Yesterday I failed you. Yesterday, I failed to be patient. I showed you the best way to handle any adversity is to yell and grit your teeth. I showed you that one moment it’s ok to be sweet and the next moment it’s normal to be a raving lunatic. Yesterday, I taught you to yell and slam doors.
I failed you dear child and I am so so sorry. I have become a “do as I say not as I do” type lately. Please forgive me for not being my best self. Please believe me when I say that everyday I wake wanting to be the absolute best version of myself not only for you and Daddy but for me. I want to value myself as your Mommy and as a wife and as a woman. Since you have been born, I have had an undeniable desire to be better than I have ever been before, somebody who you could look up to and be so proud to call Mom. But lately, my frustration within myself for not achieving whatever goals exist in my mind that somehow prove myself worthy are getting the best of me. Trust me that I wake in the morning vowing to be positive and calm and within one minute of your very first whine out of your mouth, I am burning with frustration. I am frustrated by the constant sight of crumbs and clutter and I am frustrated when I realize that my one job the last 3 years has been YOU, so you should be absolutely perfect. The truth is YOU ARE. You are bright and funny and difficult as hell because your brain is working at a rapid pace taking all of this big world in! But I have been an adult for so long that I forget what it is to play, to wonder, to question, to challenge….I have forgotten the sheer joy that comes from the simplest things…balloons, bubbles, hide and seek, the big girl swing at the park and how it makes your tummy tickle… I have gone through my life with a shadow of myself following me holding a clipboard, tracking my every move; accomplishments or missed opportunities… Somewhere along the line, I decided that if I stayed home with you and nurtured you, you wouldn’t go through these challenging 2 and 3-year-old phases. I thought, if I am doing my job correctly then you will listen to everything I say, you will never need to be reminded to say please or thank you. You will transition from diapers to potty seamlessly. I will not have to bargain or bribe or threaten. If I am doing a good job being your Mommy, you will be a mini adult. (HAHAHA YEA RIGHT!) You will put your napkin on your lap. You will use a fork. You will not shove food into your mouth. You will clean up after yourself. You will be calm. You will not yell or grit your teeth or slam doors because I …..Wait– just do as I say not as I do, ok?
Maybe take it easy on me every once in a while? You don’t have to object to every. single. thing. It’s ok to listen too. Aren’t you bored with the Crazy Mommy show? Aren’t you curious to see who I can be if we spend less time fighting and more time doing?
But- here’s the thing, I am discovering that I was chosen to be your mother because I desperately need to learn from you.(I am stubborn as we all are – yea family trait!) I can’t just suddenly change the way I am , I need to see life through your eyes; But I could never just read a book and understand something, I must live it. So I accept your challenges little one… You are my greatest teacher of joy and letting go. You will never let me watch my life from the sidelines. Thank you for encouraging me to get in the game and play even if it seems like I’m losing because truly the very opportunity to play it with you and Daddy is the winning. You already seem to know that and I am just now figuring it out. So thank you my dear daughter because today, you taught me.
3 year olds….I love you kid but you’re makin me crazy!
For my 5th birthday my Mom made me a chocolate cake shaped like a cat. My birthday is 2 days before Halloween so it was seasonally appropriate. I distinctly remember the picture from her Betty Crocker cookbook. I also recall that on that birthday, she gave me a party with my neighborhood friends. What makes this so incredible is that she had a NEWBORN baby . My sister was two-weeks old! (Two weeks after my daughter was born, I could still hardly move because of my nasty tear and my nipples hurt so badly that the pain took my breath away. I had 3 long, black, jersey cotton dresses in rotation because there was no way I would put my lady parts through the pain of pants or shorts. The disposable mesh panties accompanied by the adult diaper were just fine for me thank you very much.) I hope on my 5th birthday I was appreciative to my Mother, but I’m sure I wasn’t as appreciative as I should have been. I was 5 after all. I didn’t consider that my Mother was exhausted from labor or nursing or caring for a newborn and 2 other children. How could I know? She made me a cake and gave me a party; of course she did – it was my birthday right?
