Archive for June, 2009

Happy Birthday to… Mommy

Believe it or not, one year and about 12 hours ago, I became a mother. And now that my little sugar fiend has finally fallen asleep, I could conceivably have that glass of wine that I’ve been promising myself. Unfortunately he fell asleep on me and that’s a whole lot of effort to get everyone up and resettled and the laptop and on and on. So I will sit here and pretend that I’m drinking wine. You can pretend too, if you like. It will make me feel less like an alcoholic.

My theory on first birthdays is this: sure, have some people over and let the little one eat some cake (or some apple, if you happen to be BabyK). But the person who really needs a party is mom. Perhaps some champagne, even. Because she has survived the most insane, unbelievable, life changing year of her life and she probably hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in at least that long. People should even bring presents. I wanted a steam mop for BabyK’s birthday, but thankfully my dear Mr. K got me one a few weeks ago. Nothing says, way to hang in there! You did it! like chemical free sterilization. Seriously.

So, how did the year go? I won’t sugar coat it: it’s been ass-kickingly hard. There was a month or so where I was getting about 7 hours of sleep in a row on a regular basis, but like most things that too has passed. I can openly admit that I am looking forward to being out of the house three days a week next semester, to be an adult out in the world again. Between the acid reflux screaming, the maternal shaming, the critical doctors, the fail failure failing, the never ending family drama and of course the pinching/biting/strangling, there have been many dark days.

But oh, those rays of light that break through, cracking your heart wide open. He is even more beautiful and lovely and bright than I dared to dream. Seeing Mr. K laughing and playing and singing with him is almost more than I can stand. They are looking more alike all the time, which is a strange and twisty kind of joy that wrings out my soul. Each day is so fleeting, the stages are flying by. One of BabyK’s favorite games is to have water poured over his hands, which seems like a fitting metaphor for parenting an infant. It’s wonderful and beautiful and impossible to handle, and the moment you try to control it and hold it and keep it everything falls apart.

There is nothing in my life that is better than listening to him sing and chatter and, if I’m really lucky, dance. There are certain things that are as good, but not better. Watching him do his drunken sailor waltz across the floor, seeing those deep delicious dimples with the flash of tiny teeth, having his little arms around my neck and his wet, sloppy kisses on my face… these are among the highlights of my existence.

There have been surprises in this year. I did not expect people to be so openly critical and disapproving of my parenting. I thought the doctors at the fancy children’s hospital would be much more helpful and supportive. I never expected to have the word ‘failure’ attached to my child. Me, yes. Him, no. I would never have guessed that Mr. K would be supportive of my staying home, or that I would have felt so very passionately about doing just that. I certainly could not have predicted the wonderful help and support of our adopted family, who have made so many things bearable and even workable.

But the rest of it… I am not disappointed that things have been hard. I don’t feel cheated, that after all of the hard work and struggle we went through to even have a shot at this life it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows and sleeping all night in your crib. Every now and then I get a little resentful when some mom at some mom-thing talks about how she got pregnant as soon as she wanted to and the baby slept through the night at six weeks and they have sex every other day and she just can’t keep on weight and it’s such a drag to have perfect skin and hair blah blah blah. Seriously though, who wouldn’t? Those women are annoying anyway.

On the whole, I have no regrets. I feel very lucky. I feel like that giant gaping hole that used to define my entire being has been filled to overflowing. I’m looking forward to the next year, to that first word(!), all his new tricks and discoveries and games, how much fun we are going to have just being a family that loves each other.

So yes, it’s been a happy birthday. A very happy birthday indeed.

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TGIF!

Look at me, posting a TGIF when the day is just barely up and walking around! Or, alternately, when BabyK is just barely up and walking around! This latest stage is not very blog posting friendly, what with the extreme mobility and love of typing. So….

Trusting: Today I am trusting that I have enough patience, kindness and self-control to make it through this very long day. I hope that’s not misplaced trust.

Grateful: I am very grateful that Mr. K has a good job that lets me stay home/go back to school and that he has plenty of work to do and people are noticing how good he is at it. This is a very intentional gratefulness exercise as he has been traveling for most of the week and working late tonight too.

Inspired: I so wish I had an answer to this one today. Perhaps after some caffeine.

