Why my kid is probably going to hate his baby sister

November 26, 2008

I have lost my freaking mind.

Seriously, I’m hoping this is pregnancy-related only, and it will come back sometime after those crazy newborn weeks? Because if not, I’m going to need some HELP.

I’ve totally lost the ability to react to normal toddler behaviors with anything approaching normalcy. No, instead, I’m some kind of crazed out Psycho Mommy. Jumping on the bed has been, up until recently, a clearly defined No-No in our house. He still does it, of course, because he is two-and-three-quarters and that is what.they.do. They can recite the rule back to you, even whilst breaking the rule. Fun times. But now that my brain has melted and my hormones are dancing a jig all around my swollen body, I either react with a , “Oh whatthefreakingheck. Fine, jump on the bed, I don’t care as long as you don’t break your neck,” or with a “BLERRRRRRRRRRGH!!!!! NO JUMPING ON THE BED!!!!! TIME OUT RIGHT NOW, MISTER!”

Is it any wonder that the testing of the boundaries has seen a recent spike?

The poor kid probably has no idea what to expect at any given moment. Because I am gestating the Doodlebug, I have gone nutso. And just think, when she gets here? I’ll be weepy, hormonal, breastfeeding, and sleep-deprived. Odds are, it’s only going to get worse.

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The Weekend’s Low -and High- Points

October 20, 2008

His scream pierced the night. “Mommy! Mommy! My mommy!” Before I could move my heavy form off the mattress, Gruff was up and out our door. I heard Smooch’s voice louder – hitching sobs and cries for me. Gruff soothed and whispered and patted, but Smooch only got more upset.

“That’s enough.” Tired and frustrated at not being able to comfort our son, Gruff’s voice got a wee bit sharper. “Smooch, that’s enough.”

My mama-heart clenched to hear the refrain that -it seems in my memory- was lobbed at me so often in my childhood. My parents meant well, they meant only the best. Looking back on it, I think they were often overwhelmed by the ferocity of my storms of emotion. I was generally a happy, pleasant kid; but when I felt something, I felt it. Big, loud, unrestrained tears and long, wistful sighs and elaborate huffs and stomps. Those were my canvas, my oils. I wanted the whole world to know how I FELT. I think my parents were trying, in their way, to teach me the art of restraint – of discretion – of knowing how, and when, and where it was appropriate and safe to vent my feelings. But as a kid, I didn’t see it that way. I felt that my emotions were inconveniencing them (they probably were) and that they just wanted me to go away and come back when I could ‘behave’ (they probably did) – and, more importantly, I felt that their attempt to add a little temperance to my tempers was a rejection of ME.

Whew, did you hear all that? Don’t I sound well-balanced, to be able to reflect on all of that so clearly? It took my marriage nearly imploding and subsequent therapy to reach those realizations. Our therapist helped me to see that the pattern I learned (or assumed) as a kid – that my feelings needed to be bottled, and filtered, and made potable before being aired, or else I might be rejected – had become very unhealthy for me as an adult.

But back to Saturday night.

I joined my husband in our boy’s room, and I scooped his long body from his bed. He’s a toucher, my little guy – he seeks out skin contact nearly all day. It’s his thing, his love language, his coping comfort. He stretched his little arms as far around me as he could and started rubbing and patting my back as I patted his, and slowly his sobs quieted down. It was a long night, though. His tears flared up again and again as we tried to figure out what had upset him so, what would help him fall back to sleep. My emotions (and hormones) were close to the surface, and I cried a bit myself. Finally, around 2:00, we were all ready for bed again. Smooch had been able to tell us that he wanted to come to our bed, and we finally settled him down on his mattress on our floor – a compromise, since Mama’s ever-expanding girth makes it hard for me to get comfortable just sharing with Gruff, much less if we added a squirmy two year old to the bed.

As I laid there in the dark, quiet surrounding me once more, I wondered: am I really ready to add another babe to this mix? I want to be ready – I deeply love this little girl-child inside me, and I can’t wait to see her face to face. But there were moments, facing my son’s tears, upset with my husband, and wrestling with my own childhood ghosts, that I felt utterly incapable of the family I already have. How then can I handle one more human being, one who needs me completely and desperately and wholly?

