Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Letter to Our Fourth Child

Dear Zach,

First of all, I am so, so sorry for all of the stress hormones.  I hope they do not shape your tiny, developing brain into something that only soaks in sadness once you are born.

You are wanted; you are loved.  All of our kids were (are) wanted and loved deeply, but judging from the amount of crying I have been doing during this pregnancy with you, one could easily be forgiven for thinking it's not so.

I am worried, and probably depressed.  Depression and anxiety don't have to have a reason, but there are many.  For starters, what if your brothers and sister don't feel like I care about them anymore once you arrive?  What if I can't be my best mom self to you?  Your dad is, blessedly, gainfully employed in a field he loves.  But for twelve hours a weekday, it is all me as far as parenting goes.  So I am frankly and panic-strickenly terrified that I won't be able to do what I was once so confident I could do--smile into your face, and cherish you and the three kids who came before you to the full extent that you deserve it.

That list of affirmations in the bathroom--I am writing and reading and re-reading them for me and you.

One thing you could do, if you are so inclined, is to happily comply with swaddling and breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding) and sleeping.  Ideally you would do these things in perfect tandem with your siblings' needs.  And in perfect harmonic oscillation with the times the Helper Lady is going to be around in the afternoons.  But in the mornings, when we drop off James and Will and Elise and whomever we are carpooling with this fall, perhaps you could ramp up your hunger, thirst, diapering needs, and needs for stimulation within the time period between 8:20 am and noon, wherein I will shotgun a Red Bull and deftly exceed your wildest baby dreams.

Also, could you please not have anisometropic amblyopia that requires glasses and occlusion therapy in your infancy?  The pediatric opthalmologist down in the valley who treats James and Elise wants to see you when you are a newborn to determine whether you'll need infant glasses and/or a patch over one of your eyes.  Oh my God.  I know it's probably entirely my fault, anyway, were you to have the condition.  But maybe you can, like, wait to develop it until you are about twelve months old, and then we could neatly discover it at one of your siblings' regularly scheduled checkups.  That way, you may be old enough to be bribed against clawing at your own face to remove any foreign devices.

Furthermore, maybe you could figure out how to induce lactation in your dad with your infinite cuteness.  Yes, that would be very helpful.

That's all for now.

Love,
Mom

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quotes I Can Relate To

"Some people are that--more than a parent, more than a role model, more than anything less than a religion."     -Margaret Cho

"There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you." -ZNH

"I don't use drugs; my dreams are frightening enough." -M.C. Escher

"I was born without the gland in my asshole that makes me care what your political affiliation is, so this...isn't meant to be partisan in any way.  Morons should offend us all, not just those of us who vote the same way morons do, or those who vote against them." -Felix Clay

"Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible." -Albert Einstein

"I just saw all the animals in the neighborhood running in circles, so I guess that means your mother will be arriving soon."  -Dan from Roseanne

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action."  -Mother Teresa

"I'm on low-battery right now." -James, when he woke up this morning

"I am confident that nobody will accuse me of selfishness if I ask to spend time, while I am still in good health, with my family, my friends, and also myself."  -Nelson Mandela


Friday, May 3, 2013

Things I Could Never Have Imagined Prior to Parenthood

Or, notes to the "myself" of nine years ago.

10.  When a toddler swallows a raisin and it makes its journey through the digestive tract, the raisin "arrives" completely intact, waterlogged, and approximately the size of a kidney bean.  Don't be afraid; nobody secretly fed beans to your toddler in his Cheerios.

9.  Elementary-aged boys (and girls!  But, extremely often, boys) will find it important to caveat their affection for others.  I don't care how sexist it is to point this out; it's true of my sons--and my statistical sample size is growing every day--so clearly it is true of yours, your neighbors' and everyone's.  Take, for example, the following letter written by my eight-year-old son:

"April 25, 2013

Dear Mateo,

I can't beleav [sic] we thought of the same business journal.  Well I want to have a playdate on Saturday, after the Star Test.

Love As A Friend,
James"

8.  Coffee or other mood-improving substances (okay, legal ones) are required for functional parenting.  See also: Regular Breaks From Your Children.  Don't try to be a hero.  People who strive for absolute purity in parenting, people who never, ever compromise on anything, people who never, ever separate from their kids for even small intervals, in my experience, tend to be assholes of the tightest order.  I used to try to be one of those people, and a wise pediatrician once took a glance at me and offered to write me a 'prescription' for getting the hell away from my children for a few minutes per day.  They were infants and toddlers at the time.  I finally listened to her and we hired some helpers.  Was I significantly happier?  No.  Happiness has a different definition when you have toddlers and infants.  But at least the kids were exposed to someone else, not all whose neuroses coincided with mine.  That turns out to be important.

7.  On the Other Hand...People who can't be bothered to hang out with their kids for more than a few moments a day, on the account of it being hard and everyone needing to recharge one's batteries after a long, hard day at work, etc, etc, etc, and it happens this way every day, are also assholes.  The floppiest, most emotionally bereft ones.  Your career, your triathlon, your favorite sports team and text messages and mojo are all important; so are your kids' feelings!  Take more than a minute to look them in the eyes and recognize that they have souls to feed, not just mouths or brains.

6.  The carpool is the deep end of your parenting resource "pool".  If someone is willing to carpool with you, especially to preschool, early elementary, or KinderBasketWeaving Class, glom onto to that fellow parent like a remora to a shark.  Swim alongside them!  Bask, bask in the commensalism!  This person is a better friend to you than most of the ones you made in college.

5.  Childbirth kind of sucks.  It's supposed to be all 'spiritual' but honestly, in twelve months you probably won't remember it.  And that, my friends, is a good thing.  If you feel the need to write down your baby's birth story, that's great, but just realize there is probably an evolutionarily favored reason that your brain is burying all recollection of the intense pain and other (*cough*) indignities.  A hypothesis for future investigation:  If you try to thwart the childbirth memory snatchers, you'll be less likely to do it again.

4.  Note to would-be hipster parents, or maybe just hipsters in general: Read Dan Zevin.  Specifically, Dan Gets a Minivan.  Even more specifically, the chapter entitled, On No Longer Giving a Shit.

3.  Speaking of giving a shit, in human infancy, all fluids exiting the body have the potential to be projectiles; plan ahead.

2.  No matter how heroic or great your own parents were, you may discover that, upon the closer examination that comes with parenting, your folks were actually astonishingly incompetent.  This is especially poignant and disorienting for those who were emotionally abused as kids.  Please note, however, that there is hope.  There are self-help books and therapists and things you can do to nurture your inner child, and there is also the rare friend who is candid enough to admit that she hates her mother, too.  Plus, it will be years before your kids realize the extent of your suckitude.

1.  It's worth every bit of the difficulty.