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!)


  1. I don't think you're depressed or down, I think you're just normal. Kids are HARD. I find it hard not to compare myself to others generally, I imagine it's extra difficult when you've been tasked with raising someone whose very survival is so dependent on those who take care of them.

    But if he's happy, then you're doing something right! Hope you have a lovely day and that the might Zeph's teeth don't cause him too much misery.

  2. I agree with Christine. Kids are hard! I have chastised myself many, many times over the years that I was a terrible mother because of the way Katie acted the last few years. But now, thank God, she has a diagnosis and medication, and is becoming the woman we raised her to be. Finally. So it wasn't my fault or her fault. All you can do is raise your kids the best way you can and hope they turn out okay. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee. People that were raised in "perfect" homes sometimes turn out to be serial killers, and people who were abused and neglected can turn out to be Nobel Prize winners. You just never know. So don't stress out too much. Just keep doing what you think is right and let nature do the rest. :) Love ya.

  3. I can totally relate. Thank you for your honesty!

    (I can't remember if I've commented before. I found your blog last summer after Gracie mentioned it at New Parents Group. My son is 6 months younger than Zephyr, and it's nice to get a little preview of how he might be 6 months from now)

  4. ZDawg is a total cute, fun, happy baby. Everyone who knows him loves him and enjoys his company. Ok ok so he is not going to finish his dissertation by the end of this year, but have you ever noticed how broad his repertoire of facial expressions and gestures is? Of course you have. You are his mom. Well I have noticed, too.

    He is just putting more energy into other forms of development and communication. That little love bug seems perfectly sweet and fine to me in every way and, girl, you have grown in many ways too. It is just all happening so fast and you are so close to the action that it is hard to see.

    I also subscribe to the school of don't get too lax when it comes to self reflection. Ultimately, though, I think you got it Right when you wrote that the ability to let some of those worries go - whether a parent or not - is pretty much key to weathering life's inevitable suffering, anxiety and low points.

    Ruv yaz

  5. I always worry that I'm not talking enough to Emmett, too. I'm not good at maintaining a monologue during the day, even though I adore the little skunk. He'll figure it out eventually, though, because genetics go a long way, and you and Scott are smart folk. All the baby Einstein shit in the world can't outdo genetic gifts.

  6. I'm concerned about you. You're a great mother. Are you secretly depressed?

    Just kidding! Good read for someone (like me) with a newborn sleeping in my lap right now.

  7. I want you to know that I think it's brave of you to say this stuff out loud, especially on the internet. If a mom doesn't feel like this sometimes she probably isn't trying hard enough. Someday we'll look back on these years and think, "God, I needed to chill the fuck out, didn't I?" It's hard, and no one's expectations are as high as our own. I'm really glad to be "mom friends" with you. Your mom baggage goes well with mine, as they say. I like having another mom who is smart, fiercly loyal to her family, completely neurotic, and incredibly crafty and resourceful. Keep up the good work.


Yay! Thanks for saying nice stuff about my baby.