The Dance

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.
It’s to enjoy each step along the way.

I’m still getting used to “mother of two.”
Still learning the dance
and tripping over my feet.
Some days we waltz
we gaily trip through
Most days are improv jazz
riotous rhythms
and a staccato beat,
beat ing
keeping time
to an as yet
unknown song.

Equally surprised
by the ability to love
and the quickness to anger.
The music pulls me back.
The laughter, the tears
the screaming and shushing-
all part of the symphony
making up the soundtrack
of our days.

How astonishing, some days,
to look down and recognize
this second life
that has been added
to our company-
To look up and see
the little boy sharing
the spotlight-
To find a conductors wand
clenched within white knuckles,
a blindfold hiding bloodshot eyes.

Thank goodness for the friends who dance along beside me.
Thank goodness for the women who have already danced,
who remind me to forget about the steps and just enjoy the music.
Thank goodness for the tiny hands who hold onto mine
and the tiny feet that step onto my own
trusting me to hold them as we begin to move.

Thank goodness for the wind that carries us
and the earth that holds us up,
for the heaven above that promises us.

– for baby giggles and sweet smiles,
unbridled laughter and silly made-up songs,
late night talks and the ability to forgive,
for a marriage that continues to grow roots
and take shape, solidifying a foundation,
creating the stage upon which we dance.

The tide of parenthood.

I’ve been swimming against the tide all day today.  Each wave crashing over me, leaving me tumbling end over end, fighting, reaching for light and gasping for air.  

I felt my anger rising this morning, almost from the moment I opened my eyes.  It simmered just underneath my tired sigh as I peered at my wide awake, smiling 4 month through one eye, hoping that he would go back to sleep and knowing that he wouldn’t.  It bubbled up over coffee as I negotiated a cranky toddler and dealt with the nagging guilt of not being able to give myself fully to the baby, content in his crib.  A hesitant moment of negotiation broken by screams and shouts of “no!”  Moments of excited reconciliation ending in sighs of frustration and fierce, defiant wails.  

Finally, I couldn’t fight the tide any longer and I let the next wave carry me under.  A final kick (to my shin) and my anger burst forth ferociously, uncontrollably. I yelled with the voice of a mad woman, so loud my voice cracked with rage and tears began to leak from the corners of my eyes.  I yelled with all the rage of a hurting heart; pushed past my breaking point, I lost my self-control.  I was tired of being kicked, tired of being defied at every turn, tired of having to say everything 5, 6, 7 times and still not have it done.  I couldn’t take any more and I let the waves carry me.

It is not a good feeling to let your anger get the best of you and act out towards your child. Even when they are hitting you and kicking you and they don’t stop after you ask again and again, it does not feel good to act in anger towards a tiny being who is as much an extension of you as your arm.  It’s as if, in that moment, you can see their light dimming in front of your eyes.  And in the back of your mind, even as you are gasping for air and fighting the urge to hit back, to throw something, to just start running and keep running until your lungs burn and your legs give out beneath you, you know that their behavior stems from being over tired, that if you could just have a minute to calm down, everything might be ok.

I got both boys secured in their car seats and they were asleep within a block of our house. And when I was finally able to take a breath again, it came out in sobs.  I cried so hard that I almost had to pull to the side of the road to keep us all safe.  But each mile that passed allowed me to breathe deeper and gave me the space I needed to forgive myself, to begin to understand, to allow the waves to settle and the sea to calm.

Their lights are so bright, my boys.  I never want to dim that.  I want to be their home base, the one they run to when they are hurt and tired and in pain.

Having children opens your eyes to the areas of yourself that need work, the areas that are strong as well as those that are weak.  As Casey navigates these new waters of big emotions and increased autonomy, I sometimes find myself wading in muddy waters, trying to figure out better ways to handle my own big emotions, trying to identify the places where I need to exert more control and where I can give a little.

It’s not easy, this mothering thing.  I am not perfect.

