Faking It

This post was inspired by Zoie’s post, “I Am A Fake,” on her blog, TouchstoneZ.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I would wake up before my three-year-old and try to write or read or just have a mug of tea before being “on” for the day. Invariably, I’d have just sat down at the kitchen table with my book or my journal or a steaming cup when she toddled bleary-eyed into the kitchen and said, “Good morning, Mommy!”

I would sigh and glare at her. I would give her a monotone “Good morning.” Then I would feel awful about myself. I did not like being this mom. I did not like greeting my daughter in a way that made it clear I really didn’t want to see her. She was my sweet girl, and I was a wicked, awful mommy.

So I decided to fake it.

The next morning when the world outside the window was still dark and my tea was still untouched and my daughter came into the kitchen, I put on a smile. I got up from the table and precariously knelt my bulbous body down to her level to give her a hug. I told her, “Good morning! I’m so happy to see you!”

The first few weeks that I did this, my daughter would stand with her arms at her sides while I hugged her, looking at me sideways from under her furrowed brow.

We both knew I was faking it.

At first I felt even worse about myself. I was faking being happy to see my child. What kind of a mother was I? Why could I not feel happy to see my daughter? And worse, I was in the process of bringing another baby into this family to experience my reprehensible parenting.

But I kept it up because I figured since it was a choice between pantomiming happy and expressing authentic unhappy, I’d rather be a big faker.

And then something amazing happened. One morning, my daughter came into the kitchen as usual, but this time when I said, “Good morning! I’m so happy to see you!” I really felt happy to see her. My smile was a real smile. I hugged her with tears in my eyes. I still hadn’t had a chance to write, but in this moment I was happy to see my daughter.

Five years later, I no longer have to kneel when I hug my daughter good morning; I just stand upright and rest my cheek on the top of her head, but most mornings I still really mean it when I say I’m happy to see her and her brother.  On days when I start to droop when I hear their footsteps in the hallway, I stop myself and think, Why not be happy to see my kids? Because I didn’t get done everything I wanted to before they woke up? There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to feel like I’ve finished everything I want to, anyway, so why not just let it not happen and let myself feel happy for the sweet little distractions I have for these few years?

So each morning I give my children and myself the gift of a hug and smile and an enthusiastic greeting. Then no matter where the day goes from there, at least we’ve started on a high note.

Have you ever faked it ’til you made it?

Drop by the yeah write weekly challenge grid for some great blog posts, all 600 words or less.

Summer Lessons

A few weeks ago I was tucking my daughter into bed when she said, almost in tears, “Mommy, this has been an awful summer!”

Bike Lesson

Bike Lesson

That afternoon, I’d made an error in judgment and let her ride her bike up the hill on our street. She’d only learned to ride a few days before. When she asked to ride up the hill, the fact that this meant she would be riding down, too, didn’t register with me until I saw her careening around the curve with a look of terror on her face. Read More

Motherhood and Planned Obsolescence

People write about “leaning in” and “opting out,” and I just feel entirely outside of that conversation.

Ever since I was a little girl, the only thing I’ve really aspired to is motherhood. I had other careers in mind—waitress, clown, firefighter, long-haul truck driver, writer—but those were always secondary to being a mom. Read More

The Moon and Mother’s Day: A Post About Writing and Connection

Last night I dreamed I looked up into the night sky and saw suspended there an enormous moon.

CIMG7082This moon wasn’t just, “Hey, look at this big moon.” This moon was so huge I could hardly describe how huge it was. It looked like it was very, very close to Earth, like if I held a dinner plate out at arm’s length in front of my face, the edge of the moon would still stick out all around it. I could see craters, and here and there I saw pink and orange, as though someone had brushed very watered-down watercolors over part of the moon’s surface.

I called to the people around me.

“Look at the moon!” I said. “It’s enormous! You can see the craters! And it’s got colors on it! I didn’t know there was any color on the moon. It’s always just moon-colored in the pictures.”

The people around me looked reluctantly at the moon, loathe to set aside their activities. They were unimpressed.

“Sure,” they said, already turning their faces away from the sky. “It’s a full moon. It’s pretty big, but why are you going on about it like that?”

