Friday, April 30, 2004

why alone is not really alone anymore

B and I spent the past weekend in Portland. Alone. We left the kids with my parents for our first time away together (and alone) in about two years. On the drive down, B reminded me that we actually were alone for a short bit while I was in labor with T, but I reminded him back that 1.) that was no vacation—birthing a second child while your parents watch the first does not count as time alone together, even if you are alone and 2.) we were only alone in the hospital for less than ten minutes total before T showed up. My birthday was Sunday, so we were celebrating that, but also we wanted to re-celebrate our anniversary earlier this month that neither of us did a thing for on the actual day.

B and I were so excited about this trip that we made too many plans. Since we were kidless, we were only going to do things we couldn't do with the kids. We were definitely going to spend a significant amount of time at Powell's bookstore, eat sushi (as much as we try to convince them of the virtues of our favorite food, the kids really do not like sushi), sleep late (this means sleep later than 7am, which is actually very, very late by our children's standards. We are pathetically grateful if they wake up past 6am.), get pedicures (yes, B was willing to do this with me because it was my birthday weekend and it wouldn't have been as much fun if he just watched), and shop for clothes for the both of us since we never get a chance except for shopping online, which is truly not a satisfying shopping experience. But seriously, we'd been talking about this one night away for weeks and it became habit to say, "Oh, when we go on our trip, we'll definitely do this or that…"

But then the weirdest thing happened. The minute we dropped the kids off at my parents' house, we both got into very bad moods. I'd sort of thought we'd feel free and happy and suddenly young and unencumbered. We'd turn the music up and drive away quickly. But, no… We felt sad. The car was very, very quiet and I was still at the stage at the beginning of a trip where you just think about everything you forgot, which in this case was aspirin, sunglasses, book (I was planning on reading during our very relaxing and romantic trip?), jacket, nice shoes to go with the dress I brought for dinner, etc. And every time I said, "Hey, did you remember to bring the…," B would just glare at me. It was not a very romantic beginning.

But then he did the nicest thing. He turned around and drove back to our house and I got everything on my list, plus checked to make sure the coffeepot was off, the iron was off (I didn't even use the iron that morning), all doors and windows were locked and then found that the bathroom window had been left unlocked, so I locked it and felt fulfilled. I swear that I'm developing Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. Sad for me.

And we started over. Nobody mentioned the fact that we left the camera at home. We plugged in the new iPod that B bought me for my birthday to play through the car stereo (with the broken CD player) and ooohed and ahhhed at how good the sound was and how cute Macs are, and I think we flirted a lot, too, but I'm not sure since it had been so long. And we finished conversation after conversation. It was such a satisfying 24 hours. We ate late, slept late, walked, brunched, went to thrift stores to try on clothes much cooler than us, and then mourned the fact that we ended up at the Gap. We actually read the entire newspaper, had coffee, fooled around, and basically hung out together in a way that made us both realize how much we liked each other..

And then at 3pm the next day, we were so ready to go home.

It wasn't that we weren't having a really great time. It's just it was all so calm and quiet. Where was all the chaos we were always complaining about? We started talking about how cute the kids were, and cute things they did and how much they looked like us (but cuter) and how smart they were, and then we realized we just missed them like crazy. So we drove home, talking about them all the way—about how much we liked being parents and how great it was to be their parents and how cool they were and will be when they grow up. And how cool we were as parents and how lame it was that we cared about how cool we were and how cool it was that we could admit it. It was basically a love fest. We love us.

The minute we got home, the chaos stated up again. T reached out for me and clung to my hip until she passed out in her crib. S talked nonstop about how fun his weekend was and "Mommy, watch this" and "Hey Daddy, look at this!" and it was overwhelming and noisy and crazy wonderful to be home.

Though, I guess next time, we'd probably be able to make it two nights…

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

the coolest Wiggle and why i have no social life

It is very hard to make new friends once you're a parent.
That's the conclusion B and I have made about our lives. Maybe it's an excuse, maybe not. But we've been fairly friendly in our past and have had fairly active social lives. We liked hanging out with old friends and meeting new people. We liked being around people and we liked having plans. And it was easy for us to find interesting, fun things to do whenever we really wanted. There were always parties to go to and bars to hang out at and bands to go hear and play in, and wherever we went there were a lot of people there to talk to.

Not any more.
When our son was born, we tried to haul him around like a large accessory. We took him and all of his baggage to parties and restaurants. We napped him in his stroller and set up his portacrib in a various number of host's bedrooms. We “wore” him to streetfairs, museums, openings, and on hikes. We pictured ourselves as having this modern, carefree life and sharing it with our new son, who would also be modern and carefree. He would be adaptable and easygoing. And social.

Ha ha!

S turned out to be a slave to schedules (as most babies are, we found out) and would basically make our life miserable if he didn't sleep in his own crib from noon until 2pm and 7pm until 6am each day. As soon as noon hit, he’d begin screaming wherever we were. Once in a museum, a woman suggested that we try taking him home to bed. (Gasp!) We tried to plan roadtrips around his nap so that he'd sleep in the car, but he acted as if that nap didn't even count. So we finally gave into our small prince whom we had basically accepted would rule our lives until he was 18. We stopped going out.