My daughter turned 3 earlier this month and somewhere along the way I decided I would make her a castle cake. She’s going through that princess phase so I thought she’d get a kick out of it. I searched images on Pinterest and had a vague idea of what I would do. I always feel that it’s not your birthday unless you’ve blown out candles on a piece of something delicious. Maybe it’s childish or old-fashioned, or perhaps I just want an excuse to eat dessert. I have such a warm and fuzzy memory associated with that cat cake, I just wanted my Issy to be blown away when she saw hers. I also (who am I kidding) wanted her to think I was the greatest Mom ever and …I wanted myself to think I was the greatest Mom ever .
I work part-time. My schedule leaves me one kid free day to do what I want and what I need. But the week leading up to her birthday, I had to work on that day. So every night when she was asleep, I did one portion of the cake: I baked a layer, I covered ice cream cones with chocolate, I made icing…. Understand, these parts did not look perfect. I would be the first eliminated if I were on cupcake wars, OK? But, I wasn’t concerned about it looking perfect. I just wanted it to resemble a castle. If I had more time, I would have tried to make it look slightly better. But there would be no birthday party. This wouldn’t be on the front page of The New York Times. This was just meant for her (for me???) I just wanted to bring it out and see her smile and blow out her candles. Really that’s all. Sort of. The night before her birthday I was figuring out how to assemble it together. My husband gave me this look and I just said,” I know ….is this for her or me right? …” and laughed it off. I didn’t need to make this cake. I could have bought one or ordered dessert at a restaurant. Know this – I am completely aware of my issues…I am in touch with my feelings of not “mattering”. I am aware of feeling like I need to constantly justify my existence as a Mom who is not making a significant financial contribution by doing things like making cakes that look like castles. I realize I compare myself to friends who are bona-fide self-made superstar working Moms; I KNOW THIS. It is a constant battle with myself DAILY to consider that I matter. I have been struggling with this for years. It is a constant theme in all of my posts. I need to get a handle on this or no one will ever care to read these….How do I get beyond this awareness? Hello? Tony Robbins are you there It’s me Vanessa , (the drama major who is indeed creating drama in life,but how can I put the drama elsewhere ..like ..in a paycheck maybe?? Please help!). I mean what is the real issue? Why do I hold myself to this gold standard but no one else? Why have I set a standard so high for myself, it’s impossible to reach? Or am I expecting to reach it immediately or by a certain day? Can today REALLY be the day I accept that I am a work in progress…that l’m striving to be the best version of myself and some days the best way to get there is to consider myself? There’s an idea. As I write this, my husband is at work, our daughter is at preschool. I hear only the hum of the fridge and the sound of a lawnmower somewhere on my street. It’s nice…The quiet… I exist in this quiet. I am present. It feels good to be writing. It feels good to be honest. It feels good to post this picture of my attempt at being a perfect Pinterest Mom. I tried. She loved it. She blew out the candles and ate a piece, and never really mentioned it again. She’s 3. I think I’m really fine not being perfect. In fact if I set up the standard of always being honest instead of always being perfect, I could really get somewhere.
In fact, I think I’ll consider myself right now and get a manicure because tomorrow my husband and I have a date! (And, if we’re being honest, my hands look and feel like a 90 year old carpenter’s.) So, ill start there. I’m also going to wear heels tomorrow . I’m going to wear make-up too. I’m going to carry a purse that’s too small to hold wipes and a change of clothes just in case my kid has an accident. And you can believe I’m 100% going to eat a piece of cake.
The Castle Cake
The Cat Cake as pictured in The 1978 Betty Crocker Cookbook
*Photo courtesy of the 1978 Betty Crocker Cookbook
My first ever post was about dropping my daughter off at preschool and spending the day crying, worrying about losing my Mommy title, and feeling overwhelmed at what I would do next….WELL, I’m still not exactly sure what I’m doing or who I am BUT I most certainly do not spend my days without her crying while scrolling through the hundreds of photos of her on my phone- THAT is certain. (Let’s just say if I could safely slow down my car and have her jump out of it as I drove by the preschool twice a week, I would….just kidding… ) She’s not even 3 and she has all the attitude of a brooding teenage girl in her adorable little toddler body. There’s a big storm a comin’ and I’m not sure there’s enough bottled water and xanax on the store shelves to prepare for this one!