When I looked back, I saw a full moon partially hidden behind the trees across the cemetery. It was a big full moon, but it wasn’t anything like the moon I’d seen before. I could no longer see the huge moon because now I was seeing the moon through the eyes of the people around me. I could remember that huge moon, but it was no longer in front of me. Not only could I not pass the image on to other people, but the image was lost to me as well.

This is what writing feels like to me. I have something huge, enormous, amazing to share. I put it into words and it either falls flat or becomes something else in other people’s minds, but it never stays as big and beautiful and incredible as it was to start out.

It’s also in a lot of ways how motherhood feels to me. Today is both Mother’s Day and my daughter’s birthday, and I’ve been thinking of when I was pregnant with her and those first months of motherhood. Until the time of our first ultrasound about 18 weeks into my pregnancy, my relationship with my daughter had been boundless. She was a being I knew intimately and who knew me just as intimately. We existed in a realm that transcended the physical, seen world. We knew each other on a level I’ve never known anyone before, except maybe my own mother.

But as the bored ultrasound tech moved the transducer over my lubed-up belly, a grainy image of my daughter appeared on the screen and that feeling of the transcendent snapped into corporeality. She was still in my belly, but she was also on the screen and she was no longer mine in the same way she had been. There was this being I knew on an infinite soul level confined to the boundaries of a monitor.

I get glimpses of the transcendent nature of my relationship with my children, but now I guard those glimpses. I hold them close and, if I mention them at all, I try to describe them simply—the cool of a little hand in mine as we walk up a flight of stairs, the smell of a toddler’s breath in the middle of the night, the sound of small feet running along wet pavement. My photographs of them are often this way, too—bits and pieces, a hand here, an eyebrow there, a face in profile, the back of a head bowed in concentration. I try not to capture them in their entirety, and just allow the person I’m telling to piece together her own meaning.

But this doesn’t feel like a connection, and I realize that I write to connect. I sit in front of my computer screen and type a description of a mind-bogglingly enormous moon, and I know that what people envision is a luminous quarter in the corner of a dark sky.

My words are not enough, but they’re what I have. So I keep trying.

Blog, Blogger, Bloggest

Cover of "The Berenstain Bears Ready, Get...

Cover via Amazon

Since reading The Berenstain Bears Ready, Get Set, Go! my son has been practicing his comparatives and superlatives.

Here’s a brief recap:

Him: “Big, bigger, biggest!”
Me: “Great, honey!”

Him: “Fast, faster, fastest! High, higher, highest!”
Me: “You’ve got it, buddy!”

Him: “Read, reader, readest!”
Me: “Umm, well, that’s kind of the idea…”

Him: “Pee, pee-er, pee-est!”
Me: “Yes. Umm. Okay.”

Yep. He is indeed three years old.

Mom, the Lingerie Model

My son, who will be three in August, was looking at a bra ad that arrived in the mail today.

“Huh,” he said, indicating that he was thinking something about the ad, but I couldn’t figure out what.

“Who’s in that picture?” I asked, trying to get a sense for what he was thinking.

“Those are mommies!” he said.

He paused as he looked from the ad to me and back to the ad. Then he pointed to the brunette in the ad and said, “That’s you, Mommy, when you were your age!”

Not sure what age he was thinking of, but if that was a picture of me, it was clearly taken at a before-kids age. And with a fan gently blowing my hair back from my face.

Toddler Nightmare

Last night, my son woke us all up from a sound sleep crying, “My cookie! My cookie! They ate my cookie!”

“Shh, shh,” I soothed him in the dark, trying not to laugh. “Who ate your cookie, Honey? Did Daddy eat your cookie?”

My husband had eaten the rest of our son’s first cookie after dinner that night.

No! [Unintelligible M-word] ate my cookie!”

“Moe-man ate your cookie?” I asked because the cat had been licking his head earlier in the night and because I like to blame things on the cat.

“No! Mommy ate my cookie!” he answered.

Which was true. I’d finished the replacement cookie I’d given him. It had dropped on the floor and broken and I thought it was okay to scavenge it. (Yes, I ate a cookie off the floor. Don’t tell me you haven’t done the same.)

