Saturday the boys and I were at a cousin’s house for a family party. There were many kids, enough that they formed a sort of gang. The gang galloped through the groups of adults, knocking over drinks and bewildering the old people. Ok, mostly Raphael knocked over the drinks. He was sort of the shining apex of their juvenile destructiveness. Still.
At one point all of them swarmed into the basement. After a few minutes Max came racing upstairs, his face shining with utter joy.
“Tre needs you to come downstairs RIGHT NOW.” To make sure I didn’t miss his point, he took me by the arm and leaned hard toward the basement. I followed obligingly, to find a huddle of kids peering under a chair. I knelt down and there was Tre, his hands cupped around a tiny little toad. He looked up at me, grinning like he’d discovered diamonds in the basement.
“It’s a TOAD, Mama,” he explained, “And there’s a TON of them down here.” On my left another little toad hopped away, and Raphael took off after it. I chased him down, begging him not to step on the toad. He didn’t, and soon Uncle Dennis came downstairs with a bucket. All the children proceeded to collect all the toads they could find, and for the rest of the party they played with them. They would pick them up and hand them to random adults, hoping against hope that the toad would pee on them. Which, I might add, they often did. These seemed to be well hydrated toads.
Before long Tre and Max cornered me with the good news that Aunt Bonnie told them they could TAKE SOME TOADS HOME with them. They grinned and shook their heads, unable to believe the good news. I took sweet Bonnie by the arm and hissed in her ear, “You know, I can’t quite find the words to thank you. But I WILL. OH YES, I WILL.”
Well, we came home with five toads. One of them didn’t make it through the night, but we now have four happy toads living in our family room. The boys are thrilled. Our neighbor across the street kindly gave me a leftover can of CANNED CRICKETS to feed the toads, but warned me that her daughter’s toad didn’t like the canned kind. Oh yes, they prefer the live kind, they do.
Well, our toads also ignored the canned crickets, although I can’t imagine why. I mean, I’m sitting here, looking at the can, and it says RIGHT THERE that the crickets have “Natural Juices Locked in the Can!” Isn’t that just what you want in a canned cricket? Fortunately, the can also warns, “Not for Human Consumption,” so I was able to refrain from sprinkling them over the salad for extra protein.
But since the toads wanted nothing to do with the canned crickets (Product of Indonesia, I kid you not), Dad took Max and Raphael to the pet store to purchase some LIVE crickets. They got ten tiny ones and two fairly good sized ones. I thought Raphael was going to keep the big ones as pets, but he wanted to feed them to the toads too.
Heck if those toads didn’t eat EVERY SINGLE CRICKET. And quickly too. We missed the entire meal. But the next day I found all three boys racing for the toad aquarium with a great deal of excitement. It seems Max had caught a fly in his bug house, and they were going to feed it to the toads.
They released the fly in with the toads and we all stood around, holding our breaths. The fly would buzz down within inches of a toad’s nose, then dart away at the last minute. Finally it flew just a shade too close, and a toad leaped up and snapped it right out of the air.
We all cheered.
Toads, it turns out, are very exciting pets.
Saturday the boys and I were at a cousin’s house for a family party. There were many kids, enough that they formed a sort of gang. The gang galloped through the groups of adults, knocking over drinks and bewildering the old people. Ok, mostly Raphael knocked over the drinks. He was sort of the shining apex of their juvenile destructiveness. Still.
After the last two posts I was startled to get a few emails and comments, referring to how lucky I am to have such a wonderful, supportive husband. Huh? I thought, HAVE? Present tense? How could they miss that I was speaking about my ex? I went back and read through the posts and realized that in every single instance I referred to him as my husband. My husband whom I loved desperately.
This is one of the hard parts about reconstructing your life after divorce. How do you explain events that were positive then if a central figure in them now is Satan? I was talking with a friend recently, and he was telling me a mutual acquaintance had asked him and his wife to send her pictures of their wedding. This woman had been an attendant in their wedding, and she had no memory of that era in her life. A few years after that wedding she and her husband had gone through a terrible divorce. “I guess the divorce was so bad she just shut away her memories of the whole marriage,” my friend said.
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe it was the difference between the marriage and the divorce.”
My ex? Yeah, he was that wonderful guy who held my hand through a scary time. His support and love ushered me through an era that reconfigured my very self.
Same guy stood in front of me, six years later, coldly announcing he was done with me. I remember fighting for air, gasping out,
“How could you do this? We had everything. How could you throw it all away?” To which he replied with distain,
“What did we have except a family?”
