Nanny Wanted

I have been picking up more and more legal work lately, which means that any moment that Eli is sleeping Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I work.  On Thursdays and Fridays, when the children are both sleeping – which I believe occurs if Saturn and Venus align and the moon is waxing and the humidity is over 20% but not above 43% – I work.  And in the evenings, after 12+ hours with child or children, Will and I turn on a show and then – sadly – we both work.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have the skills and opportunity to work from home on a freelance basis.  But, I am getting in a bit over my head from time to time lately.  Especially as Eli transitions from sleepy newborn to short napping baby.  So, I have decided, without consulting my husband, to hire a nanny.

Here are the basics:

First, the pay is dismal.  I mean dismal.  We can’t afford you at all.  So basically, I’ll look at where we’re at in the old bank account come month’s end and I’ll cut you a check based on any surplus.  On the upside, maybe you are thinking about applying to grad school but have suffered no hardships that you could write about in your application essays?  Perhaps you never have any good stories to tell at parties?  Maybe you are a trust funder with time on your hands? I don’t know.  That’s really your thing to figure out.

The snack situation is also not great.  But you are welcome to whatever health food scraps you find.  That tub of hummus I buy from Costco is large and deelish, so dive right in!  There will also be sporadic batches of brownies.  Their occurrence will be dictated by my mental state, conjured up either because of the precise level of happy or sad has been achieved.

Ok, next, I’ll be around all the time.  Because I am a control freak and I don’t ever plan to ever let anyone else manage care of my children.  So I’ll butt in, give you endless suggestions, and basically hen peck you until your spirit is broken and you are remade in my own image.  This sounds awful, I know.  But it apparently totally liveable.  Just ask my husband! He’s alive and everything.

What will your responsibilities be?  They will widely vary.  You will get me water when I’m nursing.  You will change poopy diapers while I coo at my baby from the stink-free end.  You won’t need to feed the baby because I love nursing him and cuddling him and also I am very (very) afraid of babies not sleeping enough, so I would just as soon handle that whole situation.  If he does not sleep enough and is freaking out accordingly, I’ll want you to take him from me and pace around.  And then I’ll demand him back a short time later because I can do it better.  But know that I did, truly, appreciate the reprieve.  I just needed to catch my breath.  Thank you.  Go ahead and figure out a way to sit between the car seats when I drive, because I am done with the emotional torture that is driving with my car-phobic baby.  The wails are just too much for me to bear, so squeeze on in there and solve that.

And you’re going to run a lot of toddler damage control. Keep her quiet.  Dear lord, just let me live in peace.  Unless I am making her laugh, or she is making me laugh, in which case take a bathroom break or something and I’ll hand her over when she’s good and wound up.  If I need to go somewhere and take the toddler, I’ll give you a heads up and then you can walk six inches behind her, convincing her not to be distracted by a toy, a dog, or a dust particle so that I may actually leave the house at some point.  If you feel like letting her change her socks ten times, as is her wont, then do so but just get her in that car seat RIGHT NOW!

Cleaning.  There will be a lot of this.  You see, I adore a clean house.  In spite of what the state of my abode would often suggest, I want a place for everything and all things in their place.  And these places ought to be dirt and germ free.  While I love a clean house, I take no particular pride whatsoever in cleaning it myself.  So, go nuts on this.  I’ll let you run the show.

Things you should know about my kids: they are crazy.  I mean they can drive me up a wall.  Other people say their kids are challenging, but, come on, mine are doozies.

Also re: the kids, my kids are hands down the best kids in the world.  I don’t advertise this often since it’s both boastful and self-evident, but have you seen these two? They’re amazing. Eli is the cutest, cuddliest, smiliest, most happiness-inducing baby in the world.  Edie is the smartest, funniest, most loving and sensitive kid there is.  I’m going to need to know that you get this.  Otherwise, I can’t really let you touch them.  You will, however, still be permitted to clean.

