On holidays in Russia, the government ‘seeds the clouds’ to get a storm to pass or dissipate clouds because Putin likes clear skies for a parade. I don’t know if it works, or even if it really happens, but if it does I’d like the recipe for cloud seeding. It often seems like there’s a cloud following me around drizzling on me. Or a flock of pigeons pooping all over me. Or a cartoon character dropping anvils.
Motherhood is a slog, and you shouldn’t trifle with Murphy’s Law, cause that Murphy is a bitch.
We made plans to go to a big event where kids can climb on and play with real trucks, construction equipment, emergency vehicles, etc. aptly named Touch-A-Truck. My oldest son is fanatical about anything with wheels or track, so it seemed perfect. Daddy told him we were going to a surprise, and he was very excited. We arrive and Mommy tells Daddy to go the wrong direction several times in a row, and while Daddy doesn’t throw Mommy out of the car, Mommy knows she has been fired as navigator from the waves of stress rolling off his body. We park and unload the Zamboni, our enormous double stroller, which is so large it must be partially disassembled when stowed in the trunk of an SUV, and install Archie on his side while Jackson prefers to walk for now. It’s just as well, because my diaper bag is so full of supplies it threatens to flip the Zamboni, so the bag takes Jackson’s seat to keep things rolling. By “I want to walk” Jackson actually means “I want Daddy to carry me”, so we head to the attractions at a stumbling pace.
As we come around a corner and Jackson starts to see the big trucks and cranes and cement mixers in action he gets excited and we know this was a good plan. Parenting self-five. As we get closer and realize thousands of young children have been given free reign over steering-wheel horns AND teeth-shattering pull-horns on enormous commercial vehicles, we are all suddenly less enthusiastic. Oh man. Jackson puts on a brave face and manages to patiently wait in line to climb into several vehicles including a big sleeper-Mack truck which he thought was the bee’s knees. Archie is barely hanging on to his scowl as I snap hurried pictures of this magical moment in my older son’s life. And then Archie starts to whimper so I take the Zamboni and hurry towards the off-road construction equipment, because why would they need horns? You can’t drive them on a road! Archie starts to settle a little, and then HOOOONK HONK HONK HONK HOOOONK there is another truck cab hidden among the silent giants and a toddler is actually hanging from the pull-horn. Poor Archie loses his cool and I can feel the bones of my scull vibrating against each other as we set off at a clumsy jog towards the highway, which seems like a library in comparison.
About this time, Jackson is losing his patience with the honking. Just when he’s had enough, he walks in front of a big truck and the brat inside honks the horn. The lip sticks out, the tears spill over, and the hands reach up for Daddy. Suddenly they are also headed towards the highway at a clumsy jog. I took about 50 pictures and Jackson *was* having a wonderful time, so I don’t think it was a total bust. But when we suggested we get lunch at the food trucks near the horns, Jackson said “no more wowd trucks” and we decided to call it a day. Giving our sensitive boy the choice of what to eat for lunch, he declared pizza his firm and only selection. We Google pizza and arrive at a tiny red house offering brick oven pizza. I suggest Robby run inside to see if the Zamboni will fit or if we should drag the car seat in instead, and he returns shaking his head. “There are tablecloths in there.” A clear sign my children will stick out/cause major damages. So we head to another pizza place we are familiar with (long picnic tables and plastic cups FTW) but not before Jackson gets emotional thinking we are denying him pizza as we drive from one pizza place to the next. Archie has finally stopped crying after the horn-trauma, but he needs a meal or the wheels will come off this cute carnival ride.
We arrive at our second pizza joint, unload, find a table, Robby orders pizza and heads to the bathroom. It’s cool, I’ve got everything under control. I’m spoon-feeding Archie in his car seat (he doesn’t sit well enough for a highchair…or at all) and Jackson is drinking his mememnade (lemonade), until suddenly he manages to go from a sitting position to falling on the floor, bumping his head on the bench on the way down. He is crying and I must have jumped because I am splattered in pureed baby food as I scoop him up and kiss his booboos. He is mostly unharmed, but needs Daddy, because Daddy is temporarily unavailable, and that’s how Jackson rolls. I realize I have looked away from my baby perched precariously on top of a table in a car seat, and try to pull myself together. The rest of lunch is fun and adorable as Jackson dances around to the band that appears as if from nowhere. Jackson eats 5 pieces of a 12 inch pizza, though no crust.
We head home, where I attempt to put the remaining piece of Jack’s pizza in the fridge until he howls that he needs the pizza right now. He eats the sixth and final piece. Whoa. We transition into nap-mode, except no one naps. We still don’t know what happened. Jackson should have been exhausted from the sun and the noise and the crying and the full belly, but alas he is not tired and after several attempts to convince him otherwise, his parents are too tired to fight him. Archie is an unreliable napper, so his refusal to rest is a surprise to no one. We rest and relax all afternoon and listen to Jackson talk about the Mack truck and the garbage truck and cement mixer he liked at Touch-a-Truck. We are all recovered, but still too tired to cook (OK, just me) so I suggest my favorite Middle Eastern place and take orders, hoping for a few minutes of alone time in the car while I pick up dinner. Jackson sees my shoes and declares that he is coming and begins to cry when we try and dissuade him. So he wins, and we head to the restaurant together. He is mostly adorable while we wait for our order, playing with the two trucks he brought with him (natch), flirting with a woman my age, running laps around the restaurant, trying to break into the soda fridge and run into the kitchen, etc.