When he woke up from his nap, I got down on his level and apologized to Casey, told him that it was mommy’s job to help him when he felt angry or out of control, instead of becoming out of control myself.  I gave him a cake pop from Starbucks.

“Thanks Mom,” he said as he reached up and wrapped his body around mine, resting his head on my shoulder and sighing with release.  I felt his light then, felt the brightness return. Children forgive so easily and so completely.  They give themselves so entirely to us when we allow them to.  My job now is to forgive myself, to continue to work to allow Casey to give himself to me, to accept him and guide him in his every step.  It is my job every day to work to turn myself towards the horizon and move with the eternal rhythm of the tide of parenthood.

32

These moments when both boys are napping are like nuggets of gold tucked into my day. Half the time I don’t even know what to do with myself.  I always have a to-do list floating around and a running mental list of things I want to get done, but the last two days the name of the game has been “I can’t even…just do it.”

I’ve had a terrible head cold for the past few days, following a brief overnight flu that came on quickly and left me aching and tired. Even small tasks like picking up the used tissue I just dropped on the floor seem harder when my head is heavy and my eyes are watering. Combine this with an almost three year old who can destory a room like a tornado and a 4 month old who delights in diaper changes- I can’t even… With a sigh I mentally coax myself into action. Just do it! One foot in front of the other; trudging through

Yesterday was my birthday and although I spent it with a stack of kleenex tucked into my pocket, it was a lovely day full of moments of relaxation, surprise and joy.  Birthdays are a good reminder for me of how lucky I am to be surrounded with so many people who care about me.  I got cards and gifts in the mail. My husband took me on a mini shopping spree at TJ Maxx and a few other places.  Just the fact that he went shopping with me at all was enough to show me his true devotion.  We had nachos and drinks ( I had water) before going back to my Mother-in-law’s to pick up the boys.  I walked in to a lovely surprise party complete with birthday balloons, a birthday banner and a cake covered in m&m’s that Casey had helped make.  At Casey’s prompting we lit all the candles and he helped me to make a wish and blow them all out.  Then he used the ice cream scooper to help himself to a scoop of cake 🙂

It’s these moments in life, the moments that are only shared with a close few, low lit by birthday candles and punctuated by giggles and hugs, that make the days of trudging through worth it.  These moments make my heart sing.

Welcome, 32. I hope I have many more of these moments with you.

Brotherhood

I lay still as I listen to him breathe 60 calm, even breaths; as I take in his face and the feel of his soft hair beneath my fingertips.  My baby is becoming a little boy.  Some days I can barely keep up.  He pushes me to my limits as he tests all of his- physically, behaviorally, emotionally.  His favorite word is no and sometimes he screams and covers his face when he doesn’t get his way or someone says something he doesn’t want to hear.

But he is still my muse.  He has always been my muse.  My first born who helped me to find my voice and unlocked the dam to a million words.

And now there’s another boy who is slowly stealing my heart, beginning to inspire his own words.  Poetry seems slow to come these days, overshadowed by the inelegant daily concerns of figuring out how to meet the needs of two little boys.  As an only child myself, I am winging it.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a sibling, to share that bond, to share the attention of your parents.  I find myself overwhelmed a lot by how to give myself to both boys without feeling as if I am letting one down, without feeling like I am being ‘mean’ or ‘bad’ in the mom realm.  I am plagued with questions and guilt about whether I am giving Cameron the same attention and opportunities that I gave Casey.  One of the hardest things is realizing that their first years in this world will be different from each other and that that’s ok.

Just when I am plagued by this whirlwind of thoughts, I catch a glimpse of their brotherhood- Casey running to get a toy for Cameron before he goes to bed so he can give it to him in the morning, helping me find a pacifier, showing Cameron his trucks, telling me why he thinks Cameron is crying and telling me to go take care of “my brother” when he fusses.  Cameron unable to take his eyes off his older brother, fascinated, laughing and cooing when Casey talks to him, grabbing onto his hair or his shirt or his hand when he sits close, laying still and watching him as he plays.

