Monday, August 22, 2011

Sight Alignment. Trigger Control.

There are a few moments captured, like snapshots, in my memory of the day we brought Bar home from the hospital: seeing him turn his little face into the sunshine for the first time as we clumsily hoisted him into the car,  me hopping out of the car to scoop up Ralph, the cat, and closing the door leaving the baby inside the car, the "It's a Boy!" balloon tied to the rail on my front steps dancing and flashing in the breeze.  And, the memory of passing Bar to my father to hold for the first time.  My father plunked down in the rocking chair that he and my mother had just driven 1,025 miles to bring to me.  He waited, stiff and unmoving, his arms a nest of blanket and cautious expectation.  His breath caught in his throat a moment and then he started to rock.  Back and forth and back and forth.  I wondered briefly if, as he looked at my tiny son, he was remembering what it was like to hold me as a baby.  It turns out he was indeed as he whispered just then the first words he ever said to his namesake,
"I rocked your mommy in this chair.  One million rocks." 
My dad, a man never prone to emotional effusiveness, seemed to get stuck at that point.  What does one say to a newborn?  To your first grandchild?  To the tiny creature sprung forth from your own and only daughter now cradled in your arms?
"Sight Alignment.  Trigger Control."
That was it and there it was.  The very first piece of advice my dad thought to offer up to little Bar, who, at that moment, pooped noisily, snapping my father out of his oddly commingled musings on love, life, and weaponry.  There endeth the lesson.
Or so I thought.  It occurred to me recently that "Sight Alignment. Trigger Control" may have been the best parenting advice I've ever been given.  When I strip away all the rest: Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Work or stay home? Music classes or gym classes? And so on and so forth, I'm left with a near daily need to adjust my sights.  My actual experience of being a mom is nothing like what I saw in my minds eye when I decided I wanted to have a baby, or when he was one, or even last week. Sight alignment. As for trigger control, I know that I'm not the first mother to have seriously considered leaving her kid on a hillside to be raised by wolves (and build Rome!) or to have been pushed so close to her breaking point that the only available option is to run screaming into the night with a toy hammer and pound on the compost bin while sobbing unrelentingly.  But, gold stars on my karmic sticker chart, I haven't ever (yet) turned him out of the nest and pushed though I may be, the only touch my child will know from me is loving touch.  I can make no such guarantee regarding the compost. 
I am not, by nature, a particularly patient person, nor do I handle change especially well.  I like routine.  I like knowing what's coming next.  I dislike chaos and things that are illogical.  I am frustrated when I can barely control the present and terrified that I cannot control the future.  All in all, I'm a terrible candidate for parenthood.  And yet there is Bar, who I love beyond measure or reason.  Bar, who lights me up.  Bar, whose simple smile can drag me through a hardest day.  Bar, to whom I have given over my life, my job, my body, my dreams and plans and whose own life I can shape only  so much before I must release him to the fast moving currents of time and his own path.
Sight alignment.  Trigger control.
Thanks, Dad.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mommy See