I know I’m not the only expectant mom to worry and wonder. I read Mrs. Chicken’s blog while she was expecting Shaggy, and I loved the way she wrote about both the joy and the anxiety of bringing home the second baby. I know that we’ll find our way, as she is finding hers, and that somehow I will make room in our lives for Doodlebug. That I’ll manage, as millions of mothers before me can testify, to handle the new needs of our bigger family.

And my first step toward managing? On Sunday evening, fueled by a whole day’s worth of coffee and rest and food and time together, I approached Gruff about his words to Smooch. We talked about our expectations of our oldest – who is really not so very old, at 33 months – and how we can handle another outburst like that one. I talked about my need to be supported, even comforted and consoled, when I become emotional in the face of Smooch’s upsets. I talked about my childhood, and not wanting to communicate the same undercurrent to our kids. And then I listened – to his feelings and fears, and bless his heart!, to his apology. We ended our conversation in that best of ways, by meandering around a hundred unrelated topics, laughing and giggling, reminiscing, and cuddling.

It makes me believe that we will be ready, in 12-or-so weeks, when she joins us in the outside world.


Today, in the bathroom

October 7, 2008

Smooch wanders in.

“Mommy, you pee-pee?” He pats my leg. “You penis, point down!” (Hmmm, I guess he’s heard that reminder a few times when he’s sitting down, huh?)

“I don’t have a penis, Smooch.”

“Where penis go?” Look of slight confusion crosses his face. He pulls down his underwear (the only clothing he’s currently wearing) to check. As his is still in place, he seems relieved. “My penis dere.”

“Yes, you have one. And Daddy has one. You are both boys. Boys have a penis.” (I know, terrible grammar. For some reason, my grammar falls apart in the face of explaining certain subjects to my two year old.) “I’m a girl – no penis.”

“Okay. I big boy, Daddy big boy. My penis here.” He pats his underwear reassuringly and wanders back out of the bathroom.

 

 

I swear. Just think of the conversations we’ll have when Doodlebug arrives and he starts observing her diaper changes….


Potpourri

October 1, 2008

Dudes.

It has been so long since I logged in here, my browser couldn’t even remember the address to auto-fill for me. I had a momentary blank out on my password. And then the Dashboard looked like a foreign landscape and it took me a few seconds to remember how to open up a new post.

The times, they are a-flyin’.

Fall is here, finally. We woke up to mid-50’s temps and I put on a MATERNITY SWEATER. I could just swoon. I love the look of maternity sweaters (cozy, warm, they swaddle you up and make everyone go, “Oh, look: pregnant. Not fat.”) and never got to wear them while gestating Smooch down in South Florida. After a little reminder at my last midwife appointment (“We only need 300 extra calories for the baby, dear….”) and with the date for my glucose tolerance test looming in three weeks, I got ambitious and went out for a walk in the cool morning air. It was delicious, but I still only did one lap of the neighborhood. No sense in burning out on the first day I try, right?

I’m 25-and-a-half weeks pregnant, and this Doodlebug is a funny little girl. As I type, my be-sweatered belly is thumping and rolling. Boom-digga-boom-boom-boom. Ker-thwack. She likes her private time when Smooch is out of the way… she’s most active first thing when I wake up in the wee hours, as Gruff leaves for work; and then again during Smooch’s naptime; and then late in the evening after Smooch goes to bed. It’s either early sibling avoidance, or else those are just the only times I stop moving all day and it wakes her up. One of the two.

It’s just a little more than a month until we get to vote. Gruff has the week off work (coincidentally – he didn’t plan a vacation around the election) and we’re excited to get to go to the polls together for the first time since we’ve been together. He’s a total news junkie, so he’s looking forward to staying up all night to watch the talking heads as the results roll in. Before this year, I was really clueless about politics, but -you might remember- I decided to do my very best to get educated on the candidates back during primary season, and now I’m almost as hooked on political news as my husband. It’s a little wierd that we can have an intelligent conversation about the candidates over dinner, but it’s a good thing.