As if I don’t deal with enough poop on the serious.

Humor is not easily defined, and indeed ceases to be humor if you try.  I had a rather blunt English professor as an undergrad who, during a final-paper topic roundtable, told a student not to even endeavor to write about the role of humor in her selected literary work because the result would be terrible.  I imagine this professor read a great deal of terrible things, so who can blame her for nipping one in the bud, given the opportunity to do so.  My memory also flashes back to sitting in this particular professor’s office, trying to get productive advice but wholly and infuriatingly unable not to cry every time I tried to utter a word.  I’d go in all Hello Professor. I would love to discuss the progress on my paper.  Then she’d say something like Well, I think your second point is quite weak and needs work.  Aaand, commence trembling and blubbering.  It is just an exquisitely awful experience when your emotions betray and shame you like that.  A handful of authority figures have had that effect on me.  But that is another story all together.

Anyhow.  Humor.  Yes.  I grew up in a family in which a high value was placed on dry wit.  After I grew out of my painfully shy period of my early years, I became a big old jokester.  This made me exceedingly popular with boys,* since I was always zinging them left and right. (*No it didn’t.)  And it made me exceedingly popular with girls, too**.  (**No it didn’t.  But I bonded very closely to the few that liked my nonstop talking and joke making.)  I ended up marrying someone who has just an inhuman ability to tolerate my nonstop jokes.  If you know me and you think I’m funny, know that a lot of work-shopping has to happen for me to create that appearance.  My husband is a one man workshop with a bottomless fount of patience, as well as some thick skin.

Welcome to Edie’s Laff Shack! We’re About to Get Gross Up In Here!

Edie is now on the threshold of humor.  She’s always loved to laugh, and it’s clear to me that she can tell how much I value humor.  From a very young age, she joined in laughing whenever her dad or I chuckled.  “Funny” is one of the best compliments she can give a friend.  But lately she’s started to venture beyond just silly-as-funny into the more nuanced stuff.  And lemme tell ya, the learning curve is steep.

I think the Billy and Sugar jokes started during some desperate attempt to keep her from melting down during dinner.  Billy and Sugar, our dogs, are always a good source of laughs for the kiddo.  So I capitalized on this by telling a joke in which Billy and Sugar went some where (a park?), Sugar said I smell something and Billy replied I don’t and Sugar said It’s terrible! and Billy said I don’t know what you’re talking about and finally Sugar realizes Billy! You POOPED! It stinks! PEE-UW! It’s low brow, for sure, but that suspense build up and the final just-a-little naughty ending was a huge hit.  But these jokes quickly dominated all family conversation.  They became tedious, of course, but I also began to regret my forethought-less decision to incorporate dog excrement jokes into our dinners, on account of the gross factor.  I’ve told a couple of variants without any bodily functions. The only ones that got any play, however, involved Billy and Sugar going to a restaurant and the server doing something abusive to Billy like dumping a bowl of soup on his head.  But even at the end of those, she would request amid giggles for a joke where Bih-wee and Sugah go to a restaurant, Bih-wee POOPS! And den FAHTS! Of late, I’m trying to enforce a stodgy new rule that we don’t tell poop jokes at dinner, consistent with my dualistic role as family comedian and family buzz kill. 

In an effort to make the no poop jokes rule more practicable, I’ve tried to introduce some new jokes.  The first one she’s been able to understand goes like this: What does a cat say if some one steps on its tail? … Meee-OW!  She likes that one, though it’s gotten a bit darker through retelling.  She has this beanie baby cat who she is quite attached to.  Its name is Margot.  The joke now goes What does Mah-got say when I STEP on her? Meee-OWW OW OW OW! Hahahahahaha (maniacal toddler laugh).  I’ve tried to explain that the joke isn’t about what happens when she intentionally abuses felines, per se.  But, at least we’re out of the bathroom for a spell.