"Mommy see.  Mommy see.  Mommy see!"  Life of late has been a veritable chorus of, "Mommy see."   It turns out that children, like plants, thrive on food, water, and sunshine.  The welcome, if tardy, arrival of spring sees Bar blooming lushly.  A few extra inches, a hugely expanding vocabulary, and finally getting a handle on coordinating arms and legs - it's a brave new world for a little guy.  "Mommy see!"  I'm one of those who think that kids, and plants as it happens, also need to be fertilized with praise.  I've been caught on more than one occasion whispering sweet nothings to my orchids.  "Bar can do it!" I say so many times a day.  "Hey Bar?" I question him, even interrupting a few rare moments of kid-free time, "Guess what - I love you."  And so his confidence grows, springing forth from deep roots within his brave little heart.  My rich reward for all this feeding and sunning, teaching him to speak and listening to what he has to say?  "Mommy see."
Little Bar, here's what I see.  I see you growing strong and healthy.  Your days are spent running, kicking balls, swinging bats, and climbing.  You fall down on purpose into grass so you can roll and tumble and look into the sky.  You eat man sized quantities of food.  Good food.  Food made out of food.  I see you feeling out your independence, learning that I don't instinctively reach out to stop you any longer when you reach the top of a flight of stairs or, usually, tell you that you can't try something even though I don't think you can do it.  You have surprised me often.  I see how capable you are already.  When your confidence falters, I see you reach for me, "Mommy, hold my hand."  "Let me show you," I say, "Bar can do it."  And you do.  And before I know it my reassuring hand is no longer required.  I see you developing empathy.  You appeared at my side a few days ago, a baby bird clutched in your hands.  You stared at it intently as it keened for it's mother and food before finally whispering to me, "Mommy, bird frustrated."  And to the bird you offered this, "Lie down, bird.  Lie down.  Sleep [you'll] feel better."  I see that you are learning to give and receive love.  I see your personality emerging, making funny jokes about macaroons long ago eaten because it makes us all laugh and figuring out that your slow smile wins you friends wherever we go.  People, of all ages, want to be with you.  "Mommy see!  Mommy see!"  I come to see you jump or roll, build a tower of blocks, or read a book, "By telf!"  But I see also a beautiful young man before me.  I see your quiet strength and the current of joy that moves you to hop to a place instead of walk.  I see your generosity of spirit and I see your patience with your limitations, and mine.  I see that there will be so much more for me to see in the days to come.
And Bar, when you call to me, "Mommy see," I hope that you can see how proud I am of you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Know, I Was There - A Blog About Me, Mostly

Nothing today went quite as planned.  A lesson I've learned often and hard on this journey of motherhood. Two years ago I thought I would miraculously and in spectacularly warrior-female fashion give birth to Bar with some attractive and heroic grunting and sweating and he'd slide into this world formed, present, and obviously at peace.  Little Bar, he has lived up to his part of the deal.  As for me, the best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry.  And yet, there he was.  And here he is.  Two years old.

I had created for today a virtual anti-plan for his birthday.  No party.  No elaborate plans.  No cake.  No balloons.  I do not think I completely understood how attached I was to this notion - if I react as if nothing is happening, perhaps nothing has happened.  In the scheme of life on Earth, nothing indeed has happened.  But, oh, little Bar, this is his day.  Two years old!

In spite of my vigorous and vocal protests to the contrary, I had planned a surprise for today.  A big, fat, cathartic surprise in the form of a perfectly edited and sound-tracked home movie documenting his first two years of life (life!).  Plucking away at the project over the last few weeks during nap times and the rare unoccupied evening hours, I'd gotten about as far as his baptism at six weeks old.  I hunkered down last night to finish, intent on birthing this perfect project in the same way I had failed to birth him - quietly, easily, and with grace and beauty.  And so, of course, he woke at 10:15 PM crying and calling for me.  I went to him, at first, with frustration; I was in the middle of making something perfect and important  - why can't I ever do anything?!  Storming into his room, in the scant few hours before he actually turned two years old, I was greeted with "Mommy? Hi Mommy.  Mommy hug?"  Mommy hug?  If there has ever been an invitation to be present in my own life, that was it.  A moment entirely mine to take.  And take it I did.  I dove into bed with him.  I scooped him into my arms.  I kissed his forehead, breathing in his sweaty sweet smell of youth and active dreams.    And, he pushed me away.  He did not need scooping, my ever more independent boy.  He needed a reassuring hand on his back, the sound of my breath and, finally, to fall asleep with one of his arms wrapped around his toy giraffe, one hand firmly grasping my pointer finger, and his knees curled up beneath him.  Peace, I thought.  Peace he felt.

That time, with him, in the quiet dark of his room, reminded me that Bar needed no video with perfectly chosen music.  Neither did the rest of the world.  It was an exercise, though a valuable one, in what I needed.  Knowing Bar, he will accept it with gratitude when I finish it, be it next week or for his third or fourth birthday.  And so, after settling him, I went off to brush my teeth, wash my face, and drift off to sleep knowing he would call for milk before dawn and we would nurse in this beautiful day together, mother and son - in small moments still of one body - elaborate media presentation not required.

Happy Birthday, Little Bar.  Happy Birthday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

03-17-2010 A Nail. Where? IN HIS HEAD!

