Foldy Time

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I’m not good with time. Kind of chronically. I’m late a lot. And, for some reason, I think a weekend lasts at least as long as a work week. Sunday evenings are always a disappointed scramble to finish the loads of laundry I thought I had another three days to do.

One thing I notice about time is that it folds over on itself, like the paper fans I used to make when I was little. Second, minute, hour, day, month, year – fold, second minute, hour… When I was a kid, the fold would be on the month, or even the week, or both. I’m probably due for an upgrade any time, and I’ll have my fold on the decade.

When an important event from this year folds on top of a similar important time from the past, a hole is poked into the time between the two events. Then, I can see through it to the event in the past, sort of like brutal, accidental time travel. All that foldy time is jabbed with something sharp and metal, and for some reason, I’m the one bleeding from the puncture.

I suppose it’s not always brutal. Sometimes, it can be a gentle poke and a glimpse into past springs or happy Christmases, or joyous weddings.

But often something has changed, and the difference, good or bad, is painful. Anyone who has suffered loss knows how vicious the jab is between this birthday or holiday and the last happy one with that person. It makes you avoid looking at calendars and keep the shades closed and the lamps lit at all times, so weather changes can’t trick you into stabbing time. None of that matters, because you always know, and it always happens.

My latest time jab was gentler than that, but still brought tears to my eyes. It was just a little day in August when I brought a small boy to kindergarten, poked through to last year in August when he still said “becited and bessert.” And another to the year before in August when he would call, “Wook, Mommy!” And on through diapers and pacifiers. All the way back to when I was a startled, confused and exhausted new mother holding a squirming, befuddling little creature who was so bewitching, I could barely breathe.

It seems like time has folded really quickly since then, and there are a thousand tiny pokes through time to all the little hims he used to be.

But before I get too teary eyed, I remember that these little spots will get folded over again, and before I know it, I’ll get to see all the new little and bigger hims he gets to be. I’m sure curious to meet these hims, but I’m not rushing things. I have a few thousand days left of him in kindergarten, right?

(reposted from last year – but same teary right before school starts)

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Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!

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Watch this! Look what I can do! Did you see that??

I have a kid under ten, so I hear some version of that about a hundred times a day. I look up (patiently, and/or excitedly, I hope) every time to witness the clever, odd, incomprehensible, hilarious or frankly alarming things my child does. Sometimes, with the “Did you see that?”s I say, “Yes! That was awesome!” But I didn’t. I know, I suck, but that’s probably not the worst lie a parent can tell.

It does get a little tiresome, especially when I don’t really understand what I’m seeing: tiny action figure performs tiny stunt mostly hidden by tiny cupped hands. “Wow! How did he do that?” I ask, which is the parenting equivalent of saying someone has a great personality.

Or when I have seen it a thousand times.

Or when I’m sure “it” will result in an injury. “Look!” he says jumping off the chair onto his knees in the carpet. “Be careful!” I call again and again, because in my mind the chair is fifty feet tall and the carpet is made of stones.

I’m not complaining. I know that too soon, he won’t care if I’m looking, and too soon after that, he will very much NOT want me looking. So I look, I see, I watch.

Honestly, I can’t look enough anyway. His cheeks are so chubby and cute, and his eyes are so bright, and his laugh is so infectious. And he’s always changing.

Every time I look, I can feel the minutes slip into days and splash into years, and I’m always trying to re-memorize him.

I marvel at my irrational soul that manages to be as eager for my boy’s independence as it is heartbroken at the prospect of it. I wonder if all parents feel the same. I wonder if mine did.

A few days ago, my mom called to say she didn’t think she and dad were going to be up for the journey to see us this winter. I totally understood and wasn’t really surprised. Dad had back surgery recently, and Mom has joint problems that make traveling hard. We would just plan to go see them instead. No big deal.

But.

Something occurred to me after I hung up that put a little chill in me and made everything a little grayer: What if she didn’t just mean “this winter?” What if she meant “ever again?” It’s not like traveling long distances gets easier with age.