Happy weekend everyone! I will be throwing a first birthday party tomorrow (yay! boo! wait, what just happened?) and praying for good weather since it’s outside and I am strangely nonchalant and spontaneous about the whole thing so far. Like, there really isn’t a rain plan. So keep your fingers crossed for us!

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Need for Speed

BabyK took his first, precious, tottering steps this weekend. It was at once beautiful and horrible and fascinating and heartbreaking.

And a huge, huge, giant relief.

For months, people have been saying that he is about to walk. I worried that he would skip crawling. Then I worried that his peglegged, right knee/left foot pirate crawl was making him dyslexic and ADHD. Then I worried that he wasn’t going to walk because the walker that we used to contain him long enough to cram calorie-added food into his mouth all day was teaching him to walk on his tiptoes. But mostly, I worried about something so terrible, so shameful, that I could hardly admit it to myself.

What if he was… slow?

Late, developmentally delayed. Even, God forbid, extremely average? How would we cope? How would we handle the inevitable questions and comparisons? Isn’t it enough that he’s behind everyone in height and weight? While this neurotic angst is almost completely pointless and vain and a waste of energy, it did bring me face to face with some old, recurrent issues. Let us consider the parental heritage of BabyK:

I know the stories of my early development. Over the years they have been so conflated that I can’t even take them seriously anymore, but it seems clear that I was ahead of the pack from the beginning. My mother has a masters degree in education, so my curricula and assignments and enrichment programs were always looked into, tinkered with and even hotly contested with the school administrators. There was no way I was going to be allowed to coast through school, and to be honest, if I didn’t have those extra things to do I got in trouble for talking all the time.

Mr. K, of course, knows almost nothing about his identification as ‘gifted’, although he did miss a year of the pull-out program because his mom asked him if he wanted to do it again and he said no. Why she was asking him or why he said no he has no idea, but it only lasted a year. Having heard the stories about his childhood activities, I can imagine that the school found him easier to manage when he was kept busy.

So, two nerdy parents who were raised in completely different ways and yet had SAT scores within 10 points of each other (do I even need to say whose was higher… ahem?). What does that mean for our little man?

As a parent, and especially as a middle class American parent, and most especially as a stay-at-home mom, I am supposed to be creating a perfect environment for those baby synapses and neurons so that he can be the fastest and brightest and most advanced. He needs to be ahead of everyone else to compete, right? Cue the generalized inferiority anxiety attack: he should be speaking Mandarin, not English! Flashcards every day! I should be turning my dining room into Gymboree! (Mr. K would probably argue that I already have).

Maybe, most importantly for this discussion, what does it say about my parenting and about my life if he is or isn’t those things? That I have failed him? Or our genetic material crapped out? Or that we are better parents than those with ‘average’ kids? Or his intelligence should be assumed given our childhoods?

Really, what is the point? So, maybe he’s fast. Where does that get him…bored and in trouble? So, maybe he’s smart. Is that the primary determinant for a successful life? (So what if he speaks Mandarin? There won’t be many people to talk to around here.) We have both lived with the disadvantages of being different. Life in the ‘integrated’ classroom (or your average workplace) can be a very hard place to be, whichever end of the bell curve you happen to fall. It seems to have all come out in the wash anyway, since as adults our lives are really pretty unremarkable despite all the 99th percentile standardized tests.

Do we need to be smart to be happy? Has being smart made us any happier than anyone else? Are speed and smart the same thing at all? Case 1: We have a brilliant, successful friend who was never in the gifted program but is honestly one of the smartest people I know. Did he not make the schools radar because he developed more slowly? Or was there another reason? If his parents kept him out of the program intentionally, did the slower pace allow him to eventually surpass us? Case 2: We have another brilliant friend who is also a very fast thinker/worker, and spends almost two thirds of her job trying to look busy because she’s already finished her work. Is that speed really a gift to her?

I’m leaning towards a different perspective, which is this: who cares about smart or speed. I want him to be wise. I want him to be able to realistically assess himself and those around him and be able to make good decisions. I’d love for him to be intelligent, but I think that’s almost on the same level as saying I hope he loves music or keeps his Dad’s big blue eyes… so that we can see ourselves in him. There is so much more to life than being able to ace a standardized test or bring home the top score – and we’ve done both so I don’t think that it’s a case of sour grapes. Those things are meaningless if you can’t apply them to the world. Being smart and learning how to think are not the same thing.

