Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Even breast pumps bring back good memories.

I'm in the airport cleaning up my notes from a most amazing work conference. A baby is crying. I glance up to see a shock of dense dark hair. With a barrette. It's a girl - and she's strapped to her Mom's chest in an Ergo, brown, just like mine was. The mom bounces and sways, to quiet the kid. Neither looks particularly upset. I feel a pang. Nostalgia? For traveling with a baby? WTF?

Yesterday, I saw a different young mom setting down a breast pump on a shelf, in a public bathroom, at a hotel hosting a largish conference. "Ah... That brings back such memories for me." Umm... Not great ones... I'm not sure anyone enjoys milking herself in an unsanitary space and making inconvenient arrangements to cart a cooler full of breast milk across state lines. Still, a pang.

That baby phase is gone, and the toddler one too. Now, the struggles are how to handle reports of tussles on the playground, how to stay present when a little big boy is asserting his independence, how to go with the flow when life feels packed beyond my comfort zone. I can leave for a few days and no one REALLY misses me. I get to sleep all night long. I won't have to race to nurse a hungry baby at the finish line of my 1/2 marathon in two weeks. There's lots more freedom in my life, which I like. And there's still a lot of chaos - more, actually. The "cats" I am hearding now can talk. They have things to say. And they run faster.

And, in 4 years from now, I will look at the mom in the airport with two loud, rowdy little men, running in two directions - perhaps punching or elbowing each other - I will long for these days too. You can quote me on that. 

But for now, I'm just gonna try to soak them all in. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I've gotta slow down

"Will you wave to me from the window?"

He grins wide and runs over to wait, pumping his arms like a real little racer, as I turn to walk out. I move through the piazza, past the colorful kid art and padded gym-mat wedges. I cross through the new wooden gate,  down the small flight of stairs. I grab the old EatingWell calendars I brought in for art-projects, set down when Kai and I came in because it was heavy, and tell Tracy Christina is expecting them. I hurry out to the van, fumble around in my bag and pull out two checks, one I've been meaning deposit for more than a month. I already feel accomplished, productive.

For whatever reason, I look up, out the windshield. At the building. The window—which is framing the saddest little face. Kai is sobbing. Somewhere between here and there, I'd totally forgotten about the wave. My heart stops, and then drops into my stomach. I fling open the door and sprint back into the building, up the stairs, through the gate, past the colorful art and padded mats.

A day I didn't forget to wave. 

When he sees me back, he rushes right over and I apologize again and again. He laughs through tears. I tell him that I feel lucky to get a bonus hug from him. He hugs me tightly and shouts, a bonus hug. He's over it. I'm not. I'm so pissed at myself getting so caught up in my to-do that I forgot to say goodbye to my sweet, little expectant boy. That I'm always so in my own head that I overlook the significance of what's going on in my kids'. 

The other night, a friend mentioned that another, mutual friend remarked how Jon always seemed so "tuned in" to our kids. He is—and the comment wasn't meant to imply that I'm not. But it's true: that often, I'm not. I'm no in tune with anything. I'm rushing and running and reacting. And I don't like it.

Every year on my birthday, I make some resolutions for myself. Every year, in the first week of May, both of my boys have another birthday. I've decide to use this time to create, renew and review my parenting resolutions. The first one is to set aside full chunks of time where I'm fully focused on my kids. No phone, no lunch packing, no check writing, no reading while we sit and watch a show together. I'm 100% certain that I won't be 100% successful but I'm going to try. I'm going to set aside times to get that other shit done, fully focused. 

How do you stay a present parent? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Six is sweet.

"I'll just stick with fruit tonight." 

"You don't want any of your birthday cake?"

Granted, the cake was an oddly shaped remnant of a chocolate volcano leftover from yesterday's party, impaled with a blue candle that Jules had just extinguished and a icing smeared "flame" that, in its prime, flared from the top of the volcano.

"Nah... I ate too many sweets yesterday. It wouldn't be good for my tummy." 

And with that, he headed into the other end of the room and started paging through the instructions of his new Hobbit Lego set, the one designed for 9-13-year-olds. Skipping the fruit all together. He zoned into his building, while the rest of us dug into messy, second-day sweets.

"Do you think he's sick?" I ask Jon. I'm not kidding. Earlier in the evening, when Kai—newly four and newly obstinate—had whined and banged and yelled that HE wanted to help excavate the triceratops from Julian's new dinosaur dig set, Jules invitingly offered, "sure, I think I need some help brushing right here." He'd sounded more like a parent—or a patient preschool teacher—than a big brother. Minutes later, when Kai tossed the tiny Ikea table to the floor, sending the plastic (or clay) ball flying across the room (in a crazy-angry-entitled way that made me think of Leonardo DiCaprio in Celebrity) Jules calmly looked at me and said, "did you see what he did?"

