Description: My younger child. Also answers to “Chip.”
Crime: Entering toddlerhood.
Formerly Known As:
“My Sweet Momma’s Boy”
“My easy, second-born child”
“The Quiet One”
“The Hissy Fit Thrower”
The “you’ll-never-guess-what-your-son-did-today” child
Identifying characteristics: Eyelashes so long it’s not even funny. Smile that says “I double dog dare you to put me in timeout.” Sly, sneaky grin. Will not perpetuate crimes unless you are looking directly at him. He believes that if it is not seen, there is really no point in doing it.
Last seen: Squeezing a juice box all over the carpet. Just to see what you’d do.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of my child (the pre-two-year-old version), please email me immediately.
Warning: If you see this child, please approach with caution. Do not be fooled by his outwardly cute exterior. And, above all, do not engage him. He thrives on an audience for his malicious deeds.
Also, be aware that he is prone to being a sweet cuddlebug one minute, and the next, throwing a temper tantrum of epic proportions. You will not see it coming. He strikes when you least expect it.
If caught while executing a crime, he will try to weasel his way out of punishment by laughing, batting those obscenely long eyelashes at you, or uttering the words, “I love you, mommy.” Do not underestimate the power any of the aforementioned in making you laugh when you’re trying to be angry.
I would squeal with delight when I would wake and see the ground covered with a blanket of fresh white snow. We would rush to get our rickety Radio Flyer sled from the garage, and we’d take turns pushing each other down the steep driveway in front of our house. We’d make snow angels until our little butts were cold and numb. And then we’d tromp inside for steaming mugs of hot cocoa with melted mini marshmallows.
But, somewhere along the line, something changed. All the magic and excitement I saw in snow days gave way to annoyance, frustration and stress.
As an adult, I can’t stand snow days.
Because, now, when I think of snow, I think of things like school closures. I envision being stuck in gridlock traffic with a bunch of Oregonian yahoos that don’t know how to drive in the snow or ice. (And yes, I fully admit I’m one of those yahoos that doesn’t know how to drive in the stuff, either.) I have fears of being trapped inside the house for days with two stir-crazy kidlets. What if we run out of fruit or milk? Or, worse yet, beer??
These are the reasons I don’t like snow. So when I woke up this morning to fresh powder, I was already stressed out.
The traffic cams showed delays and accidents. Almost all of the schools in the city were shut down. The kids’ preschool was scheduled for a delayed opening. And today was the day I was supposed to go into our office downtown.
The snowpocalypse had arrived. All 2 inches of it.
My kids, however, did not see the urgency in the situation.
While I rushed around the house like a chicken with my head cut off, they peppered me with questions about making snowmen. While I nagged them to eat their breakfast, they stared out the windows, looking longingly out at the snow. While I watched the news for weather updates, they danced around the living room ecstatically yelling, “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!”
I was about ready to blow a gasket. I had meetings to go to today. I had an hour drive into the office… with yahoos on the road! On a normal day, I would have been in the office already by now. Did they not understand that the snowpocalypse was here?
And then I realized. They did not. They saw only the beautiful white fluffy stuff on the ground, just begging to be frolicked in.
I looked at the clock. I looked back into the eyes of my kids. And I realized my son, just turned two, had only seen snow a handful of times. He’d never played in it.
So we detoured. I changed out of my business suit, pulled on my boots, and we went outside.
…where we made snowballs…
… and Chip got to play in the snow for the first time, ever…
We attempted to make a giant snowman. We realized that was too much work, and made a miniature, 2 foot snowbaby instead.
By the time we came back inside, changed into dry clothes, and got the kids dropped off at preschool, the snow was already melting. But as I drove into work, I felt a little differently about the snow. For the first time in a long time, I had seen it briefly as I did when I was little.
It had been beautiful. New. And exciting. I had seen snow through my kids’ eyes.
When I finally arrived in the office, I was obscenely late. But I had built a snowman. And the earth didn’t end because of it.
And it’s a good thing we built it when we did. Because when we got home this afternoon, everything had melted. Everything, that is, except this:
A tiny, pitiful snowbaby looking all droopy and sad. It was the only evidence that remained of the snowpocalypse. It was the only evidence of the best morning I’ve had in a long time.
I could never have imagined that a visit to the ladies’ room would trigger such a barrage of self-doubt.
But it did.
As I sat there with the little box on my lap, my hands trembled. I fumbled with the packaging, and scanned through the cryptic-looking directions.
I didn’t actually need to read the directions. Or take a test. I already knew.
But still, I waited. For five minutes. 300 seconds that seemed to drag on forever.
When the pregnancy test came back positive, my mind became saturated with a potpourri of emotions.
I was ecstatic. It was what we had dreamed, schemed and planned for. But I was also overwhelmed. And scared shitless.
I was immediately flooded with doubt, uncertainty and worry. For most of my adult life, I had worked hard to build up the confidence and assuredness that had served me well. I had built up skills, poise and savvy. But when that line turned pink, all of those things toppled like dominoes.
Would I be a good mom?
Was there enough capacity in my selfish little heart to give to another human being that much?
Did I have what it took to balance a career and motherhood?
Would my marriage suffer?
Was my life as I knew it completely over?
Was I good enough? Smart enough? And doggone it, would my kids even like me?
Holy crap. Is it really not just about me anymore?
