From Band Practice to Being Vulnerable

I’ve been trying to change my mindset. Please don’t call it a New Year’s Resolution. Instead, I like to think about it as a long-overdue change in my perspectacle prescription. I’ve made the choice to soothingly bathe my brain in gratitude-filled love juice instead of pickling it in ire and self-pity. I haven’t been doing too well.

Tonight, Z left for band practice at 4:30 p.m. He expressed what a monster rehearsal it was going to be; likely a 7 hour fingerprint-shredding, song-hammering, beer-drinking, socializing grind. Ok, maybe he didn’t mention the beer-drinking and socializing part, but that’s all my abandoned mind latched on to. “Let’s just say I don’t feel sorry for you,” I thought snarkily but conveyed softly. When he leaves for band practice all I think of is how I’m “left alone” to take care of my own kids. God forbid. But I also think about how band practice signifies that he has a life away from the boys, a very important thing to have. He has band practice and I have friends who live multiple zip codes away. He has to practice his base guitar at night and I have to switch the laundry over and wipe down the dining room table from Ike’s dinner-turned-food-finger-painting-project. He has bandmates to kick a few back with and I have a cup of tea at night as “something to do.” I am leaving quite a bit of the big picture on the cutting room floor, but my big picture also feels very small sometimes, when I allow it to.
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Parenthood is such a time and mind warp. In the heat of trying to get a 1-year old strapped into his car seat, it feels like a 10-minute battle (which it actually could be). But in what feels like a few months that same child is climbing into the car on his own and going maverick by unbuckling himself as he sees fit. It may feel like a huge deal to not let a 13-month old watch any tv, but when child 2 comes around he’s hanging out while his 3-year old brother watches his second (ok, I’m lying, probably his third) movie of the day because mom and dad have no idea what to do with him on a single-digit degree weekend. Time doesn’t move the way you’re accustomed when you have kids. And your mind can have a funny way of warping around the smallest details or, worringly, glazing over something that may become a big deal down the road.
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The thing is, working too hard at being a parent almost feels like the wrong thing to do. Raising kids is crazy hard work, but when I feel like I’m working too hard to raise “good” kids I feel my temperature rise, my patience shorten, and my sensitivity to guilt become uncomfortably high. When I try to feel my way throught it, when I use my instincts over my brain, that is when things feel more natural. Things aren’t necessarily any easier and the battles don’t always lessen, but the guilt goes down and I can maintain my patience more when I don’t feel like I’m fighting against a 3-year old. Because, let’s face it, then can win. They may be tiny, adorable warriors but they know how to fight.

So I’m going to try to use my instincts to replay Zach leaving tonight: I still feel that jealous sense of abandonment, but I am also seriously happy that Z gets to do what he loves best – play music. I want to hold it over his head that I’ll be spending all night alone with the boys on a Saturday night, but I also know that that is just a mean thing to do and the beginnings of an internal and marital fight that I don’t have a need for. As much as I try to feel out my parenting, I need to try to do the same with my wifering spousering being with other people, including those over 3-feet tall and who can run the DVD player on their own. I’ve been reading about vulnerability and how, according to Brené Brown, it is a sign of strength and not weakness. It seems like if we really care about someone, we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable to them. If we can’t open our hearts and hurts to them, then who can we truly lay ourselves out for? I often feel that my beating, bleeding heart is laid out for Connor when he does something that hurts or disappoints me. It isn’t up to our children to mend us, but we owe it to them to see what being vulnerable is and how real and human it is to be open and exposed. It’s an emotion that should be shown in times of great happiness and those of sadness, too. Vulnerability is easier with kids than adults because kids haven’t felt the shame that comes along when one adult bears themselves to another. Guilt is something that we often put upon ourselves and struggle with daily if not from moment to moment, but we have the power to not shame others. We put enough on ourselves, why try to throw another chip onto someone else’s shoulder? They may feel like they’re carrying the weight of the world without your help.