I try to be fair to him, and yet truthful. In my head I try to make space for both descriptions of the man, the one who held me up and the one who knocked me down. But it’s hard to keep them side by side.
So on one day, in one mood, I remember my husband.
On another day, in a more bitter mood, I’ll tell you tales about my ex.
I’m so glad he was there, and I’m also glad he’s gone. You’re right, I am very lucky.
Ok. Tre’s birth.
First of all you should know that when I was growing up my mom was a nurse in a birthing center. She’s a big believer in natural childbirth, and raised me on stories of how birth works if you let it, and how doctors will screw things up if you give them half a chance. I was indoctrinated early, so that’s how I approached birth. Some women who’ve used the drugs seem to feel that I went through natural childbirth as a judgment against them. Let me say, nuh-uh. I really don’t feel superior to any woman who’s given birth, no matter how she chose to do it. Ok, there’s that woman who killed one of her twins because she didn’t want the scar from the c-section. Between that and the fact that her babies were born with cocaine in their blood, I do feel a bit judgmental of her. But the rest of you, naaah. Do what you do; I’m on the side of mamas.
Tre was due on July 27. I really wanted my mom with me in the delivery room. I wanted my husband there too, but with my mom being a nurse and all, I wanted her there. So Mom and Dad were planning to come up from New Mexico (where they lived at the time) to Denver on the 25th.
On July 24 my mom drove into work, sat down and worked until noon, then turned her computer off and got up, announcing, “I’m going to Denver.” She drove home, collected Dad (who knew better than to argue too much), and they drove up to Denver. They got to our house at 10 that night, and we all went to bed.
Early the next morning I was dreaming I was riding a motorcycle. It was going faster and faster and as I rounded a curve I thought, “There is no way I can handle this.” It was scary and exhilarating, and as I reached the apex of that curve my water broke. I woke up, and lay there in the dark for a few minutes before I shook my husband awake. Once he comprehended what I was saying he leaped out of bed (with a startled look at the sheets) and started flying around the room. I went downstairs to tell Mom and Dad, who jumped up into action like something out of a cartoon. So with everyone thoroughly upset, I went and calmly took a shower.
Despite my water having broken, I still wasn’t having contractions. So I was calm all the way to the hospital, and through the admission process. I was calm getting in the room and when my midwife came in to suggest I walk a bit, to get things moving. All morning was calm, and into the afternoon. Finally my parents left to find lunch and my husband laid down on the couch for a nap. I sat in the bed, watching TV.
When the first contraction hit, I thought, “What the hell was that?” I’d been having tiny little contractions…nothing like that. Then another one came. This time I thought, “I bet this hurts because everyone left me. If they CARED this wouldn’t hurt.”
As it turned out the pain wasn’t their fault. By the time everyone was back and awake, I was in labor. After one particularly intense contraction I discovered that I throw up during labor. Um…a lot.
It’s hard to describe what labor is like, because I went away to labor-land. My eyes were closed most of the time and I held onto my husband’s hand and just…labored. After a while the back labor hit.
Oy. By my recollection, back labor lasted…four hundred years. I ended up kneeling on the bed, on all fours. My midwife gave me counter pressure on my back with each contraction. I kept telling her, “Harder. Push harder.” Eventually she was suspended by her elbows, digging into the small of my back. It was the only thing that gave me relief. The next day I had a huge bruise across my back, but it was worth it.
At one point the midwife checked me and murmured, “We’re close. I think this baby will be born within the hour.” When I heard this, I called my mom over. I gripped her hand and said quietly,
“I. Cannot. Do. This. For. Another. Hour.” I don’t know what I thought she could do about that, but I was panicked. I always panicked during transition, when it was time to push. She patted my shoulder and said the only thing she could think of, “You ARE doing it. You’re doing great.”
The panic passed as soon as I was allowed to push. I barely opened my eyes from when I started until he was born. I was…elsewhere. It was nothing like the movies, when they show a woman in labor screaming and hating her husband. It was hard work, intense and overwhelming, but there was also this peace that pervaded everything. The room was quiet; people spoke in hushed tones when they spoke at all. And my husband stood next to me, brushing my hair off my face and holding my hand. I hardly spoke to him, but I was very aware of him there, and of how desperately I loved him. Once he went to the bathroom, and when a contraction hit and I realized he was gone, I grabbed my mom’s hand and hissed, “Where is he?”
