Monday, July 31, 2006

Babies 'R'nt' Us

I just want to say to any parents of twins, triplets, or, Lord help you, quads or quints or whatever else there is, my hat is off to you. And to your pharmacist, who probably really has to hustle to keep up with your Prozac refills. I worked in the church nursery on Sunday, and let me just tell you, there is nothing like hauling around fat, screaming babies to make an hour seem interminable. And for a real ego boost, nothing beats doing everything in your power to calm a hysterical child only to have them stiffen and writhe away from you in outrage as though you were, say, poking them with a cattle prod rather than desperately trying to get a bottle into their wailing, drooling mouth.
There were two nursery workers to seven babies, one of which was mine, so I felt she really didn't count. My kid's cool; she just does her thing, plays with the toys, flops around. But then, she had her mommy in plain view. Those other babies, boy, as soon as that door closes and Mama disappears from sight, the waterworks are on. Cue also the sad, pitiful, heartbroken weeping that makes you so happy not to be a kid anymore, forced to endure epic tragedies every hour or so. I mean, I really feel terrible for them. I imagine that they truly think they have been abandoned and will forevermore be cared for by the strange lady enthusiastically trying to engage them with some crappy, broken plastic toy that's been slimed by three other babies. I would cry too, you know?
For a while, all was going well. The three little girls were all sitting in a circle playing together (read: all silently absorbed in their own toys, and casting occasional, vaguely envious glances at the other babies' toys.) One boy was in the exersaucer, the other sleeping, the other suckling contentedly from his bottle. Boy number four was dangling in the jumperoo. Peace reigned.
And then we heard it, a small, discontented noise from inside the napping room. We glanced at each other in alarm, for anyone who's ever been around more than one baby at a time knows what crying begets: more crying. It's more contagious than the freaking stomach flu, and once it leaked out of the nap room, it was all over for us.
Those kids cried their poor little heads off, one after another, your classic domino effect. Even my child's contented little face began to crumple as she watched me holding one baby after another while she sat alone on the floor, and then she was yelling too. I felt like we were in a silly cartoon or something, two women surrounded by crying babies, hopping from one to another like chickens with our heads cut off. I usually think I do well under pressure, but apparently not so much, because when the mom of the most inconsolable baby finally arrived, she informed me that I had mixed his water with baby cereal instead of formula. She passed along this information very nicely, of course, but I still felt like a total idiot. I have a child who is actually older than hers; you'd think I'd know the difference between cereal and formula!
Oh well. Se la vie. But I was never so happy to grab my kid and leave, let me tell you. Seeing what happens when you put seven babies in one room is enough to make you swear off infertility treatments forever! So to all you brave parents who made that choice and now have your very own nursery school/insane assylum, I wish you all the best, and also many helpful relatives. And to anyone struggling with your own houseful of properly spaced kids, I just wanted to tell you, it could be worse. You could have had to potty train them all at the same time.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This evening my extended family and I were trying to have a nice dinner, and then a nice game of cards, but then this one little thing kept interfering- the fact that we have offspring. First my sister-in-law had to come late because of her daughter's friend's birthday party, then her husband had to come late because of a bit of a rough afternoon with their son, so we ended up eating dinner in shifts. Then my own daughter hit her head on her high chair halfway through the meal and had to be comforted and plied with a bottle. Soon after, my brother-in-law arrived, son in tow, and headed off to the kitchen to prepare their dinners. His aforementioned child sat at the table, looking tragic and forlorn, and repeated over and over, mantra-like, "I want Mom.... I want Mom..."
Later, we tried card playing, but my little one was busy trying to take down my wine glass and steal her cousin's blanky and such, and, having reached her limit, decided to remove everything in her immediate vicinity from the table with one grand sweep of her arm. She proceeded to wiggle and moan and nothing, nothing would do, not Mommy's lap or Grandma's lap or a bottle or the glorious toys which had moments earlier been so engrossing.
The game was cut a bit short. No one quite seemed up for it, after diaper changes and the handing out of numerous graham crackers and the head counts to make sure everyone was present and accounted for and not, say, playing a rousing round of spill the juice on Grandma's sofa or whatever. My husband said wryly, as we were packing up to leave, "Everything's so much more fun with kids!"
And so I got to thinking: No it's not. This was honestly kind of disillusioning for me, despite having been in the company of children quite a lot and having some familiarity with their ways. It hadn't really occurred to me before, though, I guess because I was so accustomed to having the kids around during these family events that I wouldn't have thought to question whether their presence there was really very fun. It just was.
But you know what? It would be more fun if they weren't there. Or at least it would be more fun in the sense of "playing a game out to its conclusion without everybody having to jump up seventy-five freaking times to attend to the needs of other people in other rooms."
And then when we got home- it is Saturday night, mind you- I was so tired I went to bed before eleven. Exciting stuff, huh?
But this is the life we chose, all of us who have children. If you go somewhere with your kids, you can't be surprised when there are a few hiccups in the smooth socializing flow that you used to enjoy pre-baby. So maybe I just need to redefine fun, stop demanding it on my own terms. Old fun was lingering conversations and uninterrupted meals and staying up late. New fun is seeing my relatives interact with my daughter and watching her learn new skills like self-feeding and banging her toys together. New fun is taking one last peak at my baby, sleeping like an angel, before I tuck my own tired self in.
So I take it back. It would not have been more fun to have dinner without the kids. It would have been a different kind of fun, yes, and a kind of fun that I occassionally miss. But we have a new fun now, a fun I know I will most definitely miss when it has left us.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Taming of the Shrew

