Monday, November 11, 2013

How Do They Know?

I've had a bit of a recess with this blog, not because I've been busy (which I have) or because I haven't had much to say (which I absolutely have), but because other forms of social media have gotten my attention. More fast paced, readily available at my fingertips, and Oliver has a way of interrupting most anything I do. It's fine; I'm not upset. I've had my years of major learning and processing. Now it's Oliver's turn to take in everything he sees. He really wants to learn everything. Before playing with new toys, he examines them. Almost as if to figure out their components and what makes them do what it is that they do. He fascinates me.

Tonight, we were putting together his train track on the rug in the front room, and when it was complete, I sat there and watched him do a bit of yoga over it (I think? He's strange). For some reason, I started thinking about my dad's funeral last November. Before they lowered his casket into the ground, his wife gave quite a speech, and the last quarter of that speech was directed toward me. For some reason, tonight, that popped into my head and before the first tear (of several) rolled down my cheek, Oliver stopped what he was doing, walked over to me and gave me a hug, resting his head on my shoulder. He then switched shoulders four or five more times. How did he know?

He is a master at consoling the heavy or broken-hearted.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy First Birthday

The way we all begin is common by definition, and in the past I may have been tempted to apologize for parenthood's adherent cliche, but having a child has given me an appreciation for our individuality, for the fact that we each have a story. Oliver's started a year ago and I'm a lucky sucker for getting to be a part of it every day. Celebrating birthdays is one of my favorite things to do, and this was the big one. The big One.

Dear Oliver,
You're under the weather lately. Getting some more teeth, disagreeing with certain food, sleeping through the night and copping major attitudes.
You've started pushing me away when I've pissed you off, smacking me in the face for taking away things you cannot have.
Sometimes it drives me crazy. Nobody likes getting slapped in the face.  But this newfound will of yours makes the times you reach for me, the unsolicited fly-by kisses, the resting of your head on my knee that much sweeter.
You are walking, and have learned to not fall, but slow down and kneel gracefully. You still crawl when you really need to be somewhere fast. You are enjoying eating so many different foods, and still are disappointed with certain foods that I'd wish you'd eat, but I need to keep my personal preferences out of the game. This is your life and only you can decide what you will eat or will not eat.
You shake your head yes and no. You greet the birds every morning with your "waving". You say "no no" when you're doing something you shouldn't be (thank you for the warning). You pretend to talk on the phone with your hand over your ear. You like to sneak up on us and scare us with a loud "AH!" You are a very different kind of boy, Oliver.
 You are my favorite and my best and I can't wait to hear what else you have to say.
Happy Birthday, Chicken. You are my favorite.
Love,
Mom

We celebrated Oliver's birthday on one of the hottest days of summer so far. It was almost unmanageable but we fought through it and felt the breeze eventually. Oliver played very well and very hard for about 6 hours straight. He annihilated his birthday cake and then crashed out on me. It was the best birthday party I'd ever been to.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Gave Birth To A Tiny Old Man



Oliver is quite the persnickety fellow; I may have mentioned this before. He's happy as a clam most often, and even when things don't go his way, as long as we catch his attention with something else to play with, listen to, watch, eat, or enjoy he tends to come back to being a clammy little guy. But, as with most people, when he’s feeling misunderstood or slighted in some way, he expresses…distate. We’ve been working on the most polite and succinct way to say pardon me, Mama, but maybe I wasn’t clear in expressing how dearly I love crawling away from you/harrassing the books and movies/not wearing pants/chewing on this ____, but somehow it’s just not taking. So, while he creates an effective script, his father and I are tasked with keeping him in that clammishly happy state. Sometimes that means our lives are not exactly how we pictured they might be.

