It's October. October. Two years ago, we were on our way to the Czech Republic, and now in the past two months my baby has turned into a toddler -- a rather fearless one, to be specific. This child would bound right into the crashing waves if we let her.
Life is good. There are struggles and worries as there always are, I'd be lying if I said my Instagram feed accurately reflected all of life. There are tears and fears (and tears for fears?) -- I want to grab onto this time and bottle it up, but it slips through my fingers and I find myself trying to plan for the future in ways that are difficult.
I struggle with planning for the future we want, because there are so many futures we want, and they simply can't all happen (I guess unless we buy a summer farm in Maine and then live in RVA the rest of the year, ha). Big things, like where to live long-term (we have moved so much, and I long to buy a home again just to feel settled again, finally) and small things, like where to send her to school, except that's hardly small. I want to buy into our public school system and I know the only way more equal education will be achieved is by people not fleeing in droves, I want to be a good activist, I want to boldly march against the crowd, but I would be lying if I said my fear of school shootings didn't rear its head in my heart daily. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat when it comes to anxiety and I think my relentless fear and constant worry will drive me mad if I send her to the perfectly good public school in our current district. And then I think, god, what a bourgeois problem. The public school is perfectly good but my own fears for me daughter keep me from wanting to enroll her there.
But at what point do you decide the anxiety you'd experience as a parent is worth paying a lot to alleviate (if not entirely obliterate)?
Parenthood has been wonderful, but it sure does strike fear in the heart. I don't know how to fix that though, so I slog on through the crashing waves, trying to figure out what to do, knowing most decisions are imperfect. As we all do.
I have all these dog-eared pages of Brigid Schulte's Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time (quoted above), and yet I keep putting off actually writing about the book. So, here are things about my life as a female parent I'm changing after having read it:
I am prioritizing my need for play. It has always been difficult for me to really take time for myself that is equal to the time Patrick takes weekly with his two bands and the shows that other people schedule (for here, for Charlottesville, for Philly). I cannot change the band, so it does require that I give up some things; a fire pit hangout at a friend's house got trumped by being the parent at home while the other parent plays drums in Cville -- though my biggest question was more along the lines of, "There are metalheads in Charlottesville?? Where??? Poor souls."
But within the framework of my marriage, there are still some things I can do even while being flexible with the bands. (Because who wants to be the perceived Yoko (who didn't even actually break up the band! Yet gets the finger-pointing blame!)? Nobody. It is hard to be a ~band wife~ (that sounds so gross, I hate defining myself as a _____ wife, yuck, never doing that again not even with ~~) when there's such a stigma against interfering in any way. I did put my foot down about the band paying for a sitter the last time there was a show that interfered with my job though, and they ponied up, so there's that.))
Anyway. I'm doing more for me. I'm starting up riding lessons again as soon as I can. It's something just for me, that brings me joy, and dammit, I refuse to find a hobby that I can do at home easily, because all these sanctioned, safe female hobbies are things done in the home and it's a TRAP. This isn't to say quilting and knitting and cooking aren't good things, it's that the way society views women's -- especially mothers' -- hobbies is through a framework of things that are done for the family, for the good of others, and I want something that's entirely my own that I do for fun and out of zero sense of obligation or necessity/health (aka, exercise is not the leisure I'm after).
I want to play for the sake of play with it having nothing to do with productivity or professional development or motherhood, and I'm going to be doing way more of that.
I have the urge to go, "World's best mom, lol" here but no. That kind of wry self-belittlement about taking time for myself is no longer allowed in House DeRoche.
There is never enough time. I finally started reading that book about time, and I don't ever seem to find the time to read as much as I want of it.
Bedtime sometimes takes an hour and a half of sobbing. Sometimes it takes 30 seconds. There is no way to predict which it will be!
by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad’s forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it’s done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, “Bye,
we’re leaving," and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.
Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map--
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar’s blond torso.
Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light--
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She’s too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.
Sometimes I feel like I don't talk about hard stuff here anymore. It's not that hard stuff doesn't exist in my life, it's that a lot of it feels very pedestrian. Constant exhaustion from a long commute that we sometimes argue about, and which at the end of the day logic decrees is mostly my domain (fuck you, logic); trying to navigate friendships into our thirties (thank god for uncomplicated people);
I don’t know anything about light, from where it comes nor where it goes, I only want the light to light up, I do not ask to the night explanations, I wait for it and it envelops me, And so you, bread and light And shadow are. --Excerpt from And because Love battles, by Pablo Neruda
When I have a horrible no-good rotten weekend (as is inevitable in our endless numbered days) I am going to look back on this weekend and it will warm my soul-y bits. I hesitate to use the word perfect, because there were the imperfect moments--but nothing so terrible as to cloud the weekend as a whole. It was close to perfect. We listened to Kaki King and let it filter through the house for hours, we baked challah bread for the first time, we took multiple walks so we can try and get our overweight Corgi down a few pounds. It was good. Really good.
I struggle a lot with feeling a weight of pressure to be "on" every moment I'm with the baby, though.
Interlude: I should note, I'm writing this while the baby is screaming over the monitor. She's just tired. She is fine -- I've checked! It is so hard to write while there is screaming that does not end. No wonder fewer women are published. They should make a FitBit that tracks every time your "flow" gets interrupted -- like the sleep tracker, but...better? Or more demoralizing? Interlude the Second: Screaming has been soothed! We'll see how far that gets me...