She’s just moved to the 3 year old class…It hasn’t even been a year and shes already moving to the next level. This milestone did indeed take me to my photo library to find her “first day of preschool shot”. I don’t even recognize that baby. She was a BABY. She had recently turned 2 and was just about 6 months out from breastfeeding. No wonder I cried!!! I remember my mother telling me the value of preschool before she started, how I would look forward to it and come to need it. At the time I couldn’t imagine my baby, who fed from my breast at night until 18 months would be with other people for 2 entire days of the week. I felt I was abandoning her so I could, what…poop in private with the door closed? Go to the grocery store alone? Clean the toilets without interruption? Figure out who Vanessa was??? It seemed so selfish to want those things but now…? Now? YES PLEASE YES PLEASE I want all those things and more! I was so against preschool. I thought why are we putting these babies in school so young? For what? I thought we would just be together forever…going to the park and the market….long walks in the neighborhood…. She needs me and I need her and we love eachother and we can live forever in harmony with enough Cheerios and Trader Joe’s Inner Peas right? Well somewhere along the way our relationship changed. We’ve become that couple who come for dinner and always fight. Then when they leave you say, why are they even together??? Because we love eachother okay? Because she’s almost 3, and I’m 40 and I’m her mom and I love her more than life but we’re just going through a tough time okay?! !? She loves me too (I hope). She just loathes me because I ask her to clean up her toys and tell her she can’t have lollipops for breakfast. I keep counting to 3 and putting her in time out. I’m kind of a buzzkill for her right now and I get it, I do. I get that she is constantly pouting with her arms crossed because I am SUCH a tyrant….Are they casting for print models to be featured on the first page of Chapter 3: Age 3 in a child development textbook because….I’ve got one! I expected to be better at this but she’s testing me and I . HATE. TESTS. I must stand my ground . I must remain calm. I must NOT go from zero-batshit crazy mommy in seconds. Really I can’t. I must do better. She is watching. Every morning I lay in bed and say the God grant me the serenity prayer because -this is hard. This is much harder than I thought. My mom has told me she’s a tough cookie, so she must be because my Mom is a baby/child whisperer. She knows all. She has all the tricks. Let me tell you, they don’t work on my girl. She is a force to be reckoned with. I know one day I will be standing on my feet in the audience applauding her accomplishments, but until then-SERENITY NOW!!
We can all agree motherhood is frustrating and challenging…. You know that moment at the end of the day when you’re putting them to bed… and despite the fact that earlier in the day when you lost it because an entire jar of cinnamon was dumped in the pancake batter, you are still overcome with such love and gratitude for this little person? I want to be able to feel that feeling throughout the all the “cinnamon” incidents. I’m letting so much of my stuff take over otherwise “normal kid moments” and I want to be OVER MY STUFF already.
I’ve decided to put myself out there come what may and give myself a pep talk.
1) Your parents love you and are proud of you even though you aren’t an award-winning someone. This is the actual truth. Stop being ridiculous. You are a grown woman. They admire your tenacity. They think you’re a pretty brave woman for taking the road less traveled that has landed you 3,000 miles away. They want you to be happy and healthy and that’s literally it. Stop feeling guilty for all they’ve done for you. They’re amazing and supportive. You hit the jackpot having these two incredibly loving people as your parents. Treat them well when they visit. Pick up the tab (thank you husband). Show them a good time. Be joyful . Stop complaining because it’s driving your mother nuts!
2. Your husband loves you even though you aren’t perfect . Newsflash – when you met him, you weren’t perfect . You were not super skinny. You had (have) a soft belly and soft arms. You were driving a hooptie and waiting tables. He loves you. He thinks the world of you. You are none of these silly things you worry about. You are a beautiful, sensitive, creative, soul and you have so much to offer. You frustrate him because you don’t believe it. You beat yourself up constantly. Imagine what you can do with all of your time together if he doesn’t have to constantly remind you to stop putting yourself down. Your self-deprecating humor has not landed you an HBO Special so I think it’s time to let that go because IT’S NOT SERVING YOU. Celebrate the fact that you are married to someone who you love deeply and remember he chose YOU. Enjoy it.