A look back to last year on this day with a post I made to some friends at the time.

To begin, Bar is fine.  Completely fine.  He is, as I type, sitting next to me in his high chair nibbling on cheese and crooning sweet love songs to the cat.
To backtrack, Bar was playing happily this afternoon on the carpet with his books.  All was right with the world as he sat and read.  Having heard the soft (and familiar) thud of infant head striking carpet, I glance up to find my son face planted into the carpet, a not altogether unusual sight given that he is 11 months old and the niceties of forward momentum still elude him at times.  More unusual though, was the cry that followed shortly thereafter, less a "boo hoo I did not achieve my objective so now I am cross" cry and more of a "moooooooooomy something is gravely wrong, I'm not ok and you must come quickly to determine why" cry.  So, I scoop him into my arms offering all of the typical "There, there's" and "Shhhh, shhhhhs."  I stroke his head.  And my hand strikes something hard.  Thinking it a piece of straw or a stray bit of shredded wheat from breakfast, I swipe at it again.  It is then that I see metal.  Immediately after that I see blood.  Fortunately, time stopped at that moment, so I don't feel guilty for sitting there waiting for my brain to assemble all of the information of the last few moments and come to the conclusion that my son has a nail sticking out of the side of his head.
Time restarts.  I run next door to Randall's and ask him to hold the baby, informing him matter of factly that there is something sticking out of his head.  Somewhat perplexed, he replies, "What?"  but does it anyway.  I grab a wad of tissues from the bathroom, intent on being proactive and removing the offending nail.  I grab the end, meet with some resistance, and contemplate vomiting.  Instead, I announce that we need to go to the ER immediately.  I race back to my apartment for the car seat.  Ever try to put an infant in a bucket seat with a nail protruding from the side of his head?  They're not really made to accommodate such things.  Bar rode in my lap.  Babykiller, I know.
It gets fairly boring from here.  Bar had long since stopped crying and seemed most annoyed that I kept trying to move his hand from the side of his head.  They fast tracked us at the ER and, in no time at all, he's having an x-ray.  They determine that the nail didn't puncture the skull and the doc comes in and just plucks it out.  Bar only whimpered.  He didn't really cry until she started to wash it and even then, the hurt was instantly repaired by a few hippie O's and a quick nursing.
This brings us back to the beginning of the post.  Bar is fine.  I, however, expect not to be fully recovered for some time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mommy Math

Dear Tooth Fairy,
  As you are doubtless aware, Bar has begun working on the last of his four baby teeth.  These four teeth will bring on hours of agony, ill-humor, and general malcontent.  And for what, dear Tooth Fairy?  Why must you pick on my sweet little boy?  A little guy who, on Christmas morning, upon seeing the shiny red trike under the tree waiting for him did not run headlong into the living room with wrapping-tearing, "gimme gimme gimmes" but retired to the hallway to weep quietly, overwhelmed by the magnitude of change that took place overnight.  It was a full 30 minutes before he could be coaxed onto his tricycle and convinced to scoot to the oven door to take a look at his reflection. There, after a few seconds, he managed a breathless and nearly inaudible, "Mine?"  This humble, gentle soul needed to be blessed with giant man-sized teeth?  Yes, yes, they are lovely and white and straight.  And, yes again, he has a most winning smile.  But these pearly whites are going to fall out, Tooth Fairy; they're going to fall out.  What good will they have done any of us?
  I confess that I won't be sad to not have you darken my door again for years.  But oh, oh, how I will be waiting for you when you return.  Don't even think about slinking in here with only a silver dollar and a pamphlet on oral hygiene when these hard-won teeth start to turn up under Bar's pillow.  Oh no.  Think elaborate, Tooth Fairy, elaborate and expensive.  And don't forget the gifts for me.  Shiny gifts.  Dream vacation gifts.   Return of the lost nights of my late twenties gifts.  I'm a thoughtful sort, so I'll help you with the math. 
  Let's assume my base hourly rate is $50/hr.  Sleep time starts at 7 PM and ends at 7 AM; I'll be super generous and not bill you for the weeks of 5 AM wake-ups or the not quantifiable level of exhaustion between 7 AM and bed time.  There will be a total of 20 teeth, once these four are in, and each has taken about two weeks of sleepless nights to break through.  That's 3,360 teething hours.  At straight time, you'd owe me $168,000.  But, factoring in penalties - time and half after midnight and before 6 AM and double time on Sundays (you'll again note my magnanimity in not charging you meal penalties, over 40, or compounding penalties) - it turns out you owe me significantly more.  By my estimation, I have $228,000 in cash and prizes coming my way.  Bring it, lady.  Bring it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh. Chirstmas tree.

