“Mommy, stay for a long time…for all the time…and in the morning you will wake up with me.”
I wanted to put these words down so I can remember them. So that I can remember the feeling of being so needed, so wanted, that waking up with me would be the best. I wanted to share them.
I didn’t stay for all the time, but I stayed awhile.
Once upon time, shortly after we were married and all those gifts came pouring in, we had 10 sets of flatware. That is: 10 dessert spoons, 10 soup spoons, 10 salad forks, 10 dinner forks, 10 knives. In the time since, tragedies have occurred and things have been reallocated, leaving us with less than 10 full sets, but such is life. I haven’t taken an official count or anything. But last week I noticed after emptying the dishwasher that the dessert spoon (my personal fave piece of flatware) pile was looking noticeably short.
I knew that one of these brave souls had gone to the trash bin in the school cafeteria one day when I packed spoon yogurt and had no plastic ones left. Aside from that, what had happened? I took count and there were 6. SIX!!! So that means that 3 freaking spoons are unaccounted for. How exactly does that happen? This becomes a problem because the kids and I eat cereal or oatmeal every morning and all use those spoons–3 down. Then I always have yogurt–4. If I forget and stir my coffee with one we are down to 1. One little spoon!
Yes, I am aware that I can hand wash one and use it again or ‘gag’ use a soup spoon instead. But come on, who wants to spend time washing spoons when there are supposed to be 9 in the drawer? I can’t spend $70 per set getting more, matching flatware. Can I buy just the dessert spoons? Maybe on Ebay? Does it even matter?
My parents never had matching flatware. Or maybe they did before we came along and did things like lose pieces in the school trash bins or use them as trebuchets for Lego knights or whatever it is that my children have done with our spoons. Looking at our cabinets, our kitchenware is beginning to resemble that of my parents. We don’t have stacks of white matching Pottery Barn bowls anymore. We have some chipped Pottery Barn bowls and some Spider Man bowls and some plastic Taken N’ Toss multicolored bowls. We no longer have 8 juice glasses and 8 water glasses. We now have 1 juice glass and some pint glasses and maybe a water glass or two thrown in there with a stack of rainbow-hued cups from Ikea.
But when I think back to dinner with my family as a child, I barely remember the dishes we ate on anyway. I remember the food, I remember the way my father laughed at his own jokes as he ate bread with mayonnaise spread on it. I remember exactly where each member of my family sat. If I think hard I can remember my “special fork”–the one with a pointed end and a rose imprinted on it. If my parents had matching flatware would I have even had a special fork?
So maybe I’ll head to Target and pick up a few spoons or even grab some at the Goodwill. Maybe Declan will have a “special spoon” one day to remember when he thinks of how he sat between his father and I at our dinner table with his brother at the head. The mystery of the missing spoons may haunt me till the end of my days or I may find them all waiting for me the next time I get around to vacuuming under the couch. Maybe the universe took my spoons off to another dimension. Or maybe families are just meant to be built on mismatched spoons and chipped bowls and rainbow stacks of plastic cups.
It is 10:45 on a Friday morning and I’m in the kitchen cutting a peach into slices. Tears slip down my cheeks and I take a deep breath. A few minutes earlier I heard a play conversation from the other room where my newly 3-year-old is playing with Lego guys.
“I really love you. I do!”
“Thanks! You’re the best!”
“You’re the best too!”
This mimics an exchange that we have countless times each day and I can’t help but feel smiley and gooey as he plays it out in his Lego family, which is comprised of several ninja. As I head to the kitchen I hear him make one of his guys ask “What are we doing today?” To which another replies, “We’re going to school!” followed by an excited gasp.
And so, as I cut the peach’s white and rosey flesh into an orange plastic bowl, tears well up in my eyes and brim over. They are tears of sadness and happiness; of confusion and uncertainty; of excitement and regret. In an hour and a half I will take my very last baby to his first day of preschool. He will stay for one hour and fifteen minutes, if he even lets me leave the room. It is barely a dent in our day, but it is an enormous event. While he will always, always be my baby, he is NOT a baby any longer. He has a place to go where I don’t belong. I am torn between anticipation for this next part of life and mourning for the life that will no longer exist.
Today I take my son to his first day of school and a bridge will be crossed that we can never go back over. Today we embark on an adventure that will have us each taking solo steps. It will be hard and it will be fun and it will change us. I worry that he is not ready, but more than that, as I tear up again, I’m trying to tell myself that I’m ready.
Now that school is back in session my mornings have gone from sleeping until 8 and then waking up to drink my coffee and peruse Facebook to rushing around like a freaking lunatic starting at 6:45 in an attempt to make sure that everyone, including myself, is fed, clean, dressed, and has everything needed for the day in time for the walk to school. This rush usually leads to arguments, which lead to a frustrated mommy, which leads to yelling–all of which do NOT make for a wonderful start to the day.
Given my description it’s not difficult to see that I hate pretty much everything about morning. From opening my eyes to shoving shoes onto little feet and pushing them out the door, morning just seems awful. But morning also holds one of my favorite parts of the day–one of my favorite parts of parenting to be honest–waking my kids.