3) You are worth something. Stop putting a dollar amount on your worth. Would you ever put your mother down because she didn’t run a successful business while raising 3 kids? ? Your mother was (IS) the one who made every single day happen. She was there for you for every homework assignment, school project , and exam; she gave you every meal, wiped every tear and kept your home beautiful and running!! She is EVERYTHING and SO ARE YOU! Consider yourself and your feelings . You are not selfish for caring for yourself . It’s ok to say,”…. I’m tired , can you get her breakfast today so I can sleep a little more?”. He won’t divorce you . You matter. You all need each other to be healthy and happy and prosperous.
4. It’s ok you haven’t found your niche in life . Do you think everyone else has and you’re the one person in the world who feels unfulfilled in that way??? Relish in the fact you care so deeply about what work you (will) do. Create. Write. Surround yourself with positive creative people. Breathe . Meditate . You are alive . You have plumbing ,cable, wi-fi and several types of chocolate in your freezer. Life is QUITE good and you KNOW this. Remember – there is no place you are expected to arrive. You are IN IT. You did not miss an exit to your destination. There is no “adult place” where it’s all perfect despite whatever childhood fantasy you are choosing to hold onto .This is IT. Make it yours. How many quotes and books and memes do you have to read/share/ like on social media before you actually believe them??
5) Believe in yourself. Other people’s belief in you feels good but it means nothing if you don’t believe it yourself. You are smart, funny, talented, and beautiful. Really you are. Just because you aren’t a media mogul with your own business and 100,000 Instagram followers, you are STILL all of those things. It’s ok to know that. It doesn’t make you conceited. You are capable to achieve whatever it is you desire. BELIEVE THAT IT IS TRUE. Make time to DO that. Make time for YOU. Remember you have an equally smart, funny, beautiful daughter who is watching and listening to all that you say and do. She is incredible and kind, hilarious and bright. You have had something to do with that. Take pride in it! That is HUGE. It will make life a little easier to know that YOU are actually on your own side for once.
AND ABOVE ALL – GRATITUDE GRATITUDE GRATITUDE FOR YOUR BEAUTIFUL BLESSED LIFE
So these are the terrible 2’s… The struggle is real. It just crept up on me so quickly … I went from a sobbing mother dropping my daughter off at preschool, (see my first post), to a woman who bounces out of bed on a school day at the thought of being able to use the bathroom without a special guest on my lap! What a difference a few months makes! Surely there must be a silver lining to this phase with my difficult and strong willed little girl, right? I keep telling myself, (as others have been telling me), “The world needs strong women.” Yes, yes it does and I am lucky enough to be raising one. BUT – I worry that I will discourage her by trying to discipline her during her unacceptable albeit typical behavior. (Understand, I use the term discipline very loosely as lately, it usually refers to me losing my shit and screaming my head off constantly.) I spent months saying the phrase , “No thank you” instead of “NO”, in my sweetest most polite voice ever as she crawled and toddled around the house touching things she shouldn’t . I thought in some way I could get ahead of the toddler “NO!” if all she heard during her baby years was a candy coated ,” No thank you ” out of a voice likened to Snow White, (a stretch for me but I tried ). I was mistaken. I was also mistaken that patting my sweet baby girl to a sound sleep was the best thing I could do for her as she transitioned to a toddler bed, but again I was wrong , (see my second post). I have created a monster who could double for Linda Blair in The Exorcist , ” Noooooo I don’t want to sleeeeeep!!! NO! NO! I DON’T WANT THAT!! I WANT MOMMY PAT ME” But yet I’ve continued for months to get up 4 and 5 times a night sitting at her bed, reasoning with her to get to sleep . I was already using “…Santa Claus is watching …” on December 26 people. By the 5th time waking up with her, I would just sleep on the couch in her room where she would join me, (assuming I hadn’t already done a faceplant on her bed) . My husband has since become the sleep regulator and forbids her to see me or speak to me in the middle of the night so she can realize she is capable of falling asleep without me. He walked in on one of my mattress faceplants at 9pm, (YES 9pm ) recently and realized we needed to make a change. Guess what? It’s working. Of course . Me, the article reading, book buying, daughter of an incredibly nurturing mother has seen another great plan backfire and bite me in the ass. My husband does 5 nights of tough love and confidence building boot camp and she’s on her way back to being a good sleeper. Sigh.
