Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Giving Tree

“Mama, you’re my Giving Tree”,  he says as he gives an awkward 8 year-old-lean-to-hug.

Heart melts.

Instant guilt sets in for all of the times I have added swear words under my breath to his name today.  How could I?  How could I forget that this little boy, trying so hard to navigate through the world, successful and unsuccessful, is MY little boy. I used to dress him in baby blue sleepers and secretly cry over his crib with gratitude.  I turned off phones so I wouldn’t be interrupted from our quiet time.  I took photos of his toes. And kept locks of his hair. 

Why is it so hard for me to just be in the moment with him, to take an extra 3 minutes to ooh and ahhh over his latest reptile discovery on the web? When did adoration turn into annoyance?

I know, I’m horrible.

I would be actually scared if I didn’t think that this was all part of the plan.  God made babies irresistible, so we wouldn’t leave them after that whole labor experience, right?  So we would get up every twenty minutes, shuffle our Mad Hatter selves back to the nursing chair. 

I LOVED having new babies, and did everything in my power to shut off the rest of the world.  To immerse completely.  Perhaps not all that healthy, but I was fully aware of its impermanent nature. This intense beginning has certainly caused some growing pains with each new delivery.

Every 18 months to 2 years, we have greeted a new life and while I snuggle into bed with my new bundle, I also mourn for the time I had with the recently displaced, “baby”.  And I’m an adult.  I can only imagine the confusion that sets in for a toddler. And the guilt sets in. Heavy.   

How can I be enough for all of them? And my husband? And myself?  And the hard truth was: I can’t.  I can’t continue with the same intensity as we grow.  But when did it become a pain in the ass?  Seriously? When did my interactions with him morph from sweet to combative?

In our house I think it happened when I wasn’t looking.  Literally.  I remember nursing my newborn little girl and having an acute feeling of it being “too quiet”.  Upstairs I find two naked boys (age2, 4) standing on their bed, peeing into a laundry basket of stuffed animals.  Shower. 

Dear God.

 I swear, they would hear me unbuckle that industrial nursing bra, and run for the hills with scissors and knives.  Ok, they didn’t have weapons, but they still regressed to cavemen tactics. There was toothpaste drawing. Butter sticks as snacks.  Legos in the washing machine. Tadpoles in the freezer. Lots of public nudity.

The cavemen were crying out for attention. “Ahhhhh”. 

And I became the CaveMom.  React to the battle cry.  Hide the weaponry. Provide the nuts and berries. Insist on pelt washing. You know….survival skills.

The bar was set at: SURVIVE. Avoid visits to the ER and from the Fire Department. A little voice said, “Master the basics….”  : but this seemed daunting. Of course we did make it through the basics, but I’m afraid that CaveMom didn’t have a lot of extra patience for the quiet magic we used to find in everyday.

 And the vicious circle continued:

Caveman: “SEE me.  See me do this mess”.

Cavemom: “I’m busy keeping you alive…..stop making it harder….”.

And you forget about the baby blue sleepers and the little train onesies. The animal pelt seems to have been tattooed all over their chubby little bodies.

But, there are still quiet moments by the fire, if you will.  When their hair has a little less spike.  Their fatigued bodies are expired from the day’s battles. And they still have little, albeit muddy, toes. I know those toes. They are just taking bigger steps now. 

A Giving Tree. 

I would want nothing more than to be the tree they keep coming back to.  A place of constant belonging and safety. A place where they can be selfish, and naughty.  A place where they can make mistakes and be forgiven. A place where they can retreat and find provisions.  I guess we were warned it was going to be painful. So, I will gather my branches and straighten my trunk.  And weather the cavemen.

They are worth every storm.

Wait  a minute, is that an axe behind his back????

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Hindsight

Its January and I’m in love with….routine. 

I know, super inspiring. 

