly dormant heart arrhythmia had erupted again. and of course i didn't want any stimulant in my baby's system. i read that caffeine only showed up in traces in breast milk, but i wasn't taking any chances. little captain red bull was energized enough. when he was around six months old, i decided to put him in his crib to see if that would help us both get some rest. i wasn't ready for too much distance, so i had my dad move the crib from the nursery to my room. after that, sometimes he'd only wake up once—and would stay up crying for three hours. the only cure was a straight shot of nipple to the mouth, but not even Earth Mamma herself could sustain that amount of nursing. some nights, i'd take him to the gliding chair in the living room, which was beside my parents' room. mom would come out in her bell-shaped, flowing cotton gown, squinty eyed, whispering, "what's wrong?" and i'd go into a half-whining, half-crying tirade about the night's events. she'd offer excuses: maybe he has gas. he's having a bad night. he's just a baby. he needs formula! each syllable was like an excitotoxin to my brain, working my overwrought neurons into a furied death spiral. i'm surprised my head didn't spin off my shoulders. she'd offer to take him. it would go one of two ways: i'd stubbornly refuse or i'd relent in defeat, wondering why i and only i couldn't make it all better for him. bickering would ensue over the bottle of sugar water she would inevitably give him, the go-to panacea of the older ladies in my family. they said this is what the doctors gave babies in the hospital back in their day. water mixed with crystalline satan. i didn't see how this could be good for my child. in hindsight, i should've foregone the fight and given those minutes to more sleep. a little satan never hurt anyone.

my son is now two and a half. we moved into our own place a month ago, about 45 minutes away from my hometown and my parents, my trusty helpers. sleep is still our nemesis. if he sleeps in his bed, he wakes up one, two, three times. if he sleeps in mine, he doesn't awake during the night, but falling asleep involves exploring the contents of my bedroom, running into the living room onetwothreefourfive times, asking for milk, "mamma, come turn my piwhoa," and, once i crawl into bed, lots of nonsensical sounds being uttered and appendages finding their way across my face. if i were to measure the pleasure of this process, i'd put it somewhere between a pap smear and disputing charges on my cell phone bill.

besides this blog, facebook has been an outlet for venting my adventures in sleep disruption and early motherhood. i started a whole series of posts, in fact, which i would title "momisms." most people found them hilarious, but one friend has repeatedly expressed that they made him cringe, the implication being something like this: i was clearly on my way to flipping my lid and would soon be seen in public with runny mascara and bare feet, sitting on the bridge and picking imaginary bugs out of my ratty hair. however, since i know him well, which means i know he's mostly incapable of expressing sympathy, the translation is really like this: "man, i know. it's hard being a single parent." he knows this because he is also a single parent.

along this journey, i've had a looming question: why did i never hear about the early years of motherhood? i know lots of parents who became parents long before me, and they didn't talk about the hurdles. not in phone calls or over lunches or in posts on facebook. i assume there are various reasons: they have partners, not computers or friends, for lodging complaints. they aren't writers. their children slept from the time they were three months old. <— the reality of this phenomenon is still up there with unicorns. more likely is my belief that their brain did a nice cleanup job post-toddlerhood and left them with only shiny, happy memories of baby buddha bellies rising and falling in perfect slumber. i also have a theory about why people who get married and/or become parents earlier in life don't appear to be overwhelmed by parenthood: they don't have time to cultivate the sense of self common to the longtime single. we singles have taken sleep and personal space for granted. we've had no one to care for other than ourselves and possibly a pet. in contrast, the twentysomething parent has been accommodating other people's needs for a long time. i've vascillated between accepting this theory and thinking i'm simply not a natural-born mother. these days, i'm leaning toward the former.

the truth is, despite my despair over the hurdles of motherhood—waking up looking like a crackhead from lack of sleep or my mom using the ice machine—aka mountain rockslide soundmaker— when i'm putting the baby to sleep or bewilderment at diapering a squirming toddler, which is not unlike roping a calf—i know i've done a good job at being a mom to an infant and then a baby and now a toddler. i've not only survived, i've been thoughtful and didactic and wildly affectionate. once you have a child, people are prone to ask if you'd like another child. for the longest time, my answer was nooooo. no. no thanks. shockingly, that attitude has softened. now i get it. now i know that urge the world speaks of, that biological-clock thing. it's generally meant for women who've yet to become mothers. however, to me it makes more sense post-first child, because then you know. you know that while you'll be delirious and evil from lack of sleep and your nipples will fly at half-mast for the rest of your life and the phrase "hot meal" could only mean a stolen one, those things are vaporized by every sweet infant breath and crazed toddler giggle. they just are.

mind you, this is not acquiescence. i'm not saying to myself or anyone "man, now i know why all those people said those things." things like "it's all worth it" and "you'll miss these days." i heard it over and over that first year and beyond. my reception of those phrases went like this: first, smoke rolled out my ears. then, i wanted to graciously accept the well-meaning advice but my logic wouldn't allow it. so i would refute in whatever way or, in rare instances, i convinced myself to say nothing. maybe i should've released an open letter that would go like this: dear friends, i know you're trying to help, but it's not helping. it's making me feel as if i'm not supposed to express any woes about motherhood, and that's total crap. it's making me feel that bemoaning lack of sleep and adoring my baby are mutually exclusive—except i know this isn't true. check this out: i'm in no danger of being incapable of missing the days when my baby was young. that would go against human nature, and, despite my otherworldly amour for cupcakes and men with full lips, i am merely human. so it's basically this: stop telling me things that are self-evident, because my brain doesn't filter it well, and my brain has enough work to do.

as i'm told, eventually my son will sleep better. as i'm told, the same is not guaranteed for me as a parent, ever. i assume there's a happy medium somewhere in there, maybe during the grade school years when he's too young to be anywhere at night but in his bed in my house. actually, if i want, i can take the middle school and high school years as mine for sleep, keeping him in the safe confines of his bedroom. he'll hate me for it, but he'll get over it. i hated my parents for not letting me go to the late movies in junior high, and i got over that. plus, when he whines about what all the other kids are doing, i'll be so rested and peaceful, and i'll just smile lovingly, kiss his forehead, and tell him spit in one hand and wish in the other, my darling. 

my boy stayed with my parents last night. i missed him and at the same time loved every minute of uninterrupted sleep. see how that works?

nothing that makes sense is worth having.