So again what is the silver lining of this stage? What can I take away from these months? What is the positive to come out of this time of constant negotiation with my child? Well, I am realizing that I could actually learn a thing or two from this girl. She is relentless. She never gives up. She’s confident, she’s sure of herself, and she sure as hell doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She will push limits and boundaries, whatever the consequences. Time out? BRING IT MOMMY. Take my toys away? SEE IF I CARE MOMMY. No park? YOU WILL REGRET IT LADY! She’s much smarter than I give her credit for. I need to talk to her like she’s an adult because in many ways she’s acting like an adult I need to be, as long as you strip away the typical 2 year old behavior of course. Today, I lost count of how many times she fell as she ran around at the park. She skinned her knees, tore her pants, and found herself covered in dirt as she ran after the big kids. You know what? Never once did she cry. Never once did she ask for help. She would get up and say,” I’m okay Mommy…. I’m a strong girl Mommy”. Then she ran after the big kids yelling, “Hey you guys come back here now or you gonna get a time out!!”
I recently attended my daughter’s holiday concert at her preschool and it was as adorable as you’d imagine. And I cried. OBVIOUSLY. The 3 year old’s and 4 year old’s sang in unison as they did their “choreography”, but my baby’s 2’s… Nah… They weren’t feeling it. No one sang but the teachers. They were waving to their parents and I was smiling, as my eyes filled with tears of joy. I received FOUR “Hi Mommies!” from her. Swoon. Her first holiday concert… She’s really grown up now. We aren’t just carting her around in her car seat and dressing her up like a doll for the holidays anymore. She’s aware of things. She sang of Christmas lights and Dreidels and of Santa Claus Coming to Town. At almost 28 months, I can’t get much passed her. It is far time I work through the mess and frustration of making holiday crafts and baking cookies with her as more and more I’m reminded of the importance of family traditions and togetherness.
Growing up, we had many traditions at Christmas. The main one was that I was always sick. Guess what? I’m carrying that tradition down to my family right now! My daughter is too! That’s an easy one! Tradition Number 1- HANDLED! Yes, I was always sick and you can tell in all the pictures…. In first grade I came home with Chicken Pox, a gift that you can give to your siblings too! How delightful! Clearly I’m a pro. From making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers to our Cinnabon cinnamon buns breakfast eaten off of my Great Grandmother’s hand painted holly dishes, we had many things we came to expect during Christmas that I remember fondly every year.
We usually spent Christmas day at home in Pennsylvania, just the 5 of us. My siblings and I would tinker with new toys, and try on new clothes The day after Christmas was when we all piled in the car and drove from PA to Long Island, NY. That’s where the real fun began. For those of you that don’t know that drive …. It’s a freaking nightmare of a drive. It’s turnpikes to bridges to turnpikes to bridges to parkways … Awful ones like the Belt Parkway. The Belt Parkway is like a highway to hell or a forced family boot camp in hell … Basically anything in hell. It’s never good. It’s never moving, and if it is, people are driving like maniacs. Imagine 3 kids in the back seat complaining and whining and fighting over who gets to listen to their tape next. We all took turns … Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Whitney Houston… Imagine my parents in the front seat as I asked them to turn up “La Isla Bonita” because it was so amazing. This was before cell phones and WAZE and google maps. We’re going to be 2 hours later than expected? Oh Well! Honestly. What a mess it must have been. We all had to eat our snacks carefully as to not dirty up my Dad’s company car. So there was that added pressure of needing to keep the car looking good while 3 kids ate peanut butter and jelly! Yikes! Sorry Dad! The trip was LONG, and we just wanted to get there already. Once we got there it was Christmas number 2! It meant brightly colored Christmas lights and cable tv. It meant that Nana bought us the little boxes of sugar cereals like Cocoa pebbles and Frosted Flakes and let’s not forget coffee cake! You gotta have coffee cake for breakfast. (To this day, my Grandpa eats coffee cake at breakfast. The man is almost 90. Clearly cake at breakfast is OK.) I always remember pulling up to my Grandparent’s Levittown home at Christmas. The brightly colored lights, the little twinkling tree in the bay window … Oh it was magic. It’s incredible how I can close my eyes and remember like yesterday…I can smell it…I can hear the creaking of the staircase, the fireplace of white bricks where our stockings hung… The blue carpet. … The couches with big blue flowers … My Grandparents always had the biggest trees covered in shiny tinsel. Tinsel! How daring…what a beautiful mess that stuff was…The memories from that house are forever alive in me as some of the most joyful days of my life. Forget Disney. 7 Giant Lane was the happiest place on Earth.
