I’m evaluating my *other* writing projects right now, and realizing I write about mothers constantly. Probably because I’m so deep into the nurturing phase that is early childhood, I am studying the mother-child relationship from all angles.
Recently, I realized something stunning and beautiful. (Before I share it, you should know that I have a brilliant and funny husband, and our marriage is one of the good ones. This will help you calibrate the intimacy in my life.)
Here it is: The relationship between mothers and young children, particularly nurslings, is the most intimate of all human relationships.
I know everything that goes into their little bodies, and I see everything that comes out. I know how much sleep they get, and whether the sleep was good. They have preferences and favorites and foods they absolutely will not eat, and I have to know it all. If my husband expected these things of me, I would go berserk.
For these short years, as my helpless newborns grow into schoolgirls, I am still a part of them. We are sharing our lives in a very intimate way. There is love, yes, but there is feeding and cleaning and teaching and explaining and helping them understand that life is not fair. My heart broke yesterday when 2008 asked me why some people hit. There is heartbreak and there is joy.
There are also French kisses, because my baby thinks licking other people’s teeth is hilarious.
Beneath it all, there there also is a slow process of moving further and further from each other. 2008 has started having preschool experiences that I do not share. 2010 has started remembering her dreams, which gives her some mental privacy. They are carving out pieces of the world for themselves, and it is amazing.
**Photo Credit: Jodi
Your baby will enjoy her longest naps when you have a sitter.
She knows you are out of the house, and no sitter is as fun as Mom, so why not sleep the afternoon away?
Note: this will never happen when your plan for naptime is to clean the house, write a blog post, organize the basement, catch up with an old friend, or prep a complicated dinner.
Four years after you start nursing, you will have to throw away your trusty nursing pillow.*
*This is your fault, by the way.
Always, ALWAYS clean up the vomit starting with unwashable items. Yes, the nursing pillow cover goes in the washer, but the pillow itself does not. And that vomit is stinky. And black. And foul. The chair will be there in an hour, as will the floor. Before you deal with the pile of barfy laundry, peel the cover off your nursing pillow and try to save it.
Every time I rock 2010 to sleep, I fall in love with her all over again.
How awesome is life as a baby? Some loving person is at your beck and call. Someone rocks you after lunch every day and puts you down for a sizable, cozy nap.
Play all day. Read millions of books! Swing to your heart's content.
People carry you around all day, and the whole world is new all the time. Everything is interesting. Trucks are exciting! Some big things are trees, and some are dogs, and until they move, you don't know which.
Everyone wants to be your friend. Everyone thinks you're adorable. Family lavishes praise on you for the tiniest things, and everything is funny.
I would give up my adult privileges for one day to be held and nuzzled and rocked and entertained all day.
Your preschooler will stop jumping on her bed.*
*as soon as her friend cracks her head open, drips blood all over the house, leaves one gory bloody handprint on the kitchen cabinet, and gets five staples in the emergency room.
My girl is the one in striped navy tights under blue jeans. With a teal corduroy skirt, short-sleeved purple unicorn shirt and a sweater her grandmother knitted two years (read: sizes) ago. Her socks are mismatched (unless they were designed to be worn mismatched, in which case she refuses to wear them at all.) Occasionally she wears a 24-month shirt that wound up in the wrong dresser. Most ensembles include one or more pieces of flair from the dress-up basket. And her hair is perpetually unkempt because she refuses pigtail holders, barrettes and headbands.
None of this bothers me in the least.
But this week we pulled the doll house out of storage. Among the M&D posable dolls are eight or ten (read: nine) vintage strawberry shortcake dolls. Now, 2008 lacks the dexterity and patience to dress them, so I do as I'm told for copious amounts of wardrobe changes.
This week we celebrated Blueberry Muffin's birthday with a surprise party in the pool, which used to be the bowl we used for popcorn. Everyone needed to swap clothes for the party.