How to Raise an Ivy-League Child

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Ikey will be hitting the big 0-1 this month. As an extremely successful parent of two young children almost both over 1, I’d like to share with you my secrets to child-rearing the Ivy-league set:

1. It’s ok to not like your kids sometimes. I mean, really not like them. They smack you in the face at night, act like gobs of jello when you try to dress them, and spit mouthfuls of water out around the house in “secret” spots. Some people refer to them as drunken little people, but I’ll come right out and say it: they can be real assholes sometimes.

2. It’s ok to love your kids for the exact things about them that drive you crazy: They climb into your bed at night only to repeatedly kick you in the back, but you get those few minutes of warm, soft, kiddo cheek to snuggle with before the next barrage of roundhouse kicks comes along. They repeat everything you say, good or bad, but damn is it cute no matter how inappropriate. They make you late for work because they dawdle and delay, but it’s because they’re doing important kid stuff like playing with dinosaurs or hiding from Cheeseburger spiders. They live in a land of creativity and pretend that kids should get to revel in.

3. It’s ok to cry along with your child once in a while: I’ve had a few explosions that have left both Connor and I in tears. Some moments he needs to cry it out on his own. Other times, it has been better for both of us to cry in each other’s arms. Kids don’t fight with words like adults do, they fight with wide open, heart-beating emotion.

4. It’s ok to give your kid food off of the floor: I’m not talking about giving Ike a Cheerio found on the bathroom floor of the women’s room in Wal-Mart or giving Connor a saucy meatball coated in dog fur. I’m talking about non-fur coated dry goods like an untouched yogurt puff that might have hit the floor at the Corner Cafe. Hey, baby food is expensive. PLUS, half the stuff Ike puts in his mouth is germ-coated anyway. The kid crawls around with used (or as Z calls it, “strange”) socks in his mouth for godssake. We’re building the next generation of super immumans (super immune humans. I just made that up, my creativity is that good) people, gotta start ’em young.

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5. Get mad, but know what you’re getting mad at: It probably isn’t worth getting mad when your kid leaves their toys in the middle of the hallway, but the reality is that we get mad not at the toys but at being overwhelmed, exhausted, and not respected. Your kids aren’t purposely overwhelming you, though, and they’re not usually purposely disrespecting. Now, if your 7-year old thinks throwing a hot iron at the back of his sister’s head is a good idea, well, then, rage on, mama, rage on.

6. The choices about how you raise your child are yours, own them: I used to get self-conscious about using the cry-it-out method until I realized how well it worked for my boys. It might not work well for someone else’s kids, though. I used to feel guilty about sitting Connor in front of a movie and Ike in the middle of the play room while I did something without little eyes watching, little hands grabbing, or little voices hassling me. Now I know I’ve earned those minutes and the few extra I get thanks to YouTube. You’re not a bad parent for trying to maintain your sanity even if it is with the aide of smartphones, inorganic food, and non-developmentally aimed toys.

This list comes with no guarantees and is not all-encompassing. I hate when lists guarantee things and pretend to be all-encompassing. The only guarantee is that you are now a parent and that it is awesome at times and horrid at times and while love is a lot of it, work is the name of the game. Love is work, beautiful, glorious, exhausting work.

Hello, Tomorrow

I’ve been looking at a lot pictures of myself when Connor was 6-months old. If I wasn’t already, shortly after he hit that age I was jogging every day and feeling good and surprisingly well-rested.  Around that time my sisters, Mom, and I went on the trip of a lifetime to Rome and Florence and life was light, promising, and bright. I no longer felt like a rookie mom, Connor was in the loving and capable hands of Z and my father-in-law, and I had weaned Connor off of breastfeeding just before leaving. I’m all for breastfeeding, but I was happy to retire the nipple pads, breast pump, and be traveling without anyone or anything attached to my boobs.

