Monday, November 28, 2011

A Thanksgiving Pardon

Thanksgiving is my holiday to host and despite coaxing from my husband and mother I wasn't letting it go when my daughter was born.  I was especially determined to power through this year and not let on that just days before I was willing to call it quits.

As I put my daughter to bed the night before, thoughts of what still needed to be done washed over me.  I contemplated a trip to Boston Market, factoring in time to hide the evidence of marked containers.  My husband naturally calmed my nerves indicating it would "all get done, it always does."  He is always right.  It does always get done.  But that was typically before we had a 15 month old who tends to cling to my leg whenever I am home.  I couldn't imagine how I was supposed to get the turkey in the oven, set the table,  and help start the sides before 2pm the next day.  I pictured a sad image of me in a boat with all the water of responsibility seeping in.  Am I going to make it to shore at a slow pace, wet and haggered looking, or am I going to do the smart, sane thing and try to bail some of this water out?

The solution seemed like a rational one on any other day but Thanksgiving.  I pride myself on having a neat home and hosting a nice holiday dinner like my mother would.  But as the time somehow became 11pm and I knew Boston Market doesn't make a turkey as good as mine, I realized I'm not my mother.  I'm a new mother.  A mother who really could've used a few extras minutes in bed this morning.  A mother who temporarily has a kitchen and nursery separated by a door and can only do so much when there is a nap taking place.  A mother who is content letting all of the spotty glasses stay on the table and just cursing my dishwasher to everyone.  A mother who is just going to have to come to terms with doing less and it still being her best.

Thanksgiving day I was pleased the bird cooked perfectly and despite the smoke detectors going off and scaring my daughter, there were no problems with the menu.  I hadn't had the table set the night before or the dessert dishes and plates on the credenza, yet it all came together by the time everyone arrived.   Everything seemed surprisingly fine though I sat at the table and sensed a difference.  It wasn't the wrinkled tablecloth, the semi-clean apartment, or our lack of adequate appetizers.  It was my daughter.

It was her dancing and clapping that got my 91 year old grandmother off her feet and joining in.  It was her playing peek a boo with my brother-in-law and watching them chase each other in my hallway.  It was her cuddling with my father watching TV to take a bottle break.  It was her that somehow made everyone a happier versions of themselves and everything else fade into the background.

Since the day she was born I find I'm shedding skins of my former self.  Layers of different needs that are no longer necessary, like the need to have everything perfect for when company comes over and all my laundry done on a Sunday night.  I shed the last layer of the day as my daughter sat on my lap ready for dessert.  She didn't eat a thing at the dinner table and though I was concerned,  I gave her a spoon and we shared a piece of ice cream cake.  She fed me every few bites and I was thankful.  Thankful for her soft hair against my chin, her determination to eat by herself, and her kind nature of always wanting to share.

As I let the chocolate drip down her chin and saw the smiling faces of my family, I realized letting go isn't just about loss.  Its about making room in your life for things to gain.  Moments you can miss if you get too caught up in things that aren't important.  Moments that can turn into memories of which to be thankful.

That night I put the last Tupperware away in the fridge and joined my husband on the couch.  We were bleary eyed with full bellies, feeling a sense of accomplishment. We did it.  We had hosted a holiday with a toddler.  We watched the end of some football game and I closed my eyes, thankful for him, our home, and our daughter.  I nuzzled into his chest and drifted off to sleep knowing the mess in the kitchen would just have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Bumpy Ride

My father and I went on the teacups when I was about six or seven.  Our heads buried into each other as we went round and round.  He retells the story making the ride operator seem like a vindictive Carney.  I'm sure it was just a stoned teenager, unaware a dizzy father was motioning for him to stop the ride.  I remember  coming home and flopping onto our big brown and white couch.  My dad's memory confirms we were apparently done for the day and in turn, amusement park rides altogether.