“He just went to pee! He’ll be right back!” Just then he came running back, still zipping his pants. Mom says she’s never seen anyone pee so fast.
Almost two hours went by, and the midwife was starting to worry that I was getting tired. She mentioned that we were going to have to think about alternatives if the baby wasn’t born soon. I didn’t like the sound of that, and I suspect it may have been just the incentive I needed to marshal my last reserves.
In those last moments of pushing, all the doubts and fears I’d worried over during this pregnancy stilled. Every portion of my mind and heart was devoted to the task at hand, and suddenly there was the best part. The bit that’s like every other birth story, and unlike any other. He slipped free and they cut his cord and handed him to me. I looked at him, at his bright red trembling lips and squinty smushed face. All the details that had been swarming in my head, giving me anxiety attacks about how they’d all be forced into place, everything just fell into position. It all made sense.
I could see.
This was why I was born, to be a mother to this child.
Often pregnancy books will warn mothers-to-be that they shouldn’t worry if they don’t feel bonded with their baby immediately. I know some excellent mothers who felt almost shy around their newborns for a while, before that feeling dawned in them. But for me it was as complete and instantaneous as stepping through a door. On that side I was one person and on this side I was Tre’s mother. All those months I’d wept over my fate just fell away, and I looked on his face with a gratitude I’d never even imagined. Not only was I not scared to take on this job of motherhood, I was overjoyed. And I knew, I KNEW I could do it.
After a while they took Tre to the nursery to measure and thoroughly irritate him. I was sent to go pee, and a nurse helped me out of bed. She took my elbow and said, “Do you want me to help you into the bathroom?” I laughed and shook my arm free of her grip. “Are you KIDDING ME? Did you SEE WHAT I JUST DID? I can do ANYTHING.”
And off I went, hobbling with utmost confidence into my new life.
Tre’s birthday is Sunday. Nine. Nine on Sunday. Remind me to change that on my “about me” page, ok?
Anyhow, being as how it’s his birth week, I’ve been thinking back a lot to when he was born. Well, actually, to before he was born.
When I got married, people were raising their eyebrows and murmuring their suspicions. After all, we were only engaged for something like two months. We married one year to the DAY from our first kiss. It was crazy. So surely I was pregnant, right?
Well, no. I really, actually, wasn’t.
And our plan was to wait five years before we had kids.
We were married in July, and in November I started feeling…bad. Soooo tired and queasy. My head hurt. Now, I missed my period that month, but that’s not unusual for me, so I didn’t even think about it.
Finally, the morning of December 20, I had a day off from work. I slept until noon, and then woke up long enough to walk out to the couch, lie down, and sleep until 5pm. When I woke up to see the afternoon sun slanting through the mini blinds, I gave up trying to pretend. I sent my husband out for a pregnancy test. An EARLY pregnancy test, ironically enough.
Well, I went in the bathroom and peed accurately, then set the stick on the counter and walked away. My husband was pacing in the hall, watching the three minutes pass on his watch. I ignored him, and went back into the living room to sit down (I was just so TIRED). He flopped down next to me a moment later, and nudged me.
“Check it,” he said, grinning like a little boy. “Go on.” I glared at him, and then marched back to the bathroom.
Um, ok. Two lines. Looking at the box, two lines means….
Uh, wait. There are HOW many lines?
And that means….what?
Ok, just a second….
I did that for a while, then set the test down and wandered back into the hall. He was waiting, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Well? What’d it say?”
I shook my head and waved a hand back at the bathroom.
“Go look. What do you think it says?”
He bounded off and came back a moment later, stick in hand. If possible, his grin was even wider.
I burst into tears, and wanted to kick him for speaking it into reality. This was no time to have a baby. I was going to school, we were both waiting tables, and we had no insurance. We were young and stupid and didn’t even sit down to eat meals at our dining room table, preferring to slump on the couch in front of the TV. I’d just bounced the rent check the week before. We were not ready! I WAS NOT READY.
He took me in his arms and I sobbed into his chest,
“What are we going to DO?”
He held me tight and laughed. Utter joy.
“We’re gonna have a BABY!”
Through the whole pregnancy, at each obstacle we faced, he was unrelentingly positive. I was absolutely terrified. I took on the job of motherhood grimly, determined to do what was best. But I was so scared that I cried every night. He would hear me, crying in the dark in bed, and reach over and stroke my back, whispering, “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. You’ll see.”