I’ve also brought some knock-knock jokes into the mix, but these have proven too subtle as of yet.  Of course, she still wants in on the funny, so she now insists on knock-knock jokes many, many times a day.  And she won’t even let me tell her the jokes. Even though I am – without a doubt – way better at knock-knock jokes than she is! No.  Edie would like to be the performer, thankyouverymuch.  So we now endure numerous, senseless knock knock jokes. Her foray into joke telling has also dove-tailed nicely / horribly with her new interest in anatomy.  At lunch yesterday, I got, Hey Mom! Knock-Knock! I bite.  Ok, who’s there? She searches her punchline bank and then answers with eyes gleaming: PENIS!! Bwahahhahaha! I think I managed a Penis who? just to see whether she’d gotten that far, and her response was something like Penis I needa baf and let me in! which is an amalgam of two classic knock-knocks, involving  “Anita” and “Lettuce.”  Her dad heard her PG-13 ending from the next room, and although I was able to play it cool, it got big laughs from him.  So if you see Edie any time soon, there’s a good chance she’ll try to get some more mileage out of this one. 

Things I don’t want to forget, and that my children won’t be able to remember.

A friend of mine keeps this amazing blog about her life, which, like mine, is dominated by her kids these days. (Well, mine is dominated by my kids.  Hers are very little work for me at all, actually.) She writes letters to her babes (almost) every month.  And one of them is almost three years old!  Amazing.  She has super powers, I tell you.  Her kids will have the gift of their mother’s reflections on their life every step of the way.  Mine will be able to read stories about how I wish I were a real lawyer, but am glad I’m not a real lawyer, and how I’m tired and I hate dog puke.  Life’s a lotto, kiddos.  No promise of justice, and odds are you won’t strike it big.

All right! With that uplifting message of mediocrity, I am going to copy my friend a bit as I am in the mood to tell you kidlets all about the things you are and do right now.  Because time is just flying.  And times are so crazy right now, they need to fly.  Your dad and I aren’t whatever-one-must-be enough to be parents of tinies indefinitely.  But, these great efforts are rewarded by what I already know will be among the most meaningful moments of my life.  I ain’t no Buddha-mama. I don’t claim to always be in the moment, nor to always let the tough moments pass through me without judgment or strife. But would you believe I am trying?  I really am trying. (And trying not to try, of course, because that’s what it takes. So confusingly simple.) In the spirit of gratitude, here’s to my little loves, as they are at this moment, as they will never be again.

 
Edie. My first born.  My little girl.  You are a firecracker.  You love big and fight hard.  You care deeply about others, and love to please, but you do not fall in line easily. In spite of yourself, I think.  Your vocabulary is dazzling, and where you find it lacking, you just invent words.  Hand sanitizer is hanitizer, the tongue of your sneakers has been dubbed the “shoe pit,” and when you run out of things to say, you spew nonsense and then insist that it’s Spanish.  Back when you had just turned two, you named your feet Tex and Poppy.  And that has stuck.  But the naming continues.  We must keep track not only of what all your dolls and stuffed animals are named, but recognize that after several months, their names may change.  The big white bear was Mary Mary for almost a year.  Now she is Havana.  I don’t know why.  But I try to get it right.  You have been telling us for ages that you are concerned about putting your hand in the ocean because “a seal can bite it off.”  I really don’t know where this fear of seals comes from.  Frankly, we try to sweep this one under the rug.  You are a master of accents.  When you were about 20 months old, you came out of YMCA daycare, where you spent about 45 minutes once or twice a week so your mom could get a little time alone, telling me one day that Oma (a daycare lady with a discernible Southern accent) called you “Eh-Day” but that I called you “Eee-Dee.”  This morning, you called me out on my Midwest accent when I said “potty.”  You squinted at me and said “It’s POtty, mom. You said ‘PAHtty.'” Yeesh.  I’ll work on opening up my vowels for you.  Tough crowd.  You have been working hard since about 18 months of age in learning everyone’s names – including dads and pets.  Your memory floors me.  When we are in the car, you routinely tell me or quiz me on the names of all your friends and the names of the friends’ parents.  You are also very interested in how everyone is related, and you’ve got it down pretty well.  The other day you talked to your Grandma Sally on the phone.  And when your dad came home you said “I talked to your mom, dad.”  You’ve even mastered the fact that both of your grandpas are named Tim.  That was poor planning on our part, by the way, sorry about that.  You’ve been in school for a little over a month now.  You love it.  It still makes me sad some days but it’s where you need to be.  I’ll admit, though not happily, that I feel a bit of distance between us right now where school and your little brother came in.  But before school, where there is now distance, there was so much strife and struggle between us.  You are growing up and needed more than I could offer.  So though I miss you, I know these are growing pains.  Yours and mine.