My husband hates wasting food and is a very aggressive scavenger at our table. At least once a day, my son bursts into tears because the food he left on the table 30 minutes before has disappeared. I’m usually a little more lenient about leaving food, mostly because my kids are both big gluten-and-dairy eaters, and I eat neither. Gluten-free cookies I am more likely to scavenge, especially the day they’re made when the chocolate is still a tad gooey inside.

Before work this morning, my husband and I discussed whether this habit is giving our son a complex. He’ll probably end up like a stray cat, bolting down his food because he worries his meal is going to be threatened before he finishes.

But, I suppose if my son is going to have nightmares about something, cookie-stealing isn’t the worst thing he could dream about. At least not from my perspective.

Things You Don’t Want to Hear Your Toddler Say

“Don’t worry, Mommy! I fix it!”

“I found the scissors!” (and the related, “Look, Mommy! I cut it!”)

“I wipe it up, Mommy!”

“I threw it in the trash!”

“The DVD not working!” (this usually means he’s trying to slide a CD into a narrow gap in a drawer or a toy)

Why I’m Not De-Cluttering My Baby Carriers

With all of my de-cluttering and simplification, there is one drawer I’ve not even been able to bring myself to de-clutter.

It’s the drawer where I keep my baby carriers.

My son hasn't ridden in a sling for at least a year, but he knew exactly what it was for ("Mommy, put my animals in it!")

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was so excited to acquire baby-related gear. We were living in a small apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area, so there was no discussion of whether to have a nursery or a crib or many of the other standard baby items, but there was still a remarkably large number of items that, as a new mom, I just had to have. I’ve since parted with nearly all of those things, several of them before my daughter was even out of her infancy as I realized just how superfluous most of those items were to the care of a being who was soothed by closeness to her mother and by nothing else.

There were three things I kept.

One was our cloth diapers. Those came in handy when our second was born. We still use the one-size dipes for overnight insurance and the prefolds for cleaning up spills and “accidents.”

The second thing I kept was outgrown baby clothes. Those proved largely unnecessary given my husband’s unwillingness to let our baby son wear dresses, despite my appeal to his normally frugal nature.

The last things I kept hold of were my many and various baby carriers. I even manufactured some excuses for acquiring even more baby carriers before and after my son’s birth.

I didn’t learn to use a ring sling until my daughter was eight weeks old when I finally visited La Leche League. Once those helpful mothers (who would become some of my dearest and most supportive friends) showed me to use that sling, I was hooked. Finally, I had a way to get my baby to SLEEP (and to leave that awful baby “bucket” seat in the car). From there, my love of babywearing just grew and grew.

When we were still in California, I went on weekly hikes (3-5 miles) with a family hiking group, with my daughter strapped to my back in a woven wrap carrier. I wore her on my back while cooking meals or lugging laundry to and from the coin-op machines. My husband wore her to the farmers market and street festivals and around the neighborhood when she had croup and needed the cool air to soothe her. In Utah, I wore her in a mei tai or the wrap on the bus and light rail where it was impractical to take a stroller. I wore her until my pregnant self could no longer comfortably wear a three-and-a-half-year-old.

From that first sling until the time my son turned two, I acquired lots of baby carriers. Over the past six years I have had:

-three ring slings

-an adjustable pouch carrier

-two woven wraps (a Moritz and a blue-and-white Indio for those Didymos fans out there)

-a stretchy wrap

-two gauze wraps

-a water wrap (for the pool and the shower)

-two soft-structured carriers

-two mei tais

-a front-pack carrier (before I knew the ease and comfort of pretty much every other carrier ever created)

The one carrier I never had but always wanted was a podaegi, which is a Korean-style blanket carrier you don’t need to hook over your shoulders. It was the one carrier I’d never seen in person and I was afraid that if I bought one, I wouldn’t figure out how to wear it.

I’ve gotten rid of some of my carriers, but most of the ones on the list above are still in my baby carrier drawer or the trunk of my car. I really only use one of the soft-structured carriers and one of the mei tais anymore, and those I only use if my son falls asleep on the way somewhere or if we’re going on a long and/or snowy hike. He’s not as enthusiastic about toddler-wearing as my daughter was.