At home Jackson has decided he isn’t that hungry (not a surprise after the dinner-plate sized pizza he snarfed at lunch) and runs around the house instead of eating. Fine. So. Tired. Then he decides to hit Mommy because she is feeding Archie and that’s just so annoying. Time-out. Then he hits Archie. Time-out. As Daddy takes him to the time-out chair this time, though, one of them (not pointing fingers) hooks the nice lamp on the end table, damaging the lamp but mostly just shattering the light bulb. OK, everybody freeze while Mommy sweeps. And then vacuums, because OCD and bare feet! And I’ll just keep vacuuming because the house needs it. Jackson has served his time-out and is loitering suspiciously by the couch, and I vacuum over to him to discover him attempting to pick the stitching out of our leather couch with his fork. What?! How does he even know to do that?? I yell unintelligible things, because I don’t have a set response like “we don’t hit” for this bizarre behavior. I manage to pull the stitches mostly back to normal, and the bedtime routine commences. Bath for Archie, nursing, sleep. Wrestle Jackson into pajamas, brush teeth, play cars, read 9 books, sing 6 songs and 4 extra verses of You Are My Sunshine, kiss, kiss, good-night, come out to request socks, kiss, good-night, come out to request a different blanket, kiss, good-night, come out to request whichever parent wasn’t there for the blanket thing, kiss, good-night, sleep. Clean up rice mysteriously sprinkled all over the floor despite his refusal to eat more than two bites. PTFO.
And that was Saturday.
I know that when I think back on May 7th, 2016 I will think about the joy on Jackson’s face when Daddy lifted him into the giant truck cab and showed him where the driver sleeps in the back. I’ll think about my little boy sitting in the cab of an excavator with a big grin on his face, fiddling with the gears. I’ll think about Archer smiling and laughing on the table at the pizza place, and Jackson talking to him in the back seat about the vehicles they saw. I’ll see Jackson’s little legs wiggling to the music at lunch, and his arms around me when he needed some comfort.
I don’t know what it is about having children, or what it does to your brain, but you end up with selective amnesia. I am positive this is how we end up with more children. I am absolutely terrible at being pregnant, and yet I willingly signed up for another round. I just naturally block out the difficult things when enough time has passed. Or maybe I don’t block them out, but they are overshadowed by the magical things, like giving my sons new experiences and feeling their unconditional, earnest love wash over me. I know it’s annoying when parents say “you’ll understand when you have kids”, but I honestly can’t explain the things I feel for my children, and as a result, my husband. We are different people now. Better people. Having babies didn’t fix us, because we didn’t even know we needed fixing. But something about being responsible for two young children has made me want to work on myself and really LIVE.
Anxiety runs in my family, and mine manifests in several ways. The most common is with cleanliness. It’s a common misconception that people with OCD like to clean. I don’t like to clean, I like things to BE clean. Mostly, as I move through my house, I’m mentally tallying the things that are wrong or broken or dirty or smudged or misplaced and stressing out rather than having the time and organization and expertise to properly fix them. When you have a fear of heights, go to the top of a tall building. Fear of needles? Give blood regularly. Fear of mess? Have children. While I still stress about the mess, I’m learning to let some things go. My children gave me that.
I have girl-anxiety, like my hair is wrong, or maybe it’s too dark, or I shouldn’t wear shorts, or I have dark circles under my eyes, blah blah blah. Things like that would overwhelm me and I would just cancel plans or not bother to make any in the first place.Now, my first priority is an experience for my son, and I need to be comfortable because I might have to carry him, and I’ll need to be able to do the mom-squat to wipe faces and kiss booboos, and I’ll probably need to be able to get at my boobs if Archie needs to eat. That’s it. I don’t want to look like a crazy swamp-creature, but I have fewer f*cks to give, which is an unbelievable relief. And you know what? The shorts looked fine. My kids gave me that.
I have Crohn’s, which can mean unexpected problems, pains, bathroom trips, stress, medications, sick days, and so much more. Sometimes I can’t leave the house because the logistics are overwhelming. But sometimes I do it anyway. If something happens, it happens. If something doesn’t happen, I’ve survived another day.
My kids have given me the courage to be more ME than I’ve ever been in my life. There is this myth that getting married and having kids somehow deletes your personality and replaces it with bland Momness. Well, maybe my personality was always Wife and Mom, and marrying Robby and having my babies opened me up to being myself. Too much anxiety kept me from enjoying myself, and now that I have other priorities I can fully live. I am not a selfie queen with Kardashian hair and professionally groomed eyebrows. I am a woman who squats in public to wipe noses and look into scared blue eyes to reassure them I will always be there when they need me, and sometimes when they don’t need me and I’m just being nosey. I like coffee, writing, reading, and cooking shows, and I don’t have time for whatever is left. But now that I don’t have time to do whatever I want, I’m more aware of what I would love to do if I had the time. I am using my powers of anxiety for good, to worry about my children and their health, development, feelings, challenges, and I have fewer synapses left to consider what other people think about my clothes, hair, parenting style, and insistence that rubber flipflops are always the correct footwear choice.
I haven’t even touched on the chest-cracking love that comes with each child you harbor in your womb, and how loving these precious miracles that my husband gave to me makes me love him in an entirely new way, too. It sounds trite, but you just can’t understand until it happens to you.
Motherhood is a slog, but it’s like climbing Everest. There are basecamps all along the way that give you a sense of accomplishment and joy and things sometimes level off for a while and the pigeons find somewhere else to rain poop down on society. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes I’m tired, sometimes my anxiety for my children is too much to bear and I feel like I’ll crack, but mostly I wonder at the tiny people I’ve helped create and take unending joy in each smile and laugh.
So while motherhood isn’t for everyone, if you think it might be for you, have babies. So many babies. Your love for your children is infinite and you are stronger than you know. Your children will give that to you.