Wednesday, June 24, 2009

All That Time/ Coffins at Dover

Some recent photos of coffins from Iraq and Afghanistan, being flown home to the US via Dover Air Force Base, gave me this thought: that every adult that dies was once a baby, and someone invested so much time in them.

The photos are the first to be allowed of the coffins in 18 years. I was paging through the photos, which are actually pretty repetitive: coffin, draped in flag, being unloaded, a soldier in full uniform standing beside it. But what I saw was: young man inside, who was probably just 22 years ago, a little baby being gazed at and held by his mom. It made me really sad to think that inside that coffin were years and years of a parent's time, energy and love.

After Mommy and Me Yoga last week, two other women and I went to lunch with our babies. The Swedish woman has her baby sleep under a quilt (evidently Swedish mommies are way more easygoing than American ones!) which clearly goes against SIDS rules: sleep on the back, no quilts or blankets in the crib. She mentioned that once they can turn and lift their heads, babies are less at risk for suffocating. The other woman then said that when she was little, a cousin of hers had a baby who died of SIDS at 4 months, and that for the couple's next baby, they watched it on a video monitor at all times if it was sleeping in a different room. Her point was that four months had sounded pretty young to her, but now that she was holding her own three month old, she could tell that he was already his own little person. I added, "Yeah, and you know how much time you've already invested." Of course, we changed topics pretty quickly after that, because the idea of SIDS is just horrifying. You can't think much about that, or you'd never sleep.

Babies certainly do give you a new perspective. Examples:
1. Thinking of the soldiers in the coffins as grown up babies, rather than just adult men.
2. I keep thinking these days, that even the world's worst adult was still once a perfect little baby. It really puts bad people in perspective, and you have to wonder how they end up that way. It has to be the parents' fault, because babies are just angels personified.
3. I'm going to stop going into banks, because banks in my city get robbed every few months, and in-person banking is just not worth that risk. If I were in a bank with Q, and a robber came in, I would lose my mind. (I'm tempted to start packing heat, seriously.)
4. I freaked out when I saw a baby bird struggling to fly near a store this week. I was trying to figure out who to call, because I had to do something. Other passersby were useless, so I ended up calling my vet (crying), and they gave me a wildlife #. I was totally seeing that bird as a baby that needed help, and I was freaking out because I was worried I'd try to ignore it, then not be able to forget it.

(Then, the bird got under a lady's car, and I wouldn't let her drive away until I ensured it wasn't under her car. She even got on the ground to check with me. She was the most compassionate person I encountered, besides the kind receptionist at my vet. Then, I didn't know where the bird was, so the problem was solved. I'm going to assume it learned to fly and flew successfully away.)

Yeah, sometimes it's challenging being me, but it works for me, and I like it.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

"Mommy" and "Mommying": Infantilizing Words?

I cannot stop calling myself and the other women in my Mom's group "mommies." I didn't use to talk like that, and that word probably would have grossed me out a few months ago. "Mommy" sounds infantile, yet it sounds right for what I and the other women in my hospital's New Moms groups are doing. Mommies sound young and new, and that's what we are. We are really still in the learning phase. Just in the past few weeks, month 3 of Q's life, do I feel fully confident in getting him to sleep and taking him out in public without any disasters (you know, taking him out when he's too tired so he cries and cries, or forgetting my wallet in the car at the grocery store).

"Moms" sound experienced. Once we go back to work, maybe we'll be Moms, but right now, I spend my days lilting around town. Life with one new kid is blissfully simple (um, after the mildly hellish first few weeks of recovery and sleep deprivation). I'm going to baby yoga, I'm lunching with other moms, I'm going to various Mom's groups. The hardest thing I do is going to the grocery store with the baby. Come on, that's "mommying!" I'm a "mommy." This is a piece of cake. I know it won't always be this easy, so I am going to enjoy this. Later on, I'll be a competent, serious "Mom" who has big problems to worry about (like trying to balance work with family life- I'm not looking forward to that).

I worry that my new way of talking will put off my friends who don't have kids. I'll have to watch myself. Just yesterday, saying goodbye to a friend, I caught myself almost talking to her in my Baby Q voice. I was mixing up adult affection with baby affection. Whoops. That's OK. I'm still pretty new!
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Flaunting You, Loyal Plants

For this week's Flaunt it Fridays, MK let readers flaunt what they wish. I sat and thought for a moment, then my eyes fell on my curly plant. I'll flaunt my plants. The plants that have survived have been around for 5, 10, 15 years. They have weathered 5, 6 moves and multi-week dry spells as I travel to Mississippi, Portland OR, Ireland, France, and South America. I like to think that my erratic watering pattern has made them tough. Maybe that's why succulents, desert plants, are my favorite. I'd like to introduce my loyal friends. Back row, L-R: lush mother-in-law plants, spiky desert champ, effusive tendril plant, unkillable spider plants. Front row: pathetic sprout, curlicue recluse.

These spider plants are from at least 6 years ago. These might be from the babies I got from the Dunkin Donuts near my Grandma's house in Massachusetts. The hanging plants from DD were so lush, and had so many babies hanging from them, that I asked if I could have a few. I had to get permission from the manager. I may have sent one back with my sister to Texas, if I recall correctly. These are the plants I had in my classroom for years. When people would walk in, they'd say in puzzlement, "Wow! It's so bright in here!" Part of it was because my friend Heidi helped me staple cast-off wallpaper to my bulletin boards, but I feel strongly that another jolt of happiness came from the two spider plants atop a file cabinet by the windows. Working in a dirty, smelly room with linoleum floors and fluorescent lighting is hard, so you have to get energy from multiple sources: co-workers, favorite students, coffee, sun, plants, a nap on the rug during your planning period.