You first note home from a teacher.  At two and a half.  
And you actually like this teacher a lot.  
Lord help the ones you do not like, and there will be some, 
daughter of mine. I am in for it, aren’t I?

 
Because of school, you have a host of new traditions.  Before we eat, you now ask (ahem…demand) that we put our hands in our laps, and then we all must say four times, “We are thankful.”  It is absolutely lovely and has given us a small moment in time to take a deep breath and smile at each other during the most chaotic part of our day.  Another dinner time favorite is “jokes.”  We all make up jokes these days, at your request (ahem…dire insistence).  These jokes all involve the dogs doing silly things together.  And the punchline always involves a bodily function.  It gets big laughs.  You pick out your own clothes, and this can be challenging, but I do my absolute best to not interfere.  I do draw the line when you climb up into your closet and ransack summer clothes that I packed away in a box, and attempt to wear a tank top on a 50 degree day. You think that time is cyclical, and tell us about when you will be a baby, and that one day when you are a mama we will be kids and you’ll take us to the zoo.  Your dad and I go to sleep most nights laughing about and marveling over the things you say and do, Edes.  You make our heart so full.

Eli.  My sweet little boy.  Oh how I cannot get enough of you.  I don’t know you that well yet, because you are only three months old and still have worlds to show us about who you are.  What an honor it is to witness.  You are just the snuggliest baby ever.  You love to sit cradled in my lap, stare right into my eyes, and talk and talk and talk.  You have chattered at us since you were only four or five weeks old, and you truly respond to us! It’s amazing. You adore your sister (and she you).  She is like a celebrity already in your eyes.  You have the most incredible laugh.  All I want to do is hear it.  I would not want a record of all the dumb things I do to try and make you smile.  Lately, I have to be careful about looking at you too much when you are nursing, because when you are in the right mood, just seeing me cracks you up so much that you pop off and milk goes everywhere.  And then it is so hilarious that I keep doing it anyways.  And it’s a mess. As your conversation habits imply, you already want to be part of the action.  If we try to put you in your bouncie seat while we eat dinner, you shout at us until your dad picks you up, plops you in his lap, and eats with one hand.  You are pleased as anything after that.  You love your baths – as long as I don’t wait until you are too tired!  And it’s a rather small window, love, so I don’t always get it right.  You kick and splash the water, and stick your tongue out as you arch your neck to get your head further in the water. As sweet as you are, you can certainly dish it out when you are unhappy.  And good on you for that, sonny boy!  That’s how your sister has trained us.  You deserve your shot to be heard as well.  Your current move is swiveling on your stomach like a break dancer on your crib.  You tend to get your little head pressed up against the bars.  If you’d give me a little warning about what you were up to, I could prevent this more often than not.  But you prefer to work covertly until you are in a real jam.  You are so close to grabbing your feet and to grasping toys.  Which reminds me that I have a mess of toy sanitizing to do before you begin the everything in your mouth phase… When I am holding you, I feel so warm and complete.  I used to doze off when holding or nursing you all the time during your first few weeks.  And that’s not like me at all.  I never fall asleep without concerted effort.  But you were like this soft, warm little slumber magnet.  My thoughts would quiet and my body would relax, and there we’d be, dozing together.  That you are already three months old – quickly going on four – blows me away.  Thank you for choosing us, Eli.  I can’t even say that I look forward to all the good times in the future, because honestly I can’t wish away these moments for anything.