Maybe he’ll be brilliant. Maybe he’ll be fast. I have a hunch that whatever he is, I can only stand back and let him find it.

It probably won’t be in a set of flashcards.

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Team Edward

Yesterday, for no good reason at all, I picked up Twilight again. While I would be very slow to argue that it is among the best written books of all time, it is certainly on my list of books that I love to re-read, which is a rather short list. Let’s be very honest: I’m not rereading it cover to cover, I’m finding the swoon worthy sections in between rescuing my tiny gymnast from his most recent hijinks.

But oh, swoon worthy it is. I don’t like the casting so I have not seen the movie(s) and have no plans to… but there is an Edward Cullen filmstrip playing in my head on a regular basis. It’s made me stop to think and perhaps even question my fascination with an adolescent vampire love story, in which no one ever even gets to second base (…yet). But here is what I am thinking:

  • OMG the breathing on each other, the inhaling, the sniffing… and only finding good smells. Clearly, a work of fiction as I have never met the man who naturally leaves my hair and clothes smelling “delicious”, but I definitely remember the days when Mr. K had a completely foreign and yet totally familiar smell, and I had the time and inclination to savor it. Now we smell the same, or I am so used to him that I don’t process it anymore. The man with whom I actually spend my days and nights canoodling with often smells of excrement and pineapple. He doesn’t even eat that much pineapple, so I can’t explain that. Those of you have been to my house know the paint-peeling mastery of Dog. Isn’t it totally convenient and awesome that E.C. has no human bodily functions and will never fart in front of you, piss on your feet or vomit?????
  • the endless foreplay forbidden longing: they clearly CAN’T have the big s-e-x (at least at this point, spoiler!) and he might actually DEVOUR her, he just loves her so much, so a little bit of closed mouth kissing is all they need! While I definitely got the forbidden, hand-check, why are you two not in plain view treatment, I’m pretty sure that even then I did not have the time to laze about and trace the contours of my boyfriend’s face. Also, let’s be honest, I think there are a very limited number of times when that activity will actually hold your interest. I give that a 2 year expiration date, max.
  • see above, re: devouring. Who does not want to be devoured by a strapping, handsome, courteous young man? Sign me up!! (Oh wait – I am signed up… except that my man is 27″ tall and leaves teeth marks so you KNOW how much he loves you. It’s really really not the same thing at all.)
  • I know that they think their lives are terribly complicated, what with the potential visions of the potential future, the Native American treaty lines, the potential for actual devouring and OMG high school! But their lives are looking blessedly simple from where I stand. I particularly enjoy the parts where:
    • E.C. has lots of money, cause, duh! how do you not have lots of money when you are that old and of even average intelligence?
    • E.C. has really nice cars which he drives absurdly fast, turning a 60 minute drive into a 20 minute jaunt!
    • Not a single relative on either side of the equation is mentally ill or requires their assistance and care – in fact, they’re all gorgeous and/or lovable! (Rosalie is sort of a bitch, but at least she has reasons)
    • Vampires are incapable of sleep, providing them with another advantage in the task completion department (their super fast reflexes and superhuman senses help too)
    • E.C. is super fast and agile, so even though Bella is a total klutz (with a very low opinion of herself) he can just pick her up and whiz right along, through the forest and everything. I am trying to remember the last time someone picked me up and I can’t, but I am betting it was a lot more awkward and uncomfortable then when our star-crossed lovers do it.

In short, I am mildly addicted to escapist fiction. In the grand scheme of addictions, it seems like it’s not so bad. I could be hooked on drinking blood, you know. That’s a hard habit to kick. It is a shame that it’s written for teens, because by the fourth book I was totally feeling cheated out of steamy details… but I am an old respectable married lady and I can pretty much fill in the blanks. (As Mr. K loves to say, ‘Insert tab A into slot B. Repeat if necessary.’ Um….. yeah.)

Most of all, I think it’s just nice to put myself in someone else’s shoes for a bit. A mental vacation, if you will. And now, I have a mental date with my undead crush…good night!

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