Hello everyone. ‘Tis me. Betsy. You may have thought I have forgotten about you all due to the silence emanating from my computer. Alas, no. I have not forgotten about you. Life has been crazy of late. Here is a quick run down: My dear S has developed a lovely reaction to fertility treatments. This translated to two weeks in bed, anti-nausea pills, lots of Gatorade and squash soup. In the middle of that, M was sick. Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) came and went. Hannukah started, continued and finally ended. I lost my wallet then found it days later. My phone died so I couldn’t complain to anyone b/c I am so reliant on my phone I have no numbers stored in my head. AND M’s birthday party was yesterday. (My mom saved the day by making all the food except for cupcakes.)
I have been on parenting/house/dog duty 99% of the time for 14 days and I am just exhausted. Things are looking up (thus a few minutes alone in a room with the door shut to write). I wanted to share a few highlights from these last days because, even when life is hard, there is much to be happy about and grateful for.
1) The ups and downs of having one bathroom: So, M likes me to bathe with him, which I also adore. In the middle of S being super sick, she ended up puking into the toilet while we were in the tub…about ten inches away. M covered his ears (having only heard a cat vomit previously) and asked Ima to stop. A few minutes later, when S had picked herself up off the floor and made it back to bed, M turns to me, “When Ima throws-up, she sounds like a peacock.”
2) In preparation for his birthday party, M helped me make cupcakes. We made chocolate and strawberry, as he requested. After they were done baking, he decided that he should keep all the chocolate ones and just give his guests strawberry because he “doesn’t really like it”. Mind you, when he said this, he had just finished licking the beaters and had strawberry icing all over his face.
3) In order to get my workouts in, M had to come with me b/c I couldn’t leave him home with S. He sits in the corner with the iPad and watched a movie while a group of people sweat and move on the other side of the gym. After watching for a while on Friday, he decided he wanted to do some exercise. We went out to the parking lot where he learned how to do jumping jacks, push-ups and high-knees. A sight to behold.
I am sure there are more highlights that have gotten lost in the fog that is my sleep-deprived, desperately-in-need-of-alone-time brain. Hope to be back soon.
S has this thing she does with M. She asks him how long she can keep him and he typically says, “26.” He decided that when he is 26, he will move to his own house on “the big road”. His friends (A and M, brother and sister) will move in with him and he will have us over for breakfast. A couple of weeks ago, we got an answer other than ’26’. When S asked how long she can keep him, “‘Til you are 26?” she asked.
“No,” he said.
“Because I am going to die soon.”
(Insert heart hitting the floor here.)
This has stayed with me since, coming from behind and slapping the back of my head every now and then. When I remember his words, my chest tightens and I lose my breath, praying that he is just working through things in his head and that he doesn’t actually know something we don’t.
2013 has been a shitty year. M has learned a lot this year. Maybe too much. I try to chalk his statement up to that. We lost a pregnancy he was invested in. My mom’s best friend died and he came with me to her memorial service. He doesn’t know it, but my dad had a minor stroke today.
He has seen a lot this year. I wonder if our decision to be completely honest with him has exposed him to too much, too soon. I don’t know what the alternative is. I can’t lie to him, but I want to protect him. Where is the middle ground? I just don’t know.
What I do know is that life is short and shit happens. No matter how much I try to protect him or prepare for the ‘what ifs’, I just can’t shelter him from all hurt. No matter how much I want to. And that sucks. I guess that is all part of the letting go that happens the moment a child is born. From that first moment we let someone else hold him to my last breath, I have been and will be giving him the world and to the world.
I think that is my life’s work. The letting go and the moving on. Maybe that is everyone’s life work. Maybe it is holding on too tight that holds us all back, our children included. Just maybe.
Thursday was our first foray into trick-or-treating. My boy dressed as a payphone (yes, a payphone) and was excited for days beforehand. We went early to the area of town where half of everyone goes to collect candy from strangers. They do it up right. Street closed off. Hot chocolate for the parents. Folks on their front porches with giant smiles.