Drowning in a sea of cupcakes

It went in a blue cupcake.  And it came out a blue… well… you can fill in the details.  It was some scifi sh… Yeah.

Edie just got invited to a birthday party.  Another birthday party.  And now that she is in preschool, there will be another, and another, and another.  We were told (warned?) before moving here that Nashville was a friendly place.  And in the sense that people intended it, that is certainly true.  Strangers are wont to chat you up, or holler “that’s a cute baby you’ve got!” from across the street.  But in a sense that we didn’t fully expect, we’ve found ourselves in a genuinely open-hearted community where we’ve made more friends in the last year than … ever?  Yeah.  Ever.  We selected our neighborhood carefully for a place where we’d fit in (Google terms: over-educated + sort of hippies + babies + enough money but not a lot of money + Tennessee = East Nashville).  And while East Nashville is delightfully nonhomogenous, we’ve generally fit in well. 

You see, the hub and I met when we were 18.  In the dormitories of the University of Michigan.  Me, a native Michigander who did a terrible job ranking dorm preferences so I ended up stuck in North Campus in the engineering/music school-dominated abodes.  He, a math and circuits loving Iowan with hair that covered his eyes and just a rocking hemp necklace.  It wasn’t love at first sight (he had to pretty much work his way through every friend, roommate, and relative I had before he settled on me), but we were attached at the hip from early on.  And by junior year, there were bells, on the hill, and we finally heard them ringing, etc. Since then, we have lived in no less than ten (TEN!) separate abodes, in three states, and two countries.  We are each other’s constant.  And thus, even more than your typical married couple as best friends, we have often been each other’s only and best friends.  This whole having lots of friends thing is new territory. (One day, after several people had stopped to say hello to me in Will’s presence, he looked at me with narrowed eyes and said “You’re really popular.” in a tone that connoted his willingness to go to the police if I were in fact now a meth dealer.)

In keeping with my comfort zone of not knowing anyone, I even resisted joining a neighborhood moms club for the first several months I was here.  The cost of joining was twenty dollars.  The personal obligation was nothing.  But the idea that I would just meet a bunch of people that I would like enough to want to spend time with so easily seemed absurd.  So I wrote them off as some type of Stepford sorority for awhile and just be’d by myself.  It took me a long time to find a (comfortably) small handful of awesome moms/friends in Germany and it had been sad to leave them and exhausting to think of starting over.  Mostly for the two year old’s amusement, I joined last February, and now I am stuck with a massive amount of friends among truly some of the best folks I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.  It’s a real burden.

And these people we’ve met and confoundingly like a lot? They’ve pretty much all got kids.  Oh, and here’s the kicker: I genuinely like their kids, too! And I don’t just like all kids.  Seriously. I mean I love them all because they are children and humans and therefore deserving of love.  But, like them all? Notsomuch.  The kids of these great people, though, are these cool, funny, darling children.  But every last one has a birthday.

Edie has never had a birthday party.  Her birthday has been celebrated in low-key family ways.  There have been desserts and a couple gifts.  Last year, the grandparents came down and we all trekked to the playground down the street.  And that’s been great.  But she’s wise to the whole thing now.  When’s my birfday, momma? It’s my birfday soon, mommy! I will have a party! Your birthday is in January, child. That is not soon at all.  And who, pray tell, is throwing you this party?

And now we’ve got another kid.  And unless I start really offending people (because offending them a little is clearly not enough to make them write me off, according to my field research), he is going to get invited to birthday parties.  We are talking roughly one a weekend until I am old and grey – presuming that my birthday bash lifestyle makes me old and grey over the course of the next decade.