Cameron is growing so fast. I forgot how fast they grow. He is rolling over both ways and will be sitting up in the next month or two.  He is already so aware of his surroundings and I can’t wait to see what it will be like when he is able to begin “playing” simple games, when he is able to begin to communicate with us.  I can’t wait to watch these brothers grow together.  As my own comfort level with raising siblings grows, I have hope that poetry will return but for now my words will serve to simply document our days and keep track of my running thoughts so they don’t spin out of control.

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Temper tantrums & Teaparties

I got Casey to fall asleep for a nap today ALL BY HIMSELF.  That is a big win around here. There was a little yelling, some wall kicking and his pillow definitely got thrown across the room as he stood on his bed screaming.  There was a lot of me sitting in the rocking chair with the baby (who was also crying) while I gently coaxed him to lay down and pull his cover over himself and in a calm, quit voice told him I would lay down with him when I didn’t hear any screaming.  Finally, I managed to put the baby down for half a second while I molded my body around Casey’s as he lay, now exhausted, under his blanket, and held him, whispering how important it was that he learn to fall asleep by himself and how proud I was of how helpful he’d been all morning.  Then Cameron started up again and  I told him I would come back in his room once I found a toy for the baby. “Ok, mama” he said in his soft baby voice.

I listened on the monitor for a long time while I walked around the house with Cameron and here we are two hours later and he’s still sleeping.  He needs it.  We’ve been batting around the stomach flu over here and it’s been a topsy-turvy couple of days and nights.  Parenting with a fever is no fun.  Thank god for family, who took Casey for a few hours Monday while I slept off some of my illness.

Someone asked me recently, in an email, how I manage temper tantrums, especially the increase that have flared up since bringing another baby into the mix. Honestly?  It’s different every time.  Sometimes there is a lot of yelling from both of us.  Sometimes things get thrown, doors get slammed.  Sometimes I have to leave the room or lock him or I into a room so that we can both calm down.  Sometimes, I get down on his level and there is a lot of hugging and holding and just letting him “get all his angry and sad out.”  Most of the time I just try to wait it out, talk him through it, be reasonable (even when he is completely unreasonable), take deep breaths.  I don’t mind that he sees me get mad or frustrated.  I do apologize when my temper flares and I don’t feel it was really justified.  I don’t spank but I have swatted his butt a few times when he has done something truly horrendous or scary- like when he ran away down the street and then darted across the street and then did the same thing on the other side of the street, crossing it twice without a thought and making my heart pretty much take up residence in the top of my throat.  I was so scared I could hardly breathe, let alone speak, and a swat on the butt and a tremendous hug was all I could manage to get my point across.

It’s hard for a toddler to adjust to sharing their parents attention with another child.  It’s difficult for the parent to have to divide their attention in a way that makes everyone happy.  At 3 months, things are beginning to level out.  I try to incorporate Casey into everything I have to do with Cameron: diaper changes, baths, picking out clothes. Sometimes he really wants to help, sometimes he could care less.

I tell him all the time that I understand that it’s hard for him “when mommy has to give her attention to Cameron but you are wanting me to play with you.”  He nods his head. Sometimes he starts to cry.

But now there are beginning to be more moments when I’m holding Cameron, burping him on my lap and Casey passes by and gently caresses his hair.  Moment’s when we are sitting on the couch in the morning watching Cartoons and Casey spontaneously looks at me and says “Cameron is the best isn’t he?”  It makes me feel all warm and teary inside as I just nod and say that he is, “and so are you sweetheart.”

The other day, Casey had a tea party for his teddy bear and a doll that was mine when I was a child.  He really wanted Cameron to join but I told him Cameron couldn’t really sit at the table. “That’s ok.  You can sit at the table and he can have your otherside (his term for breastfeeding) so he gets big and strong like me and then we can both have a tea party right?”