For most of those years, my brother and sister and I were the only grandchildren, so the focus was on us. The blue carpet was our stage and we were the players… My little sister doing a dance with her pink slippers that we all remember as fuzzy feet dance… my brother and I putting on some show pretending to hold a microphone…. It was so ridiculous I’m sure, but greeted with cheers and applause from our audience of Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. The children were the main event; there were no cell phones and tablets. No one was checking their phone to see if they had an “emergency“ text or email from work. There was no TV on in the background. It was Christmas. It was family time and that was that. Giant Lane Christmas wasn’t about the gifts, (though there were TONS and maaaaybe as a little girl it was… I’ll never forget the year Aunt Bea made me a dollhouse, blue with white shutters, complete with flowers in the window which now lives in my parents house). It was about being together…I remember always laughing and feeling so full of joy even if did have a fever and 4 cold sores. What could be better than sitting in the living room on the blue carpet with my siblings buried in wrapping paper and bows, (which we always had to keep and give to Nana so we could re use them of course!) I remember the dining table set up like the letter T. The main table followed by several long folding tables and a sprinkling of folding chairs, and kitchen chairs, a desk chair from one room and another from Nana’s sewing room. We would start off the meal with our family’s recipe of homemade raviolis, (a meal in itself), but then move on to the main event of turkey or roast beef. But for my siblings and I, it was just something that came before dessert. Dessert was the most important for us kids because we didn’t have treats in our house with the exception of graham crackers. Our eyes would be open wide in the wonder of the long table covered in Italian butter cookies from the bakery, THE famous chocolate cake my Nana made for every holiday, (half covered in walnuts), the green star-shaped dish full of butter mints, boxes of Sees and Russell Stover, homemade cookies and rice krispie treats…and on and on and on. In a word – it was a dream.
It was truly the best of times. And you know, looking back, who knows if it brought everyone else as much joy as it did us kids. I’m not sure it was my parent’s idea of a vacation to hop in the car and make a 4 hour trip with 3 kids in the back so we could all sleep in one room; my parents in 2 single beds pushed together and “attached” by a double bed sheet. I put myself in their shoes now and I can’t say I would do the same. They could have opted for a less hectic time than the holidays to get together because it was more convenient. I’m so glad they didn’t. I’m so grateful for the memories in that house. There is something so sacred about them. The memories are the true gifts we received all those years and we all know it because we all look back and say, “ahhh those were the good old days….” They will live forever in all of us. I close my eyes and …there we all are … together…laughing… the lights of the tree twinkling behind us…the tinsel stuck to our clothes. I hope I can create memories as magical as these with my daughter because I know there is no gift I can wrap up for her that will be as special as the moments we share together. Time to get out the graham crackers and make that gingerbread house!
I’m not sure how many times I need to read Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese in order to deal with change a bit more effectively than I do, but I can tell you that 3 times is not enough. My parents still live in my childhood home which they purchased in 1977. I was in the same school district from kindergarten through high school graduation. When I visit my parents, I sleep in the same bed I’ve had since 4th grade. My drawers still contain the programs from my high school musical days. Needless to say, my childhood was incredibly stable. Certain parts of my life have remained the same for 40 years. I feel fortunate and blessed to have so many consistencies, but because of that, change of any kind is almost impossible.
As a parent, it’s ALL change. You go from not expecting to expecting, newborn baby to baby baby, baby to toddler, toddler to child…. I mean- it’s constant and then there are all the changes that occur within those stages. It’s always changing. Today, in 10 minutes, my daughter went from wanting turkey for lunch to hating turkey, “I don’t LIKE IT…I DON’T LIKE IT..I CAN’T… I CAAAAANNN’T!!!! Yesterday, she wanted to watch Frozen, then she didn’t want Frozen; she wanted Inside Out. “I WANT INSIDE OOUUUUUT!! NO ELSA NO ELSAAAAAAAAAA!” Um what? What in the actual HELL is happening? Sometimes I think I work in a psych ward.