Yep, I LOVE waking my kids up and , no, not in an “I love to torture them” kind of way. In general, on school mornings, I have to wake both boys up. I’m up earlier than they have to be to get lunches ready and breakfast prepped. Then, about five minutes before Brady needs to be up, I climb up to the top bunk and gently shake him awake. Then I tell him he has five minutes and ask if he wants to snuggle. He usually responds by rolling over and pulling my arm around him. It’s warm and cozy and since I really don’t want to have gotten out of bed yet anyway, I close my eyes and pretend I haven’t. We lie there like that for 3 or 4 minutes and then I tell him it’s time to get out of bed and we climb down.
I then give him breakfast and set him up with whatever he wants to do (we allow TV in the morning). Then it’s back for round two. I lie down next to Declan and whisper in his ear, “Morning. Do you want to snuggle.” This is usually met by a stretch and some sort of groan or lip smack and we snuggle together in his bed for a few minutes before I have to force him to get up by offering to let him watch Peppa Pig in my room.
From there on out, all bets are off. I feel like I go from shoving food down their throats to forcibly brushing their teeth to struggling to pull socks onto their unwilling feet. Well, Brady does most of that on his own, so instead I’m following him around telling him 15 times to do each thing before he actually does it. But at least I get my peaceful moment of lovey warmth each morning. Because, like so many things about raising children, morning is all about finding that good thing that makes it all worth it.
Sometimes, when your morning is annoying and hassled and life seems to be plotting against you, all it takes to feel better is a little person climbing into your lap to give you a big hug….
And take a Blue Steel selfie.
I know it’s such an old cliche, but it is honestly so true. It seems as if, before you know it, children are grown before your very eyes. Yes, in some ways the past nearly 6 and a half years have been long, but in others it seems as if Brady was just my little baby. I think that I will forever see him as my chubby, little toddler playing with Thomas trains and digging in the sandbox. On Sunday we went to buy him a new bike. He had far outgrown his original one and we’re banking on the fact that Spring will one day come and he will be able to ride again.
He picked out the one he wanted and the mechanics fixed the seat and filled the tires and polished the rims as he watched. When they handed it to him, I asked him to pose with it for a picture to send his grandparents. The boy I saw in front of me was just so…BIG! Instead of my baby, there was this child, so sure of himself and in control. (Part of it was that he was wearing jeans. He refuses them and rarely wears them and somehow it always makes him seem like more of kid.)
Where did this child come from?
For the most part, as a parent, I really enjoy watching my children grow. I think I tend to celebrate their milestones more than mourn the loss of their younger selves. But sometimes, it tugs my heart with a mixture of pride, love, sadness and wonder to see just how far they’ve come.
How did he go from this?
That night I crawled into bed with Brady after he was asleep and curled up beside him. I stroked his cheek and looked at his sleeping profile and could see so clearly the baby that he once was, and to me, always will be. I wondered how much longer I will even be able to check on him at night without waking him or finding him still awake, reading in bed, and I decided to just lay there a moment longer while I still have the time.
Yep, with a little help from my friends. Two Saturdays ago I turned 35. The night before my friends took me out. We had a wonderful time, drinking wine and chatting for hours. We had so much fun, that I didn’t realize how late it was until I walked in my door to see the clock reading 12:28! What? I don’t stay out past midnight!
Although the conversation and the drinks were great, my favorite part of the night was the card that my friends gave me. Each of them had written a little note inside about our friendship and I was touched to tears. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people love you, even if you love them to bits yourself. When I re-read the card the next day I was reminded of two blog posts I made early on in my blogging (and mothering) career. First this one from early October 2008. I felt so incredibly lonely in my early days as a stay-at-home mom. I was completely unmoored and had no one to cling to. The friends I had contact with had no children and my friends with children lived far and, well, had children they needed to attend to.
Then I met these two women in a sandbox at a playground when Brady mooched snacks from them, just a few weeks before his first birthday. I liked them and was lucky enough that they liked me back and realized that I needed to be stalked via email and text in order to believe that someone actually wanted to spend time with me. Then I wrote this post in early November that same year. At the time I was just really happy not to be home all day, every day by myself with Brady. It had less to do with nursing than I thought back then. I was searching for any reason to connect with people. It’s so odd to think about not knowing them because now, in many ways, our lives are intertwined. They are my comfort zone.
I didn’t know that these women would become such an incredibly important part of my life. They introduced me to other moms and somehow four of us have stuck together, through preschool and kindergarten, through a second round of babies, through bad times, good times, jobs and staying home, whining and rejoicing. We became the moms hanging out in the park as our kids played on the lawn, taking classes together, and so much more.
Here we are, five years later, out drinking on my 35th birthday. Totally amazing. I really can’t explain what it means to me to have people in my life who support me and understand me and love me for me. My loneliness in those early months of Brady’s life is in such stark contrast to how I feel today. Sometimes I wonder how I could ever have survived it. I’m blessed, I’m lucky, however you want to put it. I am grateful to have these ladies in my life.
I know I’ve written about the husband on Project Optimism before, but he does make me pretty happy so I suppose he deserves another round.