Those doubts and worries stayed with me throughout my pregnancy. In the subsequent five years, they’ve always been present. Some have dimmed, some have morphed, and some have festered. But they’re always there, lingering in the back of my mind.
And they all began to manifest with that pee that rocked my world.
Parenthood didn’t begin for me when my daughter was born. That event was just the flesh-and-bones materialization of the hopes, fears and dreams I had birthed nine months earlier. As soon as that faint double pink line appeared, I became a mother.
I grab my towel, sunblock and other essentials. Then I head to the closet.
The cute pink bikini hangs there forlornly. I stare at it longingly, and realize how little it’s been actually worn since I bought it. As I do so often these days, I opt for the plain, sensible one-piece instead.
At the pool, I stand at the water’s edge. I dip my toe in to test the temperature. Some days it’s well heated. Today, as it has been lately, the water is frigid.
I’m resolved, though. I try to be brave as I jump in. I envision myself doing a graceful swan dive into the waters. Instead, I belly flop. Big time.
I come up for air, water dripping from my nose in a very un-Bo Derek like way. A 10 I am not… today. My makeup’s already running down my face. The chlorine has made my eyes sting.
As I try to make my way to the other side of the pool, I realize I’ve forgotten how to swim. Some weeks I rock the backstroke and the butterfly. Lately, all I can manage is a simple doggy paddle.
As I flounder around in the cold water, I try to navigate around all the things that seem to be floating in the pool.
The mounds of laundry piling up. And the matching socks that I know are in there somewhere.
The pizza delivery boxes. I haven’t had a chance to go to the grocery store in weeks. We’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately.
The diaper pail that positively reeks. I’ve been meaning to empty it before it spontaneously combusts. I never seem to get around to it.
The posts in my Google reader that are multiplying like horny little rabbits.
The emails that have gone unanswered and unread for far too long. I fear the bottom of my email inbox got lost in the deep end of the pool.
The car that needs an oil change. The bills that need to be paid. The garbage that needs to go out. And that diaper pail that absolutely needs to be emptied.
Someone’s kid has peed in the water. I suspect it’s probably one of mine.
I tread water for a minute more, before I start to cramp up. I let my feet sink to the bottom of the pool. And that’s when I realize I’m standing in the shallow end.
All this time, I’ve been doggy paddling. And all I really had to do was stand up.
I decide I’ve had enough for the day. I get out, towel off, and slip on my sensible terrycloth cover-up. Bless those cover-ups. They hide all sorts of flaws.
I leave the pool wondering if it was a bad idea to even come in the first place. Which is silly, really. Because I come to the pool every day.
As I leave, though, I wonder what it will be like tomorrow.
Will the water be murky? Will it be cold? Will I sink, swim or doggy paddle?
Will tomorrow be the day I get to break out that little pink bikini?
6 years ago. I hold my friend’s newborn baby, and marvel at how tiny and perfect it is. I listen to her talk about how wonderful motherhood is; how much joy it gives her. We’re not pregnant yet. I feel left out.
8 months pregnant. The family is bubbling about an upcoming trip to Mexico. They invited us to go, but the kicking, writhing little alien in my belly advised me it was better to pass this time. And so we stay home, and I feel a pang of jealousy when they return and we see their bronzed glows and hear about their adventures. I feel left out.
6 weeks old. She’s here. And she will not stop crying. All day, every day. No one told me what colic was, or that it would suck this bad. Meanwhile, my husband “gets” to go to work every day. But I want to go to the office! I want to interact with adults! I want a daily respite from the blood curdling screams! I feel left out.
9 months old. We’re at Christmas with his family. I barely get to see anyone because I’m holed up in the spare bedroom breastfeeding and trying to get her to nap. I scarf down a few bites of dinner in between her meals. I miss getting to see people open the presents we bought them. I feel left out.
Toddlerhood. We’re at a wedding. It’s an hour past her bedtime, but we’ve amped her up with punch and goldfish, trying to delay the inevitable. As she rubs her eyes and begins to whine, we see that the meltdown is imminent. We sneak out of the reception before the cake is even cut. I feel left out.
She’s three now. A colleague drops into town. At the last minute, he organizes an impromptu happy hour. I am dying to go sip martinis, and enjoy some real adult conversation like in the good old days. But I can’t, because I have to leave work to pick her up from preschool. I feel left out.
And just like that, she’s almost five. We enter her classroom, and she immediately runs over to play with a friend. She giggles at something her teacher says. I beckon her back for a hug and kiss. She looks embarrassed. “Mom, the other kids are looking,” she says, with an air of annoyance. She’s a big kid now, and doesn’t want them to think she needs to be babied. She begrudgingly lets me hug her, and gives me an obligatory peck on the cheek. Then she scampers off to play.
As I exit the school, I feel left out.
Outside, I stand at the window for a minute to spy in on her. I watch her laugh, and I am both proud and sad at how independent she’s becoming.
And I realize that it’s beginning. That those moments of feeling like I’m knee deep in the trenches will ever-so-slowly be replaced by moments of feeling like I’m on the outside, looking in. She will need me less and less with each passing year.
It’s already beginning. Even though I don’t want it to.
At that moment, I feel a slight twinge for those years when she needed me, and only me. When I was the center of her universe. When I was immersed in all things baby, and the rest of the world went on around us.
When it was just us. And everyone else was left out.