But I couldn’t see. It seemed like the very end of the world. And he never got mad at me for being so terrified of his baby, but kept playing cheerleader. When I was seven months pregnant we went for an ultrasound. I was huge by that time, and when they laid me flat on my back it pressed on some blood vessel running up my spine. That’s a very important blood vessel, apparently. Don’t press on it, ok? I remember lying there, feeling queasier and queasier. The room started to swim, and I tried to say something, but couldn’t put the words together.
The technician looked at me and jumped.
“Sit up!” She said. I did, and it was a bad idea. I remember sitting up…then sliding under dark water. I flopped back on the table, out cold. A few minutes later, voices started seeping into the blackness, and I heard my husband say, “She’s gonna throw up.” He’d certainly seen that look on me enough to recognize it. They rolled me on my side, and he grabbed my shoulders to steady me. In return I threw up on his shoes. By the time I was done I was awake, and looked up at him, horrified.
“Hey! You got my shoes!” He grinned, “I HATE these shoes! Now I get new ones!”
I laughed, and he wiped my face with a wet cloth.
Years later he told me I’d terrified him. But then, when I was helpless, he gave me nothing but strength.
I didn’t find my own strength until Tre was born.
But that’s a story for tomorrow.
Raphael had his second set of fillings today. He arrived last week for his first set of fillings and marched in with wary obedience. He climbed up in the chair and was very calm and compliant. And it went beautifully. I was awed at the dentist’s skill. Not only did she numb him up so it obviously didn’t hurt, he never saw – or FELT – a needle. It was amazing.
But in the hours after we left the dentist’s office, Raphael took to chewing on the numb inside of his cheek. We went to the pool for swim lessons and Raphael stood in front of me beside the baby pool, his brows knit as he gnawed away at this leaden slab of flesh between his teeth.
“No, Honey,” I told him, “don’t bite your cheek! It’ll hurt later if you bite it!” He looked back at me, puzzled. Whatever he felt with his teeth couldn’t be his cheek. He had no idea what I was talking about. So he bit, and I stuck my fingers in my mouth to try and stop him. He yanked his head away from me and went on chewing. Soon the line between his lips was traced with blood, and a drop of it drooled out of the corner of his mouth and down his chin. I winced and dabbed at his mouth with a wet towel, but he was oblivious.
Until the next morning, that is. He woke up with one puffy cheek and some serious pissyness. You could tell it hurt. A lot. But it didn’t stop him from eating just about anything. He just took the pain and gave it back as attitude. There was much screaming the next two days about such high crimes as being bumped in the knee by a passing brother. Or someone singing the song HE wanted to sing, and NO HE COULD NOT SING WITH SOMEONE ELSE. It was, after all, HIS SONG. At the slightest provocation Raphael would fling himself to the floor and wail, sobbing great rivers of tears. And sometimes he’d climb into my lap, curl his body around mine, and sigh sadly. It hurt.
I took him back to the dentist and had her look at the cheek. She peered in his mouth with her little mirror and light-on-a-stick, and said it looked as though he’d bitten right through his cheek.
Right. Through. His. Cheek.
Makes my knees weak, thinking about it.
But after a few days the swelling subsided and Raphael’s sunny temperament returned. I could tell he was back to normal when he started trying to USE the cheek to extract goodies.
“But ah NEED some candy,” he’d explain patiently, and pat his face gently, “for mah cheek.”
Well, we’d barely had time to recover from the cheek gnawing incident when it was time to go back for his next two fillings, this morning.
“We’re going to the DENTIST again this morning!” I said with false cheer.
“Dat dentist hurt mah cheek.” He scowled at me.
“No, the dentist didn’t hurt your cheek, YOU hurt your cheek. Don’t chew on it when it’s numb this time.” He glared, but thought about it for a while.
When it was time for his appointment, he nodded squarely and followed the hygienist back to the chair. “Ah not gonna bite mah cheek,” he informed her.
“GOOD!” she replied. They were pretty horrified by his wound too.
Then he proceeded to climb up and go mute with anxiety. I was sitting at his feet and could see him flex his legs with fear anytime the dentist came near his mouth. His hands moved vaguely under the paper bib on his chest, longing to push her instruments away. He never said a word, but the occasional whimper escaped his resolve. I sat at his feet, wishing I could somehow justify declaring dental care evil. Max climbed in my lap and scowled at the floor, humming with his brother’s tension. Tre sat next to me, playing his GameBoy, and muttering to Raphael, “It’s almost over. It’s ok. You get toys! It’s almost over.”