I am not proposing that we stop birthday parties.  I must concede that the parties themselves are in realm of delightful.  Just feeling like I am on the edge of jumping into a balloon-filled rabbit hole.  And before I do – because even me and my heart o’ stone will – I am taking a look behind me.  To the lazy Saturdays of getting brunch with Will at I don’t even know what time because my life used to not be ruled by the iron fist of naptimes.  To the simplicity of sending a birthday card that I carefully selected from a bookstore where I spent awhile perusing, instead of mass ordering birthday presents from Amazon Prime because my children will eat my soul if I take them on too many errands.  Days when I looked in the mirror for more than just to check for lettuce in my teeth and then to scowl at my weird hairdo or puffy eyes. 

And Will and I do still enjoy the benefit of our ease together from almost eight years as a couple before we had kids, and the shared history of so many new starts made hand-in-hand.  Well, I still enjoy the benefits, anyways.  I have learned over the years to amuse myself wildly by teasing Will about absurd things.  I did a killer monologue pretending to be him ordering dinner alone at a Subway the other day. I was in stitches, I tell you.  Friends? We didn’t need no stinking friends!

But we’ve got friends in spades now, and it’s time to pay the birthday piper.  Bring on the sugar highs and lows, because we’re here to party.

Transitions

Two year old’s shouldn’t be this pensive.  But Edie didn’t get that message.

 
After posting about Edie’s troubles at school, I reviewed what I’d said and I think the day’s frustrations obfuscated the heart of the matter;  it’s not as if I am anguished over her not napping – if she could not nap and be ok, I’d be peachy keen.  School, as such, isn’t the issue.  Edie loves school.  Her lack of sleep, however, is hurting her ability to be a kid who can be at school.  And her lack of sleep is caused, I believe, by a deep-seated insecurity about the world; a constant sense of disquiet which – while always lurking under the surface – has now reached a full boil since her brother was born.  I have felt for sometime that when Edie acts out when I need to take care of her brother, she is experiencing not jealousy or anger, but sincere grief.  But though my heart breaks for her, I am in the middle of so very much that my cup is not always full enough to be there for her during her bouts of (loud & raging) sorrow.  All of this is a roundabout way of saying that at this time, I need her in school because of the way she acts at home, but the way she acts at home is caused by the same inner-turmoil that is preventing her from being at school…. and round and round we go.

I am currently reading Raising Your Spirited Child in my never-ending, though frequently faltering, attempt to be the parent I want to be.  This book doesn’t purport to be for everyone, but instead for those of us with so-called Spirited Children.  Before I had Edie, I would have most likely judged this book to be a self-fulfilling prophesy for ineffective, neurotic parents.  I don’t feel that way now.

The Spirited Child, so the story goes, is a child who is more intense, more sensitive and alert, and just more, more, more.  There are several characteristics of these children, all of which Edie meets, some to staggering degrees.  And the greatest of these: difficulty with transitions.  Transitions being changes; any variance from what was or the status quo.  Check plus for that one.

Edie and Changes: A Case Study

From birth, Edie did not like anything outside of her comfort zone.  She could fall asleep no where but in her own house, under controlled conditions.  Her pediatrician warned me when she was just a few weeks old that my baby was not good at “shutting off.”  That she seemed unable to turn away from stimulation and relax, instead compelled to follow everything around her with all of her senses, quickly becoming overwhelmed and overwrought.  It took me sometime to figure this out about her, and so I expected her to do what other tiny infants did.  For example, when she was tired, wouldn’t she just fall asleep?  The answer, I would find, was no.  And I soon had a two month old baby who was awake for hours and hours at a time, with bags under her eyes, and hours-long screaming fits each day.  She rarely smiled or laughed, and instead just seemed exhausted with existence.  Breast feeding was one of the few places in which she found comfort, and I am so glad for it.  As my midwife pointed out, when a baby is nursing, she knows she has nourishment, warmth, and her mother all right there.  So it’s the best place to be.  Indeed, for Edie, I believe it was essential to her thriving.

