Friday, October 30, 2009

Little Drummer Girl

I just went to visit a friend in New York BY MYSELF with BOTH KIDS, a suitcase, and a stroller. Yeah, it was an adventure, and I'm going to tell you all about it, but first I need to tell you about yesterday and the thoughts I had.

I like to play make believe with Ellie. It's probably my favorite thing to play with her because it enables me to relive some of my own childhood. A childhood that involved a lot of solitary play due to the fact that I moved all the time and often didn't have playmates at first. That coupled with the fact that I didn't have a sibling that was able to play with me until I was about seven made for a very imaginative me. Well, maybe that and the fact that, genetically, I'm just a touch crazy.

So this part of Ellie's childhood has been particularly enjoyable for me (except for when it makes me want to run away and join a convent) because I've introduced her to some of my favorite fantasy creatures: Mermaids, Unicorns, Dragons, Fairies, and The Like. We've amassed quite the little collection of these creatures from the thrift shop down the street that I am absolutely addicted to. Yesterday we added some amazing rocks (if you can even call them that they're so beautiful) to the collection and they became the glittering treasure that was guarded by a fierce dragon.

In the process of playing, Ellie put on part of her Halloween costume and I put on part of her Father's. After we had spent some time playing on the floor together, I decided we were going to walk to the store to pick up a couple of things I needed. She wanted to keep her flying unicorn costume on and I was to keep the King crown on because the game was to continue outside. And it did, she ran, er flew, all the way to the store flapping her tiny little arms and whinnying along the way. Occasionally when I needed her to look out for cars, I threw out a Kingly sounding, "HALT, Unicorn! There are cars, er, dragons about!" To which she would stop, look for cars, wait for me and we would cross together.

I let her do this whenever she wants. Dress up. Pretend. In public. Honestly, who am I to say no? If I wasn't wearing a pink feather boa and tiara in High School, then it was pants big enough to swim in and some crazy Japanese inspired top. My goal in life was to be an Anime character. I had pink hair, looked like Swiss cheese from all the piercings, and my parents still talked to me, albeit through gritted teeth on occasion.

So, there we were, the Unicorn and the King, in the store and for the most part people smiled and remarked on her endearing cuteness. But there were a few harsh looks and rude remarks. One in particular from the cashier. She looked at both of us like we were crazy and rolled her eyes. I explained that we had been playing dress up at home and decided to bring the game into the Real World. She rolled her eyes again. let me stop right here and say that if there is one thing I can't stand, it's rudeness. And if this little bitty was anything, it was rude. But I had to remind myself that not everyone was allowed to grow up in the environment that I was. An environment facilitated by an artist, subject to his own creative whims and vices. At times the emotional roller coaster he piloted was exhausting, but OH almost always it was liberating and just a touch mad.

And so I forgave her. And made a mental note that when the time was right. Now now, but someday. I would explain to my daughter that very important lesson that my Father taught me. It. Does. Not . Matter. What. ANYONE. Else. Thinks. Of. You. If all is right between you and The Big Man Upstairs, then bollocks to The World! Follow your heart. Listen for the sound of that little drummer that lives in all of us but most of us choose to stifle. Find your rhythm. March to your own beat. Open your heart so fully to life and all it has to offer that it may threaten to grow wings and take flight.

And yes, oh yes, there will be moments of intense heartbreak and pain, but if we don't let ourselves become bitter and continue to forgive and love and keep dancing to the song in our hearts, then in time, even those bitter moments can be savored to better appreciate what is sweet.

Someday we will have that conversation, but not now. For now, she's just a Unicorn and I'm just a King on our way from One Great Adventure to another. Blinders to the World dancing to the Music In Our Hearts.

And just because I think you need some music in your heart right now, have a listen to this:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hello My Name Is: Attachment (ish) Parent

Before I became a parent, I had all kinds of opinions on how other people should be raising their children. Oh, yes I was one of THOSE people. I had all the answers for your parenting problems, and they usually involved giving that unruly toddler a spanking. Kid throwing a tantrum at the store? Spank em. Kid won't finish his supper? Spank em. Kid talks back? Spank. His. Hiney. And so on and so forth. Why? Well, because that's pretty much how I was raised. And just like a Timex, I could take a lickin and keep on tickin. So I figured if I turned out to be so kick ass, then that MUST be the proper way to raise children.