I did not remain calm. I raised my voice into an almost-yell and I told Kai... well, I told him that he could not have any cake later. (Which turned out to be a total lie. But this blog post is not about my bad, weak, parenting choices; it's about Jules—and the maturity he's seemed to have developed overnight—so never mind.)

Fast-forward past the dinosaur-dig-ransack, past dinner and no-cake, past the Lego-making and the showers. Now Jules decides that he would, indeed, like some birthday cake—a bit of chocolate and a bit of vanilla. "Tiny, tiny," he says, like a 40-year-old woman. I serve it up, set it on the table and sit across from him. With my phone. Because I'm going to interview him. On his 6th birthday. Because that's what a whole bunch of posts on Pinterest suggest that a good parent should do. And conducting interviews is something in my wheelhouse, unlike most other things suggested on Pinterest. 

"Can I interview you?"



"Because it's annoying." And so it begins... But he doesn't actually sound annoyed—just honest, and mostly kind. And so I keep going.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A dinosaur digger," he tells me.

"A paleontologist?"


"You don't want to be a cake maker?" It's my attempt at a lame joke because I can't think of a next question. And because I'm looking at him eating cake.

"Mom. That's called a baker." 

"Ahh... yes."

"What do you want to be when you grow up, Mom?"

"Um, a mom?"

"No, what do you want to BE?"

I tell him that a mom is most definitely a thing to be, all by itself, but that I guess I could also say a writer. He likes that answer. So then I go on to tell him that this is what writers do—or what some writers, the ones who are also called journalists, do. They interview people. 

"What if you don't want to be interviewed?" he asks.

"Well you just decline. You say, no thank you."

Julian nods and continues to savor his cake, silently, while watch him—so big and so little and, to me, so beautiful—silently. Olin comes around the corner. "Julian just declined an interview," I tell him. "Oh, I always decline her interviews," Jon tells him, laughing. 

"Well some people find my interviews charming." I say this feigning that I am offended—and am pleased that Jules picks up on this nuance. He knows I'm kidding. As for the charming part, I'm not actually sure this is true. 

"What's 'charming'?"

I love that he asks when he doesn't know the meaning of the word. Every time. 

"It means nice... fun." I'm not actually even sure if this is the most accurate definition. 

"Oh, I think they're fun. But sometimes I just don't feel like talking, Mom."

Well played, Jules. Well played. You're growing into a pretty cool little-big dude, my boy. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day brought us a new beginning.

It smelled of worms when I walked outside. At 5:22 am. We'd agree to go, even if it was raining. Which is wasn't and then it was. May 1. May Day. It felt like spring. I started jogging. I met Michelle. It started raining harder. She took off her glasses, shoved them in her pocket. There was talk of half-marathon training, of our boys and our husbands, how lucky we are. There was talk of T-ball and school. There was a bit of strategic planning (we work together). There was puddle-jumping, some of it unsuccessful. There was a family of 5 white-tailed deer so close I wasn't sure they were going to move, until they suddenly started sprinting perpendicular to our path. There was the long gradual hill that I always forget is there, until it is. There was labored breathing and then the sweet relief of the path flattening out again.

Four years ago today, 40 weeks, 1 day pregnant with Kai, the first pangs of labor started. There was the recognition that this was probably "it," given the timing—and the second-guessing that it might not be, because that's how things go. There was rejoicing that I'd made it this far (which started when I hit 36 weeks), there was mild preparation and lots of playing with Jules. When the contractions settled into a predictable pattern, there was the bizarre decision to go to Q-Tees for one last Blizzard-but-not-Blizzard before the baby. There was piling in the car, Maria squeezed between Jules in his car seat and the empty one waiting for Kai. There were more contractions, accompanied by Jack Johnson and Us Weekly. There was a call to the doctor who suggested juice when I said I wasn't sure if they baby was moving. Which wasn't a good idea, given that I was further along than she thought. There was the ride to the hospital. The greeting of the doula. The monitor hook-ups. There were  the contractions that got stronger and stronger until—when I determined that natural childbirth was indeed harder than running a marathon, about which I'd been curious (and Jules was delivered by emergency C-section)—I asked for the epidural (no shame!). There was the sweet relief that allowed me to relax and just marvel in the awesomeness of knowing that, within hours, we'd be four. A new beginning.