Eleven months into Ike’s entry into the world I feel exhausted, aged, lumpy, but no less optimistic. I haven’t run in months but try to suck my gut in when I’m not slouching in front of a computer or over a notebook. I look forward to weekly trips down the road to the houses of different family members,  but with two kids in tow and a lifetime’s worth of school in front of me any trips overseas would be solely credited to Santa or a miraculous lottery win. The sleep I get is often punctuated with kicks to the back, face smooshes, and is short-lived thanks to a short kid, that 6-month old who is now a full-fledged 3-year old. God save us.

Still, I often wonder what life will be like when Ike is Connor’s age, when there will be two pairs of little feet wrestling in our bed, kicking our backs in tandem. I think about what it will be like to have two boys running around together, talking to each other about dinosaurs, eating the parts of a sandwich that the other won’t touch. I try to quell Connor’s overly rough housing with Ike with promises that in just a year or so his little brother will be up and running around with him, better able to handle the head knocks, face squishes (Connor has a face-touching fetish), and pokes that he doles out. He doesn’t realize that I’m also soothing myself. I don’t imagine the exhaustion going away in my visions of the future, but that’s never a concern because they excite me. The love is there, the joy is there, and a never-ending pot of coffee is there.

Life today was a little rougher. Connor’s face squishes were done exceptionally hard with suspiciously sticky hands and his “Spiderman jumps” involved my unknowing stomach a few too many times. I was running around in the afternoon, trying to squeeze in a quick hair cut but worried that I wouldn’t make it to Jean’s house by 5:00. Ike was happy to see me but clingy in his witching hour, crawling and whining after me around every corner. I was filled with guilt, frustration, and happiness within an hour and a half of getting home. But now today is coming to a close. I will be forever grateful for new days, clean slates, and a few child-free hours of sleep. I will also be forever grateful for those hours with Connor in our bed snuggling, and yes, even face squishing, before the sun comes up and we all roll out of bed one by one. Another day soon I’ll be grateful for both boys in our bed in the morning. I’m trying to let go of the day’s guilt although it inevitably follows me into the morning. Sometimes we have off days. Sometimes we all have off days at the same time. Sometimes we all just need to surrender and try again tomorrow. Hello, tomorrow.

A Quick Bit About Bad Days

I always feel guilty when I pick the boys up from Jean’s and she mentions that Ike’s been a bit grumpy, as if I have any control over his temperment whie I’m at work or school. Although she’s a seasoned veteran, I somehow feel like I should teach my boys well enough at home to be nice, low-volume, easy maintenance kids from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., after which they just let everything ride. She mentions Ike’s fussiness very matter-of-factly, with no irritation or annoyance, which the punchy side of me appreciates.

After I received intel of Ike’s grumpiness today, I brought both boys home and dealt with it first-hand: He wanted to be held, fed, rocked, and swayed. He needed everything that required both of my hands and all of my attention, and even then he wouldnt let me put him down. With a 3-year old nearby gathering jealousy like an unmoving stone gathering moss and Z in class, Ike’s neediness was, at the least, difficult. I was getting a smeedge annoyed with him. But with him now in bed, I give my annoyance the space it deserves but also see its selfishness.

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Ike on a good day

There are plenty of days when I feel grumpy, when I just want to be cozied up, eating bon bons (do they even make those things anymore?) and pulled pork sammiches while the tv entertains my overtaxed/overtired brain. Ike has similar days (or he will once he learns what puuled prok sammies are all about, my little beefcake), but the fact that his fussy days usually coincide with or cause mine is exteremly inconvenient. We try our best to soothe our savage beasts, but as I’ve learned with many child-related issues, surrender is key. Rock, cradle, sing, and comfort that baby, but if he doesn’t let you put him down, surrender. Hold, swing, and love him some more. And on days you just can’t, when your arms are tired, your older kid just.won’t.stop., when you’re just DONE, surrender.The kids will be fine. I’ll tell Connor I’m putting myself in a time out just for a minute of peace and to see the confused look on his face. Still working on helping Ike understand what that means. So, babies of the world, let’s make a pact: You promise to only have grumpy days when Mom isn’t having one of her own. Also, you may only have them when Mom isn’t sick. ‘Kay? Thanks.

