Monday, May 14, 2018

Chip Off The Old Block!

"I'm going to win!  I'm going to win!"  Emily raced alongside me in the rain, giggling and threatening to beat me to the entrance of the library.  I was holding her backpack, my purse, the bag of library books, and her pink puppy.  We were neck and neck in our fake race, and then her feet tangled up in their unstrapped shoes.  Down she went, hitting her face on the concrete steps.  The howl was immediate and terrible, and I knew what I would see before even dropping to my knees and looking.  A mouthful of brilliant red blood.  Shattered, jagged front teeth.  A shaking little girl, in pain and scared.

Oh my God.  Oh my God.  I juggled all of the things, including Emily, wiping blood from her face to the front of her jacket while digging through the backpack- no wait, my purse- looking for my phone, which would not turn on or work right, which did not contain the programmed number of the dentist, which did not have sufficient Wi-Fi to search the internet for said dentist number.  Emily stood beside me, screaming.  I told her it was going to be okay, but I could not look at her for more than an instant, the sight of her injury too grisly for me to behold.  I found the dentist number and jabbed at my screen with uncooperative fingers.  "It's an emergency," I told the receptionist.  "My daughter just fell and broke her teeth.  Please take us now!"

Emily was trembling when I picked her up.  Back to the car, I ran us and our bags and our bloody baby wipes and a bottle of water I had managed to unscrew and assist her in sipping.  I strapped Emily in to her car seat, my hollow reassurances filling the air. She quieted as I started the car and got us going, her eyes staring straight ahead, empty and dulled.

It's just teeth, I told myself.  She's fine.  It's no big deal.  It's nothing.  She's healthy.  It's just teeth.

But I remember my own just teeth, from twenty years ago.  I was much older than Emily, alone at the public pool when I smashed my face into the bottom of the deep end and chipped my front incisor.  Instant hysteria.  By the time I collected myself and walked home, I was a sobbing mess.  I yelled for my dad to wake up, as he had been sleeping after working the night shift.  "LOOK!  My tooth!"  I told him, and he stared at me for what seemed like an eternity through tired, worn eyes.  He did not say anything other than "Huh" as he examined my newly busted face, and I was suddenly awash with a horrific fear.  This is just how my face was going to look now.  Nobody was going to take me to get this tooth fixed.  I was fourteen years old.  I had my whole life ahead of me to live with a jagged, ugly smile.   Now I would never have a boyfriend!

"Call MOM!" I screamed at my father, his lack of action frightening.  "Call the other adult in this house!  PLEASE."

Emily and I made it to the dentist, my little girl walking into the lobby on unsteady feet shod shamefully in shoes with loosened straps.  The receptionist was calm when she greeted us, failing to acknowledge the urgency.  We were seated in a room after a few minutes, and the dental hygienist was also infuriatingly calm.  "I'm not sure what the dentist is going to do," she murmured.  "Sometimes we just leave them.  When you called, we thought the situation was a lot worse."

"Well, I mean, I know it's just teeth," I replied, squeezing my hands together.  "But we can't just leave them.  THREE of them are broken!  Her smile!  Her beautiful smile.  She's only two!  She's not going to lose these teeth for at least three years.  Heck, my almost six year old still hasn't lost any teeth and he falls straight down on his face literally once a week."

"I understand," she said.  "Let's just see what the dentist says.  Perhaps we've talked enough."

The dentist swooped in a few minutes later, a white blaze of straight toothed glory and lab coated confidence.  There was talk of bonding, of tooth repair, of making things right where they were now so horribly wrong.  To my dismay yet understanding, they asked us to leave and come back tomorrow for a full appointment.  I agreed, making the dentist promise that she would not close up shop in the middle of the night, taking all of her dental tools and associates with her.  I asked to see the office's financials.  I may have forced her to do a pinky swear.  My daughter's teeth.  We needed them fixed.

Baby's first dental appointment.
Not the way I pictured it.
We got back into the car, where Emily immediately stuck her thumb into her mouth for a quick suck.  "Ow," she moaned, pulling it back out.  "It hurts!  My owwie teeth hurt my thumb!  Oh no."  My heart ached for my sweet little baby, needing comfort now more than ever and not able to get it from her favorite source.