Growing up I was the kid trying to come up with every excuse not to join my friends at Great Adventure or any county fair.  I'd have a panic attack just looking at the Gravitron.  My husband comes from a family of thrill seekers and can take his share of roller coasters before calling it quits.  Spinning rides on the other hand is where he draws the line.  So at a recent mall outing we looked at each other with concern as our daughter marveled at the bobbing horses on the carousel.

I look at the decorated ponies, the fine craftsmanship of each pole as they go up and down, round and round and begin to sweat.  Rides are fun and so is puking after you've had too much cotton candy.  I will not have my daughter miss out on these things.  Time to "Mom Up."

I strap her onto the horse and mount behind her.  She's already "doing nice" to its hair and ready for an adventure.  We start to spin at a speed I'm sure is much slower than I think.  I'm blinking and trying to spot a point on the food court.  Its not working.  By the third time around I tap out and my husband jumps on. I wobble off and steady myself on the stroller.  I see my husband is trying as pathetically as I was, gripping the horse's tail like an emergency brake.  The ride stops by his fifth rotation, just in time for him to turn a nice shade of green.

Though we are staggering towards the exit, my daughter is clapping her hands and waving bye bye to the horses.  I'm not a fan of false promises so I don't tell her we'll be seeing them again.  Instead I just say, "Wasn't that fun?" and hand her a cookie.

My husband and I give each other a proud look. We pride ourselves on being fun parents and eager to share every experience with our daughter.  But as we pull out of the parking lot , our discussion leans towards our knowledge of  limitations.  We can certainly be everything to our daughter, but can't necessarily do everything for her.  Moments that she will enjoy may need to be shared.

She babbles the rest of the way home as we share some Altoids to calm our nausea.   We comment on how much fun carousel rides with Aunt Chrissy will be and agree that taking pictures of the two of them from the bench will make us smile just the same.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Toy Story

Maybe I've seen too much of the Toy Story franchise but I couldn't help but feel bad for Mickey Mouse.  There he was, sitting on the night stand as my daughter squeezed the cuteness right out of Zoe Monster.  Mickey watched, his perky smile ear to big round ear as I read the night time books and did our usual bedtime routine for an intruder from Sesame Street.   I looked at him and thought, "Don't worry, Mickey, Mommy's got this."  I turned to my daughter and gently said, "Don't you want to cuddle with Mickey?"   She shook her head and lovingly bit Zoe's eye.  I glanced apologetically at Mickey, hoping his abandonment issues weren't as bad as Woody and Buzz.

I remember the dolls that I loved when I was a kid.  I'll admit I tried pushing a few on my daughter.  Grover, ladybug, the beautiful crocheted doll my mother made.  I'd make them dance and sing and show her how much fun each one was.  Her interest would last a minute and I started to wonder if she would ever grow attached to any doll like so many toddlers do.  Then there came Mickey, who was the result of an impulse purchase and proof that my daughter has Daddy wrapped around her tiny little finger.  All she has to do is point, say "gets," and magically there is less money in our wallets.  

We thought Mickey would be like any other doll, but soon she couldn't go anywhere without him.  She carried him around, fed him Cheerios, hugged him during diaper changes, and brought him to our nightly story time.  Mickey is pretty much the same size as her which makes cuddling on Mommy's lap a bit of a challenge. But since he has joined the family, she goes down to sleep at night without a peep.  So one can understand why I'm kind of a Mickey advocate.  

I think about the potential  longevity of Mickey's reign.  My mom discarded a lot of my toys after we moved out of our apartment.  Her reasoning was that I had lost interest.  I couldn't argue.  Maybe I grew distant, making her think Miss Piggy and Kermit were expendable.  But as an adult, when flashes of distant memories come into view, I want to run up to my parents' attic and find them.  I know my daughter will want to do that someday too.

Though, like my mother, I find myself taking inventory of my cramped apartment, looking to see what I can get rid of. My daughter is likely too young to remember certain toys but what if years from now, a tiny sliver of familiarity comes with seeing Abby Cadabby or Little Red Riding Hood?  How can I decide what will be most important to her? What will be sitting on the shelf today and be her favorite next month?  