And *ahem*…. have you noticed that Christmas is coming? I went to Hobby Lobby with Smooch yesterday (“Wobby Wobby”, he says, with great glee. “H-O-B-B-Y says Wobby Wobby! Yay”) and it seems like half the store is dedicated to Christmas decorations. As we turned the corner and caught sight of the green & red, Smooch lifted both hands above his head. “Kissmiss tees! I EXCITED! Kissmiss, Mommy!” Thanks, Wobby Wobby. Now I get to field that query… oh, daily… for like ten weeks. Lovely.

Also on the holiday note, I have –somewhat recklessly– decided to try to make many of our gifts for family members this year. Like I don’t have enough going on, right? I have a huge list of projects to make FOR Doodlebug, another list of projects that need to be completed around the house before she gets here, and now a list of things to make for a holiday that’s just a couple of weeks before she’s due. I’m nothing if not optimistic.


Summer Backyard Fun

July 16, 2008

A worm in the hand is worth two in the dirt.


A Post Worth Coming Back For

July 15, 2008

 

I’m trying to remember a lesson I thought I learned a long time ago: I choose the hard stuff.

 

In the fall of 2001, Gruff (then my fiancé) was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Two surgeries followed in the next whirlwind month, and as he recovered in hospital after the last surgery we made a decision. All those plans for the April wedding – the sage green bridesmaids dresses, the dogwood sprays we’d carry, the delicate springy flowers I would use to decorate the church – were gone. Instead, we would marry in December; the new date was just six weeks away. Amidst the new flurry of  rearranging and downsizing the plans, and the rollercoaster of Gruff’s physical recovery and appointments and meetings with the oncologists, I had a conversation with my dad.

 

“I love him. I need to be married to him, even if it’s only for a little while. I’d marry him in his hospital bed if I had to.”

 

“He’ll be sick. Chemo will be hard.”

 

“I know. But I need to be the one who takes care of him. Even if it’s hard. It should be me.”

 

But I didn’t really know – I couldn’t. I was just twenty-one years old (and barely that. I had my birthday, then started my first “real job”, then graduated from college, and then got married – all at two week intervals at the end of that year.) and I had no idea what chemotherapy would really be like.

 

One evening, midway through his treatments, my husband stood at the sink of our tiny bathroom in our postage-stamp one-bedroom apartment. Hands braced on the countertop, his shoulders shook, and he looked fragile for the first time since I’d met him. His head was newly bald – we had shaved it when his hair began to fall out in alarming clumps – and he was so pale. I crept in behind him, put my hand on his back, tried to comfort him.

 

And suddenly, he collapsed toward me. I think I let out a little scream – I was so scared. He caught himself, braced against me, and I helped him walk the few short steps across the hall to our bedroom. I tucked him in to our bed – my double bed from my parent’s home, which seemed so big to me as a teenager, now too small for my 6’3” husband – and fetched a glass of water, a pill. He was asleep before I knew it, and I hovered at the doorway listening to his breath in the dim light of dusk.

 

Then I ran to our sofa and dialed my parent’s phone number through my tears. I’m sure I scared them, calling with that voice – sobs and hitched breaths – but I told them about what had just happened, how scared I was. What would I do if he had passed out? My young heart was trying so hard to be grown up, but faced with the very real mortality of the man I loved, I just wanted to hear my dad’s voice.

 

“You chose this, hon,” he said. “You told me that day – you wanted it to be you who took care of him. You knew this was the hard part. You are strong enough. You love him enough. You chose this.”

 

Through the years, I have clung to that conversation. My dad’s voice rings in my ears now when something painful, or difficult, or challenging comes my way. I choose the hard part.

 

Today, I lay curled awkwardly on a toddler bed, my body molded around a sweaty, sniffling toddler. When we got home from our playgroup this afternoon, Smooch had a rough time with his nap. He got out of bed over and over, throwing himself on the floor and peering under the crack in the door, calling my name. I tried to stay calm, send him back to his bed, leave the room again, and pray he’d sleep – but after the third go-round I realized he was becoming hysterical. His little body was shaking, his voice was trembling, his head was covered in sweaty curls. I held him in my arms, and I heard my father’s voice.