Logically, I know it’s time to pass along the rest of these carriers. But I’m just not ready to let go of that period of my life. The co-sleeper, the swing, the “stationary entertainer,” even the cloth diapers…those were easy to give away. They were utilitarian for a period of time and then they weren’t. I just found someone who needed them and I packed them up and felt good that they were going to a good home. And the maternity clothes? I practically celebrated when I got rid of those. No one makes clothes that fit a 5′ 2″ woman who births 9-pound babies.

But the carriers that remain in my drawer represent a closeness with my children, their little bodies snuggled close to me, a tinyness they’ll never have again. The carriers represent that brief and beautiful time between when my children and I occupied the same body and when they became their own little beings. Just the smell of the carriers in that drawer takes me back to my babies’ warm weight against my chest or snuggled up between my shoulder blades. I’d been telling myself I was holding onto the carriers in case we adopted a baby, but more and more it looks like our family is complete the way it is. So passing them along will also mean that we are, for sure, done anticipating the arrival of any more babies. And that realization is bittersweet. The transition from “woman” to “mother” was such a momentous one, it’s hard to imagine that I’m done with that “baby” period of my life, even though I feel ready and excited for this next phase.

I know it’s time to let the baby carriers go. But I think I’ll let myself hold onto them a little while longer.

What items do you let yourself hold onto even though you no longer need them?

My Craziest Idea Yet: Sleeping

Where I should be spending 1/3 of my life.

The idea goes that I spend so many hours with my kids, I need time to myself to function properly, even if this means giving up adequate sleep to get said alone time.

I recently realized that this is an entirely untested hypothesis.

What if I actually function better if I get adequate sleep but sacrifice some of my precious Me time?

I really have never tried this for more than two nights in a row. I just can’t seem to give up the reading or blogging or blog-reading that fills the hours between the kids’ bedtime at 8:30 and 12 or 1 when I finally go to bed myself. What’s really awesome is when I go back and spend an hour reading my old blog posts. Yes, that is a very good use of my time. Or when I start some movie or tv show on Netflix and then lose interest or get bogged down by how weird it is for real people to be acting out stories in front of a camera so that I can sit in my pjs in front of my laptop and watch them pretending to be someone else. (Apparently, this is what happens when I get away from television for long enough: the entire concept seems weird to me. Which in itself is a profound shift because I used to totally rock the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game and now I can hardly recognize the names of the current stars. Or even the current movies.)

But I don’t go to bed feeling fulfilled. I feel tired and irritable and greedy for more time to waste. In the morning I’m all of those things plus resentful of my children for taking me away from my alone time. I’ve been snapping at the kids and just in general not being a very engaged and pleasant mommy.

This evidence suggests that my current “it’s worth being tired if I get to do nothing much for several hours every night” hypothesis isn’t working out very well.

My new hypothesis is this: If I get adequate sleep, I’ll be able to feel happier with my children during the day and make better use of the time I have to myself because I have less of it and won’t be so tempted to squander it.

To test this hypothesis, I will be going to bed at 9:30 every night for a month. Okay, well, maybe for a week. And if that works out alright, I’ll try it for two weeks. Then for a third, and with any luck, make it to a full month.

During this one- to four-week period, I will go to bed at 9:30 even if that means I don’t get to finish a blog post every evening. I’ll go to bed on time even if it means it takes me a full week to read a novel. (In this way, I suppose it will be in line with my focus on simplicity, too.)

I know that this will be a challenge. But I’m hopeful that once I’m more well-rested I’ll be better able to maintain routines during the day, which will benefit my children’s moods and my own. I hope that I will lose some of this brain fog and fatigue-related…you know, that thing where you can’t remember things? Not insomnia… Not magnesia…

At any rate, maybe I’ll be able to think more clearly and be more effective when I go to try to do something with my brain.

And maybe I’ll even be able to get some reading or blogging in during the day while the kids are up because they’ll be happy to spend some time playing quietly on their own after spending high-quality time with their new and improved non-zombie Mommy!

But I’m not holding my breath on that one.

What I’m really hoping is that I can actually follow my experimental design. Even during that year when my daughter was up at 4:30 every morning I couldn’t bring myself to go to bed at a decent hour. But I’m nothing if not inconsistently persistent.

So, here goes nothing! I’ll let you know how I do.