We spent the next twenty four hours in a state of waiting, with popsicles and cuddling and promises.  I did a thorough reliving of my own tooth bonding experience, of the many years of dental strife that followed.  And I found myself thinking, not for the first time, that parenthood is simply a retelling of one's own childhood, with different twists, turns, and perspectives.  A reinvention, perhaps.  I have been through most of these traumas before, in earlier chapters, this tooth disaster plus all of the others.  Things turned out somewhat okay for me.  I am trying to make them turn out somewhat better for my children.  I am trying to reconcile the relationship from childhood to parenting, constantly.

The next day, Emily's teeth were fixed.  I was so proud of Emily, laying there in the chair and following directions perfectly from the dentist.  Open your mouth.  Bite down.  Stay still.  She went through the whole procedure better than me at fourteen, and my heart swelled with too much love and protection.  "No apples," the dentist told me as we were paying, our ordeal having come to its relief.  "Don't let her have anything too hard."  And I nodded along and thought to myself, no submarine sandwiches from The Patio Restaurant in Tinley Park.  Because that's what knocked out my own bonding, years after the pool incident.  Of course, something will knock out Emily's bonding too, most likely, before she fully loses these baby teeth.  It won't be a submarine sandwich, probably.  But it will be something like it, and it will make a sort of parallel sense.



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It's Not Your Birthday!

Emily was laying on the floor at my feet, body curled into a fetal ball, thumb dangling out of the corner of her lips like a half smoked, forgotten cigarette.  "Happy birthday to you," she crooned softly to herself.  "Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday dear Emmy.  Happy birthday to you."

"It is not your birthday, Emily," I stated above her as I scraped her entire, uneaten lunch into the trash. The sentence was barely out of my mouth before she protested.  "No, it IS my birthday!"

We had been going back and forth for days.  Everyday was her birthday.  Everyday, she asked about her party, when her cousins and papas were coming over, and when she'd get her presents and cake.  When bedtime arrived and the day had closed without the spectacle of said cake, party, and presents, I believe she turned in her crib, hugged her stuffed puppy tight, and said, "Ok.  So TOMORROW must be my birthday."  In the morning, if she was asked how old she was, she'd confidently answer, "I three."  

"No, you are not three.  You are two."

"NO.  I three!"  Tears, instantly, on that beautiful, sweet little face.  "It's my birthday.  I not two anymore, I three."  Where are my damn balloons?

This May baby- late May baby- has many more non-birthday days until she reaches the big 0-3.  Long days filled with singing "Happy Birthday" tunelessly to herself on the cold kitchen floor, of wondering about the start of her imagined party, of waiting for gifts and cake that simply do not materialize.  As I looked down at her sweet face staring up at mine, crinkled in denial of my proclamation, I wondered if I should go fetch the library book I had checked out for her the day before.  It was called, "When Is My Birthday?"  Spoiler alert.  It's not today.  But, no.  Perhaps it was best to just move past the B word entirely.  

She'd been to a couple birthday parties in the last month, most notably her older cousin's (big party) and younger cousin's (even bigger party).  A couple of her classmates at preschool have also celebrated their birthdays.  Surely, Emily has felt that she has waited patiently for her turn to feel special and to be on the receiving end of an infinite pile of slickly packaged presents and an entire cake addressed specifically with her name on it.  "Today must definitely be the day," she likely thinks each morning as we swap out her ten pound wet diaper for a dry one with an air of optimism.  But, of course, she is wrong.

What do you tell a three year old about patience and selflessness?  Wait.  I mean, what do you tell a two year old?  Dammit, Emily, you've even got me partially fooled.  Here's the problem, Emily, and it's a lesson of grace that most of us don't fully comprehend until we are much older, if ever.  Other people will have parties or honors that you simply may not have, but the joy that you have in celebrating with them should not be tempered by the question of when you are going to get yours.  Perhaps, when your birthday rolls around FINALLY in May, you might have a party, or you might not.  There might be a mountain of presents, or there might not.  I'll probably get you a cake.  But hey.  Maybe not.  All birthdays are not created equal, as individual lives which may veer off down different roads aren't either.  But regarding the cake- let's just see how Mommy's feeling.