My boy was confused by the costumes. He kept saying, “Mama. I don’t know who all these scary people are.” He would ask why that five-year old had red stuff (fake blood) all over his face or why that boy was wearing a gas mask. He was more than eager to collect candy (he had never had it before), but was a little confused and scared by the whole of the event.
It took him two hours to fall asleep that night. He kept telling me he was scared. He woke up a bazillion times that night, crying out like never before. I learned, that night, that he isn’t ready for big kids halloween. Which is fine by me, actually.
The unexpected thing to come out of the event is his new obsession with candy. We threw out half of the paltry amount he collected, leaving him with about fifteen pieces. He was told he could have one piece a day after a good meal. He put all his candy in a silver bowl (his “sweeties” bowl) and has been carrying it from room to room for almost a week. He will pour the contents out, sniff each one and then put it back in the bowl. He will eat one piece and then make a plan for the next day, “Can I have the bubblegum lollipop tomorrow?” Sometimes, he will thrust the bowl under my nose and tell me to smell it. At the end of the day, he will place his sweeties bowl next to his bed, just in front of his fish, and tell it goodnight.
So, I really learned two things from last Thursday. People are scary (although, I kind of knew that already) and candy is addictive (I guess I kind of already knew that, too).
He is asking for another halloween, not sure if he can wait until next year. Maybe next year we will have a party and hand out apples and dental floss. Ask everyone to come dressed as a butterfly or flower. Put off the candy and scary people for a while, try to keep by boy little as long as possible.
That, my friends, is the sound of me tooting my own horn. I am quite proud of my big parenting win from last weekend.
We were having a great time visiting our hometown of Atlanta. We kept deciding to stay another night until we had been there 6 days and 5 nights. Two trips to the museum of natural history, one to the botanical garden and one very anticipated trip to the zoo.
The zoo was my idea. When M and I were in California a couple months ago, we went to the San Diego zoo. M kept saying, “Let’s go.” Animal after animal, very little sustained interest. So, I thought Zoo Atlanta would be a chance for zoo redemption. We got there early and there were only a handful of other people in the whole place. It was kind of awesome.
The flamingos were first. I waited for M’s reaction. “Let’s go.” Oh shit. Here we go again. But then it got better. He was having a blast running around the practically empty zoo, slightly interested in the animals. He rode the carousel and the train and was SO happy. Then, we indulged in some really healthy hotdogs and chips.
Soon after sitting down to eat, my boy ended up in a puddle of his own urine. I mean, full-bladder emptied. My boy has been potty trained since he was 20 months old and has had exactly two accidents out in public since. So, I was woefully unprepared when he soaked his pants completely. No change of pants. No change of socks. Nothing.
So when S came back from the bathroom, carrying a bare-assed toddler, I knew I had to jump into action. The thought of having to tell M that we had to go because he wet his pants didn’t feel like and option. I remembered that bathroom had a hand dryer. I spent the next thirty minutes burning my hands under the dryer until his pants were dry enough to put back on to continue the day.
M didn’t know what I had done. He didn’t know there was a crisis. He didn’t know that he had done something unexpected. He didn’t know that people from neighboring tables were looking at the lesbians who let their child sit naked at a restaurant. He didn’t know any of that. And that, my friends, was my parenting coup. Toot, toot!
You ever have one of those nights where you are singing your kid to sleep and you realize that you are really killing it? I mean, like ‘American Idol’ killing it. Tonight was one of those nights for me.
M has been asking me to sing all the songs from when he was a baby, in addition to the Indigo Girls medley that is the current standard. I made it through a few songs, eyes closed, wondering if S could hear me from the other room and wondering which judge I would choose when I get a 4-chair turn on The Voice. Probably Adam. He is so cute.