Absolutely my boy.  You’re absolutely right.

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Brothers, chillin

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Sometimes I tell him he’s being too rough and sometimes I let him just hug it out. 

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Sweet Baby boy 🙂

Moments

Both boys are napping!  It feels like a miracle.  I used the time to finish laundry, eat lunch and sit down to try to write a little bit.  I didn’t get much writing done but I did find this. This was a blog entry that I had written and never published.  I wrote it before Cameron was born- I’m guessing I didn’t have time to go back and edit it and forgot about it, had a baby and never gave it a thought until today.  Reading through it I remember each of these moment with instantaneous and fleeting clarity, each rushing across my memory like a slideshow of snapshots.

sidenote: i didn’t do much editing here.

Moments:

the soft skin of his forearm beneath my thumb as I rub it absentmindedly

standing in his doorway watching him sleep, his face turned towards me, lips puckered open, cheeks puffed out as he exhales

the scent of his hair as he struggles to snuggle closer to me as we sit on the couch

“thank you mama” he says when I bring him more pancakes.
“looks nice in here, good job mama,” he says admiring the rearranged back porch.

singing his made up song as he clangs away on the xylophone “hello apple, hello mango, hello arm, hello eyes, hello dresser, hello apple and mango,” and turning his head, laughing, making sure I am watching  

watching him peddle his tricycle up the driveway, he turns his head to make sure I’m staying put: “mama stay!”

the sound of his feet as he runs through the hall and into our bedroom in the middle of the night

following him into the kitchen as he cries because he can’t reach the pan he wants to get down because he wanted to “make mama breakfast” 

his arm flung over my shoulder when he turns to me in the night as I lay, facing away from him.

so many more….so many unremembered.


Losing my mom, when I was ten, taught me the value of time and memory.  How quickly time passes and how precious are the moments that we have with out loved ones!  It was easy when I was younger, in grief, to turn away from others and to sever ties rather then take the chance of experiencing loss all over again.  It made me uncomfortable to get too close.  Except that inside, I yearned for those deeper connections- for loving, supportive arms to encircle me, comfort me when i needed it and keep me safe when I felt vulnerable.

It’s taken me most of my adult life so far to realize that I alone hold the power to return the gesture when others reach out and that embracing others is the only way to protect myself from feeling alone.  It took having a child to realize how much we need the community of people in our life.

I hold on tight to the moments I have with Casey.  These precious moments that are so beautiful they hurt.  It tugs at my heartstrings, watching him, knowing that he will grow up some day and be big and that I might not remember this moment, or the next, or maybe the next one.  I wonder if I will remember all these tiny moments when I am old and he is grown?

I am elated that I get to do this all over again- babyhood.  Watching another tiny child reach milestones, encounter and conquer his firsts.  I know there will be hard moments and moments of frustration but I feel so much more prepared this time around even as I feel overwhelmed with the knowledge that i will have two boys growing up before my eyes, two boys worth of memories to store and cherish and wonder if I will remember in five, ten twenty years.  I feel more able to find that balance between holding them close and letting them loose without guilt.

~~~~~

(in response)

It has definitely been a challenge some days, to keep up with two boys, feeling like I am running on empty and completely overloaded trying to accommodate the growth and needs of each boy. Finding a balance is easier some days than others.  Most days it feels like we are walking up one of those balance ladders you find at a fair, trying to ring the bell at the top.  Just when I think I’m making some good forward progress, the ladder starts to shake and I loose my footing all over again. 

~~~~~

I peeked in on Casey this morning.  He slept so soundly last night.  Not a peep all night and still serene, on his stomach, his head turned so he faced the doorway as I stood leaning against it watching it, taking my first sip of coffee.  I wondered if I would remember this moment in five years, ten, twenty? I wondered if it would matter then as it does now and then I wondered if the fact that he slept so soundly through the night meant that I should do away with daytime naps, and I shuddered at the though.  Not ready for that day yet.

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