And after an eternity, it was. The dentist sat back, pulled off her mask, and told him what a wonderful job he’d done. He sat up, rubbing at wet eyes, and gave me a shaky smile. Then he started to chew on his cheek.
“NO!” we all shouted, making him jump. I picked him up and explained to him again that he couldn’t feel his cheek, but if he bit it, it would hurt later. He regarded me with huge dark eyes, and I hoped he was figuring it out.
For the rest of the day I watched him closely, occasionally peering into his mouth to check for chewing. I wondered how often I will feel this helpless over my sons’ choices. How many times will they wound themselves without realizing it? It doesn’t always feel like you’re hurting yourself when you are. Already I try to tell them not to do things for reasons that make no sense to them.
Don’t glare at people when you’re feeling shy.
Don’t throw things when you’re angry.
Don’t eat for entertainment.
These warnings earn me that same puzzled look Raphael gave me when he was scissoring through his pain-dulled cheek. And the consequences only grow. Will any of them listen as the stakes get higher?
Don’t do drugs.
Don’t have sex with crazy women.
I’m a worrier, as a mom. I worry about West Nile Virus, about estrogen-mimicking plasticizers, about strangers who leer, about cancer and acne and emotional stability. But the biggest danger to my boys is probably themselves. They are all seething cauldrons of IDEAS, and a certain percentage of those ideas are bound to be bad.
I can follow them around as much as I want, nattering about the dangers, but they won’t hear me. How can you understand danger if you’ve always been safe? They’ll have to cause themselves some pain.
Raphael did seem to understand, and his cheek looks ok tonight. As I laid him down in his crib, I patted that cheek and prayed that he would always be a fast learner.
Raphael sat on my lap and had a snack just a few minutes ago, and I am now perfumed with peanut butter. His favorite snack continues to be, after many many months, peanut butter off a spoon. He hearts peanut butter.
Tre went through a peanut butter phase when he was three. For one solid year all he wanted for breakfast was a pb&j sandwich. I look back on that era with great regret now. It was so simple, so easy. But I just couldn’t relax and enjoy it. Instead of serving up his sandwich with a smile every morning, I fussed.
“Oh, how about scrambled eggs this morning?” I asked. Tre crossed his arms across his chest and shook his head. “Um…cereal? Would you like some cereal?” I was ignored. “Ok, how about PANCAKES? You love pancakes!”
“I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” he repeated slowly. Eventually I would give up and make yet another sandwich. I think I was worried that he would suffer nutritionally, not having a great variety of foods.
Ah, I should have enjoyed it. Breakfast is always a struggle for me. I cannot COMPREHEND eating in the early hours (before 10 AM), and am flummoxed by my sons’ insistence on a MEAL then.
Tre always wants something difficult.
“Hey, will you make us waffles?” I give him the look. He knows I don’t do waffles. “Ok, then how about French toast?” I hold up an empty bread bag. [Note, if you will, how very nonverbal I tend to be in the morning hours. As someone might say, put more money in the therapy fund.] “Ok, well then, will you make us pancakes?”
And usually the answer is no. No, please just eat something from a box. Cereal. Granola bars. Graham crackers. I will find something to round it out to make a meal.
Max usually wants melted cheese, which I am happy to give him. The recipe for melted cheese goes like this: Take a slice of cheese. Put it in a pan. Heat until it melts. Serve to boychild with juice and some sort of whole grain something, lest he never poop again. This is a recipe that I can get behind in the morning hours.
Raphael wants a breakfast buffet, all morning, every morning. He rummages through the fridge and carries to the table a Go-gurt, a string cheese, and the entire bottle of juice. He surveys his choices, and turns to me and requests “one white egg” to top it off. Understand, Raphael will eat no more than two point three grams of any one food. But he wants it all. A very little bit of EVERYTHING.
As they mill around the kitchen, collecting and requesting the bits of food that will eventually make a meal, I lean against a counter. I rest my chin in my hand and mutter plaintively, “Wouldn’t you guys like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
I recently read over at Chez Miscarriage about her fear of play groups. She stumbled into a play group/status coven that was horrifying EXCEPT for the chuckles it gave her many devotees on the Internet.
Anyhow, Grrl wrote that she was scared of the whole play group thing. That she wouldn’t fit in. Well, I can actually help you out there, Grrl. The trick is, like when dating, not to stick with the crazy people. Keep moving; just keep moving, until you find the group for you.