Oliver has, since birth, been able to play by himself, and not worry when I would leave the room. Although there was a period of time when that happened, and during this stage of leaving 9 months and entering a new chapter, it has dissipated into a very distant and "cute" memory. We never left him to cry it out by himself. If he was going to cry then we would rather him do it on or with one of us, so that he would never need to know the difference. My goal was to chill the kid out, not convince him that I’d run off and he may as well rest up for the long life of orphancy ahead.
It came down to this: Having a baby is sort of like a surprise party in your honor where the guest list changes every time you go to the bathroom. It’s the time of your life one minute, but, two minutes later, the room is full of drunk cousins, old roommates who skipped out on rent and the waitress you suspected of spitting in your salad that time you sent it back twice. The secret: just don’t go to the bathroom! I finally figured out that if I had a good thing going, I needed to cling to it, not try my luck at a little bit better. Adjust the view I’d gotten from god knows where that babies do a series of things in one way, in one order, and accept that babies are simply small people with preferences, fears, likes and dislikes and changing moods just like the rest of us.After the revelation that Oliver was not going to bend to my will, nor should he, we started unapologetically putting him to bed when we went — 9, 11, sometimes even later — and he would sleep until eleven or noon. I (for the most part) stopped feeling like there was a goal, however far off, of sleeping separately, "co sleeping". I knocked out these terms that seem to be so popular with moms these days and embraced the status quo because we have generally all been very happy and comfortable with our arrangement. Oliver sleeps in his crib while he naps during the day, and when he goes to bed at night. He wakes up playing in his crib and after a while will call out to us. He rarely ever cries for us and when he does, we come to him. He knows how to get our attention, without tears. The wraps go places with us and Oliver can, when wrapped, almost invariably still be put to sleep in a matter of moments.
Oliver has two parents, one of whom is almost always with him, who can give him as much attention as he wants. The giving of attention is, as I understand it, the main “deal” with parenting. Being a present, attentive parent means that as long as my kid doesn’t understand the concept of compromise, that burden falls to me. I have to compromise as much as possible, so that when it’s time for him to give a little back, he doesn’t feel slighted. He knows that I’m there, that I respect his needs and want the best for him. That he doesn’t have emotional memories of feeling abandoned and grow resentful when I want a shower by myself or, JUST IMAGINE: a weekend girls’ trip. People ask how long I’m willing to ride this out, but Oliver has already formed what I see as a pretty secure attachment to me. Whereas two months ago, I had to literally run to and from the bathroom, keeping him in my line of vision and babbling at him like a buffoon all the while, I can now set him down some place safe, walk away and EVEN FLAT IRON MY HAIR some days without him going apeshit or being mad at me when I return. I attribute those gains to Shane’s and my willingness to take a hit for the team in the beginning.

With that said, I am excited to have made it this far with no regrets, with so much love and so much more to come. Oliver has always had such an adventurous personality, and has never truly seemed like an infant or baby, but more like a kid. Attitude, jovial, and willing to play along with Shane's and my silly games, even when you can tell he wants to do something else. All from a 9 month old! Oliver is growing quickly and right under our noses, developing his personality that I imagine will stay with him until he is old and groggy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Desperately Need Ogre Hair

It's been a while since I've mentioned nightmares on here, but that doesn't mean I haven't been having them. Every Single Night. They don't fail me. Since we moved to this house last April, I've been imagining that animals from the zoo down the street have broken out and stormed into my house in the middle of the night. Every night, my job is to figure out how to save my family. I always manage to be so courageous and spry in my dreams; I'd sprint out of bed and grab my phone while slamming the bedroom door (because it gets stuck) and run into Oliver's room, also slamming that door (because it also gets stuck). I would then call Shane, and tell him not to open the door because there is a tiger in our house and to please climb out the window and meet Oliver and me. It's ridiculous, I know. What would you do? It's almost been a year since these nightmares have started. They don't always end happily. Sometimes, the animals make it into Oliver's room first and I wake up to him screaming through the monitor. Those nights are the hardest and I rarely am able to fall back asleep. Sometimes, I hear the growl but forget that I have a baby and just lock myself and Shane in our bedroom and again, we hear the animals tearing our baby apart. I'm shaking just thinking about it. I've gotten used to them, mostly. I can recognize right away that they are nightmares and that when I wake up, all will be dandy and Oliver will be sleeping either in between us in our bed, or he will be the one waking me up by sweetly talking to himself in his crib.