In the spirit of New Year Resolutions and goal charting (you know who you are…) I’m praising the comforts of the Expected. Its just been eons since we’ve visited the Land of Regular, and I am smitten with the blank weekly calendar perched on my fridge. No dinners. No recitals. No duties.  At the end of the day, it can really be the end of the day(if you ignore the 4 loads of laundry sitting next to the washer..). The hum of the dishwasher at 7:00 has been music to my ears and the pressure to make “one more batch” of cookies, has lifted.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the crazy-making traditions of the holidays.  This year, we carved out an entire day for just our immediate family (isn’t this a funny reality…) and so the pressure was on to initiate some new traditions.  Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding and Homemade Ice Cream.  A Christmas ham (its not accidental that many of our traditions focus on food….). Alabama Christmas via a worn out cassette…(this is a non-negotiable to my husband’s delight). I really wanted to claim Something as our own.  Some little thing that belongs to our house during the holidays.  Something tangible to trace back to each year of Christmas mayhem… ahem, I mean, magic.   

Little did I know that our new family tradition apparently comes in the form of indecent exposure.

I don’t know why I’m surprised.  You don’t know how much I would love to be fabricating this one.

Its Christmas Eve.  Kids are in newly purchased tights. Young boys are sporting a tad too much hair gel and Dad’s cologne. And I have talked myself into wearing the little black dress on the hanger.  Since my life is a little short on black-tie affairs, its been a while since I have tried this sucker on….and I’m already feeling a little anxious about it.

The smarter half of my brain yells: “Black pants!  For heaven’s sake, stick to the damn Black pants and glitter sweater!!!”. It’s the pre-Church glass of wine that made me brave….and sorry.

Lets just say it’s a little fitted for a small Lutheran church of 45 people. After spending a good twenty minutes of profane shoving, I decide the industrial strength Control Top pantyhose will have to prove their self-proclaimed fortitude, and I go sans underwear.  Frankly, there was no going back, even if I wanted to.  Think robot legs.  Strangled, caged, mama legs.  They needed to recover from the first assault…..couldn’t even contemplate another round.

Now, Lycra is a beautiful thing, and once upright, the dress is a go.  Off to the smallest, sweetest little southwestern MN church.  You actually cross “Cherry Creek” and pass a covered bridge.  Lovely. Peace on Earth.  Then we arrive.

“Filing in” would be a generous description, I think my middle son almost took out an elderly couple while straddling a decorative Christmas pot, but we did find our way into the church with all of our pieces.  It was a little tight…..the pew, and the dress. In fact, it was so crowded that even the middle aged children were accidently bumped up onto adult laps and we all breathed easier when it was time to stand and sing.  Bags of cheerios were dropped.  Hymnals were closed just a little too aggressively, and yet, we were almost done.

As was my five year old daughter.  Maybe it was the proximity of her brother’s chili cheese breath, maybe it was rogue bobby pin, but her “inside voice” was long gone and the she-devil had emerged.  I try to ignore.  Try to pass her to an open lap of a relative.

I am out-witted in .5 seconds when she takes the bottom of my dress and lifts it up to my armpits. 

It’s tight and it has no intention of falling back down to place.

Not even a helpful “drape”. 

 I’m packed into a pew like a sardine, two year old on my control topped waist, with my Christmas dress up around my armpits and ass in full bloom for the family behind us.  I literally cannot move to fix it. After a fruitless frantic shuffle to loosen its grip, I just sit my cheeks down on the cold pew and nod my head.  My black pants would never have betrayed me.

I sheepishly wave good-bye to the wide-eyed row behind us and dart like and angry bird for the coat room.

So, in these quiet January days when I face no wardrobe malfunctions and can easily justify too many days in pajama pants, I can giggle.  It was a highlight for the kids (maybe not so much for the nice family behind us….):  Mom’s ass joyfully displayed at church.  Truthfully, nothing could be better for my eight year old boy. I still find him giggling to himself in the back of the van.  Hey, Christmas cheer is Christmas cheer. The best traditions are never planned.  You’ve gotta start somewhere…….