Motherhood: the Sisterhood

I've had a whirlwind month. Sitting in the quiet this evening and reflecting on the past few months, it struck me.  I currently have the deepest and most meaningful friendships with women that I have ever had in my life.

 Being a mother has made me a part of a sisterhood that runs deeper than I could have ever imagined. They come from different backgrounds. We have found each other through different avenues. We have different aged kids. We are parenting alone or in partnerships. We are parenting our biological children, our adopted children, our step children, the children that life has brought us, but we are all mothers. There is a rhythm to the conversations I have with my sisters, an easy back and forth. Sometimes we are solving problems, sharing answers. Sometimes we are just hearing each other, hearing the joy or the pain or the rage, just loving each other and saying, with our love, you are enough. Your presences, and your flaws and your mistakes, and your love are enough. Advice about carseats, bags of hand-me-down maternity clothes, a shoulder to cry on,  a name to put on the emergency contact line of school paperwork, a cup of coffee at the park on the day you needed it most, these women shape my day-to-day life in a way I never expected.

Thank you is insufficient, but for now it will have to do. 

A Glimpse of Peace

Every now and then, I get these glimpses of peace.

It used to only happen when they were both asleep. At night, after they had both nodded off, I would breathe in the silence of the house, content that they were both right where they belonged, safe and dreaming.

Then, it started happening when one of them was sleeping, or at school, or with a grandparent. O would become engrossed with some made-up play that didn't require my narration, or P would climb into my lap, content to silently twirl a piece of my hair around her tiny finger. 

But now, and only very recently, it is happening when they are both awake. The moments are fleeting and mercurial. The slightest noise or distraction can upset them. But with increasing frequency, there is peace in my house. Sometimes, they find a way to play together. Sometimes, they are playing separately, side by side, but lost to each other in a world of imagination. Once, I even discovered O using a picture book to tell P a story, but a heated debate about who should turn the page quickly ended that and resulted in a torn book, pulled hair, and hurt feelings. 

Glimpses of peace. I'll take it. 

Perfection: The Enemy of Action

O: I crumbled it up because it was no good.  It was broken because I made a mistake.

O has been trying to write her name. At first, she sat happily at the table scrawling her O followed by other various squiggles, lines, and shapes. Unprompted, she asked me to write the letters out on a piece of paper so that she could practice the letters that aren't O. Within minutes, she had crumpled up the paper, frustrated that her letters weren't straight and even, like mine, angry that her V looked like a mountain and not an upside down mountain, mad that she had to struggle through imperfect before she could have perfection. As I sat there with her, explaining hard work, struggle, and the beauty that lies in imperfection, I felt like a hypocrite. 

IMG_6800.JPG

I have been stalled. My computer is filled with half-written blog posts and titles. It is not the first time I have given up on something when I figured out I couldn't do it perfectly. It is kind of my MO. Better to give up and quit then to try and fail.  But there is nothing that puts your own behavior in more stark relief than seeing your own bad habits acted out by your children.  

So, I am recommitting myself to hard work. I will write even when it feels like a struggle. I will also, and this is the hard one for me, look for that beauty that hides in the cracks of imperfection, and when I find it, I'll be sure to share. 

 

 

My Disney Dilemma

O: Mom, when can we go to the snow and build a snowman and be Elsa.  Today? Can we go today?

I have a unique relationship with the Disney princesses.  Not only did I come of age during the rebirth of the of Disney princess movie musical, I played that Little Mermaid audio tape so often in my walkman the tape actually wore through, but I also, well, this is tricky, I also worked at a major Southern California theme-park portraying beloved characters who may or may not have been royalty.  They made me sign stuff.  I'm still scared.  

Proof.  In case you needed it. 

Proof.  In case you needed it. 

And now, I have daughters.  I have two smart, independent, strong daughters and want nothing more than for them to know that they will never need to wait around for a prince to come, or for true love's kiss, or to be part of his world. I want them to know that there is more to them than a ball gown or a tiara, that their worth in the world is not measured by how adorably they pout or how lovable some man finds them to be.  I want them to have goals they chase, not wishes they wait for. 