I have such a group, a collection of women that I’ve been getting together with for about seven years now. It started as the “women’s group” at church, but we’ve all since left that parish and scattered to different churches.
So now we meet at the park, or McDonald’s or someone’s home. We don’t DO anything, other than get together. But the flavor of this group, oh the flavor suits me.
We’re laid back, as a bunch. No one has intense feelings about what anyone else should be doing with their kids. On the contrary, we are fiercely protective of each other’s right to mother as each one sees fit. We’re smart-mouthed and some of us are lazy (ok, that’s me). And we have a great time. Those women – I love them.
Once a woman who did NOT fit our particular group came to a few of our meetings. Ok, it was my fault. I invited her. She was a Mary Kay consultant person, and I…well, I don’t know how it happened exactly. She kept TALKING about SKIN CARE and the fabulous new COLORS in the SPRING LINE, and I think I just blurted out, “Hey, you have a kid, right? Wanna come to my women’s group?”
I just wanted her to stop talking about skin.
Anyhow, being an evil Mary Kay person*, she heard that and immediately started tallying sales in her head. She had no idea who she was dealing with. An itinerant hip wader salesperson has more odds of success with our women’s group than a makeup salesperson. We care about many things, we do, we do.
We do not care about the colors in the new spring line.
Anyhow, she came, toting her adorable little girl. Almost two, as I remember. When she pulled her daughter…oh, let’s call her Princess, shall we?...out of the car seat and started carrying her across the parking lot, Princess started squirming to get down.
“Oh, no, Princess,” chirped Mary Kay consultant of the dark, “you can’t get down here! Remember – you don’t walk on the black part; you only walk on the white part? Right? No walking on the BLACK part, only on the WHITE part.”
By the time she’d arrived at the playground we were all watching them, wondering what the heck she was talking about. She flashed us that salesperson grin.
“I keep trying to teach her to stay on the sidewalk, and NOT go on the black top. Wow, is that a tough concept to get across.”
Oh. Ok. We sort of shrugged and murmured our hellos. It’s not that she was doing anything WRONG, it was just a bit more direction intensive parenting style than most of us used. But whatever. Fine. We can certainly get behind the idea of not having your kid squished like a bug in the street.
We moms sat down to chat while the kids ran wild on the playground. Princess took one look at the equipment, then elected to instead sit quietly at her mother’s feet. She fiddled with the hem of her (spotless) dress and just…sat. Her mother took that opportunity to pull out the antibacterial wipes and have a go at her hands. Well, you know how VERY many germs one can pick up by…looking at other children. We all politely ignored the hand washing thing, and went on chatting. The subject turned to the difference between boy children and girl children.
“When I was a little girl,” I said, “I wanted to take every animal I saw home and feed it. But my boys? If any living thing strays into our yard, they want to hunt it!” We laughed. It’s what we do. But Ms. Mary Kay furrowed her powdered brow.
“You know,” she said, “torturing small animals is an automatic psychological referral.”
Dead silence. We observed her, everyone wondering what to say next. There was no sound, save that of our psychologically unsound children playing.
Eventually the conversation started over, and we stumbled on. It didn’t take her many meetings to decide that our group was not the one for her.
And she was right. Oh so right.
*I KNOW, I know that Mary Kay consultant does NOT = evil! If you sell Mary Kay and are NOT Evil, please do not feel judged. This woman was one of those rabid sales people who works cosmetics into every conversation.
"I'm so sad, my dog died."
"Oh DEAR! What you need is this new eye cream, to get rid of your undereye bags from crying! Would your DOG have wanted you to have undereye bags?"
THAT kind of person. So don't be offended please.
I never mentioned it, but I was one of those crunchy granola breastfeeding moms. I mean, except for the crunchy granola part. We all know about the Honeycomb cereal.
Anyhow, I breastfed all three boys. Tre and Max each got one year of boob juice. I always saw the first birthday as the reasonable border of the breastfeeding era. Beyond that you get into weird “can you believe that WOMAN? With the TODDLER on her BOOB?” territory.
Well, Raphael was a very enthusiastic nurser. And when his first birthday came around, I was days away from the court date that would make my divorce final. I was preoccupied. And his reasonable breastfeeding border just blew right by me. I didn’t even think about it.
Then one day I glanced down while he was nursing and realized I had this huge whacking TODDLER attached to me. I gingerly started suggesting to him that he didn’t actually need any “deedee” (his name for it, not mine). But I think my milk must be laced with heroine or whatever addictive substance it is they put in McDonald’s fries, because he was frantic at the thought. He would climb up in my lap and pound his face into my chest, wailing in despair.
I know I hide it well, but I’m something of a sucker for my boys. I couldn’t bear to take away his deedee. Plus he was such an active toddler, it was the only calm time we had together. So I went ahead and did the whole extended nursing thing.
His second birthday passed.
He was showing no signs of losing interest.
I, on the other hand, was. The thing is, it’s not easy nursing someone that active. His head would be in my lap while his feet twisted around and tried to kick a passing brother. Women, back me up here – you don’t want your actual nipple attached to something that unpredictable. So I started working on tapering him off. And finally, when he was about two and a half, I weaned him.
Um…except he doesn’t seem to be giving up on the whole idea that he should have just a wee snack of deedee now and then. He still likes to stick his hand down my shirt and visit the girls, and every so often he flings himself down in my lap, in nursing position.
“Can ah have some deedee?” he asks, with a smile. He’s not upset when I say no, but he wouldn’t mind if I said yes either.
Today he wasn’t feeling great. On Tuesday he had his first two fillings done. The dentist was amazing. She did a great job and didn’t hurt him at all. But while his cheek was numb, he bit the heck out of it. And today it was very sore and swollen. He was grumpy about that, and had a pretty clear idea what would make him feel better. As I brushed his teeth after breakfast, he patted the front of my shirt. When I gave him the look, he smiled and shrugged, as though he couldn’t help himself.
As I lifted him into his car seat, he snaked one hand down my shirt and gave me a squeeze. I told him firmly, “No, that’s private for me.”
“No, it’s pwivate for ME!” He countered.
This afternoon he climbed on my lap and buried his face in my chest.
“Raphael…” I started.
“Ah jus’ wanna SMEW DEM!” replied quickly. I don’t know how to respond to the expectation that he should be able to smell my boobs. I really don’t.
But I’m not too worried about it. I figure as he grows he’ll mature past his boob fixation. You know, like men do.
Well, at least he’ll get over wanting to smell MINE.
We were at the pool today for swim lessons. While we wait for the person who is having his lesson, the rest of us lounge by the baby pool. Well, I lounge, the boys splash. There are always other kids and moms – even one dad. In past years I’ve mingled with the moms, chatting while we sit on the side of the pool. But I’m kind of over the shallow water, shallow friendships, and damp butt. Plus, I have all these BOOKS to read. So I’ve remained huddled in the shade with a book during lesson time this summer.
Well, today Raphael was in a bit of a mood. A bit of a mood for Raphael means he’s fairly likely to bean another child on the head with his toy dinosaur. So I hovered at the pool’s edge, keeping an eye on him.
Inevitably, I ended up chatting with another mom. She had a tiny girl with huge blue eyes clinging to her knees. I asked how old her daughter was (seventeen months), and that started the information exchange.
“How many kids do you have?”
“Wow – all boys. [Say it together now] You really have your hands full.”
She remarked on the boys’ gorgeous brown skin.
“Yeah, they get that from their dad. He’s Mexican.” I replied.
“Oh? What does he do?”
“I have no idea.” This earned me a shocked look, so I elaborated. “I haven’t seen him since the divorce.” There was a long pause.
“How…how long have you been divorced?”
“Well, it’s been final for two years now.” Her eyes cut to Raphael. I’d just told her he was three, and she was doing the math.
There was another pause, and then she raised her chin and looked at me. I could tell she was choosing her words carefully.
“You know, my husband and I had a hard time a while ago.” I nodded, wondering where this was going, exactly. “But…you don’t just give up on a marriage. You don’t walk away.” She looked at Raphael again. “Especially when there are kids involved.”
Well, I’ve met her type before. I actually got THE VERY SAME lecture at that pool, two years ago. At that time I was devastated. Today I was…unimpressed. She has no idea what my story is. I didn’t feel the need to enlighten her. I tried to come up with some response, but found none.
I walked back to my chair in the shade and returned to my book. It’s about punctuation, and more interesting than a conversation with her.
Later I was talking to some friends about it and one of them said something along the lines of, “Well, someone who starts right in on you without any information has her own issues.”
That made me think. I haven’t talked to this woman much before today, other than the nod “hi” and “sure, your kids can play with our toys.” But I’ve caught snatches of her conversation with others, and she always seems to be talking about her husband.