I cringed when Blueberry Muffin wound up in Lime Chiffon's hat. I didn't balk when 2008 paired a cute pair of green polka-dotted capris with one of the baby's striped pajama shirts and proclaimed it Blueberry's perfect ensemble. I did entertain a gripping inner argument about whether anyone else should wear Strawberry Shortcake's brown shoes, though I didn't needle 2008 about putting tights under those plastic shoes so they would fit.
I fought pretty hard to let 2008 direct our play time. (And I waited until 2008 and 2010 moved on to the music table before I redressed the dolls in the proper attire. About some things, apparently, I am particular.)
Wednesday morning, 2010 woke up with a barky cough. Via phone, her pediatrician diagnosed her with mild coup and effectively quarantined us until 24 hours after her fever broke. Just as it did, though, 2008's temperature spiked.
The only thing worse than having sick kids is being sick while caring for sick kids. Lucky for us, 1977 and I are still healthy. But the kids have been keeping us up all night with the barking and hacking and incessant neediness.
2008 watched 90 minutes of movies today. We worked on her alphabet and tracing skills. 2010 discovered all the ducks she ever wanted on YouTube. We read books and had baths and spent an hour outside depleting their energy with fresh snow. 2010 did not eat a single bite until dinner. They are both exhausted.
Two or three hours from now, they will wake and realize they are feeling punk all alone in their rooms, and we will be invited to crawl into their beds to snuggle. 2010 will let me rock her for hours throughout the night.
And tomorrow morning, 2008 will snuggle in my lap for dozens of picture books. Having sick kids sucks, but having two girls who want nothing more than to snuggle and love all day? There are worse things.
Until three years ago, I loved winter. Instead of longing for the beach, we hunkered down with books in January and emerged from our caves rejuvenated for spring.
Then 2008 was born. Even that winter was fabulous. A baby! Parenthood! Sleep deprivation!
But since then, winters have been long and grey and cold. Wrangling babies into winter accoutrements is just no fun. Add to that slush, lost mittens and the occasional soaked-child-without-snowpants, and I have started to dread winter.
It is upon us only now. Until this week, there has been no snow. Two weeks ago, 2008 was wearing flip flops in our yard. We rode bikes to the park and played without jackets. Last week we spent hours at playgrounds, but now the end is nigh. No more daily walks. No more casual chats with the neighbors. No more lingering conversations with other moms as we wait for the kids to emerge from preschool.
Now everyone will scuttle into her own house, and I fear that I will become one of those things I hate most: people who complain about the weather.
Please, kids, enjoy the snow! And cabin fever, be brief.
My children are developmentally quite different from each other. 2008 walked earlier, crawled earlier, and is very physically skilled. 2010 was scribbling before she was one, and she is very cautious with her body.
At 18 months, 2008 had over one hundred words. Her sister has a mere dozen. But boy, can they communicate. Today I watched them giggling in one of our many nooks, and I realized I had no idea what they were doing. At ages one and three, they are conspiring with each other and I love it.
Some day, not too long from now, they will have secrets. They might have a private language or share imaginary friends or invent silly games, and I am excited about all of it. They're starting to grow outside my sphere of influence, and it is beautiful.
Right now, I'm crossing my fingers that 2008 and 2010 hold on to this friendship and keep it for life.
Much of my writing centers around mothers and children. Kids are on my mind constantly because they're constantly in my house, on my lap, sharing my shower, riding on my back, tugging at my hair, in my room, in my clothes,
I know many young parents, and still more parents considering additional children. Several pairs of prospective parents mill around our social circles. I've said to them what I say to you: if you're doubting yourself, do not have children.
If you covet your neighbors' salaries and exotic vacations and material things, do not have children.
If you cannot function (and be courteous) on fewer than five hours' sleep, do not have children.
If you cannot imagine sharing your partner and your sanctuary, do not have children.
If you have an irrepressible temper, do not have children.
If you value peace above all else, do not have children.
You will just make yourself miserable.
If, however, the urge to procreate is overwhelming, and if you can prioritize your life so your needs are dead last, and if you can scarcely imagine the rest of your life without children, go ahead and make some.
And enjoy the ride; it is (almost) pure bliss.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: