August 2008


“Ants do not like to be squeezed.”

Happy Labor Day, everyone – it’s a great day for us, as it marks our blog’s three month anniversary and our first autumn in existence.  Thank you for your support, comments and feedback…please keep them coming! 

My Mom Genes will resume its regularly scheduled blogging on Tuesday, September 2nd.

Posted by Duff

 

bathtubartist.jpg bathtub artist picture by duffoliver

 

Very little of my motherhood experience has followed my proposed script.

It started when I found out I was pregnant.  I guess I assumed my husband and I would jump around happily (or at least he would; he’s a Life Enthusiast). But when I saw reality (in the form of a digital test) staring at me, purposefully, I felt an adrenaline surge strangely akin to…fear.

And when I told my husband the good news, he paused for a long time before saying, “I’m scared.” Not the sentiment I’d expected, but I was relieved that I wasn’t the only parental misfit.

Of course we were happy. And shocked (and appalled) by our own reactions. We had hoped this would happen. Had been disappointed every time a test returned an emphatic ‘NOT‘.

The surprises didn’t end there. Next came cravings for foods I didn’t like: Tacos. Citrus. Hot Sauce.  I should have known then.

Until my first trimester gave way to my second, hormones tapdanced on my emotions. I didn’t feel sad, I just felt wierd. Foreign to myself. Nausea turned my glow gray. And I was still afraid. Though I stopped myself from taking multiple pregancy tests, every trip to the bathroom had me wondering if I was about to get bad news.

At this point, you probably think I’m a pessimist. It’s strange how you can be afraid of missing someone you’ve never met. But that’s what happens when you begin drafting anticipated memories of someone. If she’s a girl, she’ll wear a sundress on the first day of kindergarten. If he’s a boy, he’ll like dinosaurs.

It’s only natural.

As you paint the nursery (who knows what color your child will grow to favor?), you might mentally outline a birth plan. I want an epidural at 5 cm. I don’t want a c-section.  Probably not I want my father-in-law to see hospital-johnnie-evidence that (unbeknownst to me) I’m dialating quickly.

In the end, you realize you have about as much control over this part of the experience as you have over your child’s gender or will come to have over his or her personality. Shettles all you want. Parent the way you intended. Maybe you will feel you have some influence, but some things just are.  Nature versus nuture. Potato/Potahto.

You can plan to have The Teddy, and then you have The Dervish. Who is a girl. Who prefers dinosaurs to sundresses. And seems much more likely a second child than a first. And might be part squirrel, for all the crazed road-darting she does.

But if you’d written her yourself, you wouldn’t have developed her character nearly as well as she does herself, daily. And that would have been a shame.

Note to self: Keep your red pen handy.

The Bean has made me behave in a way I never thought possible. 

When she was born, I swore that we would get her sleeping under control early and easily.  We did, which I suspect has a lot more to do with her nature than with the tactics we gleaned from Dr. Ferber and the sleep lady.  She slept very well starting at about four months until about four weeks ago, when a combination of teething and an incredible development spurt changed everything in our household.  The Bean now goes to bed like an angel, only to wake sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. for a quick scream and then again around 5:00 a.m. for good.  My husband and I are once again sporting purple circles under our eyes and shaking our heads imperceptibly to try and clear the cobwebs from our sleep-deprived brains.  No matter what we’ve tried, the situation isn’t getting better.  My confession is that I know why: it’s because of me.

When I walk into The Bean’s room late at night and see her standing in her crib while looking at me with the biggest, most pleading eyes I’ve ever seen, I turn into a complete ball of mush.  I am physically unable to lay her down again and leave the room with a quick pat on the back and yet another, “I love you Bean, now get some good sleep.”  I am compelled – by a force stronger than myself, I’m sure of it! – to pick her up, sit in our rocker, and snuggle with her until she’s comfortable again.  She has completely and totally manipulated me, and I know it.

Each time she wakes up in the night, I tell myself that I won’t do it again.  Like an addict, though, I find myself kissing her soft little wisps of hair and stroking her cheek until she’s asleep again.  I soak up those moments like a tanorexic with an unlimited monthly pass at Hollywood Tans – I know it’s not good for either of us in the long run, but the short term gratification is so…well, gratifying.

As the night wakings get more frequent because of my poor behavior, I know that I have to cut myself off cold turkey.  I’m writing this post today so you can all check in with me and make sure I stop doing this.  I’m not proud of my behavior, but it feels like I’m leaving my heart in her crib if I don’t.  I feel powerless against this, and need your help to regain my strength.

Please, readers, share with me your tips and techniques to be tougher with The Bean at night, when my defenses are down and her eyes are working their magic voodoo on me.  I can use all of the help I can get.

Photo credit: www.instigatorblog.com

Posted by Duff

Binky at 24/7 challenged me write to a memoir in six words. 

I want to live up to her expectations of me. Because not only is she a lovely, spot-on writer, but she also has a daughter exactly one year older than mine, and sometimes I daydream about shadowing her seemingly serene experience of motherhood. She might not know this, but recently I keep coming back to her congratulatory message following The Dervish’s birth, a hopeful commentary on a shared day:

If she’s anything like (The Boss) you’re in for a treat.

It became apparent pretty quickly that I was definitely in for something.

I’m hoping that Binky’s tendency to make it look effortless will rub off on me.

Things that rub off on me currently:

  • Grease from the hinge of my car door
  • The ashes of work burnout
  • A Tetris addiction
  • The Dervish’s insomnia
  • My husband’s frustration with The Dervish’s insomnia

I’ll keep emulating her, though, and maybe one day, I’ll get there.

So here goes:

She ate too many raw onions.

No, seriously:

Fuse? Short. Loyalty? Fierce. Outcome? Pending.

How about you? Crista, Erin, Jdub? Other much appreciated, regular readers who rarely comment? (Psst. I see you, I want to hear what you have to say).

1. Write a six-word memoir.
2. Post it to your blog, maybe with a pic.
3. Link to the person who tagged you
4. Tag a few folks
5. Leave a comment for them with an invite to play.

As The Dervish would say”…GO!”

Over the past few years, I’ve found it amazing to watch my friends become moms.  Some of these women sat with me in Science class at Kennedy Middle School, others made me practice doing shots of water so I’d be prepared for the real thing at college parties (I still wasn’t), and others still make me laugh until I cry when we go out for a glass of wine and unstoppable gossip. 

What intrigues me, aside from the fact that we’re even old enough to have procreated, is how motherhood has made almost every one of us even more ourselves than we started out being.   Our strengths have become exponentially stronger, and our weaknesses are magnified by sheer exhaustion.  Our senses of humor have expanded to include stories of blowouts and silly fights with our husbands, but their essence (usually sarcastic) is the same that it has always been. 

I spent a lot of time feeling very much like I had disappeared after having The Bean.  Aside from washing bottles, changing diapers, and mixing formula, what was left of me?  It took me a long time to realize that I’m still here, just with a new layer of experience that has changed me for the better.  My daily tasks might be completely different than anything I’ve ever done before, but I’m still the same girl.  I didn’t realize this until I saw myself reflected in the eyes of a good friend who I so admire.  She said, “Hey Fitz, you might be a mom all day, but you’re still the girl who couldn’t do a freaking shot of water in Claver Hall.” 

As funny as that might seem to some of you, it put everything into perspective for me.  I remembered who that college girl was, and she stood for the same things that I stand for today.  I am a woman with a child, but I haven’t stopped being myself.  The Bean has helped me to understand myself even more, and to strive to be better so I can be a worthy role model for her generous, lively spirit.  She is helping me to learn new things about both of us with each minute we spend in each other’s company, and I’m grateful for it.

Posted by Duff

As odd as it sounds, I would like to thank my father for smoking for seventeen years. Because if he hadn’t, the following series of events may not have occured:

He may never have gotten sick.

I wouldn’t have moved back to my hometown and rented an apartment upstairs from my soon-to-be friend Sarah.

He may not have passed away.

And as a result, I may not have been forced to take a long, hard look at myself and become a less self-involved and a more positively motivated person.

So I wouldn’t have been strong enough to:

Resist my so-crazy-he-was-crizazy-ex who tried to get back together with me. Because I had never resisted him before.

And I wouldn’t have been done with him when Sarah asked me to go out with her to help keep her Romantically Interested Gentleman Friend at bay

So I wouldn’t have been standing where I was in the bar when my future husband was walking by

And  I wouldn’t have been standing where I was when a very drunk Irishman grabbed my hand and told me I would buy him a whiskey

So I wouldn’t have grabbed onto my future husband as I was dragged by him and said, “Pretend you know me?”

And he wouldn’t have pretended to know me long enough for the Irishman to lose interest.

And the randomness of this meeting might not have made it easy for us to talk like real people who had nothing to lose.

And we may not have talked like real people with nothing to lose.

And I may not have been exactly who I was, and he may not have been exactly who he was.

And we may not have understood that we were two people who were in the right place at the right time.

And we may have been able to go our separate ways.

But we did understand, and we didn’t go our separate ways.

So, as much as I miss you for no particular reason right now, Dad, I appreciate your sacrifice, because I couldn’t have gotten here without it.

And I’d also like to thank the couple in Texas, now divorced, who happened to get married the weekend I met my husband. Because although it seems unrelated, that temporary union was the first in a string of seemingly unconnected but necessary events which had to happen so he and I would be in that right place at that right time.

So ultimately (after several more years of happenstance), we could bring forth The Dervish, who at any other time or born to any two other parents, might not have been the person she is.

And she is someone who is trying the both of us until we are whittled down to a couple of those dolls made of shriveled apples you see at county fairs, and there must be a reason for this, and that reason will be of use to someone, somewhere.

Even if it’s not her parents, today.

Posted by Fitz

Whoever said that the first year of marriage is the hardest clearly never had a child.  Without minimizing the challenges that some couples absolutely experience within that first year of wedded bliss, I’d like to enter a new “hardest” into our vocabulary: your marriage during the first year of your child’s life.

Picture this: you and your husband, awake for the fourth time in one night, trying to change a diaper (or feed, or soothe, or whatever) on a seven pound stranger who, for some unknown reason, won’t stop screaming.  Rinse and repeat every night for approximately four months (if you’re lucky), and shazam – you’ve got yourself two people who are too exhausted to string enough words together to order a morning coffee.  What happens when this exhaustion sets in?  In our case, we resorted to….bickering.  And that’s a euphemism.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I know with all of my heart that my husband is the one who keeps us all sane.  He’s our rock, our voice of reason, the teller of a corny joke when it’s most needed.  When I haven’t slept, though, or when The Bean and I have had a particularly rough day, that other one percent comes out.  And she isn’t nice.

Ms. One Percent has a nasty tendency to turn conversations about what to feed The Bean into a “Don’t you ever listen to me?  I told you at 3 a.m. that she had sweet potatoes last night!”  She’s irrational, she’s short-tempered, and she doesn’t remember any of the conflict management skills that she used to teach to hundreds of corporate managers each year.   Instead, she’s powered by the insane need to be right and to get her way, without concern for anyone in her path.

The husband, when confronted with Ms. One Percent, has one of two reactions.  Either he shuts down completely to save himself, or he becomes Mr. Defensive.  Can you imagine what happens next?  Of course you can.  Ms. OP either yells at him for not talking or for being defensive.  And so on, and so forth.  It ain’t pretty.

Luckily, we have found a way to (try) and diffuse the impact of our alter egos by having a code word.  When we’re in the middle of a big old bicker session and we know it’s just because we’re tired, we say ELEPHANT.  It’s a funny enough word to jolt us out of our ridiculous temper tantrums while making it okay for us to smile at each other and simply head off to bed.  We recognize the fact that our exhaustion magnifies every annoyance, and that if we just sleep on things they’ll seem much more manageable in the morning.  Now, I won’t lie to you and say that it has worked every single time, but it usually does – at the very least, it gets us thinking about whether our position in the argument is really that important.

So, I’ll take this opportunity to fly in the face of your grandmother’s advice and say that sometimes it’s okay or to go to bed a little bit angry or annoyed.  Of course you shouldn’t listen to my advice if you’re arguing over something potentially dangerous to your relationship, but it’s fine to decide together that you’d be better off getting some sleep rather than hash out every detail of who said what to your mother-in-law to make her think she was invited over this weekend.

Remember, ladies, that the first year (and let’s face it, the next seventeen) of your child’s life is as much about your marriage as it is about the baby.  The best gift you can give your child is a happy home with happy, loving parents, so do what you can to make it happen.  You’ll be happy you did.

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