I became today the owner of a Christmas tree for only the second time in my adult life.  At the risk of losing friends and readers, hello you intrepid 11, I dislike Christmas trees.  $50 for a dying bit of vegetation that sits in my living room dropping bits of outdoors inside.  I have to feed it.  Water it.  Give it attention and lavish it with beautiful things.  And then, after becoming a part of the "family" for three weeks, I have to throw it away.  Well, I have to drag it outside where it stares at me from the back yard, stripped of it's finery and looking progressively sadder, sicker, and deader, waiting to be hauled off to the dump by my spouse on his next day off, sometimes weeks away.  Humbug.  I'd have preferred to let the thing keep growing happily in nature doing natural things.
That having been said, it's a nice tree.  It makes my husband happy; I've caught him lost in thought and smiling at it more than once already tonight. It causes my son, inexplicably, to grasp his crotch and blow at it from across the room as if it was on fire and come to steal his pants.  But, I confess that I teared up a little as I took from our small box of ornaments the plaster cast  I made last December of his little hand.  Was it really so tiny?  And the photograph a mommy friend, due soon with her second, took of me holding Bar in the air and gazing at him with such rapt joy that I almost don't recognize myself.  And yet, there I am and seeing that happiness from the outside reminds me how much becoming a mother has changed me for the better.  So, Tree (and mommy friend), thank you for that.  And there are three one dollar bills, held together by a diaper pin waiting for their turn to adorn the tree again this year.  My now sister, married to my brother-in-law a few weeks ago, pinned them to my tree last year in a dramatic flourish after listening to me ramble on about how much I hated Christmas trees.  "There," she proclaimed, "now it's a Mitzvah tree."  And, so it is.  Those slightly less than crisp bills reminding me that kindness is never misplaced and that family, far-flung, alternative, blended, or otherwise, is a blessing.
Though I still think that a tabletop tree, fake, pre-lit and pre-decorated would leave plenty of room for these cherished mementos and not lessen their specialness, I am content, I suppose, to lose this battle in my household and welcome my coniferous guest again this year. It's a nice tree.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Words to Live By

Until quite recently Bar has confined his use of language to six words.   What I admire, though, is his ability to communicate fully with just those words.  He's great with inflection.   Each word can be both a statement and a question and, with that versatility, he pretty much covers all his bases.
Bar:  Mum?
Me: Yes, Bar?
Bar:  Cheese?
Me: You'd like some cheese?
Bar:  That.
Me:  Ok, I'll get you some cheese.  Here you go.
Bar: Mum!  Cheese.  This.
Me:  Yes, Bar.  Cheese.  It's good.
Bar:  Cheese.  Mum?
Me:  Yes, Bar?
Bar:  Cat! Cat, cat, cat.  Cat cheese?
Me:  No, Bar.  The cat does not want cheese. (This has been recently proven untrue.  The cat does, indeed, want cheese.  A lot.)
Bar:  That.
If you ask me, that's a pretty durned elegant use of the English language.

However, Bar has finally decided that he does need more than his six essential words for living (mum, dada, cat, this, that, cheese) and has been working on words that express his deep and undying love of things that go and food.  So, he has chosen 'backhoe' and 'potato.' Pronunciation is still an issue though.  A fly on the wall in my house would hear the following conversation at least 741 times a day.
Bar: Cock!
Me: Truck, Bar.  Backhoe.
Bar: Cockho!
Bar: Mum?
Me: Yes, Bar?
Bar: (growling as if possessed by Lucifer) Ta-to.  TATO!
Me: Potato.
Bar: Cock!  TatotatotaoTA-TO!

A somewhat less elegant use of English, but a no less effective one.