A few years ago, when I would religiously read The Walking Dead and wait so impatiently for the next comic to come out, I started to play Zombie Survival. It was the same idea: What Would Norma Do? I was working overnight at a hotel during these games so it was a matter of getting to the basement where the food and water were sitting (vending machines, telephone, couch). I imagine that's why I am planning out the attack of a violent feline. Zombie Survival helped train me for my nightmares.

My nightmares don't always involve zoo animals; they have been more realistic. Our car raging down the side of a mountain on our way to visit family in Mexico, Oliver and I getting struck by a truck on one of our walks, Oliver's curtains getting a ray of sunshine that starts a fire... In every nightmare I lose my baby.

Last night was different. Last night's nightmare involved the supernatural, of which I used to believe in but have recently made peace with apathy. The idea is still horrific, but I don't have that stress anymore. Not really.

In this dream, I hear Oliver screaming and crying so I run over to him only to find him scratching himself so hard and so slow that he is gushing out blood. I move his hand away from him and take him to clean him up and he starts doing it again. I realize that he isn't doing it, that something else is taking his hand and doing it. What the hell am I supposed to do with this? He is being sliced up before my eyes and I can't stop it. So I call my mom - because she is Mexican and I am extremely racist in my dreams - all Mexicans believe in spirits and have little tricks to get rid of them. My mom tells me to take my ogre hair (WHAT) and bake it in the oven (WHAT). So I do, and Oliver's wounds disappear. He is still crying, because it happened, but now the proof is gone. I woke up to him hitting me in the face and saying, "aw draw draw draw draw." I couldn't go back to sleep.
Dreams don't mean anything. I won't get money if I dream about fish. Nobody is going to die if I dream about teeth. But they can make you lose sleep and slowly go crazy from the lack of.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Eight Months







Oliver, man, you are really wearing me out. You crawl everywhere, which you learned to do (rather well) within one week. You are pulling yourself up onto anything within reach and guiding yourself along said "anything." You always seem to end up in places you aren't supposed to be, playing with things you really shouldn't be playing with. These days, I’m lucky to get a brush through my hair which is not even close to the amount of “doing” that my hair requires. Speaking of, I'm glad you've got my curly hair and not your dad's feathery flow because despite boys getting a near pass in the grooming department, you still gotta do something and some days there’s just no option but copious bobby pins and a bun. Technically an option for you, but to be honest, not one I would necessarily encourage.


Also, on the dad front: I am beginning to forget what it’s like to have a fluid talk with him. One that isn’t interrupted with baby-juggling and redirection and trailing off, having forgotten what the next conversational turn was to be. Please, kid, don’t misunderstand. Usually one of us is sidetracked by your cuteness. And even when we’re not, it’s okay, because you’re a baby and you’re fun to be around most of the time and when you’re not, well… nobody’s always pleasant company. Including me. In fact, I’m probably pleasant company less often than most. But when my life is so consumed by the baby-related, I’d really kill for a start-to-finish conversation about that article about a new book by that recently deceased author I read while you were sleeping, or what I should do about my mother's failed search for life insurance or my brothers and their incessant need to not grow up? Anything other than what kind of diapers I now prefer, when you're going to have more bowel movements on the reg and what your diapers look like when we feed you solids. I swear, I used to be a reasonably interesting person.


I made no apologies this year; I made no resolutions, but as with most things, time may sort that out. My hope for this year (and on and on), my 28th, is that I'll reclaim a little of my adultness. Adultness that may never have been fully realized to begin with. Reading and writing will start again, I will have time and hands enough to keep a tidy house. Maybe. I will eat breakfast again, and work. Deadlines will loom and I'll meet them. Conversations will begin and they'll end in one full breath.

xoxo,

Mom





You are the burden of my generation
I sure do love you, but let’s get that straight.


