One Overly Analytical Mother's Obsessive Musings about Raising Small Children

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One of Those Days

It's one of those days. I can tell already.
It began with the usual--an early wake up call. The room was still dark, but the way the dim light was visible around the corners of the dark window shades (oh let's be honest--the dark green sheet that I had clipped over the blinds with binder clamps to darken the room and encourage the kids to sleep past dawn) told me that it was not yet 5:30 AM.
My son was the first to wake up. This time it was with a diaper that had, shall we say, exceeded its capacity. He was so loud that he woke my daughter up. Babies have the amazing ability to be sleeping one minute and sitting upright and smiling the next, which makes you wonder if they were ever really sleeping. Still, I was not fooled by her act since she was so tired that every time I'd put her down, she'd cry and reach up for me to hold or nurse her. My son hid his tiredness in a display of hyperactivity. He bounced around the house, and careened around corners with am amazing speed and vitality. This couldn't last long, I thought.
We tripped downstairs and my husband put on the coffee--he was kind enough to make a double batch since we'd need it today.
It's one of those days when you feel like it must be time for lunch and can't believe it when you look at the clock and see that it's only--ONLY--9 AM.
It's one of those days when your clingy, too-tired baby insists on taking a bite of tomato for breakfast (it's the height of tomato season and everybody has to eat their fair share of tomatoes, including one at breakfast!), only to vomit it all back up an hour later because the skin of said fruit had lodged itself in her little throat.
It's one of those days when by the time that NORMAL people must be waking up, you feel you've already done it all for the day and are ready for the day to be over.
Wish me luck today. With a toddler who has not napped since he was two unless strapped in his car seat on long, slow cruises through the neighborhood streets, I sure hope that today will be an exception.
So if you see a frazzled, discombobulated lady driving around and around the neighborhood later today, give her a wave. She might be having one of those days too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Getting Kicked Out of Barnes and Noble

I love books. When I enter a library or bookstore, I feel completely at ease. My blood pressure drops, my worries retreat, and a sense of possibility overcomes me. (I could read about teenage vampires! I could knit that funky hat! I could learn to roast a chicken!) Curling up with a good book is my idea of a good time, which is why it was particularly painful when my children and I got kicked out of Barnes and Noble bookstore yesterday.

It was a horrendously hot day and some indoor activity seemed appropriate. So we headed over to the mall to run around. I know--malls are disgusting to me too, but I was desperate. On our way back to the car, I thought: why don't we just pop in to the B&N (it's attached to the mall) to browse for a bit? So what if it was almost lunch time and the kiddos were probably hungry? There was a small cafe inside the bookstore that served bagels and chocolate milk that we could stop by if needed.

There's a book that my three year-old son has been asking for for the past year. It's one of those Klutz books--a spiral bound book that comes with a plastic pouch of teeny-tiny cars. Inside the book, there are activities and mazes that you can do with the cars. That is, activities you can do before you a.) lose the cars or b.) your infant or your cat accidentally swallows them. I refuse to buy this for him, and each time he throws a bit of a tantrum.

On this particular day, he ran to the Thomas the Train table in the children's book section and started playing. The baby grabbed some stuffed animal with the intent on slobbering all over it. So far so good, I thought. But then the boy remembered the forbidden book, located it, and presented it to me with the expectation that I would buy it for him. All toddler fury broke out when I, as usual, refused to buy the book. He started screaming so loud that everyone in earshot stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I hate to have attention drawn to me, and I felt like my evacuate-now button had just been pushed. It was when he started kicking and biting me that I thought: I have got to get out of here now. I was wearing the baby in one of those backback things, and had a stroller with me for the boy. I attempted to put him in the stroller but he fought so hard that I couldn't squeeze him in there. As he was screaming and biting, I worked hard to maintain an outward appearance of calmness. To outward appearances, I was a mother who was unfazed; I calmly explained that I would not buy the book because it clearly said it was for an eight year-old, and that when he turned eight, he could ask for that book. Maybe I even said something about Santa Claus. On the inside I was a furious, seething wreck; I was angry that my son was making such a scene, and wondered if this was the "mother's curse" that was finally haunting me for the all the pain that I supposedly inflicted on my own parents as a child.