The Kids Are Fine

It’s no secret that Connor has been sneaking into our bed at night. We will be sleeping blissfully only to have a pair of little feet jabbing into one of our backs like he’s running fast down a dirt path. Or he will suddenly flop perpendicular across us, forming a human H that pushes the boundaries of our mattress. Or he will suddenly gurgle a repeating round of words; I think this morning it was something about Lightning McQueen or dinosaurs or jello – something that he really digs these days. It’s exhausting and frustrating and some days downright infuriating. Yet, the thought of him not doing those things scares me. I put off his first haircut for as long as I could because that initial trim turned him into a little boy. Not having him show up in our bed feels akin to that. A milestone. A frightening, saddening, bridge moving us further away from the oneness of pregnancy to the unknown of independent independence. In the morning he’s so sweet and soft. In the morning I haven’t lost my patience. I haven’t had to tell him for the tenth time to stop shoving his brother’s head into the floor, stop slowly pushing into Ike like a bulldozer waiting for his head to thonk on the floor, or to stop goddamn running away from me when I just need to put on his sock.

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I like our mornings together because there is so little time that is just for Connor and I without me feeling pulled in several different directions. I love the mornings where I can slip my arm out from under his head and putter around the kitchen in complete silence. The minutes that I have to myself in the house are few. But I also adore those mornings when he pops out of bed the moment I sit up, enthusiastically hopping into my arms after I ask him if he wants to help make coffee. If we’ve both gotten decent sleep, those mornings usually carry on into good days. And even though I may not have time to play “Dinosaurs and the King” with him, his world doesn’t fall apart. We like each other on those mornings.

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On more rare mornings after I fixed Ike’s bottles and the coffee is percolating, if everyone is still asleep but I hear Ike stirring, I’ll gently slide his door open and spend a few quiet, Lenny-filled moments with him. These moments truly feel like stolen ones. I lay on the floor and let him crawl on me like a puppy, drooling in my face like the same. Poor Ike, my forgotten child, the one left to raise himself while Z and I try to keep up with Connor. To this day, Connor sits in our laps while we read him story after story. Ike wants to be raised differently. He rather be sung to, danced with, thrown in the air and demon dropped to the ground. Any attempts to read him a bedtime story wind up with him face-planting into the window because he inevitably crawls out of our laps and tries to get behind the curtains. He isn’t Connor, and as much as I love that kid I’m thankful for Ike’s Ike-ness. He has no idea what a favor he’s done for all of us by trying to stop all comparisons with his brother from the get-go.

It sometimes feels like a love affair – spending time with Connor feels like cheating on Ike, spending time with Ike can feel like cheating on Connor. I feel that phase fading, though. We can spend time all together after work doing things that all of us can participate in, even if it is putting the boys in a laundry basket and pulling them around the house. Ike can be part of that. Connor can be part of that. The aching muscles in my back and arms are definitely a part of that. We can be exhausted and grumpy and tired and joyous all together, even if Z and I are more of some of those things after the boys go to bed. I’m not sure what I’m getting at. Maybe just that it’s all ok. The exhaustion and the frustration, the “I have no idea what I’m doing,” the “I’m a horrible parent,” the kids sleeping in our bed, the “let’s skip the shower tonight” days,they all end up ok. The kids will be fine. The kids are fine. We’re doing good.

Tell Me A Story

I’ve tried at least 12 times to write a new post over the past weeks, but I start and get stuck. Prose-worthy thoughts pass through my mind in fleeting moments throughout the day, but when I sit down to write to you those thoughts continue to fleet like butterflies, and I can only catch them with glances – a wing here, a leg there – and so I close the computer for another day with nothing said to you. So here I am trying again, lucky try number 13. Let’s see if I get far enough for you to even read these first sentences.