I have recently (fortunately) found myself with more time on my hands. I had vague plans to use some of it beautifying my home. Or at least making it seem more like a home than a gigantic toy box. I thought about rearranging furniture, getting some new accessories, painting (that last one might have been a bit of a stretch).

After talking to my mom, my ideas seemed drab and pointless, and they didn’t really feel worth the effort. I realized that all of those plans, like so much of what I do, had centered around the thought, “What would mom think of this?”

So there it is. Thirty something years later I’m still saying , “Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!”

As a mom, that comforts me. He will never not need me.
As a mom, that terrifies me. He will never not need me.
As a daughter, I am sobbing into my pillow. I will never not need her.

Foldy Time

I’m not good with time. Kind of chronically. I’m late a lot. And, for some reason, I think a weekend lasts at least as long as a work week. Sunday evenings are always a disappointed scramble to finish the loads of laundry I thought I had another three days to do.

One thing I notice about time is that it folds over on itself, like the paper fans I used to make when I was little. Second, minute, hour, day, month, year – fold, second minute, hour… When I was a kid, the fold would be on the month, or even the week, or both. I’m probably due for an upgrade any time, and I’ll have my fold on the decade.

When an important event from this year folds on top of a similar important time from the past, a hole is poked into the time between the two events. Then, I can see through it to the event in the past, sort of like brutal, accidental time travel. All that foldy time is jabbed with something sharp and metal, and for some reason, I’m the one bleeding from the puncture.

I suppose it’s not always brutal. Sometimes, it can be a gentle poke and a glimpse into past springs or happy Christmases, or joyous weddings.

But often something has changed, and the difference, good or bad, is painful. Anyone who has suffered loss knows how vicious the jab is between this birthday or holiday and the last happy one with that person. It makes you avoid looking at calendars and keep the shades closed and the lamps lit at all times, so weather changes can’t trick you into stabbing time. None of that matters, because you always know, and it always happens.

My latest time jab was gentler than that, but still brought tears to my eyes. It was just a little day in August when I brought a small boy to kindergarten, poked through to last year in August when he still said “becited and bessert.” And another to the year before in August when he would call, “Wook, Mommy!” And on through diapers and pacifiers. All the way back to when I was a startled, confused and exhausted new mother holding a squirming, befuddling little creature who was so bewitching, I could barely breathe.

It seems like time has folded really quickly since then, and there are a thousand tiny pokes through time to all the little hims he used to be.

But before I get too teary eyed, I remember that these little spots will get folded over again, and before I know it, I’ll get to see all the new little and bigger hims he gets to be. I’m sure curious to meet these hims, but I’m not rushing things. I have a few thousand days left of him in kindergarten, right?

Not So Silent Night

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The man is normal looking, average height and build with an expressive face. He’s pale and his balding head glistens with sweat. There’s nothing about him that’s intimidating, except his location. He does not belong in my house in the middle of the night.

I don’t know how he got in or what he wants. He seems confused and angry. Jeff goes to talk to him and blocks the man’s view into our bedroom. I was already standing out of sight, but our son is in bed, too far away. I motion for him to join me and for him to be quiet. He understands and creeps toward me.

Somehow, Jeff disappears, and the man’s view is no longer blocked. He sees movement, and his eyes light up. He reaches for my son. And I am an inferno.

“Do NOT fucking touch him!” My voice is high and wheezy, but I have one. Usually, in nightmares like this, all attempts to scream or cry out fail. I open my mouth and nothing happens. “DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH HIM!” I wheeze-scream again.

And I reach for the intruder. Somehow, I am behind him now and I grab his shoulder. Usually, in nightmares like this, I move too slowly or not at all. My feet are rooted to the ground, and the air is like jello. This time, my hand makes contact with his shoulder.

I dig deep into his flesh with my nails. My intent is singular and powered by my fury. I want my claws to go so far into his skin that they touch bone. While I dig, I pull back and feel his flesh give. And I love it. He’s off balance now. His pain coupled with my angered power brings him down.