It became apparent that the stroller was a no go. I was wearing the baby, so at least I had my hands free. I picked up the screaming, kicking, and biting toddler and somehow pushed the stroller towards the door as fast as I could. It was at that moment that a snooty, pinched faced lady approached me and asked if I could leave the bookstore since my child was disturbing the peace. As if she couldn't tell that I was trying to exit the building as fast as I could, and that carrying two children (a total weight of almost 60 pounds!) while pushing a stroller and trying to maneuver it all through the door was a bit challenging. The baby, who up until now had been calm and quiet, figured out that if her brother was screaming, she needed to also. Pinched face just stood there looking down at me and did not try to help me open the door so that I could push the stroller and the now two screaming children out of the bookstore and into the vestibule. I wanted to say something mean to her but was too busy sweating and getting bitten to think of anything.

Once in the vestibule, my son wriggled out of my arms and started hitting me and flinging himself around frantically. I remember thinking: so that's where they came up with the idea for the Tazmanian Devil on Looney Toons. I really don't know what happened next, but I lost my balance and fell down, which made the baby cry even more. Somehow the stroller fell over too, and with it my purse, which (of course) tipped over, spilling everything out onto the floor. I just laid there on the floor for a minute thinking: it can't get any more ridiculous than this!

Just then an angel of a woman came out of the bookstore and said something like: "you look like you could use some help!" I resisted the urge to say something ironic, and meekly accepted her offer of help. She uprighted my stroller while I took care of the purse, and insisted on pushing my stroller to my car, which was parked around the corner from the bookstore. All the while, I carried the two children, who were both still crying and carrying on. As I walked back to the car, I swore to myself that I would never, ever, have any more kids, and contemplated entering a nunnery that very evening. In the very least, some serious birth control. Maybe I would broach the topic of a vasectomy with my husband.

It was an impossible feat getting the boy strapped into the car seat, because he was still screaming at me. He tried to bite and squeeze my hands as I as fastened the straps of his car seat. But finally the deed was done and I retreated to holiest of mommy sanctuaries--the driver's seat.

What amazed me was the speed at which he turned off the crying-biting-and-squeezing switch and started on something completely different. My mobile rang at that moment, and he wanted to talk with his daddy, who was on the line. With a tear-stained face, he smiled as he listened to his daddy telling him all about the fire trucks and UPS delivery vans that he had seen that day at work. For him, it was all over in a few minutes. He had forgotten and forgiven whatever had happened. However, it took me the rest of the day to recover my lost bearings. The next day I would wake up and discover bruises on my arms and legs.

Needless to say, I don't think that I'll be going back to that bookstore for a long while....maybe until my son is eight! After speaking with my mother, she said, "Oh, stuff like that happens all the time with little ones!" It does? How come I've never witnessed scenes like this before, with other people's children? Have I just turned a blind eye like pinched face, my nemesis? In the meantime, this mommy is going to be getting a thicker skin and is pledging to help all the other mommies in distress out there.

Have you ever been kicked out or asked to leave a place on account of your children?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shopping with Small Children: A Comedy of Errors

A friend is getting married on Saturday and I just realized that I have nothing to wear. Well, that's not true. Actually I have lots of things but they are not suitable for nursing a baby, who I'm bringing to the wedding (a fact about which I'm becoming increasingly anxious). I have lots of dresses but if I were to nurse, I'd basically have to disrobe in order to nurse. My husband suggests I just go to the car to nurse, but I really hate this idea. Why are nursing mothers always expected to hide in a dirty bathroom or car, to miss all the fun and feel like a recluse? This brings me to the topic of shopping with kids. I jaunted over to my local mall today with the intention of running in and out very quickly. Of course I had the two young kids, but I was desperate. There was just one store I'd stop by and I'd park in a place where I wouldn't have to walk by any toy or candy store en route to it. So far so good.

