Thursday, March 17, 2011
My Many Colored Days
Does anyone else think that the Dr. Seuss book My Many Colored Days is really about living with schizophrenia? I know it's supposed to help kids define their emotions so that they can express their feelings, but it always seems like the ramblings of a manic-depressive to me.
It also, to a certain extent, describes motherhood. Obviously, every day I'm absolutely over the moon for Zephyr, but the way I feel about motherhood (or myself as a mother) seems to change from day to day. Some days I cannot give myself enough high fives, but I rate my success based on things that are, in actuality, completely out of my control. A "good day" is when Zephyr and I go to lunch together and he doesn't fling his food all over the place. I read to him for the fully-prescribed 20 minutes, he takes his two long naps without a single fuss, then doesn't wake at all to nurse in the night. That means I'm doing it Right.
Most of the time, though, I am plagued by self-doubt. I am terrified of being a mean mom, yet I want to set boundaries so Zephyr doesn't end up being a total dick. I constantly compare him to other kids his age and blame myself if he isn't at the same level (or ahead) of other kids. That he only just took his first steps - at 15 months - is clearly because I don't spend enough time engaging him in physical play. That he only knows about 5 or 6 words (about half of which are actually animal sounds like "hoo-hoo" for an owl) is clearly because I don't read or speak to him enough.
He used to be such a great eater, and now I spend every mealtime girding myself for the moment when he wrings his hands to tell me he's finished (I haven't figured out if he has actually learned the sign for "all done," like I've been trying to teach him) . If I don't respond instantly, he throws all of his food on the floor: one piece, then the second piece, then the entire bowl. This, from the boy who creamed all of the other babies in the race to feed himself. I'm sure this is my fault, because I tend to spend mealtimes trying to get the kitchen cleaned up instead of eating with him, peppering the pauses between bites with pleasant conversation.
So then I break out the books again, all of the dozens of parenting books that tell me "everything is fine and just to fucking relax already," and the ones that tell me "Jesus Christ, talk to his pediatrician if he doesn't speak precisely 15 words by the time he's 18 months." I develop a game plan (because parenting requires a strategy, right?) to help me feel like I'm in charge (when in reality, I couldn't be further from it). I project-manage. I tell Scott what we're going to do from now on, get him on board, get him on the same page. I harp on him for not talking to Zephyr enough, and tell him he needs to read more, and to quit zoning out and staring at the floor. "Even if Zephyr isn't interested, just read at him so he hears words," I tell Scott.
I am also a terrible wife, and am sure Scott will leave me any minute for a woman who still weighs 128 pounds and is less of a fucking harpy, who doesn't complain about how sore and tired she is all the time, who is captivated to listen to him talk about his day when he gets home from work.
I divert my focus to things I can control: a clean house, a full cupboard, a checked-off list of arbitrary To-Dos. I feel competent and proud for while, maybe it even escalates to smug satisfaction. Then that needling sneaks up on me again: my priorities are completely out of whack and I should be focusing on my amazing little boy instead of all of the Other Shit.
I am starting to get it, though. I think. Being a good mom means learning how to laugh at shit that I find really irritating instead of getting pissed off. I think it also means letting the kid have wads of cat hair on him sometimes instead of freaking out and spending 15 minutes vacuuming every day. Maybe it can also mean letting him fuck shit up once in awhile and make some messes if it means he's happy and learning. It definitely means taking a step back and trying to get a little perspective: he's healthy, he's happy and people always remark at what a good boy he is. That is enough.
He took his first steps last week. Just two of them, but now he's motoring all over the house with his little push cart, and shopping trips mean if I don't let him down on the floor to "push" the shopping cart, he will holler and frown and be one of those kids that my pre-kid self wished would shut the hell up.
He's cutting about 30 teeth right now, all at once. I can feel and see his molars and all those incisors all bumping up against his gums and he always has a finger jammed in his mouth. He's been kind of a grumpus the past few weeks, and I am trying to stay patient and sympathetic and just give him lots of snuggles (and Tylenol).
He needs a haircut, but I keep forgetting to give him one. I actually really want to take him to a barber so I can photograph it, but I'm afraid this will end in tears, and I always forget to bring it up on the weekend (I feel like all of these Firsts should have Scott in attendance so he doesn't miss out).
His 15 month checkup was a couple weeks ago, and he's only gained a half pound in the last three months (and no height). His head circumference has increased a little. I have started giving him two or three snacks a day, trying to fatten him back up - 75th centile for weight means he's malnourished, as far as I'm concerned. His little pot belly is starting to slim down, and I guess I'm just not ready for him to be a kid instead of a baby.
(Hey, everyone, please believe me when I say: I'm not asking for everyone to be concerned about me, or to pat my hair and tell me I'm a great mother, or to worry that I am secretly depressed. Just because I write about these things doesn't mean it's a cry for help. I'm just writing about it because I feel it's honest, and I hope that other moms can relate. That's all. But thanks!)