Yikes.  Perhaps that came out heavier than I intended.  

I looked down at my daughter curled into a knot on the floor, singing Happy Birthday to herself and I put down the plate I'd just cleaned off.  What triumphs await these kids of mine- what heartaches?  It's too much to sift through, sometimes- the possibilities both full and hollow.  What are we to do with these sweet little kids too tiny to understand the intricacies of magnanimity?  Sometimes I just follow my heart.  I scooped up my darling Emily, ignored the fact that she'd dismissed her healthy lunch with an insulting smirk, and found a Little Debbie cake for us in the pantry.  I did not sing Happy Birthday as we ate it together.  I did not say the B word.  But yeah, Emily definitely received my slightly confusing message in between bites of chocolate.  Happy Today, Emily.  Happy Today.  Now excuse me while I go find something to wrap.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Footsy Wootsy Bang Bangs!

"Come on, Emily!"  I yelled from the stairs.  "Time to put your socky wocky ding dongs on your footsy wootsy bang bangs!"

Perhaps these sound like words uttered by a complete lunatic.  Somebody who is playing with only half a deck- a stay at home mother who has been speaking nonstop baby talk for the past seven and a half years and has lost her ever-loving mind.  Or- at the very least- had every vital piece of adult information ever learned replaced surely and methodically with the entire screenplay of Moana, the names of all of Caillou's goofy friends, where to find a library story time at any given moment, and desperate parenting hacks that often fail.

Desperate Parenting Hack #384

If your child won't take her liquid antibiotic, perhaps the prescribed 6 milliliters of it will dissolve into the chocolate Twinkie she's been begging for.

How Desperate Parenting Hack #384 Actually Plays Out

"NO!  NO!  There's MEDICINE on my CAKE! NOOOO!"

"Amelia Jane!"  I yelled, waving the socky wocky ding dongs in the air.  "LET'S GO!"

And of course her name is not Amelia Jane, either.  Neither of those names is correct.  I had a neighbor once hear me call her that, and she asked, "Oh, is that Emily's full name?"  To which I had to reply, "No.  She's Emily Julianne.  I don't know why I call her Amelia Jane.  It's completely incorrect."

But I do call her Amelia Jane.  Maybe that's what I should have named her.  None of it makes any sense.

I know the baby talk and all of the nonsense that comes out of my mouth irritates Chris, but he also spends the majority of his day with adults even if most of those adults make him want to stab out his eyeballs in much the same fashion of how my children often make me feel.  He doesn't get overcome with the urge to baby talk like I do.  However, he's come around to footsy wootsy bang bang.  "You played the long con with that one," he said the other day.  I've been saying footsy wootsy bang bang for years, and now it's finally paying off, because nothing is as satisfyingly funny as when Emily hits her foot against something and innocently, casually mumbles, "Oh, my footsy bang bang."

She leaves out the wootsy part.  Perhaps that little bit is just one step too asinine for her.

Often, I put her socky wocky ding dongs on her footsy wootsy bang bangs and drive her off to preschool, which is something that many parents don't do with two year olds.  Two year old preschool is completely unnecessary.  Three year old preschool is probably completely unnecessary, too.  I mean, unless you add up all the social benefits of a little one meeting new friends and being around different adults and all the mental benefits for a mom to just go somewhere and scream into a pillow uninterrupted for two hours- except for all of THOSE benefits, it's completely superfluous.  Something we do for our tykes to mix it up a bit.  Because even though I KNOW where all of the library story times are- much like an addict can find a meeting whenever they need one- whenever we hit more than one story time per week, I start to feel like maybe I'm unraveling a bit.  Plus, at this point, on child three, I've heard all the stories.  I've read all the books.  I've done all the crafts.  Sure it's new for Emily, but not everything is just for Emily. 

Two year old preschool.  That's just for Emily.  Or so she would be led to believe.