There I was, halfway through You Are My Sunshine, and M says, “Is that the right tune?” You know what? It wasn’t! I was so far away from the tune. I think I was somewhere between This Land Is Your Land and Rock and Roll All Nite. I was feeling the spotlights and hearing the crowd and my not-yet-three-year old called me out.
I remember the very long nights when he was a baby and I would sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, each round gaining depth and fullness as my baby boy wiggled and cooed for what felt like hours. It is amazing how sleep deprivation changes one’s sense of reality. If I had a recording of those late nights, I am sure I would be sorely disappointed in what I heard. Thanks to my kid, I am fairly certain in that fact tonight.
I think I prefer that cloud of denial a little. Sometimes, that singing is the only thing that keeps me from collapsing in a heap at the end of the day. I guess my singing works. M is asleep and I am writing. So, I suppose I will keep at it until M asks me to stop. Hopefully that will be a long time from now because a tiny part of me also wants to keep the hope of fame alive.
Since M was born, I have been flexible about many things…except sleep. A friend gave some great unsolicited advice before he was born. She said that her friends thought she was crazy, but she never compromised on her son’s sleep: specific bedtime routine, definite bedtime, etc. I took this to heart.
M has never been a great sleeper. He is very sensitive to changes in temperature in the room. He gets caught in his blankets. He gets thirsty. This has translated into him waking 2-6 times a night for almost three years.
Even though friends with kids have made fun of me, we have always been the ones who leave the party first to make sure he gets in the tub by ‘tub time’. Then, this summer happened.
I let go. I am not sure how it happened, but I just let go of all those tight restrictions around his sleep. We started staying at the party later. One night, I got excited for him to see stars in the sky. So we stayed up past dark. You know what? He slept that night. He slept 10 hours straight. As I released my grip, he started to sleep better. It became obvious that regardless of when he went to sleep, he would sleep 10 hours.
This has been revolutionary for me. It has relieved a ton of anxiety that came with such rigid ideas. Flexibility around his sleep has opened up a whole new world of fun things that happen after 7:00 p.m. Last night, we had a campfire at some friends’ house. We played the guitar (poorly) and tried to sing songs (poorly) and let the kids run around in the dark. They ate marshmallows before bed and took their jackets off when it was chilly out. The best part? We ended the night with a dance party in the driveway. Everyone danced in the glow of the car lights until we were done, no pressure to run off to bed.
M slept 10 hours last night. 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. We didn’t have to go in his room once. A year ago, I would have been having a slight panic attack if we were out past bedtime. Today, I was thinking about all the cool things that happen when you stay up too late. What a difference a year makes.
There is a tradition at my college that I have been looking forward to sharing with M. Every year at homecoming (think BBQ and square dance in a cow pasture, not tailgating at a football game), there is good food, horse drawn carriage rides and then…there is the bonfire. I love the bonfire. It is one tradition that I get really excited about. Once the sun sets, a long line of students come down the hill and down the farm road carrying lit torches. The crowd notices and starts to gather around the fifteen-feet tall pyre, anticipating the annual lighting. We all know there will be fire spinning after the pile is ablaze, perhaps an illuminated hula hoop or two. Good times.
It all happened last night. I had been building M up all day talking about how much fun the big fire is and how I was so excited to show him now that he is a big boy. When we saw the torches in the distance, he got really quiet. We inched our way closer as the torch-bearers lit the kindling around the base of the pile. The wood began to catch and alumni from the last sixty years cheered. M was pretty quiet.
He asked to stand on a chair right in front of the fire. After a couple minutes, he said, “I’m feeling nervous. I’d like to go home now.” I felt so…proud. Proud that my little guy is in touch with how he feels. Then I realized that my job, as his mother, is to help him stay that way. My job is to raise a boy who will become a man who can talk about how he feels, who can express himself in gentle ways, who can have his voice heard without dominating. Last night was just the beginning.
So, when my boy told us he was nervous, even though I had been really excited to share the tradition with him, we each gave him a huge hug and headed for the car. Last night, we did our job.