MOO

(from 2015)

Driving around doing errands this afternoon, I brashly asked my daughter if there was anything she felt like doing. There was: Energyplex, the play gym at the north side of the city. We haven’t used our membership in a while, and with her love of climbing, she’s been itching to go. I raised a few objections (it’s nearly dinner time, dada will be home soon, we don’t have any snacks), but really, had no good reason to say no. So I said yes. We did drive through tacos (then found out that she found the beans too spicy) and played for a bit over an hour.
And as we spontaneously drove off to have fun, I thought that I wanted to write about  being the parent of one child. Because if we had two, I don’t think we would have gone to play.

We currently have one child, which may be how it stays. All around me people are showing up with two kids or one plus a belly. The conversations are about spacing children, sibling rivalry, and when the first child will go to school. My gut clenches ever so briefly every time, as these are discussions we haven’t been able to have. What I do see is my daughter’s love of babies and younger children, how well she plays with them, even catching them at the end of the slide and helping them climb to the top again. Our endless game of baby-in-the belly, new-born baby and conversations about what we’ll do with a new baby. Her engrossed play with her stuffed toys: feeding, dressing, bathing, bedding, conducting music classes, singing to sleep. How she would love to have a sibling, and we would love another child, for her, for us, for the child’s sake.

At the same time, she is doing and feeling these things in absence of a sibling. She has empathy, effective social skills and practice caring for others even if those others aren’t in her home. And she has more. She has undiluted attention and care from two loving parents. She has undisturbed time to sink into play, with the ability now to play on her own for up to 45 minutes at a stretch. She gets to have extended reading/cuddle time on a daily basis, with our book selection now into chapter books.

And while she is playing and entertaining herself, or sleeping, or in the care of my husband or mother, I have time. I read, clean the house, write, take care of personal projects, or just relax. And when we’re doing something together, we can enjoy being together. We chat, tease, tell stories, plan, rhyme. It is, frankly, utterly delightful. Some days actually are blissful from cuddly wake-up start through shared cooking joy to energetic play and self-managed nighttime routine. There’s a level of ease, comfort and delight we often find in our family life that seems harder to find when there are more children with more demands and some of the conflicts that can bring. Even with homeschooling, I can see time freeing up for myself in the near future. I can also see the many activities we’ll be able to enjoy together.

There are other pressures, of course. With just two of us home most of the time, I need to make more of an effort to find people for her to play and socialize with. The strain of this sometimes wears me out! I dream of having just one more child, someone she can imagine, negotiate and wrestle with. However, that’s what we don’t have, so for now I appreciate the personal abilities she’s developing and try harder to find playmates for her. There is also the pressure of parenting just one: my one chance to parent right. Please let me do right by her! and I worry about her in the future, the only child of older parents. But what can I do about this?

I have moments of sadness over only having one, and many other moments of sheer indulgent pleasure at my situation: an utterly delightful child, one whose personality and interests mesh so beautifully with mine,  a full parenting experience, and time, not as much as I want but more than I might have, time for myself and my own interests. What a blessing, this one child is.

No Control at All

I am unable to make my daughter do what I want.
Given my perspectives on parenting, I would have thought I would understand this by now, and, in fact, would not WANT to control her. No. I still, at times, want to make her do what I know she needs to do.

Starting Sunday, she had a fever and a runny nose & sore throat. I know what she needs: liquids. She needs to drink lots.

I offer: Tea. Water. Smoothie. Lemon water. Fruit.
Does she drink?
No.
Hardly anything at all.
Less than she normally drinks.
The colour of her pee: definitely yellow.
At one point, she had three different liquid offerings sitting on her table.
By the end of the day, I can’t even remember if she got through one whole glass.

I encourage. I offer. I put the straw in her mouth. I tweak taste. I talk rationally about it. I pass her the water bottle. I make it serious, casual, fun.
Nothing works!!!

Sometimes, this parenting thing is exhausting. I can’t believe how ridiculously difficult it is to take care of my daughter in the most basic of ways.