We have our own language.
The other day, I picked her up from preschool only to be greeted by the teacher:  "You know, Emily is having such fun in class, but we just feel bad because we can't understand her a lot of the time.  Is she currently in speech?"

Inwardly, I groaned.  Here we go again, I thought, thinking back to every conversation I'd ever had with Andy and Alex's preschool teachers.  I mean, admittedly, both boys do have documented speech issues. You got me there.  But, come on.  Emily too?  She's a powerhouse of conversation.  She's only twenty-nine months old.  She's basically perfect.  And, let's not forget, this two year old preschool thing?  It's a BONUS for her little life.  This conversation we're having about her speech right here in front of all of the other moms?  An EXTRA in our lives. I will take the remarks about her speech under consideration.  But for now, she's fine, and where should I put my monthly tuition check?

"Hmm," I replied intelligently to the teacher.  "No, she's not in speech...."  It was at this time that Emily looked down at her new shoes.  The teacher smiled at her and said, "Emily is proud of her new shoes!"

Ah, yes, her new shoes.  The ones that we put on over her socky wocky ding dongs atop her-

"Footsy bang bangs!" Emily murmured, sticking her foot out, to which the teacher smugly shrugged as if to say, "See?  What the hell did she just say?"

It may not be a speech problem as much as a consequence of spending too much time with her nutty mother.  Her wacky Jackie.  Her mommy mommy bo bommy, banana fana.....

Yep.

But, they are only itty bitty once, for such a short time, and the pure joy I get from hearing Emily talk about her footsy bang bangs and her resistance to going down for nappy wappies- it's mine, and I will wrap myself in it for as long as I am able.  Like a socky wocky ding dong around the toesy woesies, I will be warmed by the beautiful craziness of our own easily decipherable secret language for as long as possible.

Now, would anyone care for a wicky woon?



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Somewhere You Feel Free!

My dad took me to see Tom Petty in concert when I was 16.  He got the tickets well in advance, and when the night of the event rolled around, I was mildly surprised to learn we were still going.  Oh, yeah.  A night with my dad.  I have to do this- no driving around aimlessly with my friends tonight, no sleepover at Jane's house, no movie at the dollar show.  I have to go see Tom Petty with my dad, go dancing at the zombie zoo.

It's what I'm seeing a lot on social media now, twenty years later, on the occasion of Petty's death.  The link between Tom and people's dads.  The dads of my childhood loved that guy.  And so did we, the good girls and Indiana boys.  I remember first discovering music and it started in my family room with the tapes and some shiny CDs that I would divide up between my mom's collection and my dad's.  My dad's collection was for sure a lot better.  Toni Braxton sucks. Chaka Kahn can only take you so far.  But my dad had the good stuff.  Journey.  The Stones.  Steve Miller Band, of course.  And Tom Petty.  I remember unfolding the lyrics in the cassette box and singing along with "Refugee."  "Breakdown."  "Here Comes My Girl."  And, yeah, man.  That Tom Petty was pretty rad.

We still talk about that Tom Petty concert, some twenty odd years later.  It was one of the most surprising nights of my youth, how much fun I could have with my dad.  We both sang our hearts out, and I remember looking over at him and seeing him in all his loud, sweaty, rocking out glory.  It's like those celebrity magazines, the ones that show famous doing ordinary things like grocery shopping in yoga pants.  "Stars are people, too!"  Except it was the reverse.  "Dads are awesome, too!"

And when Tom Petty belted out his cover of "Gloria" for his encore and the audience was crazy, thrumming, glowing, and feeling more alive than possible, I could officially admit it, out loud.  This was a hell of a lot more fun than a sleepover at Jane's.

Lately, I've been dwelling on some of the sour bits of my childhood.  I think this is mostly a function of looking at Andy and understanding that he's in the golden age of childhood- the years that feel like they physically form you forever.  I remember a lot about being seven, many more things about seven than being five, like Alex.  I'm quite sure I don't remember anything about being two, but I suppose it's all there, buried deep in my cells.  I'm looking at my kids and praying that when they reminisce about being young, at home with mom and dad, they will have wonderful, joyous, and happy things to say.  I am devoting myself to them, both selflessly and selfishly.  I give to them all I wanted as a kid, or at least I try.  And I attempt to hold the crazier parts back, but sometimes they come spilling out anyway.  You don't know how it feels, I sometimes think with an anxious flair.  To be me.

