Over the past three years, there have been many times that I’ve thought about me on our Diagnosis Day, the day we found out that one of the babies then growing in my belly had spina bifida. It was my 27th birthday. We were excited to find out if our twins were boys or girls. We found out they were girls, and we also found out “Baby B,” the “one in the top bunk” had something wrong with her head and spine. Continue reading
Something big has happened in my life. 2.5 years in as a mom, and I have graduated from the diaper bag. Not that I even had a “real” diaper bag, as my diaper bag was always the giant yellow Patagonia messenger bag I used first for a work commute bag, then for a graduate school backpack. It was sort of the big yellow school bus of diaper bags, and it allowed me to carry more gear than a Himalayan sherpa while expeditioning with two small people who might at any moment need diapers, wipes, toys, a complete outfit change, bibs, blankets, burp cloths, pacifiers, teethers, a bottle, a snack, a bandaid, or even a change of shirts for me (Claire barfed a lot).
Toddlers, I’ve realized, don’t need nearly as much gear. I can actually leave the house without packing each of us a complete outfit change. In fact, I can generally throw a couple diapers, a catheter, a wipes clutch, and bibs into my bag and we could survive an outing. Even better, my toddlers even think carrying a backpack themselves is cool and grown up, so they got their own little backpacks for Christmas. Now, they can actually tote their own diapers, wipes, water bottle, snack, and toy, and they think it’s fun! Have fun, baby pack mules, knock yourselves out! I’ll just be over here twirling, wild, free, and unencumbered by all your stuff!
Lately, I’ve noticed a new trend in the bufflogals’ sleeping arrangements. They sleep in toddler beds and can get in and out on their own, but up to this point have mostly slept in their own beds until morning. Usually, the girls get up and play together for 20 minutes or more before we have to retrieve them (just one lovely reason I love that they share a room– extra sleep for us!), so it probably took me longer to notice than I might have, but there were clues– Etta’s stuff would all seem to be in Claire’s bed. Her pillow, her blankey, her stuffed loveys, all in sister’s bed. I thought it was happening in the mornings during play time, but when I heard a crash and a cry the other night, I realized Etta was trying to sleep in Claire’s bed. I put her back in her own bed, but later heard stirring and went in again to find her curled up at Claire’s feet. After my heart exploded from adorableness, I tried to extract Etta back to her own bed, but she clearly did NOT want to be moved. I asked Claire if it was OK with her if Etta snuggled with her, and she sleepily agreed, as if she’d be willing to do anything if it meant her sister would let her catch some zzzz’s. This would have worked fine except two toddlers in one crib-sized mattress is cramped, and they woke each other up later in the night. Continue reading
Can I admit to you all that I’ve got some ambivalence about the whole Santa thing? I grew up believing in Santa, so I have fond and happy memories of that tradition and don’t feel scarred in any way. But the way Santa is so wrapped up in want and consumerism and making Christmas all about Things, the way his story is centered not in Bethlehem, the locus of the Christmas story, but the North Pole, which has nothing to do with anything– it all seems to indicate to me that we’ve gotten a little off track about the whole Santa story.
So, I admit, I’ve kind of been deferring the decision of how Santa would figure in our family’s Christmas traditions. Last year, my kids basically had no idea it was Christmas, though they did enjoy opening presents, and the year before they were infant blobs. I haven’t had to really decide until now. Even this year felt kind of like another year in which I could wait to see how I felt about the whole thing. I figured we’d decorate the tree, make cookies, listen to Christmas music, go look at Christmas lights, play with our little Nativity, read Christmas stories, do our Advent calendar, and just generally live in a Santa-free bubble for one more year. And we’ve been doing all those things (minus the Advent calendar, which I still haven’t finished making).
But it turns out, I can’t live in a Santa-free bubble anymore.. Continue reading
It’s time for sleep, it’s time for sleep, the fishes croon in waters deep.
The songbirds sing in trees above, it’s time for sleep, my love.
Those are the opening lines of the girls’ “last book,” Nancy Tillman’s It’s Time to Sleep, which we recite to the girls after turning out their lights each night. I say recite because after many many readings, we don’t really need the actual book anymore. Instead, we can tuck them in and snuggle a bit while we chant the familiar words that ease them into slumber.
Usually, I lie in Claire’s bed with her, and she wraps her little arms around me and strokes my hair and generally acts like the tiny mama she is. She kisses my forehead, and sometimes, if I’m lucky, she whispers sweet nothings in my ear. The other night, she snuggled in close and said oh so softly, “You are SO CUTE.” I keep thinking about it. I love that kid so much.
She just has a sweet, nurturing spirit that goes hand in hand with her ham personality. She wants to make people smile and laugh, and she wants to take good care of the people she loves.
She’s even started asking about more siblings, for which I blame Daniel Tiger for adding a baby sister. The other morning as I changed her diaper, she said, “So, when you gonna have a baby, Mom?” “Um, Mama can’t have any more babies, you and Etta are my babies.” “But I’d be such a big helper!” And you know, I know she would be. She’ll have to settle for taking care of the people she’s already got.
And as you dream inside your sleep, the fishes crooning in the deep, and all the songbirds up above will sleep and dream of you my love, of you the one I love.
We finish the story, and now it’s my turn to whisper in her ear. I love you sweet girl. Sweet dreams.