Good night.

Me time, We time, No time

Let me start from right now (10:46 p.m. on Friday night) and move backwards.
I just heard a whistle outside. I hope it’s not the paper lady, returning to remind us that we left another light on. About 10 minutes ago I was seriously freaked out when I heard a strange voice yelling outside the window, “Hello! You left your lights on! Hello! You left your lights on!”

“What the hell?!” I thought. “Run and hide!” When I saw the paper trolley, then I figured out it’s the kind-hearted, knows-no-boundaries, chatty paper lady who lives down the street from us. Knowing that another shout was inevitable, I stuck my head out the door (still a bit freaked out) and said, “Thank you, we’ll get it.” And she left.

Husband was in bed with baby. It was his van, naturally (I never even considered that it might be my car). So I got to drag myself out to the street and figure out why on earth the dashboard light was left on. Good grief. And I’ll leave it there.

Prior to that I had just enjoyed a complete shower. By complete, I mean I washed my hair. Yes, at the age of nearly 40, I still clearly distinguish between showers where I wash my hair and those where I don’t. I have never liked washing my hair. Never. My hair is really quite great hair. Thick, healthy, wavy/curly, grows quickly. But also: thick, wavy/curly, grows quickly. Washing my hair has always meant

1) Taking a long time to do the washing, bored before I’m half-way through.

2) Taking a long time to dry it. Not that I usually use a blow dryer. But it WILL take a long time to dry, no matter what I do.

3) Trying in vain to style my wild hair that soon outgrows any shape the hairdresser has cut into it. If I don’t wash it, I don’t have to style it, therefore not washing it has a definite appeal.

4) Add baby. When I take evening showers, it requires husband to watch the baby and she wants to nurse as soon as I’m done. In the mornings, forget it. Busy baby, busy rush. Rare washing, rarer styling. My body’s clean enough but the hair is doing its own thing.

So earlier today, I had a brief moment of what could have been despair but was more an intense wondering combined with yearning: I wonder when I’ll be back to a time when I can take a shower when I want one without having to plan days in advance or get “help” with childminding. Any ideas when that will be? Because it sounds dreamy.

I’d love to shower as soon as I come home from work. Wash off the grime of the day, warm up my body, step into cozy sweats. Then prepare dinner, drinking a tea, and enjoy at leisure.

OH the dreams I have!!!

On the other hand: today was mainly super great. I had wanted to rush out early with baby and tackle some chores, but she didn’t want to leave the house. I asked her. She said no. After 4 days of dashing off in the morning, she wanted to relax at home, play with her toys, play with her mom. I had another moment, this one closer to despair, where I thought I was a complete failure as a mom. I can’t even get my child out the door to buy groceries. Good grief!

Then I reframed. My child loves being at home. I’m communicating with her and respecting her wishes. Though I might want to be in “go” mode, I don’t have to be – none of the chores are urgent, and in fact, I want to get out of an obsession with getting things done and focus more on enjoying where we are. So we relaxed and ate and played until around 10:30 when, while nursing, she started whining and pointing at something. I asked her to show me what it was and she went over and hit the stroller. Yes, it was time for a walk.

And it was great. We walked, talked, did errands, played. She’s so fun and cute and smart and funny and chatty! She wanted to read the magazines in the accountant’s office, so we flipped through some old Reader’s Digests. We went up and down stairs, then the elevator. Picked up shoes in the shoe store (a question about stretching straps). Just fun fun fun. Then she fell asleep on the way home. I tackled some urgently-needed cleaning, talked with my sister, and she was awake. So, more playing, including playing outside.

And then I got the chance to do my chores! We went together and again had super fun. She loved riding the cart in the grocery store. We walked across the driving lane in the parking lot a few times. We played a game where she’d tell me when to stop and go. The dollar store was full of fun things but she was okay with leaving them there – we said good-bye to them and walked out.