Lately I have been overwhelmed with how quickly time is passing with my baby girl. I remember conversations with friends when she was a newborn saying to enjoy every minute… and… I did… and I am…but they only sleep in that little part of your neck for so long…sigh…. It was just a few months that she was in a little cradle next to our bed before she went into her crib. I remember getting a little bit sad everytime we had to lower the crib because it looked as if she would climb out. Well, now it’s happened. She jumped out of the crib. The DREADED moment. Here it is. It took just one jump for my husband to convert that crib to a toddler bed. A bed. My baby is in a bed. My baby that came out of me that fed from me is in a BED! (And yes, I will always think of that…Never does a day go by that I don’t remember every second of labor and the sheer wonder and magic of it all. I am crazy that way and I like it.) However, besides the sentimentality of time passing and all the warm and fuzzy nostalgic feelings of missing my pregnancy and all the delightful first baby moments, there is the reality that she is free to move about now. It’s over. She’s up. All. The. Time. We went from a having a child who slept 11 hours a night to one who is up 4 and 5 times a night. She used to wake at 6:30; now it’s 5:00… Or 4… or 3 …. Wowza. (And lets not even talk about the wild card known as Daylight Savings!) It’s like having a newborn again without the delicious newborn part! If you are going to be up all night, then I better be able to cuddle you and stare at you adoringly and albeit bleary-eyed for hours on end and then swaddle you up so you can sleep in your swing for 3 hours! But this…noooo… this is not cool… I am exhausted and…mean. Oh… I feel like I’ve become so mean and I have no patience with her. And that’s not really fair because she’s just going through an adjustment, right? Or am I spoiling her by being concerned for her going through this adjustment? Is she going to be a terrible teenage because I’m patting her back to sleep? Surely I’m not spoiling her, right? Am I ruining her?? It would take longer than 2 years to ruin her right? Yes, I’m sure at this point we are still on track to have a fully functioning, self sufficient, caring adult child. We are good. We are fine. But seriously, am I supposed to let her work it out herself? How? She can walk around. She can put on lights and open drawers and scream next to my face! I have no choice but to get up and sit beside her bed and pat her little back and tell her it’s going to be ok. That’s my job. I’m Mommy. This is my time to shine. This is my moment! I remember asking my Mom to pat me to sleep and if you could bottle and sell that feeling of comfort, I would buy a jar right now.
Twice, (probably more), I have caved and grabbed her and put her in bed with us because I just physically could not muster the strength to practically sleep walk back to her room. But I must. I MUST. She needs me and… I need it too really. (I would prefer it weren’t the middle of the night, but this is the gig). So here I am, I’ve made it to her room, Mommy’s here. I put her back in bed and cover her up all cozy and pat her little back, my head starts to get heavy and I sort of just curl up on the floor keeping my hand on her back pat, pat, pat….. Do you know what she does? She jerks her head up and cries, “No Mommy lay down!! No Mommy lay down!” I mean….who IS this child? What does it matter if my head is down whilst your back is being patted…How dare you?!! It’s so infuriating to be yelled at by a 2 year old! I have no choice. I am TIRED. I yell back and say ,”Mommy is tired! It’s the middle of the night! I can put my head down if I want to!!“ Yikes. I sound like a child…. I know, I need to just leave the room…but… she will follow me. She’s free now. This is torture, but those who have been here before me say it will change. And you know what? I welcome that change. I actually cannot wait.
My daughter started preschool this month and it was as difficult for me as I imagined. I walked out of the school with tears streaming down my face and spent the remainder of the day crying off and on. For many of my Mommy friends, it was a relief to drop their kids off and get a few hours free. For me, however, it was as if I’d been stripped of my Mommy title and as a result, lost my purpose in life. (Now, understand I realize how dramatic it sounds and I certainly realize that coming back to an empty house and looking into her empty room and sobbing might have been a slight over reaction . However, it was MY reaction and my feelings were very real).