And then I had children. I had a child who has both a will of steel and a spectrum of thought and emotion that amaze me. I realized in raising this child that there is no One Size Fits All solution for parenting. Just like their parents, each child is unique and comes with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is our job as the Parents, to figure out how to best guide them through the tempest of emotions and struggles and hopefully arrive safely on the other side of adolescence. But really, that's just a tangent. What brought me to this subject was the pondering I've done lately on how each of my girls is so intrinsically different from the other.

As I've mentioned before, Ellie was a good sleeper from the get go. Even now, after she has her daily tantrum, she usually still takes a three hour nap. Can you say Awesome? And then there's Ari. Maybe it's because she was forced into the World before she was ready, maybe it was a side effect of the crazy medication I was on for my eye, maybe it's just Who She IS. But Ari, has NEVER yet been a good sleeper.

At three days old when I couldn't take the sound of her whimpering in the cradle next to my bed any longer; I said, The Hell with it, and did what I thought up until that point was a big no no and put her tiny body in bed with me. She slept for almost six hours and it just felt RIGHT. Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had been trying to force my child and myself into the box of what I thought a good parent child relationship was. And while it worked for Ellie and I, it wasn't a fit for me and Ari. You see, that's the crazy thing about parenting. You have the be the parent that each child needs you to be. Ari's specific needs as a child caused me to slip comfortably and fully aware into the shoes of an Attachment Parent. Or my version of that anyway.

So, that's what we've been doing for the past almost six months. Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and the whole she-bang. And up until recently, the shoes fit real nicely. Recently though, she has been nursing ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Basically using me as a comfort and a pacifier, and while up until this point I didn't mind it; my neck and back have been causing me pain and my quality of sleep had gone down tremendously. Not to mention the fact that there just isn't room for the three of us in our bed anymore. This situation caused me to realize that in order to be the best parent I can be; I sometimes have to do what's right for me. And right now, what's right for me is getting my sleep and my bed back. I am no good to anyone hobbling around in a sleep deprived daze all day.

So, I consulted with older women that I trust who have had many children and could offer advice on just how to go about kicking her out of my bed. And, I might just add that she was simply going to a pack and play right NEXT to my bed. You know what all of them said in one way or another? Let her cry. To someone who embraces Attachment Parenting, those are very dirty words. So, I tried my own way first, which involved just about anything I could think of to get her to sleep in her pack and play without crying short of climbing in there with her and nursing her to sleep. I must admit though, I did go as far as to lean over and contort my body in such a way so that she could use me as a pacifier while in there. And while I was twisted and pulled, I thought to myself, This is so stupid. Let her cry for a minute. And so I did. DUN DUN DUN

And you know what. As much as I hate to admit it, THEY. WERE. RIGHT. After five minutes, she was asleep. I still fed her twice that night and put her in bed with me at six the next morning. HEY, baby steps OK? But the next night she only whined for maybe 30 seconds and fell asleep. And just now, for her nap. JUST NOW guess what happened? I laid her down half awake and she went to sleep without EVEN WHINING OR CRYING IN HER OWN BED. YES, I AM YELLING! I want to run through the halls of my building in my underwear testifying of this glorious hurdle we've just overcome.

There is no label for her as a Child. There is no label for me as a Mother. It is just give and take and we are both learning what works best for us. But, a little secret? I wouldn't give back those six precious months of her in my bed for anything.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hurricane Elsbeth

So, you have a baby. And it's brimming with innocence and wide eyed wonder and all the things that make it worth while to have a baby. You fall so deeply in love with said baby that you wonder how it's possible for one person to adore another person quite so much without their heart bursting and covering everyone around them in gooey, matronly love.

And then. There comes a day when that baby has become someone else entirely. Why, now that innocent, chubby little ball of flesh is a miniature Cuban dictator running around the house screaming unintelligible orders at everyone wielding a black sharpie and threatening to use it. On everything.

It's a transition. And sometimes it's exasperating. On the one hand we just can't wait for those giggling babies to grow up so we can talk to them and know them in a deeper way. And on the other hand, well some times it's like trying to hold a hurricane in your hands and pretend like everything is fine while the wind is nearly knocking you out. The magic of watching your child grow is like watching a rose bloom. But sometimes when you're holding it, you get stuck by a thorn.

I have observed my daughter choose to lie. And it hurt me in the places that seek and treasure what is right. Watching your child lose her innocence one tiny shred at a time is a painful thing to observe. I must remind myself that we are all human and this is a process that everyone must experience. It is my job to equip her with the truth and the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. And to correct and guide her when she makes the wrong choices. If I'm there. And if I'm not.... Well, that's where my fervent prayer for her comes in.

It's a process and a struggle.