I’ve been obsessed with this Humans of New York thing. Have you seen it? It will pop up in my Facebook feed during the day and I am captivated by the stories coming from people sharing the same streets as us (not that I’m in NY, but you know). I often wonder about peoples’ stories. We all walk around with ours draped over our shoulders or tugging at our feet. We have little encounters with so many people throughout the day but we aren’t often aware of at what point in their story we are crossing them. Yet we may judge them harshly or give them no heed at all when they may just need a break or someone to show them some small kindness. We may be meeting someone on the worst day of their life; could you imagine what holding the door open or buying that person a cup of coffee could mean to them?

Years and years ago, back in the decade of my twenties, Z and I were having a hard time. I remember telling him that these pains were just a part of our story, the tome that we would share between us and maybe tell no one but that we would own more than anything else in the world. And so we keep on in that vein. Work may be hard, parenting may be (IS) hard, being nice may be hard, but the accumulation of our decisions and actions fill the pages of our story. It feels good to own something so completely and know that I am in complete charge of it. Plus, I don’t even have to bathe or water it. Score!

I think of our story in the context of Connor and Ike and compare it to my parents when they were my age. First off, so strange to think of my parents being my age, of them struggling with child-rearing when they are such care-free candy-handing grandparents. But they were there. I have the story of them that I always carry with me, and here we are writing our own tale for Connor and Ike to put in their kid pockets along with rocks, dirt, and a few acorn caps. I like to pretend that I’ll always feel like I’m in my prime, because I’m feeling it now even with crummy work scenarios, low bank balances, or six hours of sleep. I vow to do my best to never let anyone take the pen away from me.

Feed Me

The older I get, the more I’m becoming like Connor. For example, I feel that I have begun to adopt his frustrating, unpredictable mood swings. Couples often prepare themselves for the wild mama-to-be hormone pony ride of pregnancy, but we needed to prepared ourselves for me as a mom. It’s different for everyone, but having kids running around, whining, and talking back to me outside the womb ruffles my feathers more than a few of months of sore hips and forced waddling. And we’re talking about a lot of whining and talking back – a pile comparable to Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout‘s legendary trash heap. At times it seems productive to marvel, sign loudly, and hang my head at its height. Sometimes I just want to throw my fists into that damned junk pile, sending “But Moms!” and “Nos!” flying while adding a few of my own choice words and phrases on top. Usually a bit of both happens. Some days one happens more than the other and I usually end up feeling bad regardless of the ratio.

Some days I wake up driven to be a fit, healthy mother with sinewy arms because carrying a baby and a toddler around – sometimes simultaneously – is a workout. I visualize my day with avocado slices, fresh fruit, some yoga, and however many gallons of water Jennifer Aniston says I should drink. When it materializes, my day is a tired jumble of hot and cold coffee, hot and cold toast, kid corralling, and a near-midnight bowl of ice cream (oh lord, I hope I’m not turning into a Cathy comic strip, because I really could never stand her). To remove any part of my day is like taking the critical Jenga piece out of an already precarious structure.

Being “good” seems to be so much work because at this point I’m just holding on for dear life. I may like to do things the hard way, but I’m not trying to kill myself. So I surrender to the afternoon cup of cold coffee, the late-night bowl of ice cream, and the call of the couch. On those days, when I give into what my life is really like, I find peace.

 

So what if “fresh fruit” only finds its way into my mouth when it’s on a bowl of ice cream drizzled in chocolate? So what if “vegetables” are something I insist on feeding the boys but that I only eat when there are absolutely no chips left in the cupboard? Is it really so bad that I never go to bed before midnight and always watch tv just before hitting the hay (you can keep the Yeses to yourself on that one)? Because I’m not changing my life. As exhausting and frustrating as the days may be, they are always filled with moments of heart-wrenching beauty and expressions of love. Sometimes the most I can squeeze out of a day are a few minutes in the morning before I realize we are running late when I catch Connor nuzzling with Ike in his room. And that’s enough. I dine on those moments like a feast, fill in the gaps with caffeine, and I’m full.