If you would have told me 5 years ago that I was going to become a mother at 36 and spend every second of my life caring for this beautiful little person, I would have given you a good old Elaine Benes “GET OUT” shove and laughed it off. We hadn’t planned to get pregnant when we did … We weren’t married at the time and I had actually just lost my job. Having a child was something I always wanted, but something I didn’t think I would ever experience. The years were going by very quickly and as I navigated through the acting/waitressing/auditioning world, then switched to the agent/manager world, and then decided to go back to the former … It was evident that the right time might never come. I would tell myself that being the fun Auntie to my niece and nephews was incredibly fulfilling, but deep down, I knew I yearned for my own child. I cannot tell you how happy we are that we have our sweet silly girl and we both know we are better people for creating her and loving her more than life itself. If we had tried to make a plan to be in the exact place we are now, it never would have worked out. What is that saying, If you want to make God laugh, Make plans? Not having a plan miraculously resulted in the BEST plan.
Becoming a mother was natural but difficult too. I am so fortunate to have been able to be home with her the last 2 years thanks to my incredible hardworking husband. But understanding my value without contributing financially is uncharted territory for me. It was and continues to be a challenge to find value in myself if I’m not bringing home any bacon. For the last 2 years my bacon has been nursing , diapers , bathing , cooking, laundry, cleaning , grocery shopping , and the huge responsibility of shaping this little girl into some sort of kind, bright, and thoughtful human. I found myself constantly thinking , well I better have toilet brush sticking out of the bowl and loaf of bread baking in the oven when he comes home or else ! (All of this added pressure brought to you by moi.) Just as I started to realize that indeed I AM working and it’s actually ALL of the time , it seems I’ve already started to work myself out of a job !
I love being Mommy. Mommy is awesome. Mommy does everything. Mommy is hands down the best person I’ve ever been. Going through my pregnancy and giving birth is my greatest accomplishment by far, and given the opportunity, I will talk about it ALL! When my child looks at me and throws her arms around my neck and says,” I love you Mommy”, That is EVERYTHING . There is nothing else. But as my mother, (who really is THE greatest Mommy), once told me, “if you do your job, after 18 years, they won’t need you anymore .”
What???? That’s such bullshit. You don’t get a promotion or a bonus or a damn write up on the company website; you’re just done. I mean- in theory. I ask my Mom for advice everyday and she’s technically been retired from me for 22 years! Yep…the word on the street is that in many ways, adult children are harder than actual children children! What??? I can’t even handle preschool 2 days a week! What if SHE decides to be an actress and move 3,000 miles away?? (I can already hear mother saying , “…what goes around comes around dear….”)
I’m honestly not sure who I am anymore if I’m not ONLY Mommy. I can’t say that I’m even sure how to figure it out ….I think I’m just going to have to start over at 40…or pick up at 40? Unlike other Mommies, I don’t have my successful career to go back to. I don’t have a closet full of blazers and heels that hides behind my jeggings and comfy shirts. Is this my time to discover it? And how do I DO it? It’s funny, ever since I was a child, I’ve had this sense that you get to this place in life and you just sort of arrive at your “adult place”. You essentially remain there until you retire and get a cake in the office conference room and your co-workers sing an uncomfortable refrain of, “For she’s a jolly good fellow”. You then play tiles and mahjong at the pool with your friends … Right? For me to be at my mid life and still be growing and figuring things out is daunting. Yet, it’s all so strange that I would even have these thoughts of “adult place” in my mind considering I pursued a career in the arts! I haven’t been a child for years! You would think my own experiences would have allowed me to discover that my journey might just be different than my parents and that it’s OK. I think of my childhood and my parents just seemed so secure and firmly planted in “adult place”. I can’t imagine them opening up a bottle of wine after we were all asleep and my mom saying,” what the hell are we doing? I thought we were going to travel the world together … There are so many things I want to do….Who ARE we…?”, as she sneaks a puff from a cigarette out the window.
It’s a relief to know that my mother had moments like that, (likely without the smoking I’m sure). She had days where she felt overwhelmed, days where she felt invisible, or had no identity …. But she found herself again. She went back to school and had her career and …well… actually found a way to “have it all” … And I have always looked at her like she was the most perfect Mommy in the world who always knew exactly what to say and what to do. She was my safe place, my happy place. She was the person that made everything ok just by being there. But I am realizing that I look at her exactly the same way my daughter looks at me now and I am humbled to be in her company.
I think my Mommy job is still safe for now. Now let me call my Mom and ask her what I should make for dinner.