It is hard.  I have some warm, nostalgic memories, even of the stuff I now see as negative, the stuff I hope my kids don't feel they need to take on.  It is too easy a response, to say, "Well, I grew up with it, and I'm fine."  I'm not even sure that is true.  I spent a good chunk of my late teens and early 20's unlearning a lot of what that Little Mermaid cassette taught me.  

But, I do remember so fondly seeing Beauty and Beast in the theatre.  It was one of the only movies my little sister and I ever agreed on.  We were both entranced, by the music, by the story, by the romance, and we rarely agree, to this day, on anything.  I do remember working in the park and seeing so clearly the love and awe on countless little faces as they lifted up their autograph books, reached out for hugs, or lifted up their sun dresses to show me that I was, in fact, on their underwear, to the intense embarrassment of their parents.  

And now, as a parent, I see all of the stuff, the heavily-marketed merchandise, that fills the toy chests and rooms of little girls I know and love.  I see the agressively-branded costumes, the big-eyed dolls, the cheap plastic knick-knacks. I see the way these types of toys limit play, especially for little girls, defining so early the roles that they are permitted to hold.  The tiny lucite high-heels are a particular sore spot, so completely non-functional, destined to result in a twisted ankle, reminiscent of the clear plastic shoes I imagine a stripper would wear. They seem to be the first thing both of my girls are drawn to, as if to punish me for my participation in the Big Mouse Machine, where, by the way, all of the princesses wore sensible character shoes which may not have been suitable for running, but were, at least, suitable for dancing. 

I want to believe that I was involved at a simpler time, when there wasn't so much stuff, when the culture of the princess was not quiet so damaging, but that isn't true.  In fact, if anything, the more recent female Disney role-models are stronger and more independent than the princesses of my youth.  Plus, at least, the conversations are being had.  At least, the questions are being asked.  

I am conflicted.  I want them to be in the world.  I want them to be able to engage with their peers about popular culture.  I want them to be able to take joy in the positive things about Disney, no matter how short or long I might believe that list of positives to be.  

I don't have an answer, just a dilemma.  O has seen Cinderella.  She has seen Tangled.  We had an aborted attempt at watching Brother Bear, whose warm, familial title is misleading.  (Spoiler Alert: EVERYONE DIES.) I held off until mid-April, but they have both seen Frozen, and now, at the end of April, O can sing and recite every line and Jim is pretty certain he heard P singing a twenty-months-old rendition of Let It Go.  

The infamous Elsa braid.

The infamous Elsa braid.

I have not taken them, or allowed them to be taken to Disneyland yet.  My memories of the park are of a loud, crowded place, full of people who spent a lot of money to have a good time, their anxiety hovering a little too close to the surface, causing them, at times,  to lose touch with their own humanity.  I am overwhelmed at the mere mention of a visit to Disneyland. I can only imagine what it might look like to someone who stands barely three feet off the ground, someone who is struck dumb by the magic of magnets, someone who still goes to bed at 7:30pm, someone who gets overwhelmed at a family party where she only knows half of the people.  It still seems too big and too bright for their tiny eyes.  

I know countless families who love all things Disney, who embrace the costumes, the park, and the films with a wild abandon.  I see the joy that it brings to them and to their children and I have nothing but respect for them and their choice, but I still cringe anytime O asserts that she is a princess.  P would probably just encourage me, in song, to let it go. After all, how do you hold back a cultural avalanche. I suppose, we will continue to take it one movie, one tiny lucite high-heel, one magical Disney moment at a time.

Humming Birds and Trumpet Vines

P: AAhhh egg canto black plaaa.  

O: She said she is going to find a spot where the flowers will grow, because that is the spot that will make them happy. 

We are too sick to go to school, but too well to stay home, and the weather has been beautiful, so we ventured out to the nursery.  There is a small family-owned nursery that has been around for generations, just a few blocks from us.  

this is our smelling flowers face

this is our smelling flowers face

While wandering the rows O spotted a humming bird's nest.  She admonished me not to disturb the mama while I took her picture, but was perfectly delighted when I offered to scoop her up so she could get a closer look.  