Give Me A Moment

I made a realization a few weeks ago about guilt and how I wield it like a sword to rip jagged, rough holes in people, mainly Z and my sweet, Cheeseburger-obsessed ‘Rado. I don’t do this consciously; it’s a cowardly defense mechanism functioning only against those I love and feel most comfortable around, lucky them. Being the non-confrontational, timid tidbit that I am, guilt allows me to exert some kind of power over a situation or a person without feeling like an outright jerk about it. Z, being the tough, resilient guy that he is, probably hasn’t noticed this or if he has hasn’t thought it was that bad (when I make Tell-Tale Heart-like confessions to him he never thinks it’s that bad, bless him). Connor, well, this may be something that he’ll have to discuss with his therapist one day.

I’m not going to let this issue go gentle into that good night, though, I’ve decided to just knock it off already. I berate myself no matter how hard I try to keep the guilt off my own shoulders. I mentally flagellate myself for being inconsistent with Connor, for not spending enough time with Ike, and for not cleaning the 3-week old mail off the kitchen table. Thing is, I don’t have to skewer my boys because I feel overwhelmed. It’s in these exact moments that I’m finding it best to give instead of take; to give myself a moment to pause – a split-second to think before I say something snarky or snap off a quick answer in an annoyed tone – when Connor calls my name for the eleventh time in a row, when Z asks me a question that I know I answered a minute ago, or when Connor calls my name for the eleventh time in a row. That pause has saved my life these past few weeks. Life with two boys is so void of pauses that the only way to get a quick moment to think instead of react is to give that moment, that breath, to myself. So here I am, practicing what I’m preaching, thinking before I’m speaking, and finding that I can diffuse the bomb before she snaps at the dog barking while she’s feeding Ike and telling Connor for the third time to stop climbing on her back. Giving myself these moments throughout the day has helped diffuse many bombs lit in the pit of my belly or smoldering in my mind.

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Giving into a moment doesn’t mean giving up on it. There are battles that need to be fought every day (we will best you, potty training!). But there are also those that don’t. Maybe it’s the pacifist in me, but it seems like many of the battles fought throughout the day aren’t even worth the time and frustration. I take pride in small victories won – I can survived on small victories, glints of our hard work showing promise, and a coffee table kept uncluttered for more than 12 hours. I’ve let Connor watch more TV than I used to, and we may have increased our days of stopping on the fast-food strip downtown lately, but we still go outside to hunt for bugs, look for bunnies, and go for walks. Pride is called a sin, but it can be one hell of a motivator. I take pride in realizing what I need in the midst of everyone else’s needs. I just need a moment.

Go To Bed

I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep lately. Between late night visits from a toddler who insists on coming to my bedside at least two times a night, a baby dealing with the frustrations of allergies, school, and housework, my normal bedtime has become 1:00 a.m. when the boys are approaching the completion of a sleep cycle and I’ve hit the point where I consider just staying up all night because Connor will be waking me up in an hour or two anyway.

I used to have time to consider what kind of mother I wanted to be. These days, I barely have time to consider breakfast or the dog fur-covered rug that could use a serious vacuuming. My images of being a fit, happy, bouncy mother have been thrown out with Connor’s half-eaten granola bar and swept down the drain with the remnants of Ike’s last bottle. Instead, my day is full of carbo loading, coffee, and late night veggie straw binges. My midsection feels bloated, carrying around the weight that usually rests itself on my shoulders. I’m not unhappy, but I haven’t had time to truly assess my current state in weeks. All I know is that things are off kilter and I bulldoze throuh the day like a marble careening through an old wooden game of Labrynth, sometimes falling in the holes but mostly just just knocking into walls and barely making it around corners. I’ve been able to keep my patience in check for the most part, but it may just be exhaustion disguised as calm parenting.