Maybe I should just keep everything and consider this a teaching moment.  As a fellow female and survivor of adolescent girl drama, I can use her dolls as examples of how not to cast old friends aside for new ones.  I can teach her how V-Tech Puppy Violet is just as special as Fisher Price Puppy, even though you can't program Fisher Price Puppy to say your name or favorite food.  I can emphasize the importance of The Sesame Street playset as a great place to see her favorite friends like Telly and Bert.  Sure, The Little People Doll House has a phone that rings, but it doesn't have a grouch in a can on the corner.  Everyone brings something different to the table.

We finish our last night time book with Zoe still tightly bound under my daughter's arm.  I put her in the crib, ask her for a kiss and give one to Mickey too, who I stealthy positioned under the mobile.  My daughter looks at Zoe, loses her grip and reaches for Mickey.   As I put Zoe back on the shelf, I turn to see Mickey in his usual spot, snug under my daughter's left arm as she settles under the covers and for a split second, I swear that mouse gives me a wink.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Long Lost Friends, Rest and Relaxation

My daughter is about 22lbs right now, only in the thirty percentile for weight for her age.  She is tiny yet her constant motion has rendered me cripple.  Last week I was putting her in her carseat when I felt a strain in my upper back.  I know this strain. Its the one that warns me there is a bit too much activity in the shoulder blade region and any day now the muscles are going to revolt and stop at an inopportune time.  I should've listened, but like any other parent, I didn't have time to hear my body.  There were places to go, things to do, and a cranky child to pick up and cuddle.  Fast forward a week later and I'm still in pain and have spent the past ten days unable to fulfill my mommy duties.

My sleepy, over-worked husband finally crawled into bed the other night, well after 1am.  His head hit the pillow and somehow cued cries from our daughter.  I was already up but he had to get her because I couldn't pick her up.  I laid there in the dark, feeling bad and worrying about being less helpful.  There is too much to do around here.  My husband can't do this two man job on his own.  But above all else, how can I explain to my daughter with her outstretched arms that Mommy can't give her hugs and kisses because she has no lumber support?

I've learned that "parent fatigue" has nothing on sickness or muscle sprains.  Three months after my daughter was born I came down with a horrible stomach virus.  After one trip to the bathroom I promptly shipped my uninfected baby to Grandma's.  The next day my husband got sick.  Recovering from not eating for two days, battling dehydration, and caring for a baby was more challenging than anything we had every imagined.

In my pathetic efforts to keep myself on time, my apartment clean, my daughter cared for, and my other social and family obligations I have to add being well rested, well fed, and inoculated for flu season on my "to do" list.  As a result, I find myself making unrealistic deals with God in exchange for rest .
"I promise to endure waiting for the subway a few minutes longer everyday if I can just call in sick and have someone watch the baby."
"I will never again curse my body and inability to lose weight quickly if I can just curl up under my covers with soothing hot chocolate."
"I will stop ignoring the Green Peace canvassers on the corner near my office if I can just tend to this head cold, watch a Jersey Shore marathon, and create a fort of used tissues around me and the couch."

Naturally the big man is too busy to hear my amateur requests.  So instead, my husband and I try to sneak rest here and there.  This means closing our eyes while our daughter is still for moment in our laps, taking shifts on a Saturday so the other can nap, and sending her for a super fun sleepover at Grandma and Pop's so we don't burn out.

I don't believe in paying a dozen co-pays for medical treatment, but my daughter isn't buying this "Mommy can't pick you up" crap, so I have an appointment with the chiropractor next week.  Hopefully I can get some relief because my child isn't going to stop growing, needing, or wanting.  Until she learns to do about 95% of things on her own I'll keep looking over at that soft spot on the couch and know some day, maybe years from now, there will be a moment just for us.