But when Tom Petty died, yesterday, I immediately thought about that concert with my dad.  One of the best nights of my younger life.  Despite the harshness with which I have sometimes judged my parents, there were shining, surprising moments that I need to give more equal weight.  You wreck me baby.  Yeah you break me in two.  But you move me, honey.  Yes you do.

I am nostalgic about the past and preemptively so about the present.  I take pictures of special moments, both spectacular and ordinary, so that my kids can look at them when we're all so old.  Running the bases at Wrigley Field.  Soccer on Saturday mornings.  That seven dollar ice cream cone.  Drawing in chalk on the driveway.  Riding a roller coaster at Six Flags. Buying all the flavors of Pringles at the store.  A stay at the water park.  Look guys!  Mom and Dad were fun!  They loved you so very hard.

I wonder which musician Andy, Alex, and Emily will associate with me?  Which otherwise happy songs will bring tears to their eyes?  I suppose that's not mine for knowing.  The kids will tell.  And me?  I'll just take it on faith, I'll take it to the heart.

Rest in peace, good man.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Time Traveling Son!

Before Andy was even born, I was relatively certain that he'd invented time travel.  We had picked out his name, and when I googled it just to make sure that there weren't any Andrew J. Berger serial killers or Fox News commentators, an image of my son popped up- or at least a pretty spot on predication of what my son would look like. He had dark brown hair, brown eyes, and seemed to awkwardly rock a kind of a skinny, dorky look.  He wore glasses- clearly myopic just like his mother. He was a professor in another state, and when I looked at the picture, I  had a tumbling feeling in my gut.  My son had invented time travel.  This was him.  And he had come back to the past to fix a wrong or to apply an academic solution to some future problem.  Who knew- his mission could be multi-faceted. Maybe he'd show up in my life just in time to push me out of the path of an oncoming bus.  Or into it, depending on what kind of mother I was about to become.

Over the years, my suspicion has grown.  Last year, Andy become obsessed with inventing A TIME MACHINE.  That's right.  He has worked hard on his blueprints, mapping out the machine in crayon and talking earnestly about it with his school friends.  Now, I'll be honest.  These time machine plans are a bit rudimentary.  There's usually a pretty big, unevenly drawn circle in the middle of the page where one would assume the time traveler would sit.  Then there's some wires wiggling out.  A couple months ago, Andy asked me what the most powerful battery was.  "Lithium ion?"  I guessed, only semi-confident that I wasn't just making those words up.

"Lithium ion," Andy repeated.  "What does it look like?"

"I think they're rectangular," I replied intelligently, and Andy scribbled in a rectangular lithium ion connected to the wires of his latest time machine circle.

"There," Andy said, satisfied.  "Laminate this, ok?"

Of course, time travel is the ultimate form of entertainment.  Andy and Alex have been captured by the time travel plot lines of Captain Underpants, and I myself often look up "Best Time Travel Books" on the Goodreads website looking for my latest fix.  Sometimes I have to look up "Decent Time Travel Books" because I've already read all of the best ones and now I'll just take something mediocre to keep me going.

"I think I would go back to... 1639," Andy said one day at dinner when time travel was once again the topic of conversation.  He was throwing out a completely random date.  "Yes, I would go back all the way to then.  I'd probably have to wear something old in order to blend in.  Maybe I could borrow something from Daddy."

"Yeah, good thinking," I agreed.  I know for a fact that some of Chris' T-shirts go back 20 years, and they're not even cool ones.  If anyone would keep four hundred year old clothes, it would be him.  "Alex, when would you go back to?"