Is it spring yet? It sure feels like it.

Is it spring yet? It sure feels like it.

We found a climbing trumpet vine, with pink flowers.  It looks healthy enough and the man assured us that it would thrive in our very shallow, full-sun, flower box outside our front window. 

Behold, the conquering hero

Behold, the conquering hero

Every morning, on waking, O rushes to the front window to update us on the vine's progress. So far, we have gotten a new flower every day, well worth the twelve dollars and fifty cents, especially if you include the fresh air, the humming bird's nest, and the sense of accomplishment. 

They have the most beautiful orchids.  I have yet to bring an orchid home.  I tend to kill plants, not with neglect, but with an abundance of love, a good metaphor for my parenting (I'm working on it). Perhaps, next time, I'll bring an orchid home to practice mindful neglect. 

Roses and Thorns

O: Roses and thorns. I go first. My rose was when you left me at school, and my thorn was when you picked me up. 

We have been up at 4:45am almost every morning. The laundry is piling up. The house is mess. O has been sick all week. P is teething.  Jim has been insanely busy at work. I am trying to catch up on everything I put on hold to open a show. Even the unflappable brown dog seems to be a little out of sorts. 

And...

Oh, my god, you guys, my dress is purple and ruffly at the same time!?!?

Oh, my god, you guys, my dress is purple and ruffly at the same time!?!?

this happened today.

So, roses and thorns.  But mostly roses.  

The Fatigue Factor

O: Will you just stay and rub and jostle me for a few more hours? Just a few more hours and that's it. 

When you first have a baby, everyone asks how you are sleeping.  Is he or she making it through the night? How often are you getting up for feedings?  No one talks about how nearly four years later, you still might be sleeping in two to three hour stretches. How, unless you live in Bruce Wayne's manor house, tiny human #1 is inevitably waking up tinier human #2 and visa versa, like some never-ending ouroboros, consuming its own tail.  

god, they are lucky they are cute

god, they are lucky they are cute

We are so exhausted, we regularly have text conversations like the one below, usually while one of us is patting a tiny tushy.  WARNING: the text below contains content that is not rated for some viewers.  It not only uses foul language, but it also makes a passing reference to the act that got us into this mess.  Scroll at your own risk.  

please note the time stamp   

please note the time stamp

 

Nobody talks about what happens to your brain somewhere around year three, how you forget things, basic things, like how old you are (I've added an extra year to my age for nearly all of the last calendar year), how you will count five hours where you don't get out of bed as a "good night," how even when everything else is really pretty wonderful, it can start to feel like nothing is working.  

I'm here to tell you, the fatigue factor is a real thing.  It is hard. It is unreasonable. It can feel untenable. Starting your day on two and a half hours of sleep and ending it lying in bed filled with anxiety about when the next wake-up will be, is not a recipe for a good night. 

Someday, we will sleep until we feel like getting up. Someday, we will be dragging their cranky teenaged butts out of bed to do something enriching, whether they like it or not. Someday, we will be well rested.  Today is not that day.  To all of the other sleep-deprived parents out there, I salute you.  Keep your chin up, your pillow fluffed, and your back to the door, because maybe, this time, they'll go back to sleep on their own.  Maybe. 

Little Sister

O: Mom, when is she going to be able to do stuff?

K: Someday.

Somehow, over the past few weeks, that someday is upon us.  Tiny P isn't so tiny anymore.  She sings, tells jokes, and dances.  She has a real thing for shoes, hers and everyone else's.  She would eat a hand of bananas a day if you let her.  She wants to walk everywhere, except when she doesn't, and then she wants to be carried like a monkey, snuggled high on my hip with an arm hooked around my neck.  She exerts her will, loudly, with a noise canceling pitch that Jim and I both find remarkable.  She runs after O everywhere she goes, flapping her arms and tweeting like a baby bird. Look out O, P can do stuff.