What a milestone!

The day started bright and early. My oldest daughter had just lost her first tooth, and tiptoed into my bedroom to share her note and dollar from the Tooth Fairy. Thankfully, we had only discovered her tooth was loose 18 hours before it fell out, and hadn’t had too long to obsess over the situation. From the moment Izzy announced her tooth was loose and discovered her gums were bleeding, we received a minute by minute commentary on the condition of her mouth. If we’d been playing a drinking game around the word “tooth”, I would have been in the hospital having my stomach pumped after about an hour.

We had the luxury of dawdling this morning, as my first music class didn’t begin until after ten. I was thrilled about this; we had plenty of time to snuggle and bask in the post-fairy visit without hurrying to get ready and eat breakfast. Almost two whole hours of morning preparation! It was a Friday morning, which meant no summer camp for Izzy, and both girls were to go to the childcare room at the recreation center while I taught two classes. I had every intention of leaving with enough time to drive around before class and let the baby have a half hour nap in the car, but you know what they say about intentions and the road to hell. Though my timing was perfect and I removed all possible distractions from Sophie’s reach, she still found a way to thwart naptime and played with the drawstring on her pants while I drove around fuming. It became obvious I would have to make one of those “mommy choices”: allow the baby to sleep for 20-30 minutes and rush frantically into the rec center or cut the nap short and have a more relaxed transition into the childcare room. I deal with these choices every day: eat breakfast or sleep ten extra minutes; unload the dishwasher or leave on time; style Izzy’s hair or feed the baby breakfast; I continue to be flustered every single time. This time my husband saved the day, as he tends to do. He met us in the parking lot to help ease us into the building and deliver the girls to the childcare room. It seems to be less painful for the baby for him to drop her off than having to watch me walk away from her.

Sophie loves music class!

As we walked inside, I searched for our beloved childcare worker, the most maternal, nurturing, ray-of-sunshine of a human being I know. As an adult, I would still enjoy curling up on her lap after a hard day. Sadly, our *Mary was nowhere in sight. Instead we were assaulted by the sight of *Pamela, a younger, much louder employee that my infant seems to think is the spawn of Satan. Upon glimpsing her, Sophie promptly burst into tears. I turned to my husband. “I can’t do it. ” I said. Fortunately, I teach early childhood music classes and do not work at a law firm, so the fact that my two children were present at my place of employment was not a huge crisis. It did however, make me feel extremely anxious and digestively unwell. On a positive note, I discovered that my shirt was inside out *prior* to beginning my classes. (This is not made up.) While my 9 month old was a delight, my almost 6 year old flitted in and out of my classroom, disrupting me, whining, and at one point sobbing as she had slammed her finger in the door on an unsanctioned trip to the restroom. Exuding what I hoped was maternal serenity, I knelt down each time and addressed her calmly and authoritatively. We survived the class. During our return trip to the restroom, I recklessly set the baby on the floor, so that I could pee with (slightly) more dignity. She of course immediately bashed her head on the stall door and erupted into sobs, eliciting  a round of tutting from the elderly woman next to us. Back in my classroom, I fretted over the large red bump on Sophie’s forehead, while Izzy casually inserted a drum mallet into her underwear. I had been successful in using an awesome Love and Logic-y voice all morning, but this was too much. “Are you crazy? What on earth are you doing?” I exploded at her. (For those of you who attend my classes, said mallet was promptly and thoroughly sanitized following this incident.) I was immediately ashamed of my shaming her, which if you have issues with guilt and shame, is rather impressive.

It’s really best when they’re sleeping

The fifteen minutes the baby napped on the way home was enough to obliterate our sleeping routine for the afternoon. She was wired for the next hour and a half, and then I decided it was time to try to nurse her to sleep, feeling desperate for some “everybody leave me the hell alone” time. After nursing sleepily for ten minutes, the baby began to make her newest sound, resembling a crackle that I can best express as “khzhhhh, khzkhhh”. She followed this up with some growling and then proceeded to pucker her lips and blow raspberries directly onto my skin, breastmilk dribbling down her chin. Twenty minutes later, she was nearly asleep, humming/babbling while nursing, a practice I find simultaneously entertaining and aggravating. Left to my own consciousness, I realized I felt exhausted and irritable. I mentally reviewed my day: woke up tired, childcare a failure, two undesirable naps, finger pinch, head bump, hygiene disaster…that was about all I could come up with.

This guy gets it.

I remember when my husband went back to work after a blissful month of paternity leave. When he returned home each day (and sometimes over the phone midday when I couldn’t wait), I felt an overwhelming urge to share with him the minutiae of my day at home with the baby. How long each nap was, how many diapers she’d filled (and what variety of contents), how Sophie’s baby acne and cradle cap were progressing…embarrassingly tedious stuff, folks. To his credit, he did not act bored or annoyed by my attention to details; I’m sure he realized that these were the moments that mattered in my day. I’m afraid my mother and I share this trait of cataloging; perhaps it is a  need to find order and meaning embedded in the trials of our lives. Or maybe we just need to know that these things we are doing to tend our flock matter to someone, anyone besides just ourselves. Surely our efforts are meaningful and count for something? Still, I felt self-conscious and all too aware of how mundane my daily routine had become. When the baby was around 3 months old, we attended a dinner with family and friends at a trendy restaurant downtown. As I sat distractedly nursing my baby under an awkward cover, I listened to my childless friends discussing politics and their burgeoning careers. I felt my cheeks flush, realizing I had nothing to contribute to the conversation and feeling very much out of place. My life was consumed by breastfeeding, sleep routines, kindergarten, and….well, I guess that’s it. My husband spent the car ride home soothing my discomfort, reminding me with ferocious love and protectiveness how important my life was, and how perfect my priorities were. And of course he was right.

As I sat in bed with my finally sleeping baby some months later, I was reminded of this feeling of embarrassment pertaining to the “crises” of my day. I also ruefully reflected on the phrase, “Some people have real problems.” My children are healthy. My husband and I are both employed. We have loving friends and family and a wonderful place to live. (Insert other grateful disclaimers here) It is clear to me that my “problems” are merely annoyances surfacing during a particularly tedious day of parenting. I believe the word I am groping for here is “ennui”, the definition being: ” a state of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement”.

When our children are born, our world begins to spin on a new axis

Perhaps dissatisfaction is too harsh a word to illustrate my feelings about my life as a mommy, but I think my point is well made. While delighting in the brilliant and adorable things both of my girls do on  a daily basis, there are a fair amount of eye-rolling, hair-pulling, profanity-suppressing (or not) moments in  my life. I think all parents can relate to this experience. Some days are just too dull, frustrating, and uninspiring for words.My life feels very small to me these days, out of necessity, and it is an experience that makes me feel grateful, joyful, and at times, apologetic.  It is of course all part of the parenting package: a shiny, breathtaking, priceless treasure wrapped in ratty, soggy newspaper that probably has been smeared with poo.

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