Alex had his answer ready.  "I would definitely time travel to when I was four," he announced.  "I would time travel to when I was 4 and go find Daddy and tell him to buy the right Skylander Trap Force portal."  This, of course, was in reference to last week's video game disappointment.  You know, the one in which the aforementioned Daddy bought the wrong Skylander Trap Force portal. Alex, with his dry, non-ironic delivery is either a stand up comic in the future or everyone's favorite office coworker at some low to medium level job in which his droll comments at the water cooler are basically what keep all of the other associates from hanging themselves each night.   He never fails to unintentionally crack me up.  To wit, we were recently at Great America, sitting inside the Mystery Van Scooby Doo ride.  I called it a bus when describing it to Emily, and Alex, looking disdainfully around at all of the sticky surfaces, was quick to correct me.  "It's not a bus, it's a van.  A mystery van. Because there's lots of mysteries on the floor."

"That's probably a good era to travel back to," I replied to Alex now.  "Like four months ago, in the pre-kindergarten period.  That was truly the golden age."

Andy, never quite amused by Alex, just ignored us and asked, "What exactly is the time-space continuum?"

Oh boy, here we go. I cut into my chicken and began to wax poetic on the very fabric of time, explaining the intricacies of the universe and of course, the most important thing about time travel, which was that you could never accidentally kill your grandmother.  "Just think," I said, "about the paradox created if you did something and your grandmother died and then I wasn't born and then of course YOU weren't born."

Andy's eyes got very wide, and Alex, who I had assumed checked out of the conversation five minutes ago, poked around his plate and piped up, "Yeah.  Maybe we shouldn't do any time traveling. It sounds pretty unsafe."

You know, it does sound pretty unsafe.  Would these wise words convince Andy?  Later that day, I googled his name just to see.  Andrew J. Berger- my grown up son, the professor- still came up first in my search.  He was still here, existing in the present.  My time traveling son who figured out the exact precise way to connect the lithium ion battery to the time travel machine.  You did it, boy.  Now even though we've all been born and it's technically okay to kill your grandmother- it's probably still best if you don't.  But maybe you could go back a few weeks and drop Daddy an anonymous note about that Skylander portal, just to be a nice big brother.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Unfair and Biased!

After I put Alex on the bus to kindergarten yesterday, Emily and I hopped into the minivan and raced over to the school.  We were there to give him an encouraging wave as he entered the building, found his teacher, and sat among his classmates.  He was quiet and still, not chatting or crying, not fiddling around or getting up and switching seats.  He gave us a brave smile now and then, and my heart nearly broke in two when the teachers all led their classes away to their room.  Alex brought up the rear of his group, looking aimless yet tentatively stoic as he disappeared from me.  There it was.  My baby boy was gone to school.

I didn't drive to the school like that when Andy started kindergarten.  I didn't really think that parents were supposed to do that, and so when I put him on the bus that morning, Alex, baby Emily, and I went on with our morning as planned, and Andy started his on his own, sans encouraging wave from a loving face in the crowd.  Later, getting off the bus, he was quick to ask where I was.  "All the other moms were there," he said accusingly.  To which I replied, "Really?  My bad."

I try hard not to treat my children differently from each other, but it's exceedingly difficult not to.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm sure they understand that I love them each (about) the same.  I mean, if there's any differences in the quantity or quality of my love, the fluctuations are mostly minute to minute and tend to even out towards the end of the day, at least if you measure to the closest tenth decimal. But, yes, I did drive to school on Alex's first day of kindergarten when I didn't drive to school on Andy's first.  And, yesterday, when Alex and I were discussing the fact that I was there in those first few minutes, Andy was quick to pick up on it.

Alex, realizing at Kindergarten
meet and greet that shit was getting real.
"How come you didn't come see me today?"  he cried.  It hadn't even occurred to me to check in on Andy.  I mean, it would have been impossible due to the fact that I am only one person who cannot be in two buildings at once.  Also, who cares about a second grader's first day of school?  This is your third time doing this, buddy.  The novelty's worn off for all of us.

"I did come see you, though!" I was quick to lie.  Dishonesty- the answer to most of life's problems.  "But your class was too fast!  I got to your building, and you guys were already gone!  I was so bummed out."  I snapped my fingers in an aw-shucks kind of move in order to get my point across.

"Hmm.  Ok."  Andy was willing to accept this explanation, even though I saw a glimmer of distrust in his dark eyes.  "Can I have an extra cookie for dessert?  However many Alex has, plus one?"