We figured out the sleep stuff, though it meant a lot more of training me than training her.  I truly stayed home for months on end, leaving for dog walks and essential grocery trips, all with Edie in tow, and all with her in a baby carrier able to nurse at will, or at least have her meltdowns against my chest.  We did not eat out, we did not play with friends, but she became rested, I became attuned to her schedule and helped her to sleep.  Will and I did attempt to get Edie used to her dad putting her to sleep, mostly because I was going to have to leave on a trip by myself for 5 days when she was six months old.  That trip, one I am still glad I took as it was for my little sister’s wedding, was nevertheless totally heart breaking. Each time we had Will put her to sleep, I would leave the house to avoid any confusion, and he would painstakingly recreate the bedtime experience.  And each time, when I would return, the experience was so catastrophic that my husband could not speak to me about it until the next day.  It went like this: Edie would have her wind down with daddy, get her pajamas put on in her dim room, take her warm bottle of breastmilk, begin to fall asleep while he rocked her, and then as if a ghost were shaking her awake from the great beyond, Edie would lose it.  She would wail in his arms, choking on tears, spitting up her milk, and continue in this manner until she literally passed out from exhaustion, usually an hour and a half later.  Edie was capable of this at four months of age, and her sweet father continued this tortuous exercise once a week for two months in our sincere attempt to get her used to him before my trip.  No progress was ever made, and once the trip was over, I put Edie to sleep for every nap and every night of her life until past her second birthday.  Do you guys ever get a sitter so you can go out an enjoy Munich? well-meaning friends would ask. No. We do not.

Fast-forward to nap consolidation, and Edie and I did enjoy ourselves in Munich.  We made friends, played in every park and playground, dined in many restaurants, and just made sure we were always. home. for. sleep.  Challenging, but doable, and we did it.  As she got older, we noticed her sensitivity to change in other ways.  At a year old, she had a line up of stuffed animals in her bed memorized, and you’d better get it together if you wanted her to sleep.  Edie was fiercely attached to a particular blanket (so we bought three more of them).  When I rotated her crib 90 degrees to improve the flow of the room when she was about a year old (I am clearly a glutton for punishment), she was inconsolable for a day.  As the time approached for our move, we decided to shield Edie from the chaos as much as possible.  She was eighteen months old when we moved.  So for the weeks leading up, as we sold items, and packed up this and that, we confined the mess to our bedroom and kept her out.  The times she managed to peek her head in, she was aghast and battered us with her baby-sized questions? Whas-sis? Whas-dat, mamma?  Will took down one item in her room before I left Germany with Edie, leaving Will to deal with the movers and join us in the U.S. a few days later.  It was a small shelf with hooks on it.  That night, as I went to put Edie to sleep, she could not settle, pointing at the void where the shelf had been, asking me about it and her towel, which normally hung on it.


Transitions, on the whole, have not gotten easier.  After we moved to the U.S., she became upset at any and everything changing.  She cried when the moon when behind the clouds so that she could no longer see it.  Edie begged us for “meow, meow,” with tears pouring down her face, when a neighborhood cat walked away out of eye sight.  Trains coming, and then, sadly, going, were causes for meltdowns.  These days, when I change her sheets, she spends five minutes fawning over every new detail, thanking me and commenting on each change.  Her teachers tell me she cries when either one of them goes on break.  She yells at me with true indignation if I drive her father’s car or wear his shoes.  I recently replaced the bottle of soap in her bathroom, and weeks later, still hear about that.  I bought a new stroller this weekend, and even though we are still keeping the old one and promised her this one was just for when she AND Eli needed to be in the stroller at once, she was thrown for a total loop by its existence and had to be cajoled, begged and bribed (perhaps strong-armed, too) to get into the new wheeled-beast.  My daughter notices if I change my shirt, wear shoes she hasn’t seen in a few weeks, buy new cereal, or put out a fresh box of tissues.  Edie doesn’t want to go to sleep, doesn’t want to wake up, please don’t make her put down that toy, and god forbid you need to get her into the car. 