Exactly 16 years ago right now I was walking in the cold to the movie theater with a boy I had had a crush on since the beginning of the semester. For some reason I thought baggy jeans, worn Airwalk sneakers, and a green Adidas coat was proper first date attire. I blame the 90s.
We saw Boogie Nights. After playing a game of pool at his fraternity house the conversation went like this.
Me: So what are we seeing?
Him: I thought we could see Boogie Nights.
Me: Isn’t that, like, a porn?
Him (emphatically): No.
But apparently baggy jeans and sneakers and movies about porn is just the way we roll because here we are, 16 years later, living the dream. Even after getting big grown-up jobs, even after saying “I do” and getting that magical piece of paper, even after having two little boys, the magic is still there. Sometimes it’s a little hard to find. It might be hidden under sleepless nights and ridiculous arguments and housework and worries and homework but it’s always there.
I decided not to do 30 days of thankfulness on my Facebook this year and I haven’t put up a gratitude post here either. It’s not that I don’t feel thankful or that I don’t want to share it. It’s just that I don’t really update my Facebook status much and it felt disingenuous to start doing it just for November. I didn’t want to feel bad if I forgot to update one day or if I forgot someone or something that I was really grateful for.
Last week the same yoga instructor whose blog post I shared before based her class on the idea of focusing on what we do have, rather than what we do not. Here’s her post on the subject. The basic idea is that the universe reflects back to you whatever you present, so if you are thinking only of what you don’t have, you will only get back more emptiness. During the class I wasn’t so keen on her premise. Why would the universe be so vindictive as to only give us back what we reflect? Clearly if you are depressed you are presenting that feeling to the universe and what if that was all that you got back? How would anyone dig themselves out of that hole? But somehow her words and ideas still stuck with me.
Yesterday morning I went out to get coffee for the husband and I after our coffee maker went all nutso with our daily brew. The kids and I had just been Facetiming on the phone with my sister and my niece. My little ball of joy is 9 months old now and she was having a great time waving to Brady when he waved and clapping when he clapped. I was lamenting the fact that I would be spending the day with my in-laws instead of my own family. I was sad that my niece is growing up so far away and that I’ve missed her sitting up and crawling and clapping and waving. The words of my instructor came back to me and I thought to myself, instead of thinking of what I’m missing I should think of how lucky I am.
So instead of focusing on the things I don’t have I decided to be grateful for the fact that we can Facetime. I can see my niece doing all those amazing things in real time. My mom and my sister can talk face-to-face with my boys several times a week. I decided to be thankful that I have a loving family to share the holiday with, even if it isn’t my family of origin. And it changed my whole outlook. The real meaning of the words became clear to me when I was faced with a real situation.
So today, the day after Thanksgiving, I decided to share the fact that I am blessed and I am grateful for it. I am thankful for so very many things that I could never list them all. My life is filled with amazing people. I am lucky to such an awesome family – a husband who is the best friend anyone could ask for and two bright, beautiful, amazing little boys. I am lucky to have a mother who is always, always there for me and who sets the bar so high for being a parent. I am blessed to have a sister with whom I have an amazing relationship and who has built an amazing family herself. I am thankful for my niece, whom I love with all my heart even thought she is far away. I am so lucky to have in-laws who love me as if I was always a part of their family. I have friends who are so loving and helpful and supportive and funny that I don’t know what I did to deserve them. And I’m grateful for everyone who reads this blog, it blows me away that people regularly read the words that I put down.
So, yes, I AM thankful, even if I don’t say it all the time. I hope that, even if I don’t share it in words, I am reflecting it in my actions everyday.
How could I not be grateful for these two?
To be honest, I remember very little about that book other than that my mom was always sad for poor Christopher Robin because he spent all his time in the nursery with his nanny and rarely saw his parents.
But anyway, today we are six my Brady and me. He has reached school-age or middle childhood or whatever title you’d like to give it. It is a delineating mark used by many to show that a child has entered that time of being a real kid. Recently we were walking home from school with a friend of his. I was up ahead with Declan and Brady and his friend trailed behind talking and laughing. It struck me just how big he seemed, how much he has become himself. There are things about him that remind me he is still small and immature, but in many ways he is now very much in charge of what goes on in his life.
I had just over six years of adult life under my belt when my baby boy arrived. I was 22 years old when I graduated from college, moved to the city, and got my first real job. Six years later I was married and welcoming my first child. Like most people I had only a vague idea of what I was getting into. I was bewildered and thrown off guard and thrust into a brand new life that I had no idea how to adapt to.
And so we learned together. As he learned to sit up and crawl and walk, I learned how to help him just enough and to stop trying to anticipate each next move. As he learned his alphabet and colors, I learned to talk to new people and make playdates. He learned how to entertain himself and I learned how to fit in work and play and cooking and laundry and sometimes still have fun.
In the last six years my smooshy baby boy has managed to become a self-assured, focused, funny, passionate, and seriously smart child. In the last six years I have lost myself and rebuilt myself again many times. I have learned to let go of the parts I no longer need and to embrace most of the things I have become. I have realized that my family will always be a work in progress and that that is a beautiful thing.
When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
– A. A. Milne