Dear Cloth Diapers,
It’s not you, it’s me. Really. Despite many warnings that ours would be a difficult relationship, I never found you all that hard to deal with until the end. We had a nice routine, you were always there for me, and I didn’t find you to be a burden at all. But somehow, here we are, two and a half years and thousands of changes later, and I have less energy for our relationship than I had before. What once seemed like no big deal, what fit fairly seamlessly in my life, feels like a burden. I neglect you and resent you and frankly, can’t even really stand to look at you anymore. I don’t know what has changed to make me feel this way about something I once thought was wonderful and easy, but it has. I’m sending you on to a new relationship with a friend. I hope she finds you easy and helpful and reliable as I once did.
Thanks for the memories,
Yep, folks, I’m quitting cloth diapers. Continue reading
You probably saw it in one of your social media feeds in the last week– a New York Times opinion piece by Heather Havrilesky called Our ‘Mommy’ Problem. Most of the piece was stuff I head-bobbingly agree with. One of the things I most feared prior to motherhood, and one of the things that most annoys me about it now that I actually have children, is the way women with children are reduced to “mommies” and mommies alone, not allowed or not able to have an identity outside of their relationship to their children.
I also kind of always hated the word “mommy” in general. It sounded infantilizing to me. I was determined that my children would always call me “mama” or “mom,” never “mommy.” But the entire world refers to me to and in front of my children as “mommy,” and so they have started calling me “mommy,” too. Sometimes I’m “mama.” Sometimes I’m “mommy.” Sometimes lately, I’m “Sawah,” as they’ve noticed that their dad and I call each other names other than “mama” and “daddy” and they’re trying to figure out how we can be people with names and also their parents. (One day, when they’re grown ups, they’ll realize we’re people, full stop.) And in my children’s sweet, small voices, just about anything they call me sounds sweet and lovely, at least the first 5 times in a row that they say it. This, I loved:
Why does this word irritate me when the wrong person says it? When my kids call me “Mommy,” I feel a surge of pride and happiness. “Mommy” is also my mother’s name, thanks to the fact that my older sister shamed me when I tried to switch to “Mom” in my teens. But the “Mommy” I say to my mother or hear from my children is a private word, a word that defines the relationship between me and my mother, or me and my kids. It’s like the word “sweetheart” or “lover,” but arguably even more intimate.
But the essay lost me when it started blaming social media, our filtered window into each other’s home lives, for making mothers into something they don’t want to be:
We are besieged by Facebook images of sun-kissed children canning homegrown peaches and building tiny replicas of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks and being home-schooled on organic dairy farms in Wisconsin. We know far too much about other people’s lives these days, and the more we know, the clearer it becomes that we are doomed to lag behind the pack in this increasingly high-stakes game.
I know I’ve been one to defend the filtered world of Instagram, but I immediately thought of a quote widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:
I mean, what do the homeschooling dairy farmers really have to do with you, you know?
I have lofty aspirations of being a Crafty Mom. But I have 2.5 year olds, two of them, actually, and I have realized that doing crafts with them is just not worth it, to me, at this time, most of the time. Because it takes me an hour of internet surfing to get the idea, and then I have to gather supplies, and then the actual project requires me to first get them occupied with something else for 20 minutes while I set it up, and then they spend 5 minutes on it and make a massive mess, and then I have to bathe them and then occupy them so I can clean up the mess, and then I need a nap. Maybe we’ll do crafts one day when it’s easier. Maybe I’ll just get over my urge to be That Kind of Mom. But in the meantime, it’s not like the moms out there with toddlers, crafting, are actively crafting to make me, way over here in Arkansas, feel bad. They’re just dancing to the beat of their own drummer. (And I mean, maybe they are trying to make me feel inferior, in which case, they’re assholes, and who cares what assholes think about anything?)
I get that Slacker Mom is a really popular internet genre. There are like, two kinds of moms online and they are either the ones writing super detailed Pinterest tutorials or the ones writing hilarious f-bomb laden tell-offs to the Pinterest moms:
My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kid’s elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of “I want the same thing!” Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, “Yes, O.K., we can do that, sure, I’ll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. We’ll do it tonight.” This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someone’s face using only your bare hands. We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces. No longer.
I mean, for sure, no one can make you bedazzle a tee shirt without your consent. You seriously, really, for real do not have to do it. Sure, on some vulnerable day, you may see some lovely Anthropologie-model of a mom post a picture of her doing some insanely enriching and hippie-tastic nature-related gross-motor-skill-developing spiritually-affirming whatever in her backyard, all with perfect hair and kids who have on like, matching clothes, and you may like, actively hate her for all the ways she’s making you feel. And on those days, maybe close Instagram and walk away and have a cookie and hug your kid and watch some cartoons and tell both of you that things are all gonna be OK.
But on a good day? On a good day there is just no reason for you to take that shit personally. Because she’s not backyard Montessori fine motor skill meditating TO YOU. She’s just doing her thing. You see your dance space? It’s over there, and it’s got nothing to do with hers, so just go on with your bad self over to your dance space and you do you. And maybe unfollow people who bring you down. And maybe talk nicely to yourself and let yourself know that you are the mother your children need, and they don’t need you to be anyone else but you.
And then maybe if we can stop constantly seeing other mothers as the problem, we’ll all have some energy left over to pursue our own self-care and interests and hobbies and careers and righteously tell off the strangers in public who insist on calling us “Mommy” instead of…oh…anything else.