I fall too but am on my knees in an instant my elbow poised above his nose. I collapse into his face with all my weight and fury. I feel a crunch but he’s still struggling. Up again and my elbow comes down on his face again. And again.

And I wake, panting and sweating. My chest hurts from not being able to scream as loud as I wanted to in my fury. And my heart is pounding, but not in fear.

Not sure who you are dude, but do NOT fuck with my family.

Little Heartbreaks

I have plans for you, eggs

I have plans for you, eggs

Once, when my son was three or so, I overheard him talking to himself while we were getting ready for work/preschool.

“This is gonna be fun!” he said.

So I had to look. He had gathered up some plastic Easter eggs, and was smiling at them.

“What’s gonna be fun?” I asked, overwhelmed, as always, by his beautiful little smile at some delight he found on his own.

“I will play with these with my friends.”

Oh no. His school had a prison-strict policy against bringing toys to school.

“Oh, sweetie, you know you can’t take those to school right?”

“OK,” he said. And he was fine. It was fine. But I wasn’t. I felt like I had killed a small creature, his little hope creature, his little fun creature. I have no idea what he was planning to do with the eggs, but it would have made him happy, and even better, he would have shared with his friends and made them happy. And I couldn’t let him. It crushed me.

I know I can’t give him everything he wants. There are some things he wants that aren’t good for him: lots of sweets, no bedtime, a pet dragon. There are some things he wants that wouldn’t really contribute anything to his life, like another truckload of toys. But these little plans, his own first victories, his fledgling imaginations, these are the things that I want him to have, that I feel like a monster for keeping from him.

Plans

Agent C is incognito

I took him to school, sans eggs, and cried all the way to work.

Yesterday at camp, my boy missed out on popcorn. Popcorn is a treat, so much tastier because it is special, made just for movie time. He came in late, and the popcorn was already doled out, and the rules say he has to stay seated.

He told me about it last night, and already, already at four, he’s learning to hide his small heartaches. He didn’t want to look at me when he told me, and he tried not to let his voice shake or that tear escape. And I hugged him, and he hugged me hard. Thank goodness we still have that. I wanted my hug to tell him that it mattered. I knew it was more than popcorn.

This morning I asked his teacher what was the right thing to do if he comes in late from another activity and the popcorn is already handed out.

This woman, who I would now like to adopt into my family, gasped. She covered her mouth in horror.
“WHAT? OH NO!! HE DIDN’T GET POPCORN?? Oh, punkin, I’m SO sorry!!”

She looked like she would cry. I felt like I would cry. She understands. And my little boy’s heart is safe with her for the summer.

It all sounds trite, plastic eggs and popcorn. And my soul bleeds for the moms and dads who cry because they can’t feed their children, or can’t see their children, or have to work so many hours that they can’t be sure their care providers are safe, much less concerned about whether or not they get a cup of popcorn.

I know how lucky I am to have the luxury of crying over these little things. Maybe I should toughen up. But maybe if I can do a better job with these things, I can raise a compassionate person who wants to help solve the world’s problems. Or at least one who will hug his own child when she or he cries over popcorn and plastic eggs.

Disappointing Elmo

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He looks so innocent; he makes you want to protect him. Last night, I failed him. I had the bucket as close to my little guy as it could get, but he still managed to throw up all over Elmo.

Now, I can hear him (Elmo, not my little guy), the *thunk, thunk, thunk* of his hard, plastic eyeballs clanking against the dryer.

The kiddo is better today. He just high-fived his own foot, because he’s four and weird, like a four year old. The day was filled with bland food but lots of giggles, goofiness and smiles. But if I feel like I failed Elmo last night, it’s nothing to how I failed my kiddo.

Nobody ever warns you about how terrifying it is to be a parent. Maybe they know that doing so would result in the end of the human race. Or maybe they do tell you, but there are just no words convincing enough to convey the straight-frigid panicky terror that accompanies having a kid.