(Paul Simon lovingly quoted with abandon and no permission)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Unscathed... Sort Of

One of my greatest fears in raising my son (and any future children we might have) is passing on my (many) neuroses.  I inherited so many of my parents' problems.  So many undesirable familial traits that our brown eyes and thin wrists are, in the cafe of genetics, drowned out by the din of phobia, depression, addiction, walls built so high and thick that the few who tunnel in are usually sorry they did.
It's recently struck me since having a child that my personal attachment to these neuroses is waning.
I realized this change while listening to Bjork's song Hyperballad, the lyrics of which I had never given much thought:
We live on a mountain
Right at the top
There’s a beautiful view
From the top of the mountain
Every morning I walk towards the edge
And throw little things off
Like:Car parts, bottles and cutlery
Or whatever I find lying around
I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you
(lyrics posted entirely without permission)
Besides our fantastical, magical wardrobes, Bjork and I apparently have something in common.  We psych ourselves up for the day for our kids, for our families. We shake off the nasties and pull ourselves up by the old bootstraps because nobody wants a crazy mother despite how appealing her craziness made her toward boys at nineteen.
I feel that I usually do a pretty good job of this.  The fact of the matter is: I am not one of those cooing, adorable moms who revels in playgroup and layette clothing.  I hope Oliver loves me for these characterisitcs and not in spite of them, but if he doesn't, you know, kind of oh well.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heart to Heart

Every day of motherhood, at least so far, is different. Some are so good I feel almost as triumphant as I did when they first plopped Oliver onto my chest and I knew I had done it. But those days wouldn’t be so great without the converse: the sleep-deprived, rainy, shit-on-your-clothes days when you’re begging an infant, please, just tell me what to do. I’ve found, though, that despite the insistence that I’d forget childbirth — the “so the species can go on” half-joke that serves only as one of many sexist scare tactics pregnant women and mothers face — what I’m forgetting instead are those regrettable, difficult why-won’t-you-end days, in favor of the wins.



Over the last 7 months, I’ve gotten to know myself in a different way. I’ve become less self-conscious in order to be present with my child. I’ve made stupid faces and funny noises and sung in public and been (mostly) unconcerned with how I look to all but one little person. I’ve changed my expectations, let my sleep, my free time and my body be temporarily hijacked. And, you know what? I’m doing a good job. He’s a happy, loving, trusting, communicative, confident boy. Not afraid to make friends with strangers, proficient signer who’s finding his words, giver of unsolicited kisses, giggler and enthusiastic try-er of anything.



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hospital Visits

Lately, I feel like I'm writing a letter to myself from the future. The abundance of hospital visits for my mother are a probable cause.

Your mother will die. You will buy a house. You will have more children. It isn't a matter of being happy, though you are for the most part.

But more: your hands will begin to age first. You notice it most while washing the dishes in the morning, studying the wrinkles that settle between your fingers while water splashes into the drain.  With the loss of your mother and the birth of another child, you drop all hobbies; or rather: latest hobbies include crying in the bathroom, making a sport of choosing outfits and dressing in the dark to see the results in the full-length mirror at the end of the hall, discovering what you can accomplish with a toddler perpetually seated in crook of arm with infant strapped to your chest (cook dinner, pee, get in and out of bed, fold laundry, eat most meals). You will stop remembering dreams. You will stop being able to write. You will make half-hearted attempts at registering for night school classes.

With having Oliver, I would like to say that there haven't been any negative changes, but I would be lying. I have acquired a visceral reaction to awful things and find that I can no longer watch certain content on movies and TV (murder, children in danger, extended tension); I change the station on the radio when NPR is reporting on natural disaster (bodies washing ashore in Japan, naked babies in Haiti). I conjure the worst possible scenarios while lying in bed with Oliver, waiting for his breathing to change signalling his sleep. I've never been so vulnerable.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Let Us Do This Right, 2013

Oliver is 6 months old, sitting up, showing an interest and attempting to crawl. He's testing out different food, singing, laughing and enjoying the love that he gets from so many people every day. It's amazing what happens to a person during their first months.

Simultaneously, he is recognizing pain and sadness a lot better than before. I find myself unable to release any sadness I have at random over the loss of my dad. If I cry, he gets sad and fussy. It is, in a way, sweet that he doesn't want me to be sad, but I'm feeling a bit guilty from wanting to be alone so I can cry. Oliver and Shane help make this mourning go by with a bit more ease and I'm so thankful for them.

I really wish my dad could have met Oliver.

Happy New Year.