That Edie has difficulty with transitions is no surprise to learn, but I’ve never pondered on it specifically before.  We’ve done pretty well with coping strategies, from empowering her with certain choices to always giving her a heads up about upcoming changes in the day or in life.  As far as her brother’s existence, she was at my side through each of my prenatal visits.  They were performed on my couch, and my midwife would generously let Edie be as much a part of them as a two year old could be.  We explained that a baby was coming, and I believe all of this preparation did do something.  But it wasn’t going to be enough for Edie.  You can’t prepare any kid for a shift so jarring and fundamental as having to share your mother’s world with another human being of equal rank.  And you especially can’t expect my Spirited Child to like it.

The Root of It All: A Look in the Mirror

One interesting part of reading this book is that it’s made me reflect on my own nature.  And, news flash, me – you are the WORST at transitions!  It’s difficult to describe, but even down to the most mundane, I feel an utter sense of dread and inertia at the prospect of many even minor changes. Even when those changes are bidden by me, totally inevitable, or routine.  I still cry when leave my parents’ house after a visit.  I had insomnia for a period of time in college due to my inability to cope with the fact that days kept slipping away into nothing and nighttime meant the end of yet another.  As a child, I would stay in the car after arriving home for a prolonged period, continuing to read my book or just sit awhile.  I still did this before we had children – much to my husband’s frustration, and only do not these days because it is simply impossible.  No matter how tired I am each night, I have to be dragged to bed because I just don’t wanna.  When friends or family come over, I find myself being cold and averting eye contact – totally in spite of me begging myself to act nice! – until I have a chance to adjust to their presence.  I spent the first year of my marriage telling my husband that we’d made a huge mistake and we should just end it now.  And then I would have nightmares most nights about losing him. (My crazy brain couldn’t figure out which change was scarier with that one.) I experience pit-of-my-stomach grief when a good book ends.  And when my children were born, it is now clear to me that a lot of what I felt was neither sadness nor happiness, but simply a rush of emotion that I was not equipped to deal with because the change that had just occurred was so huge.  For days (weeks?) after Eli was born, I often found myself in tears and if asked why, I could only manage that it was all “so much.”  And I didn’t mean the work, or the lack of sleep.  It was the bigger picture shift.  It was, and is, hard to put into words.

So, um, sorry little girl.  Mommy didn’t do you any favors with this one.

The Prognosis?
Well, let’s be real.  I read this book in 5 page increments because that is all I have the energy for. It ain’t over yet. BUT, I feel good about it.  Right now, I don’t have my plan of action in place.  What I am appreciating, though, is a sense of forgiveness that it has allowed me to bestow on myself.  And then when I consider the fact that in the past three years I’ve lived in California, Germany, and now Tennessee, utterly starting from scratch each time, going from zero to two kids in the meantime, I try to cut myself a little slack because this way we’ve been living has been hard on me.

I must forgive my own frustration.  I am starting to forgive my imperfect parenting, and acknowledge that Edie – though easier than many children in certain ways – has presented me with challenges in this respect.  I do forgive Edie for her inability to process change – and will continue to remind myself of this.  I will try to forgive myself for being so triggered by seeing her react in ways that I see reflected in myself.  And in the process of forgiveness, the dam starts to come down and I am a tiny bit better for it already.

We still have a way to go. But we’re getting there. We’ve got to get somewhere, what with impermanence inconveniently defining existence and all.  And I will not be buying any new furniture or dying my hair a new color in the meantime.