I made a quick pass around the store, scanning for dresses that might be suitable for nursing. At this point, I wasn't even looking at what the dress looked like, its colors, or if I even liked it. Was it suitable for nursing? Not a single one did the trick. So I did another pass for skirts and tops. What the heck--if I found a nice ensemble, I might be able to pull it off as wedding attire. It was at this time that I noticed my toddler boy doing the "potty dance." He was crossing his legs, grabbing his crotch, and hopping up and down, all at the same time. I asked him if he had to pee, and of course his answer was "no." It was then that I noticed that he didn't have to pee because he already had: he had wet himself. We hightailed it out of the dress shop for the nearest bathroom, where he used the toilet, and I pulled out the spare outfit I had stashed in my diaper bag. We all couldn't fit in the bathroom stall, so we just did the changeroo out in the open while others went about their business (Thank God he's still young enough to be uninhibited about his body!)

With new, dry clothes on, we returned to the dress shop. The baby was starting to get fussy so I just grabbed a skirt and top and tried to flag down a salesperson to open a fitting room for me. Once in the fitting room, I nursed the baby, and then put her down to walk around and get her wiggles out. I gave the toddler a gummy fruit snack, which kept him busy for all of sixty seconds. After ten minutes in the room, I finally got the chance to try on my clothes. The skirt fit great but it was wool (why didn't I realize that when I picked it up?), which wouldn't do for a summer wedding. The top didn't even match. It was a no go.

All told, we spent an hour and a half at the mall and I tried on one skirt and one top. One emergency trip to the bathroom, one outfit soaked through with urine, and several snacks down the line, we emerged happy but without the much-needed wedding outfit.

Better luck another day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

For a long time now I’ve wanted to write something, anything, about my journey through this strange thing that is motherhood. I began to keep a journal and then thought, “what the heck,” and decided to start a blog. I’m still anxious about sharing personal information over the internet (the viral nature of blogs and facebook is both compelling scary at the same time) so am just trying this out. At the end of each day, I’m so tired that it’s tempting to just call it an early night and go to sleep because before you know it, tomorrow will be here, and I’ll have to do it all again. (Or, more likely, many nighttime wakings with a still-nursing baby will pass, and then, blurry eyed and before you know it, tomorrow will be here.) Yet increasingly I feel compelled to write—it feels like an absolute necessity—so here goes. I’ve been postponing writing this out of some strange assumption that my first post needed to be something of an overview—who I am, where I come from, and why I need to write about mothering. But the energy, perspective, and time to write such a post never happened, so I’ll just begin, like so many things, in the middle; instantly interruptible.

Sometimes I feel like my day is full of starts and interruptions, and that I rarely get to actually finish and accomplish anything. Why is it that mothering, despite all the time and energy, frequently lacks a sense of accomplishment? I begin the day by starting to drink a cup of coffee but that much-needed cup of caffeine rarely gets finished before it goes cold; I begin getting dressed before having to run after a toddler who is running around the house with a sharp screwdriver (where did he get that?!) and settle with half an outfit and no makeup or hair done; I start to check email but can read but not write back to messages. I recently got a gently used piano and am enthusiastically trying to get my skills back but can only play a few measures worth of Clair de Lune until tiny hands join mine on the keyboard, and run up and down the keys. The ensuing scene resembles Sesame Street's Animal on the drums but on the piano. Several years ago, I was finishing writing my dissertation when my first was just born. I thought that writing a dissertation and caring for a newborn would be a snap but I soon learned that the two are not easily compatible and that, in the long run, if a mother is to write, read, or create something, it will have to be on her own time, in the margins of her day. The problem is that when mothering duties are done, mothers are likely exhausted to the point where any creative or intellectual activity becomes difficult. Anyone with young children can attest to that fact.

I’m calling this blog “Instantly Interruptible” because I feel such a resonance with Tillie Olsen’s quote. I sympathize with her desire to create something, and her frustration at having to balance the very urgent needs of young children with the longings of the soul for creativity, thought, and…some peace and quiet. To that end, I often end my day by curling up with a good book. Ah….after hours of pots and pans (and yes, pianos) banging, and children engaging in screaming competitions, introversion looks pretty darn good! I am an avid reader—I need to read in order to put myself back together, to calm myself, and nurture some much needed stillness. In this blog, I hope to share thoughts of mothering, writing, and reading with you. Like my life right now, it will probably be a bit unstructured, maybe a bit erratic in its schedule, but it will be from the heart, urgent, and, like mothering, a labor of love.

I would be honored if you would join me.