He’s a doctor.
He’s training to run a marathon.
He went to medical school…somewhere. I don’t remember, being as how I don’t care.
He’s trying to fix their air conditioner, because he’s interested in how things work.
All “my husband,” all the time.
I thought about that for a while, then decided that her world must revolve around her husband. He’s her identity and reason for living (ok, I may be extrapolating a bit heavily here. Give me a break. She started it.). Anyhow, I’m sure she can’t imagine life without him. I am probably her worst fear.
Ok, so I can cut her some slack. That’s a pretty scary place to be living, and I rattled her cage. I mean, who said the blasé divorcee could come to the nice community pool?
But then I told my mom about it (not being upset DOESN’T mean I don’t chew it over with EVERYONE). She was incensed on my behalf, and suggested that that woman needs a lesson. A wee stroll through reality.
So here it is, for her and everyone who thinks they couldn’t POSSIBLY ever end up divorced.
Honey. Girlfriend. I know you think you’ve got it figured out. I’ve heard you say things like, “I don’t believe in divorce. Marriage is a commitment.”
I said the same things. Love, as my mom always said, is where your feet are planted.
But no matter how committed you are, no matter how little you believe in divorce, you can’t choose someone else’s actions. You can’t love someone else into respect for the institution, and sometimes you find your feet planted in a very lonely spot. Don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, don’t believe in Santa, but BELIEVE IN DIVORCE, Girlfriend. Because it happens.
But if your life does crumble around your ears and you find yourself alone and questioning everything you trusted, cling to this thought:
Some stranger can always come along and pass judgment on you too.
And now, for your driving endlessly around summertime entertainment, I present FUN GAMES TO PLAY IN THE CAR. Exhaustively researched by me and my boys.
First of all you must have at least one hearty round of “Oh NO I FORGOT!” This game goes like this: Everyone mills about distractedly whilst Mama storms around, screaming, “GET IN THE CAR! NOW! WE ARE LATE!” When she takes you by the shoulders and physically points you at the door, amble over to the car, nodding vaguely when she asks you if you have X (whatever item it is that you NEED to accomplish what you are setting out to do). Once everyone is strapped safely in, and you are started on your journey, wait about one and a half blocks before startling in your seat. “OH NO!” you exclaim, “I forgot X!” Mama may look like she’s banging her head against the steering wheel at this point. That’s all part of the fun.
SPEAKING of FUN! Do not miss the classic entertainment of “POKE AT MAMA’S TRAUMATIC FEELING OF FAILURE.” Once you’ve left the house (the second time, after “OHNO I FORGOT!”), start musing quietly to yourself in the back seat. Just loud enough to be heard in the front, sigh, “Did I brush my teeth? Huh. I don’t think I did. Mama SAID to…then I saw that bug…is that a cavity I feel? Hey, Mama? Should teeth hurt?” You may see that funny vein pop out on Mama’s temple. First person to spot the vein WINS!
Then there are the games that don’t directly torture Mama, except by their sheer repetition and mindlessness. For this variety of game, we can’t get enough of “AM I MOVING MY TOUNGE OR NOT?” Max especially enjoys this game. He calls out the query, then demands you look at him. He clamps his lips shut, and drops his jaw a bit, and the IDEA is that you guess if his tongue is moving within the cavern of his mouth. Here’s a hint about this particular game.
YOU CAN NOT GUESS RIGHT.
Another fun game is “I know what song is next on the tape!” That’s pretty much all there is to that game. The boys like to announce that they’re sure they know what the next song is, but won’t tell you what it is, in case they are wrong. But it adds that note of repetitiveness to the sing-along tape in the car. God knows what the sing-along tape needs is added repetitiveness.
Finally, a fun time is always had by all during a round of “FREAK OUT BECAUSE MAX’S NOSE IS BLEEDING.” This is a rare treat, because you can’t always count on Max having a bloody nose. BUT WHEN HE DOES! If one child starts shouting commands (“Mama, he’s bleeding! He is! Give me tissues! Where are the tissues? He’s getting it all over his shirt! Oh, it’s so GROSS! Give me tissues! HEY, I THINK I’M GONNA THROW UP!”), while another child starts shrieking in sheer horror, pretty soon the bedlam within the car is unmatched.
Plus there’s blood everywhere, which is always cool.
So there you go. Enjoy your summer travels. No need to thank me. I’ll be hiding under the bed.