Since most of our friends didn’t have kids yet, we figured we would just have to make some new friends who had kids and would be in similar situations. This wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

First of all, we couldn’t really find a good place to meet these other parents. B and I both work full-time so we couldn’t go to daytime playdates or playgroups during the week. Also, almost every single one of my friends or neighbors with kids stayed home with them and they weren’t interested in hanging out on the weekends or in the evenings because those times were usually reserved for “family time,” when both parents were home at once. As for working parents, I befriended a few of the mothers of S’s friends at daycare and actually made some really close friends. But truthfully, we were all way too busy to really get together too often. Everyone was playing catch up on the weekends and there was only a little bit of time for playdates. So basically, we saw our friends once or twice a month.

This changed when T was born. Not only did we have to factor in one nap, but now we had T’s two naps. She’d go down at 10am, S would go down at noon and then T would wake up, and then S would wake up at about 2pm just in time for T’s second nap. Our entire day was taken up with napping. And then when the kids napped, we did chores and errands. We had a clean house, napped childred, but were stir-crazy. We were tempted to go back to the baby accessory route, but T turned out to be a schedule slave, too. Go figure.

Okay, so the timing was difficult, but a good thing happened after T was born (of course, one of the many good things that came with delightful, chubby little T, but you know what I mean.). Our friends started having babies! Woohoo! We were ecstatic. B and I couldn’t wait for them to get settled with their routines so that we could get together, especially since our friends still thought their babies were portable sleepers. They’d be able to come to our house, put the baby down for bed in the portacrib and we could hang out like old times while the kiddies all slept. Ha ha. Apparently, B and I are the slow ones because our friends caught on to the routine problem much more quickly than we did. So now that our friends had their own babies, we saw them even less often.

And you know what? It doesn’t even matter because I found out recently that after three and a half years of being a mother, I’m practically socially unacceptable these days, anyway. Recently some old college friends came to visit and they stayed with us. B and I were so excited! We would get the kids down, break open the beer and reminisce of days long ago. That day, though, T hadn’t slept well with all of the excitement of having guests. (And you know, we’d been pretty lax about the routine thing, too. Maybe it had been our subconscious way of showing our friends what mellow parents we were.) She pretty much woke up every thirty minutes from 8pm until 10pm. I could see the lights flashing in sync to her yowls on the monitor and though we feel comfortable about letting our kids cry it out for a certain amount of time, I could tell our friends were nervous about T waking up their baby. They kept glancing at the monitor from the room their two-year old was sleeping in, and the whole conversation centered on sleeping, getting no sleep, crying, and the desire for sleep. That is, whatever part of the conversation I could hear, because I was suddenly unable to really track an adult conversation. I kept thinking about sleep—T’s sleep and whether or not I would ever get some. (Remember when getting some had nothing to do with sleep?) I found myself thinking about The Wiggles and their Hot Potato song. Then I wondered why Murray was still the coolest in the band, even though he only played air guitar. My college girlfriend was upstairs patting her son back to sleep. The guys were trying to talk about real music—something none of us had listened to for quite a while now. No beer was drunk.

And then at 10:01pm our friends looked at each other and then at us and then she said, “You know, all this talk about sleep is making me sleepy. I think we’re going to call it a night.” And instead of being disappointed, I was grateful that they understood, because at this point in my life, I’d take my pillow over a buzz anyday. So we said goodnight, knowing that we’d all be up at 5am to watch cartoons together.

Friday, April 02, 2004

what i do

I was in a meeting with a contributor today, and after looking at the photos of my kids on my desk, she said, “Wow, I don’t know you do it. I can barely get myself up and dressed for work, let alone two kids.”

It’s not as if I exactly excel in the morning relay race. My sweater has a “snail trail” of snot from one-year old T’s ever-present daycare nose and 3 and half-year old S went to school wearing his baby sister’s socks (the heal left an uncomfortable bump just at the ball of each foot that he complained about, but what could we do since all of his socks were still in the mountainous heap of a laundry pile in the basement?). Not to mention the fact that after seeing his sister get a morning bottle (Yes, I know we should be weaning her to a cup now that she’s had her first birthday. Our pediatrician would just die.), S begged, pleaded, whined, and fussed for a bottle, too. “I’m feeling little today, Mommy,” he told me. So to be able to finally get into the shower, I gave him a bottle, too. (Okay, now our pediatrician would really freak.) In my defense, I did see a late night Dr. Phil episode where he encouraged parents to choose their battles carefully, but just never lose the ones they’ve chosen. So maybe a one-time bottle relapse wasn’t that big a deal? And wasn’t I acknowledging and listening to his feelings by giving him one? I was grateful to hear him say, “Wow, it’s really hard to drink much this way,” and then a little more worried to hear him say quietly, “but it’s really, really nice.”

The weekends are a bit mellower. On Saturday, we took the kids to the park and taught S how to climb a tree. (Okay, we hoisted him three feet up into the tree and held onto him while he yelled out, “I’m taller than everybody in the whole world!” But he was proud of himself and talked about it for the rest of the day. And later on, after the kids were in their jammies and had their baths and their teeth brushed, the four of us crowded into S’s small twin bed and read stories and giggled and sang the Itsy Bitsy spider umpteen times for T because she loved it and because each time she smiled, we could get a glimpse of her new front tooth, I looked around at my family squirming and squished into this tiny bed and thought that I had everything I really needed just right there.