Finally, evening and bedtime. I knew she was really tired. But we seemed to have missed the bedtime window as we were super-busy and had a late dinner. As a result, she nursed, bottled, then popped up, wide awake. Once again (see a theme?) I felt ready to give up. I’d messed up bedtime again. I was a failure.

So I gave up completely on bedtime and started doing some cleaning (the place is a STY, people. Smaller, yes; neater, no). And she started playing. She let me dress her, though she had refused the sleeper earlier. She relocated all her small animals to a stool and chair in the kitchen, talking with me about the process. She then raised her hands in triumph at the new set-up! She was having so much fun. So was I. So I relaxed and let it be. And she’s sleeping now; all, so far as I know, is well. And tomorrow, thankfully, is another day.

I believe in hockey sticks

Second day of spring! So exciting! Woke up to snow!
The weather here is not what it was when I grew up. We used to have long, cold, snowy winters and long, hot summers. Lately, the seasons bleed into each other and it’s not predictable day to day what the weather will be.

Someone asked me once if I “believed in global warming.” I think I replied that I didn’t think it was a matter of belief. Now I would say that  I recognize that belief comes into any subject. I find it hard to evaluate the evidence on different sides of big debates: vaccines and diets come to mind. I know there are scientists and other people who have written contradictions to the global warming argument. In this case, knowing that the overwhelming body of evidence is on the global warming side, and having some awareness of the science-blind and manipulative politics behind climate denial, I would say that I believe in the existence of human-induced global warming and buy, 100%, the hockey stick graph (I never knew that name for it until a CBC interview on The Current last week).

Today was strange for other reasons. Work was busy. So many projects, so many connections to make, not nearly enough time. I pushed through and, I believe, got done all I needed though Monday will bring more.

I also got to participate in some scintillating back and forth regarding an upcoming workshop I’m supposed to do. Numerous people approached me with support and/or concerns, by phone and in person. I had the bemused pleasure of being told in a group email that the proposed workshop was a “waste of time,” followed by the real pleasure of being defended by someone who was initially skeptical. All of this I took with the flow, pleased with my ability not to take personally what was not personal.

And the day ended in the best possible way: 2+ delightful hours hanging out with my daughter in bed as we moved slowly but surely towards bedtime. Stories, songs, cuddling, playing, kissing, “this little piggy”ing, nursing, bottling and sleep. Time to bond with my favourite little person ever, who delights me more and more each day (she says “apple” now! and ball! (bau). Love!!)

Choices

Tonight was another long, unpredictable saga. I don’t know if I want to repeat it.
I went to yoga after work and actually enjoyed it. I found myself thinking how important it is to have balance and to take one hour a week for my body. The stretching etc. felt good and I felt more relaxed after class, though I still missed my baby.

I got to my mom’s by 6. And left a bit before 7. She wanted to play. She wanted to eat. She didn’t want to get into the car seat. She did want to stay with my mom and NOT with me. Fun fun fun! Really inspiring for a working mom!

Finally, my mom went and hid while I continued to feed her, and I was able to get her into the car seat and drive off. All went well until she started coughing. I stopped to give her some water and things degenerated. I drove a bit further then pulled over in the face of increasing crying.

That stop, at The Abbey (what is that place? I assume it’s a Catholic outreach centre, but I’m not sure), took 45 minutes. We looked at the “Abbyicap Parking” signs, running back and forth between the two as she poked them and laughed at their similarity. We looked at our reflections. We played with the stucco. We crawled on the roof of the car. We cried when mommy tried to put her into the car seat. We hung out in the dark, damp, cool night.

Husband was great enough to come and meet us, distract her with his bird noises, and keep her happy on the drive home. Where we arrived a bit after 8. She is currently playing on the floor in the office with husband, pulling pens and papers out of drawers and doing her first drawing.

I’m not doing this again. I know I need exercise, but the frustration of the long days, rough departures and unpleasant drives home are not working for me. I’ll need to figure out another way to take care of myself while optimizing drives home.