That reminds me of the peace lily I left in my classroom at Buford Middle, one of the less bleak schools, and truly a gem. I could write more about that later, but that student-teaching stint was one of my most wrenching, lovely, stressful, rewarding experiences ever, definitely topping the beautiful and stressful 2 weeks of nannying for a crazy family in France. When I went back to visit in February, the math teacher ran in and told me with great excitement that the peace lily had bloomed. I bet that plant is still there.

Moving on.

This spiky pot of love was given to me by an ex-boyfriend's mom, and she's since died from cancer. I think she may have also given me the tall tendrilly plant, but I'm not totally sure. I just know I love both of these plants, and it's strange yet nice to have this connection with someone who had a difficult life. I feel like I'm taking care of her by taking care of the plants.

Now for the real champ, the curlicue plant that my grandma gave me when I think I was in high school. After 7 or so years, my third year of college, out of nowhere bloomed a gorgeous red flower. I've never seen it since, so my curlicue plant must have been really happy that year. Coincidentally, that was one of the best years of my life, as I was singing, living in a house with amazing people, and rocking out with my English and French lit classes, earning a 4.0 while taking 21 credits with seemlessly no effort, because I loved everything I was doing. Come on, that's crazy.

Oh- and the two very healthy plants on the left, given to me by my mother-in-law because she had too many plants. I was advised to water them twice a month, on the first and 15th, which has worked so far. One thing that bodes well for them is that they have survived when I've forgotten to water them. I have to thank my MIL for giving some structure to my life, and my other plants are sure to benefit.

Then there's the little guy, one little sprout, clinging to life. I've considered throwing it away numerous times, but I just can't. Maybe a miracle will happen.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dumb Daddies, Trendy "Bad" Parents, My Obsessiveness, I'll Shoot You Dead

I enjoyed this guest post on Lisa Belkin's New YorkTimes blog Motherlode, which is a must read for parents who want to keep up on the latest buzz and controversies in the (urban/suburban) parenting world. "Neanderdad" seems to portray a clueless daddy whose 3 year old can care for the new baby better than him. Or, as readers posted in the comments, is it more a commentary on moms who "overparent"- whatever the hell that means. I'm defensive about that because if there is such a thing as overparenting, I do it. "Can you monitor his poop while I make my oatmeal?" I've been known to ask my husband. But that just makes sense. Either he does a huge, loud, dramatic poop, or he doesn't, but I want to know so I can stop waiting for the poop explosion (because it happens every morning) and get on with my day. (Of course, my husband refuses, and sputters, "No, I will not monitor his poop! Get out of here!" Oh, we have some laughs in this household. And some tears.)

The latest buzz is about being a "bad parent" being trendy- like, saying your kids don't rule you, and not letting your baby take over your life. All I know is, this baby is my angel, and I'd shoot any of you people dead if it came down to a choice between you and my baby. You know, like if a crazy killer made me choose. That's the kind of things new moms lie in bed thinking about, by the way. I would not shoot your children, but I'd shoot you. Like, easily. Like, it's a good thing this is a gun-free household, because I'd do anything for this baby.

But I understand the idea of not being a slave to your kid- I just wouldn't want anyone to think I'm a "slave" if like, I always want to give him what he needs. My husband advocated "balance" on this issue, and I said, "Have you ever known me to be a balanced person in anything? Remember when I took that writing class in the summer, and afterwards, you asked me to never take a class again?" I totally ignored him for a month while I hunched over my laptop obsessively researching and editing- interrupted by a couple freakouts about not finishing pieces in time.

I was also completely obsessed with my nephew when he was first born, so to think I wouldn't obsess over my own kid, well, that's denying a facet of my personality. Obsessing over things is my thing. It gives me great joy to leap into a subject, sometimes to the exclusion of other things. When I started my blog, I worked on it full time. When I was into healthy eating a few years ago, I was really into that. And my baby is way cooler than a salad. I want to enjoy this time with my baby before I have to go back to work in January, so if I take it to an extreme occasionally... it's because I feel pretty strongly about him.

But, I do understand that I still need to spend time with my husband. But come on, you do have to admit, a baby's babyhood is pretty precious and quickly evolving, and an adult, well, if you miss a month of them, you don't miss that much. Like, my desire to visit my middle sister every few months- it's not exactly to see her. (No offense, A.) I can talk to her on the phone and get in great conversations and keep up with her life. I need to see her children, who grow and change so rapidly that I could sob just thinking about it. Missing so much of their childhood kills me. My sisters being far away, do I like it? No. Can I deal? Yes. My niece and nephews being far away, can I deal with it? Not really. Having my own kid now distracts me from the despair I feel at not seeing them enough, but if I think about it, that deep sadness is there. So, I try not to think about it.

What am I blabbing about? Oh yes, my obsessiveness. And, being a slave to your kid vs. being a "bad parent" who doesn't let their kid rule their life. My point is that if I seem obsessive about my baby, it's because I know how much I'm going to be missing when I go back to work in January. It might be making me a little crazy, but I don't think I've ever been a very balanced person. That's part of my charm.

You know, balance does sound pretty good. Appreciating your kid, and enjoying them, and meeting their needs while enjoying all the other parts of adult life. Maybe I'll get there when he's like, two. Right now I am really enjoying toting my precious little package around... every second of every day.
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