I must remember.....

I was once a child. The magic of youth lingers in my memory. My parents, the creators and shapers of the memories. And now, in the eternal cycle of life; it's my turn to create and shape what she will one day remember. I wonder if they felt the same we do now when I was young. I am just a girl. And he is just a boy. Feeling so inherently the same on the inside as we did so many years ago, only surrounded by a life that we're not quite sure how we came by. A house, two cars, two kids, and some animals. I am just a girl. And he is just a boy. I am Mother. And he is Father.

And the Nihilist Toddler is still wielding the Sharpie. I take a deep breath and remove myself from this minute that threatens to consume me with anger, anxiety, and frustration. I remember the baby she was, and think about the woman I hope she will become and in doing so, I regain my calm. I am the guide on this Ride Of Life and I remind her that I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. That means HER. That means NO JUICE. The sharpie falls. This time the battle was easy. But I remind myself that there will be more. Many, many more. probably withing the next hour. But I remind myself that I am doing very important work. I am helping shape A PERSON. WOW. Heavy stuff when you really stop and think about it. But, who has time for that? The baby's crying, the doorbell just rang and the Toddler is now in your makeup and looking like Joel Gray in Cabaret.

Take a breath. Soak it in. These days are gone faster than seemingly possible. Step outside the chaos and remember that. One day she will call me from college, we will talk, we will be friends, and I will remember the baby, the diabolical Toddler, the She That She Used To Be.

Right now it's nap time. After a bathroom break, two stories, a cup of drink, and some tears, she begins in on the list of things she needs in order to avoid napping. I calmly tell her, No, No and NO all cushioned within loving sentiment. it is time for sleep. Then the screaming begins. I shut the door and within minutes she quiets down and falls asleep. Sometimes it's very difficult not to just give in. But I remind myself of our unwavering policy NOT TO NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS. They NEVER keep up their end of the bargain. Even if it's just going to sleep for a couple of hours.

And now, with all miraculously quiet, and calm for a short time, I will attempt to tackle the stack of books that have been calling my name. Them, me, and a hot cup of tea.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Good, The Bad, And The Fugly

It's been five months. Five months since I pushed a human being out of my body and called it my own once again. Well, kind of. She is attached to me in so many ways that we are still very physically connected. Because those are the shoes I've decided to settle into. Those of an attachment parent. And so far, they fit real nice. But today isn't about that. Today is about life after the baby. Just me. In my Skin. Before the mirror.

Pregnant. And a pirate.

I've borne two beautiful children. I grew them within my body and pushed them out of my body with strength I didn't know I possessed. It's an amazing thing our bodies do as women and far beyond my comprehension, but in the aftermath. In the battlefield of my body. That is where my struggle lies. The war within and without myself.

Sometimes I can see the me I used to be.

I stand in front of the mirror before my shower and look at my body. Sometimes I don't want to but I make myself. Things appear to have shifted all over. Skin is still soft but sits a little further south than before and looks wearied and puckered in that place right below my navel. My bones seem to have shifted as well. Hips are still tilted out and up. I wonder if that will ever go back to the way it was when I was nineteen. I sigh. Probably not. I can see the blue veins mapping my chest and legs, telling me I am alive. Sometimes when I stand here I don't feel like it.

This new body is hard for me to embrace. I struggle against it. I fight accepting it. I CAN change it. And so I endure endless squats, lunges, and crunches. I refuse to eat bread and sugar...well, sometimes. And yet there seem to be things I just cannot change.

I'm standing before the mirror again. Wondering why my arms are so big. They've always been so small. Well, before children. I look at my face and ponder the tired look I see in my eyes. I push and pull the skin in so many different ways trying to find the me that I feel like on the inside. The me I was just a few years ago. It's all happened so fast.

Learning to love me without the frills.

I wake up for the fourth time this week drenched in sweat. My hair is stuck to my neck and the baby is stuck to me. There is a damp spot on the sheet where I've been laying. Night sweats. Again. I step out of the shower and run a comb through my hair. It comes out in obscene amounts. I try to reassure myself by remembering that we all lose 80- 100 hairs a day. But this is much, much more.

These things are all battle scars. You might call them badges of Motherhood. They are a testament to the fact that I've given life. I've shared my body with other people. And in the course of it, I was changed forever. In so many ways.

As I look at my laughing children, I know without a doubt I would do it again. And I will probably do it again in the not too distant future. And I will be surely changed again. And in time, I hope that I can learn to accept and embrace the changes.

For now, this is who I am.