I still carry Alex up the stairs at night, to bed.  He's a skinny little bag of bones, and he weighs next to nothing.  Honestly, Emily with her solid, tree trunk legs and chubby little belly sometimes feels heavier in my arms.  Alex is light, and he likes it when I carry him like a baby, which I do, kissing him on his cheeks on the way up the stairs.  He's still transitioning from babyhood, as far as I'm concerned.  I feel like it goes fast once they turn five.  So I soak moments like that up, perhaps a little too flamboyantly, as Andy has complained about having to walk up the stairs.  Obtuse mother that I am, I thought Andy's complaints were because he just didn't want to WALK to bed, to expend any of the energy.  Lazy bastard.  Then, last week, I tucked Andy in with a hug and a kiss, and he motioned for me to move in closer.  Like a secret, he whispered into my ears.  "Can I tell you something?  I don't like when you carry Alex up the stairs.  It makes me feel a little jealous."  And when I leaned back and looked at him, I saw it written on his face.  Hurt.  Envy.  A feeling of rejection.

"Oh Andy," I replied.  "Thank you for telling me that.  I didn't know.  Alex is younger and still small, so that's why I carry him.  Just like I did when you were five."  But the truth, as I was suddenly remembering, was that I didn't carry Andy like that when he was five.  Because I was carrying Alex that way, since he was only three.  In both of these scenarios, Emily was already fast asleep, having her earlier bedtime.  So during the times when it is just the two boys, it always reverts the same way, to Andy being Big Brother and Alex being Baby.

The next night, at bedtime, I grabbed Andy around the waist and scooped him up into my arms, kissing his face and carrying him up the stairs like a newborn baby.  I literally dislocated four of my vertebrae and almost fell down the stairs killing us both, but the look of surprised joy on Andy's sweet face made the subsequent $600 ER bill totally worth it.

Andy and I have our favorite TV shows that we like to watch together that Alex isn't interested in. I'm mostly thinking "Impractical Jokers" and "This Is Us," both of which I understand are super age-inappropriate.  There's a lot that Andy gets to do that Alex doesn't.  Of course, Alex will get most of those things too with age, and probably earlier too if we're all being honest.  And Emily, now that it's just her and me during the day- something that's new to both of us, since I've never been home in such extended hours with only ONE child- well, there's bound to be a whole lot of specialness there. So what's the answer with bouts of sibling rivalry or feeling unfairly treated?

I don't have an answer.  But I do hope that the occasional extra cookie will go far in smoothing over any residual hurt feelings.  If a little well-intentioned dishonesty solves a few problems, maybe emotional eating and/or an extra treat can solve a few other.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Keys!

I lost my keys this morning.  Emily and Alex had finally just been buckled in after the usual fifteen minutes of frantic cajoling.  I never truly understood the idiom of herding cats until I became a mother, specifically Alex's mother, and just getting him into the car in the morning is a task in and of itself.  When I tell him to go upstairs and brush his teeth, he without fail wanders off towards his bed and simply climbs back into it, burrowing into the pile of blankets and animals he affectionately, and irritatingly, refers to as Comfy Town.  While I tackle Emily to put on her socks, he forgets what we're doing and heads off to check if his various dragon eggs have hatched yet on his iPad game.  When I tell him to put his shoes on, I hear him clear on the opposite side of the house singing Elton John's "I'm Still Standing," or at least that one line of it, over and over, ad nauseum, until I tell him it's time to go NOW and he blankly asks me, "Oh.  Are we going somewhere?"

In the driver's seat of the car, I could feel myself teetering on the verge of a panic attack.  Have I ever actually had a panic attack?  I think in order to answer that question, I have to refer you to when I gave birth to Emily.  I went in for my scheduled induction, feeling perfectly normal- or at least no less normal than usual- and when they hooked me up to all of the machines, they gave me a puzzled look and said, "You're having contractions less than five minutes apart.  You're in active labor already."  My body is constantly in a state of frenzy that I am fully used to just pushing through my day even if I can't breathe because my keys are lost, we're late to preschool, I have my morning plans, I have to drive two other kids home later, there are two baseball games to get to in the evening, and seriously, who has time to replace ALL of those keys?  Or, you know, I have a seven pound baby peeking out of me. Same difference.  So, no I have never had an official panic attack. My life itself is just one living, breathing, mostly functioning panic attack.