There is science behind that terror, the love hormone oxytocin, the genetic drive to carry on the lineage, the chemical reactions that lead to this ferocious protective fear. But I can’t really accept that this is science. It is magic, possibly dark sorcery, and it feels too good and bad to care or even try to understand it. Those little chubby cheeks and those trusting eyes, that laugh, those hugs… they have me under a soul-deep spell.

When something bypasses my vigilance, no matter how minor, it feels like failing. That threatening terror when it mixes with thick, late darkness, is crazy-making. The deep chill night makes even a cold or a tummy ache seem treacherous. Last night was no big deal (knock wood — and you know I did). By two it had worked itself out, and he was sleeping soundly.

The time before that, it was a virus that caused a breathing problem; it was a trip to the emergency room, then all night watching, and putting medicine in his nebulizer and gripping his hand maybe too firmly. It was being too tired to think and to terrified to sleep. It was a night of constantly checking, bargaining and fighting blackness. That night was a month long. Never has the sun been so slow or so welcome.

That night gave birth to this paragraph which made its way into my work in progress:

“It usually happened after dark, during a night that decided to be bleak and relentless. Some nights were like that. They were greedy and parasitic. They clawed at the hands of clocks dragging them backward, devouring minutes or even hours that belonged to the daytime. She had been trapped in some acrid, poisonous, predawn hours for so long that when the morning finally broke, she was sure it was just part of another cruel dream.”

My character and I understood each other so well after that night. Neither of us was thrilled to.

Tonight (knock wood — and you know I did), my son sleeps soundly, and once Elmo stops clanking around the dryer, he will be none the worse for the wear. And tonight I say a prayer, whisper a spell, and send a bright light to any parent who is trapped in a terrible night. May dawn be prompt and bring joyous relief.

As a Mom…

“Oh, really?  My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

“Oh, really? My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

Motherhood is super trendy right now. Baby-bumps are fashionable, as are the actual infants, slung across people’s fronts (or backs or sides – how versatile) in vivid print carriers, with their accompanying Prada diaper bags.

On TV, solemn-eyed mother-actresses with self-satisfied smirks are proclaiming the need to purchase various goods and services for the safety or educational prowess of their imaginary children. The commercials usually start with her staring directly into my soul and saying, “As a mom, I want the best for my children…” followed by the earnest entreaty to buy their new whole grain, antibacterial, organic, ultra absorbent, digital whatever, now with aloe.

I have a couple of problems with this. First of all, if she’s about to talk about “her children,” she doesn’t really have to say she’s a mom. Sure, there’s a possibility someone will think she’s a teacher without that precursor, but most of us are going to get that she is meant to represent a mother. We know she’s not a real mom, because she’s impeccably groomed, her house is spotless, her floors are covered in flawless white carpeting and she is clearly wearing a bra, even though she’s at home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The “as a mom” is meant to build a fake connection with real moms, who have actual houses that may or may not contain furniture with dried macaroni stuck to it. We’re supposed to look at her, and think, “oh, she’s just like me!” Or worse, “oh, she’s a better mom than me.”  Tell me more, super-mom!

Secondly, wanting “the best for my children” is not a ground breaking concept. Biologically speaking, we are driven to provide the best we possibly can for our children. What she’s saying, is: “You probably didn’t realize it, but you are currently providing less-than-the-best for your children, and many of you are providing the worst for your children.”

This is designed to manipulate real moms into believing whatever we are doing “as a mom” is not going to be as good as what she is doing, and we’d better step up our game or end up with toddlers who can’t even read French yet, for heaven’s sake.

I don’t think I’d mind these tactics as much if they were actually selling something helpful:

As a mom, I want to know what my kid is screaming about all the time…

As a mom, I want to sleep…

As a mom, I want to know how not to throw up when I smell my kid’s throw-up…

But instead of solving problems, these commercials usually suggest new problems we haven’t yet figured out we need to feel freaked out or insecure about. As a mom, I want to protect my child from carrot poisoning… I want to keep my toddler from feeling insecure about her fashion sense… I want my to teach my baby to read in-utero.

As a mom, I’m tired of this crap.