 

We climbed into his bed together, and within moments he was fast asleep. His breath still caught in his throat, those trembly sighs that follow a long hard cry. My inner type-A wanted to hop right up and go DO something – but I resisted. Lately, we’ve been working at cross-purposes, my little Smooch and I. Two-and-a-half has been hard. He needs more independence, more control… and I’m pregnant, hormonal, and tired, so I haven’t always met those needs very gracefully. There have been potty progresses and potty battles. There have been the first aggressive incidents with little friends. These are normal things, but they are the hard parts of this age. As I tried to bend my knees a little, finding a more comfortable way to spoon my son in his little bed, I realized that I am simply re-learning this lesson.

 

The biggest part of love, I think, is choosing to be there for the hard stuff. You don’t pass it off to someone else. You don’t let the other person bear the load alone. Whether it’s your lover or your child, you come alongside them – you throw your lot in with them – you hear their hurts, feel their pain, share their fears. It sometimes pierces your heart, it sometimes seems insane. When you come out on the other side, though, it is always worth it.

 

So I stayed in that toddler bed until his breathing was still and calm. Easing my gravid belly off of the little frame, I felt a peace unfold deep inside me.


Havin’ more church up in this here blog.

April 15, 2008

I intended to change the subject this morning & write about my mother, but a comment on my last post got my wheels turning again. I started writing a reply comment, but it quickly became long and rambling – in other words, it deserved a post of its own. So here we are.

Coralie said:

This comment may not be what you want to hear, but I’m going to say it any way.

I think you should be letting Gruff take the lead on all of this. God made him your head, and at the end of things, Gruff is going to have to answer for how well he did with that position.

I heard a wise woman say we don’t submit to our husbands because they are worthy of it, we submit because God calls us to, and HE is worthy of it.

Just my (unasked for) 2 cents.

For everyone’s future reference, I’m okay with comments I didn’t necessarily “want” to hear — sometimes those are the most needed, right?

I know in my heart that you’re right. But the thing I question is this: in the absence of godly leadership from our husbands, are we not still responsible to the principles we know & the promptings we feel? Ideally, sure, my husband would take charge, take the lead, make a decision about our church home… but in reality, his radar is not tuned in right now. We have very different faith backgrounds – he is a much ‘younger’ Christian and he has struggled over the last year and a half, especially. My big struggle is the tug-of-war over leading simply because I have more ‘knowledge’ and more ‘experience’ and frankly, more motivation and interest in doing so… versus stepping back in the hope and prayer that he will step forward to lead. The issues I face in stepping back? Things go stagnant. Nothing happens.

As a for instance, take praying over meals — how many times over the years I’ve initiated it (asking him to say the blessing!), then stopped after a few days to see if he would continue it, only to have it fizzle out. Right now we’re keeping it up, mainly -I think- because Smooch is old enough to get into it, and Gruff thinks it’s cute when he reaches out his hands toward us and bows his head…. a little child shall lead them, eh?

Just now, typing that last paragraph, I realize that it’s very possible that God is going to use just that – our little boy, the innocence of a child, the natural interest and inclination of kids to learn about the things of God – to pull Gruff closer to Him.

But in the meantime, I circle back to my earlier question. Am I not still responsible to the principles I know & the promptings I feel? I believe that I’m asked to give back of my income to the Lord’s work; I believe that I’m asked to join with a fellowship of believers; I believe that I’m asked to raise my child in the ‘fear and admonition of the Lord.’ In a household where one parent is ambivalent about the whole thing, can the other parent fill in that gap and take that lead anyway? Which is the greater need – that need for perfect submission, or that need for setting a godly example for a child? (And I do realize that I’ve got another year or so before Smooch really begins to understand and remember what he sees us doing – thank God that our kids come to us as tiny little guys so that we get a “grace period” for figuring things out, right?)