Why am I being so evil?? Here is a list, just off the top of my head, of the random things I have decided to harp at my husband about today: the fact that his shirt, in the glaring sunlight of the church parking lot, was not black but in fact navy blue, and clashed JUST SO UNFORGIVABLY with his black shoes; the fact that he has not recently given me a compliment (to my memory) that specifically had to do with how I looked (referring to my actual face, hair, and/or body, as compliments about clothes no longer count;) the fact that when he clears the dishes from the dinner table and rinses them off, he does not also wipe down the countertops; the fact that he wanted to go play video games with his friend but should not be allowed to because he already did that once this weekend and that is just too darn much fun for a family man to be having in one weekend; the fact that he did not fasten his seat belt for the quarter-of-a-mile drive to church; and last but not least (prepare yourselves for the horror of this offense,) the fact that when he was giving our daughter her bath, he didn't see the towel and washcloth I had so thoughtfully laid out for him and reached around the corner of the bathtub, potentially taking his eyes off of Addy for one nanosecond, to get one himself.
I know, I know what you're thinking: "How does she live with this man? How did he manage to commit so many unspeakable acts in just one day?"
I don't have the answers to these questions, folks. Nor do I have the answer to the question, "Can a person be permanently stuck in premenstrual syndrome for the rest of her life? If so, is that an excuse for her to make shrill, shrewish comments whenever they form themselves in her head?"
I say again, oy vey. Maybe I should start washing down leftover Vicodin with a nip of white wine whenever I feel this meanspirited mood coming over me. No, you say? Chemical dependancy is not the answer? Then what? Self-restraint? Good Lord, I thought it would never come to that, I really did. I was sure marriage would only increase our mutual affection and that I, unlike every other wife on the face of the planet, would never ever feel the urge to offer petty, peevish little criticisms about the manner in which my husband chose to, say, brush his teeth.
Ah, how the mighty are fallen! What is that saying about the sins of the fathers? Perhaps that is true for womankind as well, and the sins of every wife since Adam and Eve are just trickling on down to me, the next in line for her obligatory dose of nagging and kvetching and obsessing!
But no. I jest. That is no excuse. I'm going to try to pull myself together here, I promise. I will not make my husband's life one of quiet desperation, nor will I drive him away to the garage or the bathroom, which I understand to be the traditional retreats of harassed husbands everywhere. That is my goal this week. May the force be with me!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Semi-Life?

I'm a little depressed lately... I don't know why, either, which always makes it worse, right? For instance, when our kitchen was all torn up for repairs, I was in a bad mood because the kitchen was all torn up and I wanted things back to normal. And then when they were, I was happy again. But right now I'm just grumpy, in a PMS-y sort of way, but I don't have PMS right now (unless one can argue that PMS could in fact extend to the entire three weeks which are, technically, premenstrual.)
So, I guess I'm just, witchy right now. I feel like all I want to do is sleep, even though I have been getting plenty of sleep. I feel no motivation or excitement to get out of bed in the morning. I just want to pull the covers over my head and pretend it's still nighttime.
Okay, I just reread that, and I think I know what it is, why I don't get that motivated in the mornings : it's that- surprise, surprise- I spend a great deal of my day alone! And oneself is not always the most stimulating of company! I just wish that there was an actual reason for me to shower before three in the afternoon, or somebody sitting down eating meals with me to shame me out of eating cookies for breakfast. I wish somebody was my boss, actually. Sadly, I thrive under supervision. I want someone checking up on my work and praising me for a job well done and giving me to do lists and noticing my cute work clothes and styled hair. (It has been an entire month since I have blown my hair dry, much less curled it.)
When there is only me, a big horsey dog, and my daughter, who would be perfectly happy to roll around on the floor all day and who communicates by shrieking, it's hard to keep myself from feeling as though I am the sole warden of a small zoo.
And here I am alone again. It is Saturday morning, and my husband is golfing, and here I am still tending the zoo. I do not begrudge him golfing, I really don't. He should have fun and time with his friends, that is right and good. It's just... it's just this feeling I have, as though I'm always being left behind, baby on my hip, waving from the door while he pulls out of the driveway.
I see the unfairness in the mental picture I have just drawn, though. I know that my husband has cheerfully stayed with the baby many times while I went out with my friends. So I would like to point out that this moodiness isn't entirely about him. I guess it's about the friends too, and how I just feel out of touch with some of them- the non-mom ones. I listen to their stories and as much as I do not miss being single, I sort of miss how every other day there was some new crisis and some new piece of information to get either outraged or thrilled or devestated about. Life was... happening, there were things happening all the time. There were things to think about other than, "When was the last time I cleaned out the fridge?"
I was talking to one of my friends the other day about how furious she was at her ex over something she had just found out, and I asked her, "Does it feel like your heart is going to pound out of your chest, it's beating so hard?" And she said, "Yes, exactly like that." It was kind of surreal, remembering what it physically felt like to experience such an intense emotion, even a negative one. And I realized that I just haven't felt much of anything for a while beyond baby-love feelings. So maybe that's why I'm out of touch with my friends- they sense that I can't really relate anymore to the every day highs and lows of their emotions. I'm just here, at the sink, or loading the dryer, or pushing my grocery cart full of baby food and toilet paper.
But I'll get over it. It's just immaturity, probably, to always need something new going on. What I feel to be boredom I should try to cultivate into contentment. It could be much, much worse, my life, and for those moments when everything is just steady, I should be grateful that everyone is safe and well and fine.
To think, I was just preaching to my husband and sister-in-law the other day about how the best way to parent is to just be all Zen-like and find inner peace and radiate it around your house and then your kids will pick up on it and, I don't know, start mediating whenever they feel a tantrum coming on or something. Gosh, was I on crack? What was I talking about? I can't even find inner peace when there's nothing wrong, much less when I'm around a bunch of fighting kids!
So anyways... forgive my ramblings. I am fine. And to those certain people who were subjected to my insane diatribe on theoretical parenting techniques, ignore me! I am clearly no expert on modeling inner peace!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What Is Happening to Me?

Yes, it has finally happened: I am now capable of walking through my kitchen, feeling that my bare feet are picking up little pieces of crumb and debris, and- gasp!- keep right on walking into the computer room and plop myself down to websurf instead of scrambling to fetch the broom and mop like some kind of deranged maid.
Maybe this is a bad thing, but some of my stay-at-home mom guilt must finally be slipping away, allowing me to sit idly at the computer for hours on end, oblivious to the pile of dirty dishes and granola bar wrappers surrounding me. (After rereading this sentence, it seems that yes, indeed, no "maybe" about it, this IS a bad thing.) For the past nine months, I have always had this nagging fear in the back of my mind that someone is going to catch on to the fact that my job is actually not that hard! That, especially in the early months of Addy's life, I had hours on end to do with whatever I pleased. I just had this vision of my husband, returning home from work one day to tap me on the shoulder and say ever so gently, "Um, hon? The gig it up."
And so, acutely aware of my husband and most of the other moms I knew who were out there somewhere in the land of working people, slurping coffee and multitasking, I resisted the urge to watch daytime television (okay, I resisted the urge to watch it while sitting- I left it on, but simultaneously bustled around with cleaning supplies and laundry baskets.) And I admittedly got a little OCD about it (how many times a week does the living room need to be dusted? As many times as you see a lone strand of dog hair lying on the coffee table, that's how many!) I was high on the scent of orange oil Pledge and Lysol antibacterial wipes.
But now, in these days when Addy's naps and fewer and shorter, and I spend a great deal of my time spooning food into her open, bird-like mouth and then wiping it off of every surface in a five foot radius, I find that my instinct is to use those precious naptimes not to scrub the kitchen, but to drink tea and read parenting journals on BabyCenter. And I hardly even feel a flicker of guilt about it.
But I suspect that I may be trading one obsessive-compulsive tendency for another: so in love am I with my favorite online journal (Bringing Up Ben and Birdy, which can be found at aforementioned BabyCenter) that I would prefer to sit and read endlessly about this family that I do not know or care about than to actually talk on the phone to someone in my own circle of family and friends. That's a little weird too, right?
I think my problem is that I am not capable of managing my own time in a reasonable, balanced way without someone standing over my shoulder. I am either working myself into a sweaty, self-righteous cleaning frenzy or I am lying around in my pajamas all day, moving away from the computer only to change diapers and dole out fruit puffs. (I am exaggerating, but not as much as I wish.) And I know, I know, the solution is a detailed schedule to which I, the mama, am devoted, with regular mealtimes and bedtimes and bathtimes and play/mental stimulation times. But I am just such an unscheduled, follow the spirit kind of person that I find this directly in opposition of my nature.
Surely, though, there is a happy medium. I will never be the woman with the day planner, true. But that doesn't mean I have to be the unshowered, ratty-haired trailer trash sorting through the sink full of dirty dishes for the "cleanest" bottle, does it?
Oy vey. I'll let you know how it goes. Right now I'm going to go do the dishes- by which I mean, unload the dishwasher just in time to load it back up with the dirty dishes that have been accumulating in the sink while the clean ones sat, pristine and untouched, still in the dishwasher. How sad am I?!