As I prepare for a weekend away from the boys, I feel torn. I groan about how tired I am and how unhuman being a mother has made me feel these days. But given the chance to be a “regular” human being, an adult away from parenting, I get anxious. Will Ike and Connor be nice to their interim caretakers? Ike just learned how to roll over today; will my parents and sister have to deal with him waking in the middle of the night crying, stuck rolled over onto his soft little frog belly? Will his allergies act up while we’re gone, making him fussy? If I really get down to it, will they think he’s a bad baby and me, in turn, a bad mother? I guess that’s what it all comes down to – will Ike’s baby-ness, be it happy and giggly or fussy and whiny, reflect on how I care for him? God, that’s such a ridiculous question. As Z tries to remind me, he’s a baby. Babies do baby things. Those things can be adorable and heart warming or frustrating and worrisome. Furthermore, will Connor sleep well (that’s a relative term these days) without Z or I in a nearby bed? Will he be waking everyone up crying for us? Hopefully, without us as nighttime distractions, he will sleep soundly after a day of playing and trying to keep up with The Crazies. However, in my absence I can only imagine the worst.

So let me take a breath. This weekend is supposed to be fun and freeing. Am I worried about how interesting I may be around a crowd of individuals, none of whom I’ve ever had to read bedtime stories to? Yup. There, I said it. I’ll just sum up what I could mire myself – and probably several paragraphs – in self-loathing about: Am I an interesting adult since having two kids without talking about kid stuff? I feel like I should wax poetic about that topic and the plight of similarly neurotic mothers like me. But it’s almost by bed time and I have a grown-ups kinda weekend to prepare for. I need all my strength to keep up with the big kids, just like my ‘Rado does.

The Sphinxes

Naptime and bedtime have become some of the most anxiety-ridden times of my day. I try to go through each boy’s sleepytime routine slowly, the tension and stress of those minutes apparent only to me, the uncertainty of what will happen when I close their doors lending a slight edge to my storytelling voice. After laying Ike in his crib I quickly and quietly rush out of his room as if the door to the hallway is the door of a train swiftly pulling away from the station. His bedroom is across a narrow hallway from Connor’s, both of them flanking the door leading to our garage. After they’ve been put to bed, their rooms are akin to the Sphinxes of the Great Riddle Gate in The Neverending Story; one never knows if they will open their eyes when attempting to pass between them. Even approaching their bedroom doors strikes fear into my heart. In my mind their hearing abilities rival that of owls, sensing my feet compressing the carpet fibers in the hallway as I walk by. I ran the dishwasher, allowed the dog to bark, and had music playing when both boys were napping newborns, but these day moments not tending to either of them are so rare that I barely feel comfortable clinking dishes around in the sink at the end of the hallway as they slumber.
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I’m writing this as Connor snoozes and Ike maintains a questionable napping status. Z is out of the house and I am tiptoeing across the floors, hoping to steal at least a few more minutes before Ike decides he’s had enough of his non-existent nap. Maybe if the neighbors didn’t insist on shutting their car doors so carelessly everyone in this house would be at peace. But probably not.
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I think a lot these days of this decision I was lucky enough to make – the decision to have two kids. The thing that gets me about the whole thing is how much we – parents, people, human beings – can really handle. Before Connor, we couldn’t fathom what it would be like to have a baby. Once life with ‘Rado became life as usual, it seemed impossible to imagine life with a newbie. Then Ike came along and while there are still kinks to work out in our family of four, we are handling it as gracefully as we know. Now we not only have two kids, but both Z and I are working, going to school, and being kickass. Thankfully the last part comes completely naturally so it’s not so much work as it is justbeing us. Heh.

This comes on the flanks of a week where I gave Ike two baths (that’s right, two of ’em) by myself and took both boys to the store unassisted. This was a big week for me. But when it comes to getting used to having two kids I feel like the best method is to walk right into the dragon’s lair even if someone is forcing you, kicking and screaming, into it; take those kids to the store alone, try to do the laundry and dishes and make dinner with one tyke in his playroom and the other hopefully occupied on his play mat, and don’t let the fire keep you from moving forward. Sometimes that person forcing you has to be yourself. Seasoned parents may laugh at these little triumphs, but I like to celebrate any triumphs at all because even little ones are significant. And these days, there is little differentiating between the little and big wins.