I rifle through the belongings of my purse, smearing a tube of uncapped red lipstick across the upholstery. There's so much useless stuff in my purse, it's ridiculous, and the next time Emily goes in there and pulls out an unwrapped tampon caked in gum bits, that's probably going to be the final straw on the farm of mortification.  I pushed aside bags of food, old coupons, diapers, wipes, loose change, thinking my keys have to be in my purse, they have to be, I'm just not seeing them, they must be there, shit, they are totally, absolutely, NOT.

Oh, but to retrace my steps that morning!  I know I had my keys when I unlocked Chris' car to get the extra car seat out.  Then I hauled two overflowing bags of landscape waste to my neighbor's house because they pay for landscape waste pick up and, you know, we don't.  Then I took our garbage cans out, both of them.  Then I put the extra car seat in my car.  I went back in the house and literally went into every room, making breakfasts and lunch, getting children dressed, wiping asses, turning the TV volume down, chasing a toddler, putting on make-up, putting together Andy's backpack, going out into the backyard to get a bag of dirt, bringing it up front to the garage, then, while I was out there, watering all the dead spots, sod spots, seeded spots, dirt spots.  Then I walked Andy down to the bus stop, stood around a bit fielding questions about large numbers multiplied by other large numbers, then headed home and yelled after Alex for twenty minutes.  So, somewhere on this map of crazy- from the garbage cans to the landscape bags, to the interior of my home, to the exterior of my home, from here four houses down to the corner and back- SOMEWHERE had to be my goddamn keys.

I sucked in my breath, got out of the car, and started looking.

I felt like I looked everything and still couldn't find them.  The clock was ticking ahead, and the morning was going to go on without us if I couldn't get the car started.  Somewhere in all of this searching and overturning and running around, I found my inner monologue running on high.  It was telling me I had to stop.  I had to calm down.  I had to stop trying to do so much, so fast.  I had to give some things up before I had a full on heart attack.  I had to just breathe.

I got out my phone and called Chris, thinking that maybe I'd dropped the keys in his backseat while I was getting out the car seat.  On the highway, en route to his job that supports five people, I had him craning his neck to look behind him.  I imagined his red car swerving wildly across three lanes while he humored me and felt around back there.  "I'll get off the highway to check," he said.  "Did you retrace your steps?"

"Of course, I retraced my steps, you moron!" I replied.  And then, aloud, I retraced my steps again.  The garbage.  The house.  The backyard.  The car seats.  Oh, there had been Andy's baseball snack back there from Saturday, right before we'd received notification that the game was cancelled due to rain.  A big bag of oatmeal cream pies and juice pouches.  What did I do with those when I brought them in?  I stuck them in the pantry. In the pantry. But first I put my keys in there because my hands were full.

"Okay, I'm pulling off the highway now," Chris said, just as I reached into the oatmeal cream pie snack bag, pulled out my keys, and hollered, "I found them!  Thanks.  Gotta go, running late."

*

I am not a perfect mother.  I am not a great wife, I'm an insecure friend.  I'm a terrible daughter, and I don't call my sister nearly enough.  Sometimes I feel like I'm floundering as an adult, like everybody else has it together, and I'm running around like a chicken with her head cut off, poorly doing five things at once, and expecting way more out of a four year old than he is actually capable of.  Also out of a six year old.  Not so much out of my almost two year old.  I expect very little from her except her unwavering cuteness.  I'm failing.  I'm falling apart.  My body is in labor and I don't even know it.

But then I find my keys.  I pull them triumphantly out of the oatmeal cream pie bag, hang up on my husband, and I think, "YES!  AHA!  Eureka!"  And everything is instantly wonderful again.  I got this.  I got ALL this.

I just need to find a minute to stop and appreciate it.  And to remember the oatmeal cream pies.