So. I struggle a lot with feeling a weight of pressure to be "on" every moment I'm with the baby. Not just the picnic-ing, but the mundane stuff that happens in the home, too. I feel like working full-time outside the home is definitely a good fit for me, but it is tiring--Monday mornings I work the 1-9 shift, which means I'm on baby duty alone on the morning after the weekend of trading and sharing baby duties, and I'll be honest: I sometimes look forward to Monday mornings and sometimes, they are also hard. I'm exhausted from the weekend of being "on" but also gearing up for the workweek where I have to be ON on, and thinking ahead to projects, and basically straddling the weekend and the workweek in this final few hours of in-between-ness.
Is it because I'm not with her during the week that makes the weekend hard, that makes those solo Monday mornings hard? It's not that I can't parent as well during these times--it's that I feel like it is so draining because I'm not there for her weekly daily routine, I'm not there to read all those cues, and I don't feel guilty over that, but not feeling guilty for being my family's head breadwinner doesn't mean it doesn't cause exhaustion, fatigue, and frustration from time to time. M-F (and sometimes Sat when I'm the Saturday Librarian) I see my daughter for about an hour, tops. So, when it's suddenly multiple hours in a day, it's this weird jarring experience. I don't transition smoothly, ripple-free, from being on the library management team with my head in the workflow to being a parent at home trying not make sure my baby doesn't lick the walls, comforting, maintaining CONSTANT VIGILANCE, and trying to write stuff in the in-between moments (freelance work with deadlines, stuff I promised friends I'd write).
I looked at all the drafts in my blog queue, and decided to hell with it, here's everything. A blog post buffet. Funnily, most of these things (as is typical in life) have smoothed themselves over (we split the commute, defying logic, for example) or are no longer frustrations (she's sleeping with very little fussing before bed now). Or are actively being smoothed. I guess not having much to blog about isn't a bad thing? My daughter is a delight. Sometimes parenthood and partnerships are hard, and sometimes they are not hard at all. My career brings me a lot of satisfaction and stress in turns. Patrick has an interview on Monday for his, which would be great, Universe, if that could come through. But you know, we're captive on the carousel of time, the painted ponies go up and down, etc. I want to bottle everything up. But I don't know how to do that anymore. Everything seems to slip through my fingers. It's like trying to gather up chicks. Or bottle fog.
One morning we went to Scuffletown park. It was glorious.
It's funny I got these sent to me today, since earlier this morning when I went to drop off Winnie with my mom, my dad had a bunch of old family photographs spread out on the dining room table. It was a family-photo centric day. We don't have a particularly detailed family history -- I know there was Ellis Island in the not-too-distant past. A few other random things. Not much, really. But I've seen so few photographs so when I saw a great-grandparent wedding photo, I was struck to see someone with features that resembled my own, because I've never seen a glimpse that far back before.
This is why I love family photos. Because they mean something now. And they will mean something later, too (I hope) to people I may never even see. We are but a blip. A wonderful, wonderful blip.
A huge thanks to the lovely Sara Jones for taking these photos for us so very early in the morning, and for being so wonderful. She was kind enough to auction off her talents for my brother to go to Tanzania. (I would link to her work, but she's teaching instead of doing pro-photography right now. We got so very lucky to pull her out of retirement!) <3
That thing where you write an honest post about marriage and finances and how it's no fun to be the family fun police/nag, and then you realize it's probably too personal for a public blog, but you wrote all these pithy asides and what's the point of being so CHARMINGLY WITTY if it's just going into the paper journal?
So I guess my point here is that if when I die Google Drive is still a thing, that's where the real juicy stuff is. Ignore that paper journal, y'all. Yawnsville.
[Insert commentary about the nature of the public vs private self and the age of instant digital sharing, etc.]
Sometimes, I look at her and I see a baby. Sometimes, I look at her and I see a toddler. Other times, I see a young woman, hiding in there -- who will that young woman be? Will I meet her in the blink of an eye? Who is my daughter now, who is my daughter becoming?
We celebrated her first birthday at Scuffletown Park. It is one of our/my favorite places in Richmond, and one of the places I missed most when we left (thankfully) briefly. I love that I can share this place with her. That I can share all my loves with her. Pocket parks. Green grassy places for bare feet. Chimes that aren't too insistent, just chimey enough. Hidden places not immediately knowable -- secret spots known only to people who have discovered them, or people who have asked.
I wore rabbits. I remember wearing a different rabbit shirt when we went to the clinic. I wore rabbits because I wanted every shred of luck I could conjure up. Now I wear rabbits to celebrate. She fills my heart with springing joy. A whole bunny warren lives in my heart now.
I want to help her become the best version of herself. I know she's helping me become a better version of myself, that's for sure. Parenthood has made me more direct. More grateful. More open, more honest. I have fewer figs to give. Is that a good life lesson to learn? To give fewer figs? It feels grand.
So, my sugar plum, my ginger snap, you are one. You love when Patrick or I take off our glasses -- perhaps you can see our eyes better? You love rubber ducks. You love risotto. You are a discerning giggler. You think dogs are funny. You are gentle. You like being surprised. You are a wiggler, never still, not for a moment.